Advent 2023 newsletter
Francis Wayne, Kenya
It has been more than two years since I joined Maryknoll Lay Mission. My starting date was Oct. 16, 2021. My spiritual guide Meher Baba set out on Oct. 16, 1949 on what he called “The New Life.” I have decreed my time with MKLM as my “new life.”
Mission life is indeed a new life experience. A missioner has to travel to a different country, live within a different culture, learn to speak a new language, and make new friends while struggling with the new language. The missioner has to eat different foods cooked in new ways, live alone if he or she is single like me, and there’s always bugs in the house. I could go on! I’m surprised I’m not depressed. But I know why I’m not depressed: “Mungu yupo,” as my Kenyan friends say — “God is here.”
Every day I pray. The best time of day for me is the morning. I wake up often with answers to questions I had the day before. My thoughts are clear and spontaneous in the mornings and often flow in an intuitive understanding. I love when it feels easy to think clearly.
I begin my day at an altar I have set up in a corner of a room, standing barefoot and reading a short litany of prayers. Then I read from two books, one of which is Rumi poetry, the other is from a variety of spiritual readings. God sets an intention for the day during morning prayer. I leave the house with that day’s mantra on my lips. Today’s mantra was “God, use me appropriately.”
During the day I think about that as I go to my ministries. The mantra will usually fade as I encounter challenges along the path, but often something like patience will settle the moment, and I will become aware of “Mungu yupo.” My intention is back.
At the end of the day, I pray at the same altar and say the same prayers, but then the intentions are from me: “Sorry, God for not recognizing you in all my encounters and activities. I love you.” My mind thinks, “Don’t worry.”
So, how does God use me appropriately?
I recently changed my ministry to working full-time in prison ministry. Last week I bought bars of soap for 60 inmates at Anex Facility, the men’s medium security prison at Shimo La Tewa. At Anex the men are farming, and there is an industry section where items are made to sell.
There is a team of about 30 men who make baskets. Some men unwind and straighten unused barbed wire to give the basket a sturdy frame. Others are busy slicing cured coconut palm into thin strips to cover the wire frame, while others are busy stripping fan-shaped leaves into weaving and threading strips. A few men dye some of the strips purple, red and green to give the baskets color and style.
The men are attentive to their individual tasks and work slowly to produce a perfect product. The work is very meditative, which I think has a good effect on the heart; intended or not aware of the effect, it happens.
I sit and watch the men and talk and listen for a few hours one day a week and sometimes buy soap. Next week I will be with the carpenters making furniture. Some are experts at wood working, others are not. I help the ones that need help, like those who are new at using a saw or struggling to use the hand plane. I’m really just there as a guest visiting the inmates.
I also do ministry at other sites at the prison. Three days a week I teach at the Borstal facility. Borstal is a corrective training facility for late teenage boys. Each boy is active in academic and vocational studies.
I teach Form 3 (junior high school) math and basic auto mechanics. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I am at the rehab center, helping recovering addicts with their program of recovery.
The challenges of mission life come and go. I have to pray to sustain my abilities, use them appropriately and learn new ways of living this “new life.”
By being a participant in this new life, I am making it so for others too. A Kiswahilli phrase I use the most is “Tuko pamoja,” we are together. In my own personal mission statement, which you could read in my mission profile, I have written “Our spiritual and physical mutuality makes my mission necessary, worthwhile, and accomplishable.”
Maryknoll Lay Missioners supports my new life in Kenya, my faith in God, and my appropriate ministries. Maryknoll Lay Missioners needs your support to support financially the work of all our missioners doing God’s mission. Please contribute appropriately.
Blessings to all,
Please consider supporting my mission work with the Diocese of Kitale with a donation through the link below.
I also invite you to walk with me as a “COMPANION IN MISSION.” Companions in Mission are friends and generous donors who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information, visit Become a Companion in Mission. Thank you so much for your generosity!