Lay people are a gift to our missions

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Klemens Amaunut from Indonesia shares his mission experiences with lay people in Zambia.

When our Father Superior General Heinz Kulüke visited Zambia last February 2015 one of his noteworthy remarks was on the concern and care of the lay people who are gifts to our parishes. Father General noticed this while he visited our different parishes and ministry commitments. Father Klemens Amaunut from Indonesia, who proudly considers himself as part of the third wave of missionaries assigned to Zambia in 1993, agrees without a doubt with the Superior General’s remarks. He has been working in Zambia for the past twenty-four years in two rural parishes.

Rural communities of Zambia, a fertile ground for mission

When Fr. Klemens started his mission he was assigned to the parish of St. Joseph in Mukuni, the first responsibility of the Divine Word Missionaries in Zambia. This was initially an outstation that became a parish, about 20 kilometers away from Livingstone. After twenty years of SVD presence, the parish in Mukuni was given back, and Fr. Klemens moved to Mwandi where he worked for the next thirteen years. A parish was developed, and it was named St. Arnold Janssen Catholic Mission. Along with other SVD confreres, Fr. Klemens dedicated his time and talents in this church community. For three years, he also developed an outstation in Lutaba where an agricultural center was put up to help the farmers in the area.
The previous SVD mission in Mukuni and the St. Arnold Janssen Catholic Mission in Mwandi are situated in the rural areas. The 2015 Living Conditions Monitoring Survey (LCMS) results show that the population of Zambia was estimated at 15.5 million in 2015. The population was mainly concentrated in rural areas at 58.2 percent compared to 41.8 percent in urban areas. Our Society’s pastoral engagements, namely in the parishes we work, are almost all are located in the urban areas except St. Arnold Janssen in Mwandi.

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Fr. Klemens’ mission experiences in the countryside brought him to appreciate the poverty and simplicity of the people. The places where he worked were lacking infrastructures like health posts, classrooms, and boarding schools. The individuals in the rural areas are not formally educated; most only completed the primary school. Most of the people are poor and could not afford to send their children to other places for secondary education. According to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), around four million of Zambia’s 16-million-plus population are of primary school age. However, over 250,000 of them do not go to school, while more than 45 percent of those enrolled in the primary level do not complete their basic education. In the rural areas there are also ongoing social issues that affect and destroy families. There are cases of alcoholism that also lead to domestic violence. Because of the lack of health centers, some lingering illnesses are not treated, and AIDS/HIV cases are rising. Malaria cases are increasing, sometimes resulting in deaths, all because of the lack of treatment and medicines. Sad to say that, as poverty continues to drown families in despair, the children suffer because sometimes their parents cannot come to terms with each other.

These are the many situations that confront our missionaries working in the rural areas of Zambia. Our SVD missions have made valuable contributions towards the development of an agricultural center, involvement and lobbying for constructing health posts, boarding schools for the students, and other smaller initiatives. But beyond all these initiatives what counts, according to Fr. Klemens, is that we are with the people, we get to know their realities and empower them as we journey with them in their day to day struggles. This mission is ripe for the Missionaries of the Divine Word.
We share our mission with the lay people.

After twenty-four years of involvement with the people in the rural areas, there is one thing that Fr. Klemens is especially thankful for, and he considers it his greatest blessing, the lay people. “It's hard to conceive if I delete the presence of lay people in my missionary commitment”, says Fr. Klemens. Those words are confirmation of the lay people’s significant contribution in the parish and all its activities. Humbly Fr. Klemens recognizes how the lay people have taught and have shown him the right road to follow. He remembers a retired teacher, a lay person, and other innumerable personalities who for him are the real missionaries.

The projects and initiatives have been carried out successfully because of a collaborative effort with the lay people. Fr. Klemens treats the lay people as partners and his companions on the journey. He believes that the greatest contribution of the Divine Word Missionaries in Zambia is their exemplary involvement with the lay people. “We are simple in general, we take an interest in being with the people and want to know their realities and these are qualities that help us in our natural, not forced, dealings and involvements with them” added Fr. Klemens. We often hear how lay people appreciate our presence, and one main reason is that we are authentically sharing our lives with them.

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