When I left the Philippines, the Word of God that I carry in my heart is the passage of 2 Corinthians 12:9 “my grace is enough for you, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I came across to this passage when I was reading the encyclical of Pope Francis Evangelii Gaudium as it says in this document …. “While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Christian triumph is always a cross….” I carry these words in my heart for I know it will not be an easy mission ahead and yet I am confident that God will always be with me.
I received a warm welcome from our Verbum Dei family here (missionaries and disciples) they are friendly and it feels like home. People are naturally music and dance lover. Their music are lively and I notice it very much in the mass (especially when the mass is celebrated in lingala or their local language) all parts of the mass songs are lively; you may really want to dance because of the lively rhythm. Also, I remember when a missionary and I went to a funeral (or in the wake) it was in a big ground. People were sitting down and there was loud music – a loud and happy music and some ladies are crying while dancing around the coffin. And that’s the way they mourn--- dancing while crying (especially the family and relatives) with happy music.
People are mostly religious; the masses on weekdays in our parish is full of people (even the mass is at 6am). There are many religious groups in the parishes. Almost everyday people are going to church for activities. There is so much poverty around and yet people are active and smiling.
The first week of my stay here is really like a mind blowing experience --- as I landed here I am already immersed in different languages. We communicate in 3 languages: lingala (native language. There are more languages use but mostly lingala), Français, and Espagnol.
We start the day with the mass at our parish and the mass is in lingala (mass in lingala Monday thru Saturday), Guidelines in Spanish, and Lauds in French. And the rest of the day it is “halo-halo” all 3 languages mix up in the conversation or communication (the languages use). I sometimes think God must be joking at me to dive in to these languages world or maybe God and the community have too much confidence in me... hehehe :) Although this is the case, I am concentrating more on learning French. It was a very challenging experience to not really express myself well because my Spanish and French are limited…. and at times it gives me headache because there’s so much stuff in my head that I want to communicate and unable to do so… because my Spanish and French is limited - I mean limited in words…… I know language is one of the keys to enter in a new culture and yet as one of you wrote -- that love is more powerful language I could ever had to reach out people.
The time flies so fast that I am already a month old here. In my experience here, I see God in my life like a potter working with my life - like a clay. That I may be more dependent on him when I feel powerless, helpless, and inefficient in the mission. He is also working with my patience - as St. Teresa of Avila stated, “patience obtains all.” To be patient in my adjustment, enculturation, learning the language. And feeling like buried on the ground like the grain of wheat. In the midst of all these experiences God is inviting me to remain united with Him. Because He is my stable rock amidst all the challenges and own weakness that I experience.
The economy of the country is rich in natural resources like diamond, gold, and oil and yet it is mostly the rich and powerful have access to these resources. Rich people are really rich and poor people live a miserable life. We live in a pretty poor area almost everyday people knocks at our door to beg. At night, they have bars all around our place (thank God we have a gate) people drink beer and women around men. Officials like the police or soldiers, because of the poor salary, tend to get money from ordinary people. For example, a missionary accompanied me to a government place. A soldier who was guarding the place asked my sister to hand to him our “ID” and later I realize it was his way of asking money. Often we don’t have electricity (As I am writing this letter I am using a candle to lighten me because we don’t have electricity and since my laptop has no more battery charge I’ll continue writing tomorrow). Often times in our place (poor area) there is power interruption and so we cook using charcoal (we use electric cooker) because it is expensive to use gasul, like there in the Philippines, for cooking. At times water interruption as well. Generally, people eat 2X a day and it is also practice in the community although it is not so strict; it is open for those who needed to eat 3X for example light light dinner. Vegetables and fruits are not so common in the table so we eat mostly viand and carbohydrates. The common vegetable that we have in the table is either the leaves of the cassava or the leaves of sweet potatoes. Congolaise generally cook the main meal for two hours and truly the food is tasty. I hardly cook because of their way of cooking the food but yes little by little. As for me, I always have appetite and I don’t skip meal for the fear of getting malaria. The community members are not used to use electric fan even it is hot weather, and they only drink coffee sometimes (only me and the other missionary).
Also there came in me the temptation to question the relevance of our charism of “prayer and ministry of the Word”. Seeing people in their poverty and misery and how easy it is for a missionary to get preoccupied or even caught up in looking for food, medicine, money for them. Yet I understood, in the light of the Holy Spirit in my prayer that the living out of our charism does not depend on the situations, or individual convictions or no convictions, or unresponsive response of the people, but our charism is from God and to hold on to His commands/Word “prayer and ministry of the Word. It is He who calls us to live the charism.
Relation of men and women
Men are more outgoing and outspoken compared to women. And this can be traced back in their history where men have the authority and power in the society. Although nowadays it is slowly changing the relationship between men and women; the latter is also getting her status in the society.
There are also many people coming from different parts of the world who lives here for business and other reasons like Nigerian, Chinese, Filipino, European, etc. It is also great to be in contact with English speakers just like the Nigerian community. I joined their group in the parish to start the apostolate, perhaps with Filipinos who are working here. Right now we are preparing for feast of Pentecost for all our apostolate and so we united in this great event!
We will also have our month retreat in the month of July in Cameroon. The community of Congo will join the rest of the missionaries in the continent of Africa. It will be a great opportunity for me to meet the missionaries of Africa.
And so in behalf of our Congo (Democratique Republique du Congo), we pray for each other and constantly united in the mission God has entrusted to us :)
Reflections of faith
Read and be inspired by the reflections and experiences of faith, based on the Word of God.