It was after breakfast
on a Tuesday in 1999 that Father David Lemkuhl, MMAF was getting ready to depart
from Athi River. He had been missioned from Cincinnati to Africa three years
before to work in Kenya. While ministering at this first post he and young
workers as well as the students in the area discovered Father Dave’s charism —
his rapport with youth. In Ohio he had been involved in pastoral activities
with young people. Now he was as enthusiastic as John Bosco. The official
release/acceptance papers for the transfer to the new job in National Catholic
Youth Centre (City of Joy) had all been taken care of. Today was departure
day. He wondered how his first change in ministry would go. He soon found out!
Before long people
started to fill the front yard of the rectory. One by one five rickety vans
chugged up to the gate. By the time Dave walked out of the rectory, meager
baggage in hand, he ran into a firewall of shouts, greetings, cheers and songs.
All the "troops" had turned out for the send-off. After snatching Dave’s bags
away from him to stow aboard, two leading youth movement members called for
"QUIET!"– relative quiet, that is. Shouting above the low rumble of the crowd
one spokesman expressed gratitude for Father Dave’s three years of service in
Athi River. From the open door of one van Dave bade the throng farewell — so
he thought. All five vans set off; a few motorbikes revved up; some hearty
souls started peddling their bicycles for the trek to Catholic Youth Centre.
After the caravan snaked its way to the new workplace they ran into and melded
with an even bigger throng of swirling young folks.
Four huskies from
his new home then grabbed Father, hoisted him on their shoulders and walked up
the slight hill to the youth centre for Mass. What next? After the people from
both places had squeezed together to hear Father Dave’s last words (for some)
and first greetings (for others), a roar of mingled "Good-byes" and "Welcomes"
touched off lusty songs and shouts. The climax of the day was when the
parishioners of Athi River formed the offertory procession and brought their
gift to the altar. Their gift? They presented Father Dave himself to the
national community of youth. "Wow, "thought Father Dave, "if this is what
reassignment is like, when is my next transfer?"