February 2022 newsletter
Susan Feeney, Kenya
“Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.” (Luke 10:35)
After running a gauntlet of international COVID travel regulations, two eight-hour flights and crossing eight time zones, I arrived in Kenya at the beginning of January.
Two fellow missioners and I have been learning Swahili at a school in Nairobi for five weeks now and will complete the first two levels of Swahili before the culmination of the course with an exam on April 8. The following week, which is also Holy Week, we are scheduled to move to Mombasa on the Kenya coast and settle into our new ministries.
As Lent approaches, it struck me how this time of spiritual preparation coincides with my preparation for ministry. This Lent will be a time of reflection and preparation for me as I look forward to the challenge of navigating a new and different community and culture in Mombasa and as I settle into a role where my skills can be useful to my mission assignment.
During Lent, we are asked to focus on prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Some years ago I decided to cut back on “extras” or “nonessentials” during Lent, and I contributed the money to a project at my parish, which supported the fight against global hunger. Fasting and almsgiving have always gone together for me — I fast and try to give the resources I have “saved” by giving “alms” to one in need.
I am learning much about resilience and faith from the people I am getting to know here. Many seem to be able to trust that they will make it, even if they do not know where their next meal is coming from. One third of Kenyans live below the poverty line, and many do not have the basic needs of food, nutrition, healthcare, child protection, clean water, sanitation and housing.
The story of the Good Samaritan speaks to me when I encounter people who are poor here. When we see our brother or sister suffering, we want to help. We are inspired to give and to reflect on the needs of those around us. We make a personal commitment to act.
On free afternoons (our language classes are in the mornings), I sometimes walk to the local shopping area. On my walks I pass a boy selling peanuts. He is there every day, rain or shine. I do not eat peanuts so the first few times I passed him I did not stop.
But one day I decided to give him the change I had in my pockets. I spoke with him (he speaks very good English), and I found out that his name is James and that he is 12 years old. He sells peanuts to make money to help his mother feed his family.
Now, whenever I pass James, I make sure I have a bit of change for him. He is always extremely thankful. He insists I take peanuts of the same value. I then give the peanuts to the hungry security guard I pass at our gate on the way home. The security guard works long shifts and is very thankful whenever I stop with peanuts for him. He told me he shares them with his children when he gets home in the evening. It all started with my curiosity in the resilience of young James selling peanuts. It is hard to know all the ways in which a small action will change things.
In the words of Pope Benedict “fasting is an aid to open our eyes to the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live”. This Lent I resolve to keep my eyes open for others who may be in need.
This Lent, as I continue my practical orientation to Kenya, I will be praying for the courage of the Good Samaritan to follow my inclination to share in ways I may not have been expecting.
Please consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!