Dear Parishioner,

I trust you are well. The Dry Season is here once more, and it feels very hot for most of the day. Our white-feathered friends, the egrets (or locally called the ‘cow’s spirit’), have returned from Southern Spain or wherever they might migrate to.

As we come towards the end of another year, I want to thank you all for your continued support. I do appreciate that these are very difficult times in Scotland, as well as here in Liberia. You and all my friends are presently sponsoring 17 students in College, and 5 pupils in School – I am most grateful. We pray that these young people will be enabled to do much in life to help, not only themselves, but their extended family.

                                                                              —–

During the last week or so, there have been several challenging incidents and, of course, as always, one or two positive developments too. I’ll share them with you, if I may.  I have tried to emphasize the humorous side. After all, it is all part of ‘missionary life’!

On Saturday, November 12, we were invited to a welcoming ceremony in the Cathedral for the new Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Walter Erbi.  After Mass, as we were proceeding through the packed market area in Duala, our small pick-up was hit on the driver’s side by a huge lorry carrying thousands of bottles of Aqua Life mineral water.  Immediately, Musa jumped out of our vehicle and pursued the truck, as it seemed that the lorry driver didn’t want to stop.  I added to the drama by following behind Musa in my white cassock.  In the meantime, the three sisters were left in our car with the din of vehicles impatiently honking their horns.  I managed to climb up and scrambled into the passenger’s seat of the lorry, which surprised the three ‘car-boys’. As he drove along, the driver admitted that he was in the wrong.  I wanted to avoid reporting the matter to the traffic police, as I realised that he had a family to take care of.  Eventually, we drove into a warehouse yard.  The three young men jumped down to start unloading. I followed, but missed the step and fell on my back; thankfully, my right arm protected my head from possible injury.  The driver felt sorry and helped me back onto my feet.  Finally, Musa arrived in the pickup; he was angry at seeing my blood-stained cassock!  I begged him to understand that it wasn’t the driver’s fault.  The driver left h ais lorry in the yard and sat peacefully in the back of our pick-up until we eventually arrived at the Aqua Life Office.  The Lebanese gentleman called a nurse and he offered the Sisters, Musa and me mineral water and soft drinks. Next day, Musa and I still went to Robertsport, as usual – and our vehicle was repaired in the company garage on Monday.

                                                                                    —–

Last Thursday, we were all fooled!  The principal of the school informed one of the priests that he had received a telephone call notifying him that the Minister of Education was coming to visit us.  Sometimes, former students and friends, and even ministers, do stop by.

My colleague passed me his smart-phone and indicated that the ‘Minister’ was on the line.  The gentleman said that he was returning to Monrovia after visiting neighbouring Cape Mount, and just wanted to drop in to greet us.  Shortly after that there was another telephone call from someone claiming to be a senator, and he just wanted to confirm that we were aware of the Minister’s pending visit.  After discussing the situation with several of the mission staff, I called the Minister’s telephone number. However, a ‘secretary’ responded by politely informing me that the Minister was in a meeting.  I told him we were cooking collard greens and rice, but he indicated that the Minister was very partial to Pizza with a soft drink!  Now, we are not that advanced in Bomi Hills.  We usually serve visitors potato greens or palm butter with fresh country rice!  The nearest place to obtain a Pizza is in Monrovia, 45 miles away.  So I called John Geeton in Monrovia. [John graduated with BSc in Environmental Science, two weeks ago.]   I then called a friend at a hotel.  He jokingly asked if it was the education minister from Italy who was visiting.  Anyway, John arrived several hours later with two pizzas.  As the day wore on, people were beginning to realise that it was all a ‘hoax’.  Well, I sent one of the pizzas to the sisters’ convent – compensation for the inconvenience they experienced during the pickup incident.  The two priests and two seminarians gratefully received the other one!

—–

On a more serious note, last Friday, Fr Roger Didier and Fr Jean Tayoro, our present Superior and Assistant, invited me to accompany them to the Nunciature, as a natter if courtesy to the SMA, to pay our respects to Archbishop Erbi, as a religious community.  The archbishop is also nuncio for Sierra Leone.

Last Saturday morning, we completed the packaging of the monthly issue of beans and rice that we give to over seventy of the housebound in Bomi Hills and surrounding villages and towns. We have been doing this since the year 2000.  More recently, Mary’s Meals has been helping us, for which I am very grateful. I know that many of you support the charity and can therefore confirm that your contributions are well spent at the coal face.

To conclude,  I do look forward to weekends and our visits to Robertsport – and the fresh sea-air; last Sunday, was no exception..

The SMA have kindly booked my tickets for my annual leave.  I’ll be arriving in Manchester on January 11 and returning to Monrovia on February 14.  On the last weekend of January, the people of Holy Innocents Parish, Orpington, Kent, would like to celebrate with me 50 years of ‘mission’.  I left Holy Innocents during January 1973 and arrived in Monrovia, on a temporary appointment!

However, I am really looking forward to meeting you all again; perhaps on the weekend of January 21 – 22, if this is suitable.

God bless you always……

Fr. Garry.

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