‘Jesus, Je T’aime’ ‘Jesus, I Love You’
By Sister Emma de Guzman ICM
Kwada is 4-years-old and her brother Kodji 6. They are the two youngest of a family of eight children of Delu and Kudji, the couple working with us at Okola.
When Delu and Kudji arrived from north Cameroon about 15 years ago, they had only two children, Tije and Mossi. Tije was left in the north and Mossi, then a little girl of 4, grew up with us. When her parents were very busy, we in the community baby-sat her and, later on, the other children. In my baby-sitting time, I taught Mossi how to say short prayers. The shortest was ‘Jesus, I love you’ in English and French. I then added it in Ewondo and then in other languages. The two youngest children, Kwada and Kodji, can now say it in 12 languages.
We began like this: Jesus, je t’aime, French; Jesus, I love you, English; Jesus ma din wa, Ewondo; Jesus, mahal kita, Tagalog; Jesus, ayayaten ka, Ilokano; Jesus, ik hou van u, Flemish. We were Filipino and Flemish Sisters in our ICM community then.
The Sisters or the parents would ask them to recite their prayers for visitors. Amazed by the children’s intelligence, missionaries of other nationalities passing through Okola added their languages which the children eagerly repeated. Gradually their repertoire included: Jesus, Ich liebe Dich, German; Gesù, ti amo, Italian; Jezu, moj kochany, Polish; Jesus, na rnag gayo, Rhumsu, their mother tongue; Jesus ga kungu, Bamileke.
Leader of the gang
I told Mossi as she was growing up – she’s now in high school - that it was her turn to teach her younger brothers and sisters this Jesus prayer in the different languages. She did this very well. The list goes on to this day in the year 2004 with Kwada and Kodji, the two youngest children. Would you like to add your language?
Meanwhile, we’ve become too busy and as there are more children we can no longer baby-sit. Sometimes, however, the children pray the rosary and vespers with us. The attention of the younger ones being short-lived, we allow them to stay for the rosary saying their own intentions and only ten Hail Marys. Then they say their Jesus prayer. I’m amazed to hear the original four different languages now multiplied to 12 to the extent that I can no more follow. And they end in French with ‘Goodnight, Jesus, Goodnight, Mama Mary, Goodnight, Joseph.’ Then off they go and we continue vespers with the older ones.
My simple joy
However, Kwada and Kodji seem to be the brightest of the children. I taught Kwada to answer,‘Emma, me voici,’ ‘Here I am,’ when I called her ‘Kirikou,’ the name of the central character, a tiny little boy, in an animated film based on a West African folk tale ( www.kirikou.net ). One time somebody in the mission called her that name and instead of answering the usual, ‘Here I am,’ she retorted, ‘Who taught you that?’
These are just some of the joys of living with Delu’s family in Okola and seeing the children grow up with us.
Gift of children
At the beginning we tried to help the couple practice family planning as the health of Kudji was in danger, but they said their children were their riches. So now they have eight. Truly, their riches are ours too. Children here in Cameroon are runners for their elders. Approaching 30 years in Cameroon, having arrived in 1975, I can no more run back and forth in the mission compound. So, like most parents and families, I will ask a child to bring or take this or that to someone. They’re also good security guards. We say that thieves cannot easily enter the mission compound when they see so many children running around and about.
But the most amazing is the Jesus prayer in different languages. The children evangelize their playmates and classmates whom they bring home by teaching them to say ‘Jesus, I love you.’