Dear Family and Friends,
I hope that as we celebrate Jesus birth, you and all of your loved ones find yourselves in good health and good spirits. You are often in my thoughts and prayers.
As I sit down to compose this letter, I remember Colorado's beautiful Christmas blizzard last year that blanketed the world white and made roads nearly impassible. The forecast for Christmas this year is green with roads that are perpetually nearly impassible. Maybe we can decorate a banana tree ☺ since pines are scarce.
Since I wrote my last general letter at Easter time, I've passed through three stages:
The Grand Getting Ready
April and May were busy months as I made arrangements to leave the country, prepared my house to sell, packed for two years in mission and said goodbye to friends and family. I am grateful to the many people who helped me to prepare practically, emotionally and spiritually. My house sold just a few days before my departure from Denver on June 6. (Thank God!) I flew to Paris, spent a few days traveling in France and enjoying the kind hospitality of Therese and Paul in Annecy before making my way to Rome.
Reflecting in Rome
I began formation on June 13 at the Canossian Institute in the heart of Rome along with three other volunteers. During these three months we came to better understand the Canossian Charism "Above all, to make Jesus known so that he will be loved" with Mary at the foot of the cross as a model of discipleship. Living in community and lessons of culture and language also prepared us for mission. We also spent some time eating gelato, pasta, pizza, pesto and pinoli and exploring Rome, Assisi, Lorretto and other beautiful places nearby.
Adjusting in Aru
On September 1, I arrived in my new home: the town of Aru on the northeastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Aru is a world distinct from any place I've known before. In some ways it's like going back in time one hundred years. In some ways its like living in a National Geographic magazine. Life here is fascinating, challenging and full of opportunities to learn. I am grateful for the chance to experience life here.
I teach high school English, give English/music classes at the pre-school and work with the aspirants once a week on English and music. I also do a bit of accounting and secretarial work. This, along with language study (French, Lingala, and Italian) cooking and housekeeping, keep me quite busy
For my first three months here I lived at the convent and shared in the community life of the Canossian Sisters, as I was the first long-term lay missioner here. Two weeks ago two more volunteers arrived from Italy and we have begun our lay community, eating meals and praying together. Luca and Fausto are delightful company and I am grateful for their presence. I will continue to sleep at the convent until the new volunteer house is finished and we call all move in.
The pictures that I hope to post with this blog show a scene from the fifth-year English classe's nativity play and our new VOICA community (Fausto, me and Luca). I will try to post another blog in January. Internet access continues to be scarce.
Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année 2008! Rejoice, God is with us!
Love and prayers,