It was late Saturday afternoon in Nyabihanga Village in
western Tanzania. The Little Brothers of Jesus were away, but Sister Gaudiosa
from Moshi was visiting us to learn about building Small Christian Communities (SCCs).
We walked into the garden next to the Catholic bishop’s house. Christopher and
John, two of the three schoolboys who lived with me, were picking gooseberries
with three friends. We stood talking together. The sun was mellow m the west and
cast a glow over the fields. The gooseberries were sweet. The conversation was
pleasant. Sister Gaudiosa and the boys were enjoying the experience. So was I.
It was one of those rare moments in life that you can’t
plan. They just happen. There I was among a group of Tanzanians in a small,
rural village – one Sister and five boys. We experienced real Christian sharing
and love. As we quietly talked and picked berries everything became clear, like
a moment of revelation, like the clouds parting for the sun to burst forth. I
knew why I had come to Africa, why the missionary vocation was so important to
me, why friendship and sharing are at the heart of the Christian experience. It
was a magical moment. I lingered in the garden, not wanting the sun to go down,
not wanting to walk back to my house, not wanting the spell to be broken. I
wanted that moment to last forever.
Ever since then I have treasured that moment of love, of
sharing, of Christian community. I feel that God’s greatest missionary gift to
me has been a deep love for the African people. They are my brothers and
sisters. I feel a real part of the African family. In turn the African people
have given me much love and friendship. My closest African friends have opened
their hearts to me. I am deeply thankful for this precious gift and grace.