Mission Diary. In Good Hands

Father Deogratias Nyumu, a Comboni missionary from Congo, talks to us about his experience in Mozambique. “Being missionaries means learning to live with the bare minimum.”

I arrived in Mozambique in 2017, shortly after my ordination. After a period of introduction to the language, culture and socio-pastoral reality of the Church, I was assigned to Ribàué, a rural mission located about 130 kilometres from the city of Nampula, in the north of the country.

I am part of a community of three missionaries of three different nationalities (Italian, Ethiopian and Congolese) which greatly affects the people we live with because here there is a big difference between the axininene (“natives”) and the vientes (“foreigners”). The missionary lifestyle is a testimony of coexistence and brotherhood that goes beyond nationality or ethnicity.

As a Comboni community, we take care of two parishes, that of the Sacred Heart of Ribàué and that of Our Lady of Fatima, of which I am parish priest, whose main church is located in the city of Lalaua, about 80 kilometres from where we live. This requires me to move often and spend many days in Lalaua.

The parishes are very large and sometimes we travel very long distances to meet people in isolated areas where there is no electricity or running water. Being missionaries means learning to live with the bare minimum and accepting having to leave the comforts of the cities.

In this environment, the roads are an ordeal. Sometimes it takes more than four hours to travel 70 kilometres and more than once I have spent the night in the car during the journey due to the condition of the road or when my car broke down. Sometimes I travel by motorbike and it’s rather dangerous when I have to cross a river without a bridge. On one occasion I had to be carried on someone’s back as I was too afraid of the strong current.

In these circumstances, it is always good to work with a pastoral team. It was not for nothing that Jesus sent the disciples in pairs, obviously because the testimony of two people is more credible, but also because two people are stronger in the face of challenges. In my case, I work with catechists, who are a fundamental part of the mission.

Since we have more than 120 chapels between the two parishes, we can only visit some of them two or three times a year, and the catechists are, naturally, very important in that context. We invest many resources and efforts in the ongoing training of these pastoral workers in our Comboni catechetical centre in Anchilo.

We need to be sure that our Christian communities are in good hands and it is very important to work with well-trained lay people. Another priority is young people. In some places, I planted fields of beans and corn with them to show them by example the importance of work. In this country, politicians steal the future of young people from them by not making it easy for them to find a job. Many of them live in extreme poverty. We must give them the means to take control of their lives through initiatives such as agriculture, livestock farming or sewing.

In the rural areas where we work, there is a lot of alcoholism and early marriages are frequent. The culture encourages marriage to girls, who are forced to drop out of school to get married. It’s a problem we are fighting against, so we support two community schools to try to provide guidance, especially for girls.

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