Deep in the Sand and Mud: Evangelization and Terrain
By Fr. Felix N. Bwalya, OMI
Edited by Will Shaw
The Church exists because she has a mission. Pope Paul VI in “Evangelii Nuntiandi” states, “Evangelization is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God.” Therefore, mission is essential for the life of the Church.
In fulfilling and responding to her mission, the Church in the western province of Zambia faces many challenges. Due to climactic conditions; the terrain and the conditions are not easy. To reach out, the Oblates need strong and heavy vehicles to make it through deep sandy areas, rocky roads and flooding. At times, its too much even for these heavy vehicles, hence the need for constant repairs. At times the missionaries use small canoes to reach their missions and when all else fails, they are ready to walk some miles. Oblates are not afraid to travel the roads less traveled and they are always on the move to meet the needs of their people. Oblates are men without boundaries.
In western Zambia the faithful and the poor are often found living in remote places and for them the Oblates are a channel of light and hope. They are present in the daily challenges and sufferings of the people. The people are in need of constant catechism. It is the Charism of the Oblates to care for the lives of the poor and the most abandoned in society. Former Superior General, Fr. Fernand Jette, OMI wrote, “The missionary is a frontier man, one who is always intent on forging ahead, ongoing farther afield. Zeal, daring, mobility, availability are his characteristic traits! And obedience too: he receives the mission of another, the mission of the Church: he is a man who “is sent”. In whatever work is assigned to him the Oblate will have to act in an authentic missionary spirit, that is to say, with the concern, that he himself, like Christ, lives like a poor man, reaches out to the most abandoned in his milieu and reveals Jesus Christ”. – The Apostolic Man, pp 60-61
The model and center of our mission is Jesus Christ. Oblates labor tirelessly to make Him known to all. Love and dedication are fundamental in reaching out to the remotest places of the missions. With deep solidarity and compassion, the Oblates empower the faithful and the poor to prophetic and social transformation. True salvation consists of liberating the person in all dimensions. Despite the challenges, evangelization for the salvation of souls continues to be the priority of the missionaries. Zeal for the salvation of souls, which was our founder’s motto, is the model of Oblate missions in Zambia.
“Our apostolic zeal is sustained by the unreserved gift we make of ourselves in our oblation, an offering constantly renewed by the challenges of our mission”. -Constitutions and Rules #2.