by Sr. Ese Idogen MMM Nigeria 05.05.2022
As I got more involved in the work in Tourgbene, Bomadi region in Delta State, Nigeria, I realized that the water here is ‘everything”. Everything is done in the water, drinking, bathing, fishing, excreting and it is the main source of waste disposal. Malaria, diarrhea and other skin infections are still quite prevalent. I thought of showing them how to dig a pit latrine, but ‘how’? Everywhere is water. I saw women struggling to feed their children. The majority are fisher women. The majority of the men were either so busy playing the local chess in the jetty or drinking the local gin “ogogoro”.
Life in Torugbene was quite an adventure. I remember the first time I rode on a boat looking at the night stars and the cold breeze gently caressing me. Other times I would sit by the side of the river listening to the gentle rhythms of the moving water and I can never forget those mosquitoes. Is it not Sr Ekaete who taught us to rename? So, I began my own baptism spree and I renamed the noise of the mosquito “songs”, even though it didn’t change the painful bites. They sang so loudly.
I had volunteered to join the catechist to prepare the children for the sacraments but many times, I came back home disappointed. The children would never show up, especially at weekends. I got curious and I asked the children once ‘Why do you never show up during weekends?” One of them, in her innocence, happily said they go to burial ceremonies at weekends so that they could get something to eat. I was shocked and I felt very remorseful. I became more compassionate to them and instead of disappointment, I named it hope.
It was hard for me to seeing teenagers struggling to care for their babies. I thought of their education that had been put on hold until God knows when! I thought of their future and all they could be. I wondered if maybe no one had told them the bunch of possibilities there are. I thought that maybe if their mothers could have told them their own mistakes, with courage, maybe some of them could have avoided making the same mistakes. Maybe, just maybe!
Whenever I remember the burning eyes of the young men and women gathered at the different youth clubs organized by the Sisters every week, wanting to learn more about themselves and their role in God’s plan, I smile as I say to myself, mission is hope.
I thought of the babies who were often malnourished and dehydrated. I remember Ejiro (not her real name) who was really malnourished and could no longer walk. She was placed on a Nutrition program. Every day, I watched with eager eyes as she was fed. I wondered “will she ever be able to walk again?” With hope so frail, I prayed and watched, waiting for a miracle. After some weeks, there she was, making her first steps after a long time. I will hardly forget the joy I felt when I saw her move those tiny feet. Then I understood, mission is patience, it is hope.
The harvest here is indeed blessed and rich. Remember the balance our MMM Constitutions talks about? I struggled to keep it. Often times, I was caught up with deciding to answer the knock on the door. A woman and her sick baby would be there; she had just shown up after the end of the day’s work. Yes, and I was about sneaking to the chapel to tell the good Lord how busy the day was! And now, that Knock! Yes, Yes, Yes!!! I hear you dear St Benedict “Guests are to be treated like Christ”. “But I am tired…” Okay, see what the problem is, speak with them maybe, add a smile and then, call the Sisters. No matter how little, you can do something!!!”
I could go on and on writing, maybe something longer than C.S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. I am sure I cannot exhaust all my memories of Torugbene on a single piece of paper.
Torugbene was quite an experience. I had been given me the privilege to be part of something bigger than myself, sharing in the lives of a new people. I have learnt more about myself and the MMM mission in the world as I prepare to be part of that mission. I have met new people, new cultures and new friends. I felt connected to all my MMM ancestors who have crossed all barriers to bring life to others. I am grateful to the Sisters who have showed me practically what “going in haste” means, and to all my friends who tried to teach me the language and even brought hooks to teach me fishing.
As I sit today to reminisce, all that keeps coming to mind is;
Mission is patience with myself and others.
Mission is being creative with ways to reach the people.
Mission is compassion, it is friendship and collaboration.
Mission is learning to listen to myself and the people I work and live with even in the loudness of their silence.
Mission is courage to act in the midst of challenges and fears.
Mission is the openness to begin each day anew, not letting the fears of yesterday hold me back.
Mission is an adventure. It is freeing myself to take gospel risks.
Mission is faith, believing that ‘…I am worth more than a sparrow.
Mission is love; it is Christ.
Thank you, God of my journey!