Sr Elizabeth Mukami, Fsp

 “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15)

The joy of a missionary derives from the understanding and commitment to this invitation of Jesus. Ours is a missionary institute – Pious Society of the Daughters of St Paul. Our founder Bl. James Alberione noted, “the world is our parish”. He opened communities all over the globe. We his daughters and sons live in these communities and continue to open new ones following in his footsteps. I have been privileged to live and work in six of these nations; Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and currently South Sudan. Often I have worked in diffusion and youth ministry for vocations, sectors in which by their nature allowed me to travel the world. Other times I worked in the book centre and served the people who visited us daily for spiritual nourishment. in either of these sectors there is joy in seeing the people’s yearning for the Word of God.

After my first profession I was sent to Zambia where I lived for three years. This was a fulfilling experience especially as I began my life as a religious missionary fresh from Novitiate. I travelled extensively across Zambia; from Copperbelt to Livingstone to Kasama, with Sr Mary Moraa who was responsible for diffusion at that time. We displayed books in many parishes and schools, from kindergartens to universities. We pitched our tent at town square in Copperbelt where people from all walks of life would pass and purchase books. Other times we met our sisters from Congo at Kasumbalesa, the border of Congo and Zambia and exchanged books, they would give us French bibles and we would give them various books in English.

In 2014, during the 18th AMECEA Plenary in Malawi, we crossed the border with our vehicle and stayed at the Poor Clares Monastery displaying our materials to the AMECEA delegates till the meeting was over.  After that we visited a few parishes and then returned to Zambia. When our community was eventually opened in Malawi I was sent from Lusaka to give a helping hand in arranging the books in the new bookstore which was a container. I was happy to see a dream come true, people often asked us when would go to stay fully in Malawi.

As a student at Tangaza University College in 2016, I got another opportunity to work in Malawi for two months and a half during the long holidays. Malawi seems to have had a soft spot for me, after final profession I was commissioned there and indeed I was delighted. I stayed for a short time though. I was transferred to Tanzania and continued my missionary experience for about two years. Now I am in South Sudan. Missionary experience for me has been an interesting adventure with the Lord. I often asked him, “Where to this time Lord.” The secret of my joyful experience I believe is detachment and openness to the will of God. This helps in adjusting and letting  go of current plans in order to settle with ease in the new ones that the Lord presents.

Missionary life is an enriching experience that cannot leave one the same. Interacting with people of different cultures, language, beliefs and practices I have come to see how ‘Big’ our God is. The Zambians will present you with their ‘Binkubala’(a type of catepillar) delicacy, the Malawians the blackjack (wild plant) as vegetables and by the time you sit around one tray scooping ‘nsima’ (Ugali) with the rest of the clan, you will have shed all your prejudices and become part of  ‘US’. It is not as easy as it sounds though. It requires courage and an unwavering faith in Jesus.

Appreciating the differences in our cultures breaks down walls and we begin to share life freely. This leads to transformation. Learning the language of the people and eating their food are key elements in making an impact in their lives. I did not manage to eat the ‘Binkubalas’ but as for dishing from the same plate and blackjack and several others I managed, plus speaking the language of the people; they always appreciated the effort. A renown author wrote, “evangelization is like one beggar telling the other where he got food.” I would say as one preacher said that if you love me say it often because I forget. Missionary life is about reminding people that God loves them and He is among them no matter what they are going through or how far they have gone way from Him. This we do not necessarily with a myriad of words and promises but with a life of joyful witness among them.

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