A Natural Disaster, a Downcast Soul, and a Desperate Plea for Help
I'm feeling down today. I woke up to 23 new messages from a good friend of mine. His name is Father Switbert Mujuni. We've only been acquainted for about a year and a half, but I consider him one of my most intimate friends. Father Swit is the pastor of a poor parish in a rural area of Tanzania called Bumai.
Most of us consider our parish as the building we go to for Mass on Sunday. And that’s not completely untrue, however more than that your parish is not just a building, but geographical area. Your parish is your mission field, which usually comprises of a neighborhood or several neighborhoods depending on the size of the population.
In Father Swit’s case his parish is large in the sense that it covers a lot of ground. But he doesn’t live in a city where all the people are piled on top of each other, almost too close for comfort. His parishioners are spread out in villages miles away from each other and most of them don’t come to the parish church for Mass. Not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t. They have no mode of transportation. But in some of these villages there are small outstations which are buildings that have been constructed, or at least half-way constructed, in which Father Swit celebrates Mass and the sacraments for the faithful who live nearby. In a sense, instead of waiting for his people to come to him, Father Swit brings Jesus to his people.
I know all this must sound inspiring, and it really is, but that’s not the reason I am feeling down today. I figured a little background was important. But back to those 23 new messages I woke up to this morning.
The 23 Messages
Father Swit and I communicate through an app called WhatsApp which allows for audio, pictures, and video messages to be sent and received for free between your mobile devices. And this morning, those 23 new messages were all photos, photos of the damage caused by the earthquake which struck Tanzania two weeks ago. And although the convent which we are helping to construct was not effected by the quake, the bad news is that many buildings, including some of Father Swit’s outstations were. And a few are in really bad shape.
Kaato subparish is the largest of these outstations. It serves three villages where the majority of the people are Catholics. The building is one of the largest in Father Swit’s parish, but it was also the one that received the most damage. It has been declared unsafe for use. Unless it is repaired or rebuilt, Father Swit will no longer be able to celebrate Mass inside at Kaato.
That might not sound like a big deal, but that means during the rainy season, which begins this month, there probably won’t be Mass at all in Kaato. Again, not because the people don’t want to come, but there are no paved roads and the children have to walk to get there through the muddy trails for long distances only to sit in the pouring rain. It just makes impossible.
The building is leaning and something has to be done to prevent it from entirely collapsing. This wouldn’t be as much of a concern if we weren’t in the middle of constructing a convent. The much needed repairs at Kaato and at Buguruka—another of the outstations—are much more urgent. If we can’t prevent the buildings from falling, then the work which lies ahead of us will multiply exponentially. And with no church, what will happen to the people of Kaato and Buguruka? Church is where most people turn during difficult times, but if there is no church to go to? My mind wanders down paths I don’t want it to.
“Why are you downcast, my soul,
why do you groan within me?
Wait for God, for I shall again praise him,
my savior and my God.”
I haven’t lost hope. I trust that God will continue to guide us, to provide for us, to open doors that we may be able to do something. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel downcast. We are planning some big fundraisers in Advent to help raise the remainder of funds needed for the construction of the convent, but that is months away and the need is urgent.
A Heartfelt Plea
Nobody likes asking for money, myself included. It always feels awkward. And I know there are many other charitable things that you are probably already doing. Thank you for that. Even so, I’m hoping and praying that maybe, just maybe, you might feel the call inside to help us with a donation of any amount.
An engineer will be coming to inspect the buildings, assess the damage, and provide an estimate for repairs. When that happens I’ll post an update, but for now I ask you for help, for prayers, for encouragement, for your financial contribution.
It is my belief that God allows bad things like natural disasters to happen for a reason. I don’t think they are punishment for our sins. We live on a cooling planet after all. What I mean is that I have found that after earthquakes and floods, hurricanes and terrorist attacks, people come together. The Gospel, the Kingdom of God becomes a reality in the here and now if only for a few days or weeks, but it happens. I’ve seen it after 9/11. Again after Hurricane Katrina. You’ve seen it too.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
— John 1:5
So as difficult as these times can be, I trust that God is still with us, and that by coming together in prayer and charity, good will come out of the bad, light will shine in the darkness.
Please visit the Facebook fundraiser page to make a donation. We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with no employees or paid board members so be assured that all of your contributions will be used for repairs and construction in Bumai. Thank you for your generosity!