Do I Look Strange?
By Fr. Eugene Cañete, CICM
A few weeks after my arrival, I was invited by a young Zambian, the youth leader of Chibote Catholic Church, to join other youth leaders in their home visitation.
Along the way I was told that I had to greet everyone I was going to meet in the houses. We arrived in one house and, indeed, I managed to greet them although in a strange accent. When I was seated properly in that house, I say from a distance a little boy on his mother’s lap. His eyes were fixed on me. He stated at me carefully and suddenly in a loud voice uttered candidly, “ulemoneka umweni””. At once everybody burst into laughter, I look at the person next to me and asked him why the laughter. Trying to find the exact words in English, he thought deeply then said: BaBrother, he was saying you look strange.” I was a little pensive about this and tried to ponder on what these words could mean. “You look Strange”, I was not yet satisfied, I felt that there was something more to what this little boy was saying.
Share Their Stories
On my way after the home visit I was telling myself that “if I continue to look strange before people, then I’d better remove all the barriers that keep me t a distance from people and that prevent then form feeling at ease with me. of course I was exaggerating, and yet, I was also challenging myself. I realized that if I did not want to look strange to the people, then I should do something, I should be integrating with them more often. I was now making a promise to myself. It’s time that I should be with people mote often, go with them, listen to their stories and later in share with the on share with them the stories of Life.
In fact I have begun. Every Thursday and Saturday afternoons, I have learned how to grounds and street corners, with the mishanga (cigarette boys) and the fisali (sugarcane) vendors. Thus if I still look strange before the people, then it has something to do with my physical differences and cultural background.
Entering Their Life
“Physical differences and cultural background” – this reminds me of our Constitution Commentary. One statement reads that “the missionary is always a foreigner in the country to which he is sent” As a missionary to an “intercultural mission” now I am convinced that I well really look strange because of physical and cultural differences, influences from my family, my country and culture, these I can never hide. Yet they should not prevent not hinder me from entering into” a real integration into the life of the people to whom I have been sent”.
A Second Look
While I was writing this article, I tried to look back to that experience a few weeks after my arrival. I could still picture clearly the little boy with staring eyes coming up to me. Thanks to him, I am now able to look again with new eyes at myself as a CICM intern and the missionary life to which I am called. And thanks to him too I am able to reflect what all these mean id this concrete Zambian milieu.
Here in Zambia, particularly in Chibote and Chibuluma missions, missionary challenges abound. This then is my a HOPE, that the people and I will gradually feel at home with each other so that by responding to these challenges we become partners in the mission of Christ. No longer strangers, but partners in the building of small Christian communities and in transforming this world into His Kingdom of Joy, justice, and peace!
“Human life has no colour. It has no country of origin and it has no ideology. It is just life.” (Dr. Paul Lusaka)