For the past nine months I have been living among the Kom people in the North West Province of English speaking Cameroon. My presence here is part of the Mill Hill missionary formation programme. It is called M.E.P. – mission experience programme.
I have heard it being said that “Africans are notoriously religious”, and this is indeed evidenced by the lifestyle of the Kom people. In most community activities and programs the Church plays an important role in their realization and their success.
Christianity meets traditional culture.
Since the arrival of the first missionaries to this country more than a hundred years ago Christianity has indeed transformed the cosmological and religious landscape of the people. When Catholics celebrated 100 years of Christianity last May 2013, they had every reason to be proud. Not only was the Christian faith widely accepted and practiced, it brought tremendous social and cultural transformations in the lives of the peoples: the faith, better healthcare, education and a better quality life. Kom has produced many priests, brothers, sisters, and a bishop serving in the universal church.
It must be said that Christianity in Kom challenges some elements of traditional culture. Some traditional Kom religious practices have gone underground but occasionally resurface with remarkable ease. Syncretism is very common here because the Catholic faith is not consonant with some traditional practices. I have had several experiences in my ministry mostly at the reception of the holy communion, funerals, marriage and even baptism. Confusion, family feuds, and family shame result from the dilemmas people are often facing in these circumstances. It is not easy to face these challenges in my ministry especially as a pastoral agent. Giving words of hope and encouragement is my only recourse to them and sometimes I just sit and have nothing to say.
As an M.E.P. student I am engaged in visiting the sick and giving communion to them, I conduct communion services in various mission stations and I help the social communicators (Social Communication Commission) in their work in particular with regard to the Sunday Newsletter. I also give recollections and seminars to different parish committees . Visiting the various small Christian communities (SCCs) and outstations is equally part of my brief as is house visitation and prayer with other denominations.
In all these activities and programs, I can really affirm to myself that the ‘harvest is vast’. Thank God that he allows me to reach out to the unreachable, to greet those abandoned by family or neighbours, to bring smiles to those whose joys were buried because of too many burdens and abject poverty. I have discovered that poor people are very generous. I really instil in my mind the message of Fr Michael Corcoran, General Superior of the Mill Hill Missionaries, when he visited Cameroon and it happened that he gave an inspiring message to us young missionaries to minister to and search for those “last, least and lost” in the community.
Glenn Dumali mhm, student on M.E.P.