Our Lublin community came to be strongly linked to Africa due to the significant contribution of many sisters who have lived and worked here in Poland. People who desire to know more about Africa, to travel to Africa or to support Africa are referred to us by those who know us. Parishes and even schools within and outside Lublin invite us every year to speak about Africa and our MSOLA charism. We also have an African Museum which attracts different groups yearly.
These invitations and visits have been very few for almost 2 years due to the pandemic. However, there is more life and joy since the beginning of this year as we are able to visit schools and receive students in our museum for animation. The joy of meeting children of basic schools so eager to know more about our charism and Africa is so encouraging. We normally begin by telling them who we are as a congregation and how we came to be linked to Africa.
These children often have some knowledge about Africa, though limited. The answers we receive of what they link with Africa are usually; wild animals (elephants, giraffes, lions, etc), desert, burning sun, poverty and hunger etc. We normally affirm them for the effort made and move ahead to open their eyes to the bigger picture. They are fascinated when we talk of the geography of African (55 countries) and the different realities. Then they begin to understand that, Africa is not a country; it is a big continent and that it’s not just a mass of sand but also forests areas can be found. They get to discover that it’s not all burning heat, but you can even find snow in some parts of Africa.
They are almost shocked to hear that, Africa contributes significantly to the economy of the world through its rich natural resources. It has great talents and glorious cultures. You can see it all written on their innocent faces when one adds that, 1/3 of the world’s precious metals come from Africa, and probable the world of metals in our phones are from Africa. And that the chocolate, tea and coffee we enjoy, the raw materials come from Africa. This provokes a certain healthy curiosity and interest in them. Not forgetting as well to mention the painful reality of all the injustices suffered by innocent people especially children of their age, the poverty and insecurity and the continuous widening of the gap between the rich and the poor.
We discuss with them the shared values of all human beings, their own values and the specific values of the African people. They are excited to hear and even to see and touch some toys created by children from Africa from cheap materials; plastics, straws, banana leaves, clay and empty cans. They are happy to be dressed in African traditional clothes or to sing and to dance to African music. For some of them, it is the first time to come so close to an African and even to touch her or to meet a sister so much in love with Africa. This breaks the barriers of fear and creates healthy curiosity, respect and desire to support Africa. It leads to gratitude for all the things they take for granted. We encourage them to say, thank you, to their teachers and parents.
We also receive from them love, encouragement and even financial support. I had this concrete experience in one of the schools where after the lesson, Wojtek (not his real name) a physically challenged child on his electric chair, moved forward and spoke into my ear as I bent to listen. He said he wanted to support other children in African. He had 2 coins (50 cents) in his hands he handed them all to me; his ‘widow’s mite’. He was ready to sacrifice his Pierogi that day for Africa.
This was so touching, I learnt a lot from this gesture. Children are so spontaneous.
And others in their innocence help us to discover anew the essence of our Missionary vocation. In Opole (another diocese about 600 km from Lublin), during Mission week, we visited one kindergarten with the catechist, Jacek. He introduced us to these 5 year old as being missionaries. And just for fun he asked them who a Missionary is, since he didn’t expect them to know as he never taught them. One little boy eagerly put up his hand and answered, “człowiek od Boga” “a person from God”, we glanced at each other in disbelief. This for us was a reminder that our missionary vocation is indeed a precious gift from God. Let us receive it with love and care.
Victoria Gaa, Lublin Community, Poland