Some of the missions in Kenya and Tanzania are located in the remotest corners of the globe; places virtually untapped by Western society and modern technology. I knew I would be in for an adventure, but I still found myself unprepared for all of the experiences I encountered during my summer visit. One can read about Africa all they want, but the work that Maryknoll is doing in some of these remotest of places is something that truly must be experienced for one’s self.
I learned that traditional African faith practices – such as faith healing, witch doctors, and native medicinal practices – are still very much alive in Africa even today. I also was amazed to hear, from every person I talked to, just how important God is to the people of East Africa. To be an African, as it was explained to me, is to believe in God; the fact that God is present in nearly every aspect of the African life was new, exciting, and helped me to reflect on my own life and see where, in fact, God is working and acting in my own day-to-day being.
Yet despite the heat, the insects, and the incredibly rudimentary conditions of this rural area, I found myself strangely at peace with myself and with the people I encountered there. Indeed, it was the people who made my experience so memorable and, strangely enough given the difficult circumstances of the environment, enjoyable. I didn’t speak the Wataturu language and had very little in common, culturally, with the people I met; yet, through laughter, smiles, and my willingness to sit and spend time among them, I found myself welcomed by the people and wanting to learn more about them. My time here was short, but I could see just how my presence was appreciated by the people and just how much God is present in their lives. That, indeed, is the mission of Maryknoll – show the people how God is present among them and make the Gospel message explicit in all that we do. By being present and interacting with the Wataturu people, teaching them and showing them stories about the life of Jesus Christ, and just helping out in any way I could in the day-to-day life of the village, I hope and feel that I was serving as an instrument of God’s hand among the people.
by Seminarian Peter Latouf