Going on a Mission far from my birth place and country was something I wanted to do since listening to my elementary school teacher speak about Irish missionaries who evangelized my people. Her words awoke in my young heart a very strong longing. Without understanding where my desire was taking me, I spent my childhood dreaming of going to wherever the wind was to bring me.
But with time, the desire to remain in my country overshadowed my original dream. And after my first formation, I returned home to Nigeria for Mission. Later when invited to go on Mission in Canada, I rediscovered my initial dream. Once it was settled that I was to go on a mission to Canada, I was tempted to research the people and community where I was being placed. I later decided to have my own experiences and not depend on that of others. I was determined not to be conditioned by other people’s assessment of the First Nation people of Canada. When I arrived in Canada, it took one year of integration to fully understand their Church and social realities.
The inculturation program helped me to learn the language, culture and life style of the Innu Nation. I was also able to understand, within one year, the workings of the Canadian church in general and Quebec church in particular. After my one year of insertion and inculturation, two communities were assigned to my care. The two communities were 700 km apart (about 435 miles), so it was necessary to allow enough time for travel and visits. These two communities each had a very long presence of experienced missionaries, so as a young priest who lacked experience in this part of the world, I had to find a new way of getting into the heart of the community. Little by little, I started by not just observing how things were done but having confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit. At our communities, youth attended church mainly during significant celebrations. It was then necessary for me to find another way of reaching out to them. After several trials and errors, I opted to engage them in various activities like sports, community events and gatherings.
Today, experience has shown me that to succeed in a mission, a missionary should not wait to get approached by the community, but they should instead take the church to the people.
Ali C Nnaemeka, OMI