In this reflection, Sr. Blessing Lukong, Dominican Missionaries of the Holy Family, explains the deep significance of her Lenten Visit with her Pygmy brothers.
Lent is a precious period of 40 days that our Mother Church gives us for spiritual purification, nourishment and growth. It's a time to turn around. During lent we not only turn our hearts and minds back to God but we also turn around and recognize through the eyes of Christ who we are called to be. We are able to tune into the image and likeness of God -- not individually but as a people.
The Lenten tradition of fasting, praying and almsgiving can lead us to be in solidarity with those in need, to act for them and with them, following Jesus more closely as he shows us the way. Share a meal with a person begging at the gate; wash the feet of the one who has no home; comfort one who is bereft; forgive an enemy; shoulder one’s cross as we journey together towards the truth that sets us free and the triumphant chorus of "Alleluia."
Our Franciscan minority spirit asks us to be poor with the poor. The poor are everywhere with us, poor in many dimensions, but the poor and weak at times are far off from us or may not attract our special attention and our time even if they are in our surroundings.
In response to the invitation of the Church who asks us insistently to go closer and pay more attention to the poor and needy, we profited from this period of grace which is lent, and used the time to visit the old, sick and needy. We also spent time visiting our Pygmy brothers in order to talk with them and offer them food stuff, clothes and medication for the sick.
It is a very special experience visiting them. The Pygmies in particular are a wonderful ethnic group. By nature they are simple welcoming, and joyous. You don’t need to give them much for them to be happy. Any little gesture enlightens their faces, a kind of contagious joy that can only be shared and which creates an internal peace.
They lack all that is material. They sleep on the bare floor in their huts and are simply happy. When they find what to eat today, they are happy. They do not bother about tomorrow, tomorrow takes care of itself. You can never find stored food in their huts, not even in their pots, unless you met them cooking.
They do not cultivate, but instead they eat what nature offers, which is why they usually settle in the forest. They always seem to be returning to the forest when they lack what to eat, looking for the ones who are now living among the Bantous.
They are also generous. One of them surprised us as she ran off to harvest plantain that she saw ready in the bush to give us, thanking us for coming to visit. She did not keep it for herself. This surely was all they were going to live on for some days but she gave us with no hesitation. Even though we felt she needed it more than we did, we had to take it order for the joy and satisfaction of having given something to be complete. This reflects the idea that here is more joy in giving than in taking. This was saved as a lesson of reminder for us. We felt God’s hand acting in her.
Sr. Blessing Lukong
Dominican Missionaries of the Holy Family