Humility, resourcefulness and compassion - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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December 2021 newsletter

Kevin and Marilyn McDonough, Tanzania

Nysasatu (left) being held by Sister Albertina when she first arrived; and (right) after being treated and fed at St. Justin’s for 10 months.

To say we have been transformed and educated by our three years in Musoma would be an understatement. You must live, work and walk with the people here to experience this transformation, as it is impossible to explain.


As I reflect on our time in Tanzania, the word humility keeps coming to mind. The Tanzanian people are not pretentious or egocentric. What you see is what you get — genuine sincerity, humility and straightforward approach to life and interaction with others. People here are simply focused on making a living, supporting their families and providing a better future for their children.

They take a lot of pleasure in simple family activities and are ready to celebrate any occasion with gusto.

Bahati, who has no arms, is new to St. Justin’s. As soon as I open the gate, he greets me with “Babu, Babu, Babu” (grandfather).

I am continually amazed by the resourcefulness of the Tanzanian people. It is absolutely incredible to see how much they can accomplish with very limited resources and to see how grateful everyone is for what they have. Just outside the compound where we live is a shoe repair man who has a very simple work setup and who has a constant stream of customers passing by. He is loved by everybody and is always smiling and happy. By the way, he cannot walk and can only crawl on spindly legs. We greet each other every day, and I cannot help but be humbled by him.

For parents, proper education of their children is a top priority. They make huge sacrifices to find a way to get their children into a good school.

The contrast between American/European and Tanzanian life could not be starker. This contrast is probably the most stunning when working with the disabled children at St. Justin’s Centre for the Disabled outside Musoma. These children come from extreme poverty and literally have nothing — while coping with a severe physical or intellectual disability. We learn great humility and the few really important things in life at St. Justin’s. Humility is probably the biggest factor in the transformative experience of living here.


My journey with Maryknoll Lay Missioners has taken me to places where people live in the most austere circumstances. Along with caring for some 80 children with disabilities, St. Justin’s Centre provides an outreach program to small villages and remote areas. Walk with us as I describe our journey with one child.

In the summer of 2019, Stephano (the assistant director) and I visited the village of Matumaini (some names and places are changed for anonymity). There we met with five children and their parents. Nyasatu was 3 years old and weighed less than 15 pounds. She suffered from acute malnutrition. She was extremely thin and listless. Her mother lives with mental disabilities and was struggling to care for her. We were eventually able to bring Nyasatu and her Mama to St. Justin’s for care. Slowly Nyasatu started gaining weight.

Unfortunately, when the pandemic hit Tanzania, the school was closed for several months, and everyone had to go back to their village. When the school reopened, a government official ruled that Nyasatu should not be there because she could not attend school. Nyasatu and her Mama were forced to remain in the village.

In January 2021 Mama took Nyasatu to the Makoko Clinic. The doctor there called Stephano and said that Nyasatu was near death. Stephano took Nyasatu to the hospital, and the doctor there intervened with Child Welfare so that Nyasatu and her Mama were able to return to St. Justin’s. The hospital physician designed a special feeding program for Nyasatu. She now weighs 33 pounds. She had surgery in October to remove her tonsils and adenoids, which were blocking her airway. She can now breathe and swallow easily. She is getting stronger each day. She is laughing and becoming more playful. Our next goal is for her to learn to sit. The staff continues to work with her mother to reinforce good childcare practices.

How was all this possible? A big part was due to all of you who made donations to our mission account. About 18 months ago, we started to provide health insurance for all the children at St. Justin’s. Most of the children have basic health care (BIMA). However, six of the most fragile children have comprehensive medical, dental, and vision care (I call it Big BIMA). It only costs $25 per year. Nyasatu’s surgery was fully covered except for a few pairs of surgical gloves and a blue drape. If you donated to our mission account, you walked with us through this journey with Nyasatu.

We are grateful to all of you who have helped us along the way with prayers and donations. You are part of our mission too!

May you have a blessed Christmas and peace in the New Year,
Kevin and Marilyn

We are so grateful for your continuing support of our ministry. During this season of giving, we would like to urge you to consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign. This new campaign 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.

A group of donors has already pledged to match the dollars raised by this campaign 2-to-1. That means that every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. This campaign will ensure that Maryknoll Lay Missioners will be able to continue to send and to support missioners like me in the years to come. Please pray for the success of this campaign and if you can, please donate at the “Walk With Us” button below. 

Marilyn and Kevin McDonough
Kevin and Marilyn McDonough serve as Maryknoll lay missioners with the Diocese of Musoma and the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa in Musoma, Tanzania.