Mission Dairy. The challenges facing a young missionary

He has just recently celebrated his first year in his new parish. Reflections of Father Moses Samuel Huruwella, a young Malawian Comboni missionary.

After 13 years of mission in Togo and Ghana, last July, I celebrated my first year in the parish of Chikowa, in the Zambian diocese of Chipata, but located very close to the border with Malawi, my native country. The parish was founded in 1941 by the Missionaries of Africa and in 1983 the Comboni Missionaries took it over. I am currently the parish priest and if I have to be honest, I will say that the mission here is not easy at all because there are many challenges that we have to face.

Nestled among the valleys, our parish territory is quite isolated and we are not helped by the poor state of the communication routes, which become impassable during the rainy season. The government has abandoned this area for many years, which is reflected in both the communication routes and other aspects of life.

The number of schools is insufficient and the numbers of enrolments are scandalous: less than 30% in the primary schools, and the figure is even worse in the very few middle schools in the area. Despite the fact that, as missionaries, we have sought to intensify schooling, we face the reluctance of many parents who do not see the use of school and do not want to send their sons, let alone their daughters to school. Another challenge is the shortage of teachers and the low level of education.

Health is another of our concerns. The list of diseases that people suffer from is long. There are frequent cases of malaria, anaemia, tuberculosis, malnutrition, and tropical sores and HIV is on the rise. Another problem is alcohol abuse. Despite all my efforts to preach against its use and warn of its ill effects, I see little change in behaviour. Many people, young and old, men and women, drink to excess.

Sanitary conditions are another of the challenges we face in Chikowa. People drink water from rivers and ponds, which are not always clean. We, like them, must do the same when we make long visits to villages for various pastoral activities.

Polygamy is ingrained in our people, causing many unstable marriages and dysfunctional families. Some children do not receive adequate care due to the lack of parental attention, and many end up becoming shepherds tending herds in the forests.

As for the life of faith, despite the presence of the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations, people remain very attached to their traditional beliefs. Even those who have accepted Christianity profess their faith in God while practicing their traditional beliefs. It is evident that, despite our widespread presence in the area, we still have much to do to enculturate the faith.

Despite all these challenges, I continue to see good opportunities for human and spiritual growth. The Akunda, the majority of the area, are mixing with the arrival of the Achewa and are enriching each other in terms of culture and change of mentality.

We see an example of this among the Akunda, who used to be more reluctant to send their children to school and are now starting to do so little by little. As a missionary, I accept all the challenges that the social reality presents, and with love and patience I try to adapt to people’s level of understanding and point of view, always respecting their culture.

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