South Sudan. A Comboni brother, “My ordinary story”

Brother  Ayih Teko Dugbé Fafa Jean Claude Pierre from Togo, talked with us about many challenges, he has  experienced along the way to becoming a Comboni brother.  

The first challenge was life in the postulancy as a brother living together with the priest candidates. I was the only brother candidate. The programmes of the university and the postulancy were heavy. I came back from the university in the afternoons and joined the others working in the garden or doing manual work. I had to work hard to balance university work and formation house activities.

The second challenge was my father’s sickness and death. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and admitted in the hospital when I was doing my first year of postulancy.  I spent my first holiday with my mother nursing my father in the hospital. It was painful to see my father in that situation. I had to help my mother carry and clean him every morning and afternoon. He was in that condition for two years.  He died on 10th October 2005. That day, when I came back from the university, the formators called me for a meeting and informed me about my father’s death.  One of the formators took me home to see my mother and to stay with the family during that sad moment.

The third challenge was the civil war that broke out in South Sudan. I had just finished my training at the Comboni Brothers Center (CBC) in Nairobi and I was in Leer, South Sudan for my first mission when the civil war broke out. I was involved in many activities especially in the education of the Nuer people.  I was the administrator and teacher of technical drawing and IT. 

The government forces attacked Leer County. We had to run to the bush with the people and stayed there with them.  It was a difficult and challenging situation for me as a young brother in my first mission experience.  I had to face the situation of war. I thank God that we were not killed. During our stay in the bush, I faced other challenges such as language barrier, lack of food, theft and death threats.  I befriended a local person for protection. Later, I went home for a short break and when it was over, my mother asked me: “are you going back to that place again?”

The fourth challenge happened during my second mission experience in Lomin.  After Leer, I was asked to go to Lomin where the Comboni Missionaries have the St Martin Project. The project promotes and empowers the youth with technical training for the development of the area. We are involved in agriculture, carpentry, welding and weaving. I worked in Lomin until I went to Nairobi to prepare for my perpetual vows. 

When I returned to South Sudan yet again, the civil war had reached Lomin. Again, we had to run away with the people to Moyo in Uganda. We are currently in the refugee camp. It is another tough experience for me. I left everything behind. I am now a refugee and at the same time a missionary with the people. When I see the suffering of the people in the camp, I feel very bad and helpless. Yet, despite this, there is a sense of hope because God is with us.

One would ask, with all these challenges where do I get the strength? I believe that trust in God is the answer. It is tough but I just trust God and move on. God has been good in my life and he keeps me going. Whatever God allows to happen in my life, He knows that I can face it. My principle is to take each day as it comes. 

I love learning new things. I am learning a new South Sudanese language but I have not yet finished due to the situation of the country. Hopefully, I will master at least one of the languages in South Sudan. 

My journey has been an ordinary story of events led by the hand of God. It is a journey of valued little decisions. I am still self-introspecting. “Will I be sure of the destination?”  After taking perpetual vows, I realized that I was just starting a new journey. 

I love what I am. Over the years, I have made mistakes and continue to do so. But one thing I believe is that God is wonderful.  He can turn a stone rejected by the builders into a cornerstone. That is why I always trust Him.  I pray and listen to the Word of God and the lives of outstanding missionaries. I feel encouraged and put my future and trust in him. I am happy and enjoy being a Comboni missionary brother. It gives me the opportunity to meet God in my life. And I believe that by using my talents well, I will be giving love back to God and become a good servant as the gospel invites us to be (Mt 25:14-30).