26 October 15
Bear witness to God with our life
This visit to Guinea Bissau is one in which it is possible really to be close to the ordinary people. I am staying with missionaries in their parish, and they have come here to give their lives for the people. They are doing everything they can for the local people. The missionary is like the priest in a parish in the UK who is there for others.
The local people that I have met briefly and got to know a little are just like us in Leyland in so many ways. Of course the context is different yet their feelings, their struggles, their plans are similar. The differences are all incidental, such as not having many pairs of shoes, or wardrobes full of clothes; they do not have cars, they will not travel, they do not go on holidays. They in general have a different way of relating to each other, as they are for ever sitting in small circles, men and women usually in different ones, and chatting. The home is not to live in, nor to cook in. It is there for sleeping. Otherwise they live outside. It is so hot mostly. Nor do they have medical facilities, or roads made of tarmac in many cases. If somebody is knocked over by a car there is not an immediate response by police, medics etc. But when I see their faces I can see the faces of men and women and children in Leyland, except they are a different colour.
I have a kaleidoscope of colourful impressions, and perhaps the pictures here will illustrate more.
Heavy loads are carried on the head, usually by women also by men on occasions. They can do so balancing the load, and it does not slip off.
The main roads in Bissau have tarmac. But the side roads don’t. This is a road to a school just opened in the parish
Here are the nursery children in this Catholic School that is just opening. The children have great fun with a delightful young teacher who helps them to run, jump and stretch. Later they learn other things.
Here are two little children who were with hundreds of others at the first mass that was before the main parish mass. They were holding hands quite simply and when I took their picture this was the result.
The church is full of young people. None of these are baptised and are on the journey of faith. Sister is telling them a joyful story of her founder who is to be beatified on Saturday 31 October 2015 in Rome.
The attention of these three young people struck me as sister was talking them. They might have been young Leyland people, aged 18 or so.
The main thought I have is to realise the immense treasure we have that unites us with these people. That is our faith, which leads to a new way of living, one in which we really care for each other and by God’s grace we are able to put ourselves out for others.
Here in this parish of St Francis, Antula in Bissau, the capital of Guinea Bissau I can see people who live this life with joy and who face up to the daily challenges of life.
It is impossible to solve the challenges that are so obvious here and for that matter back home in Leyland. But in the present moment I can simply do what I can to be one with the Spirit of God and let the same Spirit live in me and try to be God’s love. Often it is in tears, as I see various things that are evil and do harm. Or I also see things that are so banal and empty and yet attract many people and as far as I can see are not much help in promoting the Kingdom of God’s love.
It is all I can do living here in Guinea Bissau for this brief time or in Leyland, my present home. We can then let the Holy Spirit influence as far as possible those beyond our reach, in high places and pray for a change in this world, and give my life in this way for the other.