Mission Diary. Learning to Listen

A Comboni Missionary Sister, Francine Bodada, talks about her experience among poor people. “It is not always important to give things to people. What is truly relevant is presence, offering your time to be with them”.

In 2020, after making my first religious vows as a Comboni missionary, I was assigned to Zambia. I currently live in the parish of Kanyonyo, in the diocese of Mongu, in the west of the country. Although it is a very poor area, I am very happy because every day I discover the presence of God among these people.  I see how He loves them with unconditional love.

The houses where people live are different from those in other provinces of Zambia and the soil is not very fertile, which means that many people do not have adequate food. Most of the area’s inhabitants were born and raised here.

They live around the Zambezi River, which in this area is not yet too mighty. Their way of being moves me because they do not show their suffering, they know how to be affectionate and are willing to establish friendships.

The poverty that I have discovered is not only due to the scarcity of resources but is also caused by other things, such as the high number of divorces. This fact causes many children to remain in the care of their mothers. Sometimes, as they have to work a lot and do not have time to support them, they are forced to leave them in the care of their grandmothers, which generates a spiral of difficulties and poverty.

Sometimes, during my visits, I notice that families do not live in well-built houses and often lack enough food and usually there is a sick person in the home. When this happens, I share the situation with my sisters in the community and we try to support them to the best of our ability.

One of the things that we usually do is help them acquire materials that allow them to fix their homes. I have not been here very long, but I know very well that in our mission activity, the first thing is to get to know the people, that is why I visit the families in the villages.

They share with me their joys and, above all, their problems. Before saying goodbye, we pray and share the Bible reading of the day.

Our parish has 12 Christian-based communities. I take care of the formation of their leaders. Whenever we meet, we share the Word of God and try to contextualize it in our daily lives. People have deep faith and actively participate in the meetings. The Word of God encourages them to live day by day.

In this training, we pay close attention to biblical and ecclesial themes, but also to see together how to guide a Christian community with wisdom. The mission apostolate is teaching me many things, especially knowing how to listen. It is not easy, but I try, and I learn a lot about the culture of the people.

I am also learning the importance of the apostolate of caring, of loving people, of being simple with them, and of understanding them. My presence in the midst of these people is important because they feel happy and glad to see that I am with them in moments of joy and also when difficulties come. It is not always important to give things to people. What is truly relevant is presence, offering your time to be with them. I can only thank God because He makes me feel like an instrument that can contribute something to these people. This gives me a lot of joy.

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