My Visit to Mongo Bendugu
Mongo Bendugu is located 106 kms from kabala that is the farthest northern province of Sierra Leone headquarter. Mongo is near Guinea Conakry. The village is simple and small. It is dominated by the ethnic group called Koranko.
This place is a challenge for those who would like to go there because of the difficult access through the main road. Most of the young people dream to move towards Kabala or Makeni, the neighboring towns. In this village the Xaverian missionaries have founded the parish, after years of considering the place as an outstation of Kabala(extension of the parish). Three of our confreres are working to make the community grow: Fr. Sudarmato the parish priest, Brother Bruno Menici, and Fr. Adolphe Guy Khassa Mvumbi. We also find the presence of one NGO called Médecins sans Frontières (MSF). The parish is surrounded by two mosques.
Concerning ministry, the Xaverian missionary Fathers and Brothers and the diocese of Makeni have made of Mongo a parish. This is also the only Christian institution in that place. The religious activities are made up of the Morning Prayer followed by the morning Mass from Monday to Saturday, and the evening prayer made up of the rosary except on Thursday. Every Thursday evening adoration is observed. On Sundays, our confreres celebrate in the parish the Holy Eucharist at 9:30am and provide two other celebrations in two extensions of the parish called “outstations”.
The second main activity is the management of the schools. In this activity, missionaries focus on educating young people from primary to high school. They insure the direction of some schools and promote often not only the catholic schools, but they even go further by helping schools that are attended by Muslim children. They also work in collaboration with one NGO called CRS (Catholic Relief service) which builds schools and rehabilitate or renovate others. Our confreres promote the formation of teachers by offering scholarships to some of the community teachers to get degree from the university and so improve the tools for their work and also their economic situation.
Due to the fact that the parish as well as the area are still in the development stage, our confreres have to face some of these challenges: the lack of regularity regarding the presence and frequentation of Christians or baptized to the few activities organized in the parish; the huge influence of Islam in the cultural settings, the confusion in the mind of the people between the activities of the NGO and those of the church because they expect the church activities to be in tune with those of the NGO; the difficult access to the outstations because of the bad condition of the roads; the lack of awareness about the importance of modern education that makes it difficult for students to invest in their future; the lack of structures for young people; finally, a few well-trained teachers who will accept to remain in these areas, with poor services that undermine the education growth. Lastly the response of the people to the effort of our confreres is not enthusiastic. Having to face these difficulties, I had the impression that the confreres look tired, although they still work hard.
However my presence in Mongo helped me to understand better the popular expression “Thank God”. This expression is the answer to many questions such as “How are you? How is your family? How is your work? And so on”. Fr. Adolphe and I went to visit an outstation called Serecolia. On our return to Mongo while on the curve of a very narrow road, at a very high speed appeared in front of us a motorbike. It was a question of seconds to act in a way as to avoid the accident. Then, Fr. Adolphe took to the bush on the right side, while the motor bike driver, without helmet, took to the left and ended up in the bush. As we stopped, we went to help the driver. We held his hands and helped him stand while asking whether he was hurt. When he got up, we asked him: Is everything ok? He replied: “Thank God”. Fortunately he was without even a scratch while the front of the motorbike was destroyed. As he stood up he said “thank God”. I can repeat it myself “Thank God” because the irreparable had been avoided.