The words of Christ echoes loudly at moments of crisis to all, “If you are not ready to carry your cross and follow me, then you cannot be my disciple”. These words, though implying some sort of burden, serve as a source of strength to missionaries who have to work in the toughest of places, especially those who work in the southern part of Cameroon (North-West and South-West)
I was graced with this opportunity to serve the Lord in such a situation, within the diocese of Kumbo in the Bui division of the North-West region of Cameroon. Kumbo as town is a peculiar place, given the excesses in her social expressions of the reality of her struggle for freedom, and for the actualization of the “Ambazonian Country”. These excesses have led to an unprecedented socioeconomic decline and has presented the church in Kumbo and every missionary working there with a challenging task, and a moment to witness to the gospel.
One of the challenging things faced as a missionary, is to speak out against the evil and the excesses of both militia forces (the freedom fighters and the military of the Republic of Cameroun). The truth became a thing to dread for fear of being tagged by the freedom fighters as a traitor, or by the government’s military as a secessionist; either way, you might get killed. This evoked within the people and a strong sense of fear. Yet, somehow, we find ways to humorously speak about the truth at any liturgical gathering that gives us such opportunities. This however doesn’t come without a price: few priests and even the bishop has been abducted by the freedom fighters our out-rightly accused by the government.
However, in spite of the crisis which has grounded ecclesiastical and social activities, and in spite of an overwhelming betrayal of the faith, out of fear, by some catholic Christian, there has been a forceful effort by a good number of catholic Christians, the Bishop and his clergy with the various missionaries in the diocese to still carry out pastoral activities. One of such activities is the youth ministry which has sought to meaningfully engage the youths, who have been deprived of school with some social and pastoral activities like different kinds of skill acquisition and spiritual formation.
There is also the difficulty of carrying out missionary work, since the crisis has grounded life-activities and have made a lot of people flee from their homes to seek refuge elsewhere. Yet it is an enriching experience as a missionary to see the power of God’s Spirit at work in you and the community, as we still live, as a sign of hope and God’s presence, among a people who are torn and worn out by the crisis, giving them some reason to believe in a better day and a purpose to go on. This is a rare form of witnessing to the gospel. It has greatly challenged faith, and at the same time strengthened the faith.
We smile and try to make the best use of what we have and helping those we can help find a reason to live. Like the stories told of the early missionaries who still forged on ahead despite the fear of death and sickness, we too have braved the odds and stayed still to witness to the faith we profess and he vocation we have been given by God.
Fr. Francis Okorie, CMF (14 September 2019)