Obile Father!” This is a Sesotho expression that I heard from an old parishioner at Glen Cowie Parish in Witbank Diocese on my return from Peru at the end of 2009. It means “you have come back Father''. He said it with a smile that made me feel at home. I came to South Africa for the first time almost two decades ago in 1991. This was the time when people were celebrating Mandela's release from his imprisonment. Additionally, preparations had started for the first free presidential and national general democratic elections which took place in 1994
I had the pleasure of sharing in both the celebrations and election preparations. Our church buildings were opened to the general public as centres for voter training. I worked in the parish of Glen Cowie from 1991 until 1999. In August 2000 I was recalled to Peru for nine years. My work in my home country was in the field of missionary animation. I endeavoured to help my fellow country people to understand that the Church is called to be missionary and that we should be concerned that there are many people, 75 % of the world's population, who do not know Jesus yet. I did this work for three years during which I visited many parishes and met with Christian adults and youth groups. Thereafter, I was dedicated fully to the work of vocation promotion and formation for six years. I took care of those who wanted to become Comboni missionaries. It is a very delicate job because it is not easy to connect at once with somebody who wants to follow Jesus as a missionary. It requires time and tactfulness in order to touch them with attentiveness as Jesus would do vis-à-vis the invitation to be missionaries. Generally, I was very happy to share with them my vocation, my life and my missionary experience which I had here in South Africa.
After this work in Peru I happily came back to South Africa on 31 December 2009. I was born in a small town in the Andes of Peru close to the city of Huanuco. I did all my studies in that town. At the age of 18, I wanted to enter the diocesan seminary in Huanuco so as to become a diocesan priest. However, my family and friends did not support me wholeheartedly. Instead they encouraged me to study agronomy in the local university. My parents were both teachers but also did farming. We had some fields where we grew potatoes, maize and others crops. The study of agronomy blended well with this setup. It was quite nice and familiar to me. I graduated at the age of 22 after five years of study. I still used to participate in Church activities whilst studying agriculture. I even knew some priests and nuns. But I did not know who the Comboni missionaries were and their charism. On the other hand, I knew a Comboni who was the parish priest of one of the parishes in Huanuco. I will never forget the day when I talked openly about my vocation and desire to become a priest with a diocesan priest who was my friend, Father Raul Defillippi. I expressed my desire to become a witness of Jesus in my parish and town. Father Raul opened his bible and patiently read for me the parable of the sower: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop-a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He, who has ears, let him hear” (Mt. 13: 3-9). I never forget this passage because it has become the foundation stone for my priesthood. I reflected on it for quite some time. Months later Father Raul invited and introduced me to the Comboni missionaries. He gave me the Comboni magazines that are published in Peru. I went through them over and over again. Eventually, I realized that the Lord was calling me to become a Comboni missionary.
I joined the Comboni missionaries in 1981 and since then I have no regrets. Of course, at the beginning one has to face the challenging question, “is it the right decision.” I tried to be open to the Spirit of God, and in dialogue with my family and friends, I could see that the Lord had prepared the soil. Therefore, without delay I contacted the Comboni Missionaries. I did my philosophical studies in Lima, Peru. Thereafter, I did my theological studies in Sao Paulo, Brazil. After my ordination, I was sent to work here in South Africa in 1991. Over these last years of missionary work in South Africa and in Peru I asked myself: is the soil good for the seed? Am I open to the word of God? Am I doing the will of God? These questions will always accompany me. Finally, my dear friends we are all called by the Lord to be missionaries. Being a Catholic means also being a missionary. Furthermore, there are also some who are called to serve God and the Church in a special way. I was one of them and I was happy to respond. I thank God because He gave me the vision and provision to be his witness. I encourage not only the youth but also the parents to be attentive to the call of God for this missionary task in the world.
I am Father Paul Kambo, a Comboni missionary from Kenya. I have only been in South Africa for a few months and almost everything here is new for me: the languages, culture, people and landscape. I am assigned to work in Mount Ayliff, one of our missions in the diocese of Kokstad.
At the moment, I cannot share much about my new mission but one thing I have experienced is the warm welcome that I have received from the people here. Among the current challenges that I have to face, the most urgent one is to learn the Xhosa language and culture.
Before coming to South Africa, I was in Kenya for the last five and a half years, working mainly in the field of youth and vocation ministry, one of the many evangelising activities of the Comboni missionaries in Kenya. Thanks to this ministry, I have had countless encounters with young people of different ages, ethnic backgrounds and societies. I have had encounters with youth in primary and in high schools, in colleges, universities, and even in their parishes and homes. I believe that I have contributed something towards their growth but also I have learned a lot from them.
In my opinion, young people are basically the same everywhere in the world. I always like to tell them that the youthfulness possessed by each one of them can be translated into energy or potentiality. Energy can find its way out in many directions. It can destroy or build. It can push to growth but also crush to ruin. According to the principles of science, energy cannot be destroyed. It needs to be channelled to effect growth and fullness: that which we were created for by God. It is unfortunate that we don't realize how much power God has placed in us.
Another aspect that I have always found interesting among young people is thier dynamism. Young people do not enjoy remaining static. They look for a rhythm of changes in their lives. Amusement for young persons is that which doesn't remain the same for long! Many times I like to look at this sense of dynamism in a positive perspective. Dynamism is the remarkable quality of people who like learning and finding new solutions to problems. Great inventors have possessed this quality. They never looked for popular ways of solving problems or facing challenges but looked for new ways. However, these inventors need a certain level of discipline to achieve consistency in whatever they are pursuing. Lacking discipline, they are diverted and nothing comes about!
It is therefore not enough to be dynamic as young people. Do we possess a discipline and consistency in pursuing that which is constructive for us, both now and in the future?