Although my call to the missionary life became quite evident at the novitiate in Ghana, the first time I actually considered going to the missions was when the first Nigerian missionary was sent to the Sudan in 2007.
During the post novitiate I was privileged on several occasions to participate in the village ministries. I was moved by the villagers’ simplicity and availability to serve God. I asked myself many times why can’t I stay back with this people? In the meantime my discernment continued and during my final year in the post-novitiate, I expressed my desire and availability to the Rector Major in 2012.
He sent me to Bangladesh. My arrival in Bangladesh was like my second birth. Learning from the scratch practically everything – culture, language, food – was not that easy. Contrary to my initial fears, Bangladesh turns out to be the mission I had always longed for. Here we minister to people who are really in need. I must say that their simplicity constantly helps me to make a sincere examination of conscience. To crown it all, is the joy of being in a Salesian community flavoured with fraternity, optimism and cheerfulness.
One may ask: “Why embark on missio ad exteros while there are people in Nigeria who have not yet embraced the Gospel?” Well, first of all I think that the Lord is calling me personally to be a missionary and not to heed this would be like the Prophet Jonah who tried to flee from God’s call. Secondly, I have come to realise in these few years that going to the missions has not only nourished my faith and that of those to whom I’ve been sent, but it has become a significant tool of evangelization as well for my own people – the Christian community where I come from.
Since an average Nigerian will think, by default, only of migrating for greener pastures, by willingly accepting to work in a difficult place with socio-political, economic and religious problems becomes a practical missionary catechesis. Moreover Nigeria has been blessed with lots of great missionaries, and the local vocations are blooming tremendously.Perhaps more missionary generosity from Nigeria, could be a fitting way to say thank you to the first missionaries who found it worthy to sacrifice their lives for us!
Surely I’ve got my daily challenges, and a total immersion into a new cultural context could take ages. But I do hold close to my heart the advice of my Novice Master: “You will suffer, but your suffering will be like that of a seed planted in the soil, which dies, in order to grow and bear fruit for the benefit of all!” Indeed, it is in sharing the sufferings of Christ, that we experience the greatest joy ever!
By Joseph Kunle Ogundana, SDB