Today is Sunday, 09 Jan., the feast day of the Baptism of our Lord. As the Holy Season of Christmas comes to an end, we take down our simple Christmas crib and begin the ordinary season in the church liturgy. I doubt that 2011 will be an ordinary/simple year as we have a lot of work ahead of us.
By the time you get this we may know the results of the referendum in Sudan that may bring us a new country in Africa. Our prayers are that whatever the results there will be peace. I will be listening to the BBC and the VOA (Voice of America) every morning at 6 a.m. while you will likely be getting your news on TV.
Christmas was celebrated in church beginning with a skit put on by some of our Young Christian Students after 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Then our choir led the 800 or so in church in singing. Many people come from different faiths as well as a crowd of non-Christians some of whom come into the church while others “hung around” outside the church not knowing what is going on but knowing that there is something different when we pray during the middle of the night. I find it a great opportunity to preach having so many people in church with whom I seldom get a chance to pray and spread the good news. Mass started after 10 p.m. and we finished sometime after midnight. I had a number of people come to my place for popcorn and drinks after the Mass.
A week later we again celebrated New Year’s Eve with a Mass beginning at 10:45 p.m. and ending at 12:30 a.m. or so. Again I had people at my place after Mass where we visited longer than at Christmas because I didn’t have to get up early in the morning to go on a safari to another Center. We had the late morning Mass right here at Nkololo. Outside of having the Christmas crib we didn’t have any decorations, Christmas tree, big meals etc. I still remember that wonderful family Christmas’ of many years ago and would like to relive some of them. My decorations are all outside where I have a lot of decorative plants as well as flowers that are in bloom plus a poinsettia that is about 10 feet tall now.
December and the beginning of January were different from past years as I had guests who are involved in changing our lives for the better, spiritually and physically. From 9 Dec. to 19 Dec. we had a special guest, Southern Ellis, a graduate student in the College of Architecture for Medical Facilities at the University of Texas A&M. For his final thesis (I may have the wrong terminology) he is working with us to design our Songambele (Move Forward) Hospital. He will do the site plan as well as do architectural drawings of the individual buildings back at the University where he has the necessary tools. When he gets a working model of our project and a cost estimate our team back in WI and MN can began planning for major fund raising. My workers are now busy with related projects such as guest housing for visiting doctors, nurses and advisers whom we expect to work with us occasionally. I have plenty of work, but I have to pay salaries while waiting for funding. Somehow I am still afloat financially and am grateful for any help that I get to keep me going during this time of preparation for fund raising.
Building a hospital is and will be as difficult as it sounds. The only reason that I can even dream of doing such a monumental project is that it is not my idea but one that I know comes from our Lord as a result of our devotion to the Divine Mercy. You may recall that on 11 June 2010 we had a big celebration here when my bishop came to open the Shrine of Divine Mercy here at St. Peter’s parish in Nkololo. Our church is now a place of pilgrimage. As you know from the Bible. Christ spent a good deal of his time curing people of physical ailments and casting out devils as well as preaching the Good News. When one comes up the driveway to our parish there is a sign (In Swahili) that says “Service/help for your soul” – with an arrow pointing to the church, then it reads ” for your body” with an arrow pointing to our dispensary area. We have all been called not simply to follow Christ but to do what he did. Our frequent prayer is “Jesus I Trust In You”. Trust is an essential part of the devotion.
December was a busy month as two Tanzanian men, Arnold and Michael, from a Charismatic Youth Ministry based in Dar es Salaam arrived at the same time that Southern Ellis came from Texas. Their main ministry is working with youth groups. They were here for a month giving retreats, seminars, for adults and youth, praying for the sick and those who were possessed in varying degrees with the devil. Over 170 young people attended the youth seminar that lasted 5 days. We served them one big meal a day. 110 lbs. of rice was hardly enough. I don’t know how many lbs. of beans they cooked. The seminar was outstanding and it’s theme was to change habits/life style. The last two days included healing services. Many were “slain in the spirit” (they collapsed/ fell to the floor) right in the pews before the individual praying began. Some were simply resting in the spirit, others screamed and writhed on the floor from the devils resisting being cast out. For two girls it took 4 days before the devil left for good. Both men have had years of experience in their work and have a lot of experience with people possessed in some way by the devil. Dec. is the month that has changed many of our lives! Perhaps I will be able to write more in my next letter. This one has already gotten quite long.
My prayers for all of my friends and I ask for yours.
An email letter would be most welcome. Send it to me, not to cousin Jan. I look forward to hearing from you.
Love and prayers,