Missioner Tales

When I first arrived in Nairobi and was trying to learn how to navigate this capital city of Kenya, I would walk through Kibera, a huge informal settlement—or slum—with a Kenyan friend, Patrick. A member of the Christian Life Community movement, Patrick does volunteer ministry assisting HIV-affected children with education in Kibera. He visits them and their families to help them get into school and subsidizes their school fees, which are considerable, even for “free” schools.

We traveled down narrow, muddy passageways between tiny homes built of tin, cardboard, plywood and plastic. There is no sewerage, no running water except to central points in the settlement, and electricity is “borrowed” by throwing wires over lines and running them to the homes.

As we were winding our way through cars, people and food stands, Patrick stopped and scooped a bee out of a puddle where it was trapped. He settled it on the pavement and stayed to make sure it flew off.

The next day, I texted Patrick and called him a “rescuer of bees.” Without missing a beat, he responded, “Ah, but we need to be rescuers of people.”
Heidi Cerneka, MKLM

One of the few crops that are cultivated in the altiplano of Peru is quinoa, a high protein grain that is a staple food for the Aymara and Quechua people of that region. One day as I walked along the road to visit one of the homes, I spotted a group of women and men standing in a field doing all kinds of rhythmical movements with their hands in the air. Truly I felt as if I were in the scene from the Gospel of Matthew 13:24–30 in which Jesus speaks of a farmer separating the wheat from the chaff after having pulled them up together.

Quinoa plants have weeds that grow up with them. At the time of the harvest these have to be separated from the quinoa so as not to lose any of the grain. The folks I saw were scooping up weeds and quinoa together and holding it high above their heads allowing the wind to blow through it. The weeds, being light, blew away, while the farmers gathered up all the quinoa that fell to the ground and laid it on the woven cloth on the ground. Nothing would be lost, and their food for the future was assured.
Helen Phillips, M.M.

São Paulo, Brazil, one of the largest metropolises in the world, where we live as Maryknoll lay missioners, paints a stark contrast to the forests of the White Mountains back home in New Hampshire. A moment’s quiet and green space are hard to come by here, but we have had some great opportunities to take our girls Cecilia, 4, and Maëlle, 2, to the forests on the edges of this city of 21 million people. There we are greeted with fresh air, incredible species of plants and animals, and even a moment’s quiet. In our hushed moments on the trail, we’ve been gifted with the opportunity to see a golden lion monkey coming closer to investigate us, as well as a family of howler monkeys traveling overhead. We seek to appreciate the flora and fauna around us with the same wide-eyed wonder of our girls. We keep our eyes open for the beauty of God in nature and within our sisters and brothers in Brazil.
Marcelo Maiorano & Kathleen Maynard, MKLM

As I drove home to New York from Chicago, I entered a rest stop and parked next to a van with Bangladeshi Muslims. Speaking in Bengali, I asked one man where he was from. “Tangail town,” he said.

“I used to live there, from 1976 to 1982, near Kumudini College,” I said.

“I lived near there as a little boy,” he said, and then asked me, “Where are you from?”

“Oh, I was born and raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan,” I replied.

“I know it very well,” he exclaimed. “I drive a taxi in New York.”
We laughed.
John P. Martin, M.M.

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Missioner Tales

Tales of life in the missions around the world.
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