Monday, April 15, 2013

African Adventures

By Peter Newburn,
Lay Missionary in Cameroon

Greetings from West Africa! It’s hard to believe we have been here over nine months already. We look back on our almost nine years in the Diocese of San Bernardino, where I served as Pastoral Coordinator at Sacred Heart in Rancho Cucamonga, with fond memories. We miss our friends, and look forward to seeing them again. It was not easy to decide to leave our home to be missionaries. But we have no regrets about the decision. We are having a wonderful experience as a missionary family!

We are serving in the Archdiocese of Bamenda, in the northwest region of Cameroon. Thankfully, we are in the English-speaking part of the country, as two-thirds of the nation is French-speaking. I am teaching theology at the major seminary (the very first lay person to do so), teaching at the lay ministry formation institute, giving talks in various settings, and have been a regular guest on the Catholic radio station. Recently, I was asked to host a weekly program called “The Missionary Eye,” sharing my perspectives and reminding the faithful that we are all called to be missionaries in our own way.

Joy has been volunteering at a couple different primary schools, training lay counselors, and helping facilitate a support group for those living with HIV /AIDS. She also has been co-hosting a radio program called “Catholic Moms” where she has been teaching about women in the Bible and the importance of developing virtues in ourselves and our children.

Our three kids are also missionaries in their own way. Joshua (11), Jessica (9), and Emily (7) attend a local primary school (the only white children) and have found that the teachers and the other children look to them as examples, academically and personally.

For a long time now, part of their nightly prayers has been, “Lord, help us to do what’s right, even when others don’t!” As parents, we are so pleased with how they are cooperating with God to fulfill that prayer. They seem to love it here—every new experience is an adventure! They are a great witness to people, and they bring joy wherever they go. Joy and I have found this to be a really wonderful environment in which to raise our children.

When we decided to become a missionary family and come to Africa for three years of our lives, we had many people tell us, “That’s wonderful for you, but I could never do that!” Folks either thought we were crazy, or made us out to be saints. Perhaps both! We had the desire, and felt God calling us, and now we feel so blessed to have this opportunity. We have the sense that our presence here is beneficial and well-received, which is very fulfilling. Experienced missionaries told us: “You’ll receive much more than you give!” We have certainly found this to be true.

We are serving with a Catholic organization called Lay Mission Helpers, based in Los Angeles. There is a link to our blog spot on their website, where you can read some wonderful reflections, especially from our children. We are grateful to be receiving support from the diocesan Office of Missions. If you feel inclined to partner with us in our mission, you can make a contribution via the LMH website. Even a little bit makes a difference!

I have been asked by the Office of Missions to share my experience for some of the mission appeals this summer. I will be speaking at the Masses at St.Patrick in Moreno Valley (weekend of July 28), St. Catherine of Siena in Rialto (August 4), and St. Therese in Palm Springs (August 11). Perhaps I will see you there!

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