A disorienting dilemma

True encounters are always revelatory of new ways of thinking and living. Journeying with others helps to see the world through their eyes and acquire new imagination.

 By Stefano Giudici, Mccj

By definition, mission is the movement to go out, to leave one’s homeland and reach new lands, cultures, and people. Missionary is everyone who is ready to embark on this adventure, knowing that mission is not so much a geographical move from one country to another, but rather a human, cultural and spiritual journey of discoveries and challenges.

Somebody once said that, if you want to know your point of view, you have to change it. Several times my missionary life has proved this saying true. And challenging. True encounters are always revelatory of new ways of thinking and living. Revelation always comes as a shock, a disorienting dilemma, something I bump my nose against, an experience that awakes me from the torpor and throws me out of comfort zones.

Turning point

For me, such an encounter happened five years ago, in the compound of a Nairobi parish, on an anonymous weekday. It was supposed to be a normal chat with a friend. He shared his collaboration with a non-Kenyan NGO and his activities with the kids. A beautiful, successful story. However, his eyes betrayed sadness and puzzlement. And then, suddenly, it was as if a dam broke. He started sharing his ‘real’ story, how he felt used by the board of that NGO, having to run activities that he had not contributed to plan, or having to accept a style of relating that was not his. He had never been asked what he wanted, what he liked. He was disoriented, and his dilemma was enormous: to continue for the good of the kids, or to stop for his own dignity? After all, was what he was doing for the real good of the kids?

An eye-opener

My awakening was sudden and uncomfortable. I felt even more disoriented than he did. I realised – and that revelation hit me straight in the face – how easily I can ‘use’ others in name of the good I want to do, and in which others are not involved. I also realised – one more time – the gigantic inner strength of people, and of my friend in front of me, who lived, saw, reflected, and eventually took a stand against being used in the name of good. It is useless ‘doing good’, if it is not truly for the good of everyone, but just for the glory of few.

The ‘new’ already budding up

‘Save Africa with Africa’, ‘save the other through the other’, is much more than a slogan. It is not an invitation to individualism (‘let each one save themselves’). It is a journey of deep, inner, human and spiritual conversion. It is to journey together with others, learning to see the world through their eyes. Pope Francis tirelessly repeats that only by moving to the existential peripheries I can learn to see and know the world differently. I can acquire a new imagination that not only makes me hope that another world is possible, but also makes me see that world already sprouting and growing.

Is Christian life not simply a matter of new eyes to see and new ears to hear what God makes new?

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