From Africa to Taiwan, in search of the face of God

Visiting the mission of Nairobi and Taiwan: the stories of worlds far away from our own, but full of the same desire to encounter the face of Christ.

Copertina Small
A group of young people of the parish of St. Joseph in Kahawa Sukari (Nairobi, Kenya)

Since I became the treasurer of the Fraternity, I have often had the chance to visit our missions around the world. It is a wonderful opportunity to get to know the generous work of our priests and to rejoice in the fruit that God gives us. Last September, I was in Nairobi, Kenya. We spent the first days of the trip in the wide open savannah, escorted almost always by rangers because while the hyenas that circled our camp did not often attack people, they were unpredictable… Around us there were small villages. As soon as the news of our presence there spread, the people of the place organized a Mass outdoors on the premises of a school. They had not seen a priest for many months.

Upon our arrival, we found children and adults already arranged on chairs and makeshift benches. Some were seeking a bit of shade under the very few trees scattered here and there. Fr. Mattia, Fr. Mimmo and I vested in preparation for the beginning of the Mass. Everything was ready. The catechist, however, came up to us and told us that a few people would like to go to confession: the only possible language is, however, Swahili. And so, I was left to observe thirty odd people who got in line while Fr. Mattia and Fr. Mimmo began to listen. All of the others remained seated, waiting. The sun burned but from those assembled rose songs that refreshed the soul. These persons know that the priest comes to bring something sacred. Something that for months they had not been able to receive and that for more months to come they also probably would not receive. And so they remained waiting without complaint, and even prepared themselves with joy for what was about to happen.

After our trip to the savannah, we returned to Nairobi, for the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of our parish. Twenty-five years ago, in fact, Fr. Alfonso celebrated Mass under a tree together with twenty other people. Today there are more than two thousand. As soon as the initial procession crossed the threshold of the church, a wave of joy and exultation washed over me. Led by a choir of 250, there was a people gathered there, singing and dancing, in a harmony that was overwhelming and at the same time composed. I saw the grandeur of a community that knows how to celebrate together simply because the Lord is there and has given them a home where they can meet him. God certainly cannot remain indifferent to that manifestation of pure gratitude, so sadly rare in our evolved West, deluded in its self-sufficiency.

A single desire inhabits the heart of man: encounter the face of Christ

In October, instead, I visited our mission that lives for the humble encounter with persons one-by-one, in Taiwan. Upon my arrival, our priests brought me to a Marian sanctuary, built in the middle of a forest where the Virgin Mary appeared to rescue some aborigines who were lost there. Of all of these, one one converted. Our missionaries too encounter many people: the majority of them have never heard anything about Christ. Slowly, according to processes that only God knows, someone asks to be baptized.

During a meeting with some university students, I was asked how I decided to enter the seminary. It was not easy to describe one’s vocation to those who don’t know what the Movement is, what the Church is, or who Jesus is. When I finished my story, a girl asked me: “Tell me how it feels to live in relationship with God, because I do not know the God you are speaking about.” In the following days, I thought back often to this question. In this world, there are peoples who have never received the announcement of Christ, and yet they desire to know what life would be like with him. “Behold the generation who seeks you, who seeks your face, God of Jacob (Psalm 24). From Africa to Taiwan, a single desire inhabits the heart of man: to encounter the face of Christ. This cry pushes us to go towards all men, because we are certain that together with them we can discover new contours of His face.

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