A two year missionary experience (MEP) in one of the areas of involvement of the Mill Hill Missionary students is part of the training of future Mill Hill missionaries. In this (second) article Congolese student, Patrick Lonkoy mhm, writes about what he learnt during these two years of activity in the parish of Ilung in the archdiocese of Bamenda (Anglophone Cameroon)
Lessons learnt from the two years of M.E.P
I feel a little unfair to write what I have learnt in Ilung within the five required pages of this report. The reason being that there are many experiences and things that I have learnt from the local people, their culture and the Mill Hill Teams both in Ilung and communities in Cameroon. I have summarised my learnings for the two years into the following:
- Personal Growth
What motivated me to join the Mill Hill Missionaries was the pastoral work of the missionaries who were sent to Basankusu, their zeal for mission. Unless I plunge myself into the deep of a river, I cannot know the depth of the river. Although I had a taste of mission during my formation time before M.E.P, the two years of M.E.P have given me the opportunity to know the depth of mission. My time in MEP has made me realize that mission is not all roses. There are moments of joy, love, acceptance, hope, courage, fun and fulfillment as well as moments of confusion, anger, anxiety and helplessness. Mission is not all about comfort, good food, enough drink and an easy life, but moving out of my comfort zone and reaching out to get the smell of the sheep, especially the people at the periphery of society, people in great need, those at the margins of society, the voiceless and the abandoned. Ilung Quasi-Parish can be classified into the above characteristics of society. Thus, I feel privileged to have been sent here to learn more about the mission. I remember sleeping on grass put inside a sack as a mattress.
The first thing I have learnt for my personal growth is being in touch with myself, my vulnerability, limitation, helplessness and failures. Through MEP, I have learnt that I should not let my failures define me, but teach me how to do things differently next time. Secondly, MEP has improved my character, especially how to handle my short temperedness. In my spiritual growth: MEP has enabled me to become committed to my prayer life by creating time for my personal prayers and daily reflections. I have learnt also to use my daily experiences for my daily prayers and see God in all the experiences.
- Culture Faith and Theology
Christians of Ilung are deeply rooted in their faith based on their cultural setting, since their culture is full of religious practices. Both Kom and Bum believe in the existence of God and mediators. Through my daily interaction with the local people, I realized that many cultural practices are close to the Christian faith. However, many people have rubbished these practices without studying their culture. From the local people I have learnt their hospitality, generosity, welcoming others, caring for one another and how to make bridges to unite people, instead of building walls.
Conversely, since people have great respect for their traditions and traditional leaders, they are being shaped mostly by their traditional culture. This means that even our few active Christians accept Christianity only if it corresponds with their culture. People respect foyns (kings) because they believe that they have sacred power. They are considered as “leaders, symbols of unity, personifications of kingdoms and mediators between gods, royal ancestors and people.” This means that anything a foyn says has to be accepted by the community. I had a cultural shock on 5th and 6th March, when the foyn of Kom declared two days of cleansing, no one should go to the farm. I went to watch the ritual of cleansing but I was surprised to find out that the ritual was performed by our own Christians. Women were publically left bear-chested in front of their own children. Many do not even know the meaning of the ritual but they are forced by their parents. I hope the missionaries will continue purifying the aspects of culture which are life denying and promote the aspects that are life giving.
Most Significant Experience
In 2017, I visited a disabled youth of 16 years called Christen Cham. He has a problem with his legs, he is a cripple. The parents are very poor and could not afford a tricycle for him. I found him crawling. I looked at the living conditions of the family, I felt like crying. “Brother just pray for me to get a tricycle”, Christen told me. I felt helpless. But I prayed for him. Two days later, it was a Sunday, I went there for the Communion Service, and it rained on that day, to my surprise I saw him crawling to church, very wet. We brought the issue before the Christians to see if they could help. The Christians organized a thanksgiving for him and were able to raised 100.000 Frs, about 200$. I continue praying for him and I applied to the local government social welfare desk in Fundong. I experienced the power of prayer when Christen was given a free tricycle. Then I used the money contributed by the Christians for buying spare parts of the tricycle, clothes, a big mattress, and a blanket.
There were also some painful events, I lost four relatives within a period of three months and I had to deal with the pain from far. Another event was when I helped a Muslim man whom I found had fallen off his bike. When I was trying to help him stand up, my hand touched his wound full of blood and I had a small wound too in my hand. I was afraid but I did not want to show my feeling until I helped him to proceed on his journey. Afterward, I washed my hands and rushed straight to a mission health centre. I thought they could give me some medication but they said the only thing they could do was to test the man whose blood I had touched. I tested the same day. There was no problem and tested again after three months, there was nothing.
Ilung has given me an opportunity to realise my hopes and expectations I had for MEP. My two years in Ilung have given me a chance to observe, experience, learn and succeed as well as experiencing failures. Ilung is a good place for missionary experience and the parish is suitable for MEP. I hope that despite the few challenges, the society will continue sending students to Ilung. I thank all the people who have helped in my MEP with their love, support and prayers.
Patrick Lonkoy Bolengu mhm