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A Story from Lodwar

I am Bro. M. Efrem, BHK. I was born in Suku Tokan, a small village in Adonara Island close to Flores Island. I spent my time in Maumere, Flores for studying and from this town I was interested to become a religious Brother. I started my Postulant period for 1 year in Maumere and I continued my Novitiate period in Malang town for two years, then on 12 July 2007 I took my first vows. I have already taken perpetual vows 2 years ago.

I said, “Yes” when my provincial asked me to become a missionary in Lodwar, Kenya. I didn’t know why? But I know one thing, may be God needs me to served people there. So the congregation gave me 1 year to prepare myself, especially for English and Computer technician courses.

I remembered well the time when I flew from Jakarta, Indonesia to Nairobi, Kenya. I was scare and nervous because I flew alone. I couldn’t speak English well. I didn’t have experience traveling in abroad, but thanks to God because all my worries were not happen to me. Everything were going on well on the way to Kenya.  The following day I traveled to Lodwar with brother Donatus who picked me up from Jomo Kenyatta International airport.

Many brothers in Indonesia don’t like to work in Lodwar because of the hot weather, but I see some brothers have been working in Lodwar for many years. So, I want to follow them. I want to explain a view thing about Lodwar. Lodwar is the largest town in north-western Kenya, located close to Turkana Lake. Lodwar town is head quarter of Turkana County. Lodwar has a hot desert climate with very high temperatures and very little rainfall throughout the year. The average annual temperature is one of the highest found in the world with nearly 29° C and the average annual rainfall is about 186 mm.

When I reached in Lodwar, the hottest temperature welcomed me. I felt like in a microwave oven. So, nothing interesting, everything ran flat. But I was surprised with my brothers, Bro. Alex and Bro. Donatus. They could have survived, they really enjoyed living in Lodwar.

One thing that make me feel like at home was people in Turkana are friendly and helpful to me. They helped me to start new things in new place, new culture, so everything was new for me. First time I was in Lodwar, I felt uncomfortable because my body didn’t use to with the weather. It was too hot. I didn’t use to with the meals because the taste of meals quite different. I didn’t use to with the environment because a lot of dust and dirty, dust every day and everywhere. But those challenges don’t make me go down. I need to survive. I know my body will adapt soon and it is true. I can cope with new environment.

After running around six months, I start to feel more comfortable than before. I want to say something in this case, this is not about feeling comfortable or uncomfortable. It is about how you can make the uncomfortable thing become comfortable. It means how you adapt with the new environment. The first thing I scare when I reach in Lodwar is how can I communicate with people here. My English doesn’t well enough. My English pronunciation is quite different from the local people. But only one in my mind, if I want to speak English well, I need to speak more. I must forget about shame and don’t afraid to make mistake. Now I can speak English better than before so for and I never give up before I try my level best because I believe God always walks together with me.

I work in Nadirkonyen Catholic Centre as an assistant coordinator. This program helps street children who stay 24 hours on the streets. We take street children with age category between 6 to 12 years old. We bring them to the Centre and do rehabilitation until they are ready to join formal school and academic. Behavioral change is the main aspects to be considered before a child can join formal school. They have an opportunity to reach their ambition or their special purpose in life.

All of them are really from poor families. I was thinking why those children like go to town and spend their time in town. Maybe they are looking for food because in the house they don’t have food. I really surprise when I did a night street work. I saw a lot of children on the street start from the small one until the big one. They were in big number. It is a horrible. I think every year the number still increase so in the future it will bring big problem, especially for crime action.

So what is the reason we come here and serve those children? I remembered what Bro. Hans has ever said to me, “The founder of our congregation had a mission to bring education to the unfortunate children, so that is why we are here with street children.” For me, it is the truth, in our constitution stated it clearly.

About my relation with the children, I think it is going on well while with the staff I am not too close. I talk to the staff if it is necessary. It is different with the children. They are very close to me and Bro. Alex. Maybe because we are Religious Brothers. We have different complexion with them or maybe they just want to play with us.

I remembered one day, I was angry with them because of they went to my office and started touching some laptops which still in repairing process. I talked to them, “Please go away and don’t touch these laptops!” I surprised they didn’t care. They just mentioned some words what I have just talked. I lost my patience and started to chase them away from my office. Then, they ran away. After a view minutes, they came again and tried to disturbed me. I surprised, they didn’t afraid or hate me. They just started playing with me again. So from this event, I need to be patient with the children because every day they usualy try to test my patience.

After running for one year here, I still don’t understand about people here. First, people here like to have many children, but they don’t care for their children. They just leave. Not all like that, but there are some of them. Second is about the attitude. It is difficult for them to say “Thank you” when they get something from you like money or other stuff. Not all of them, but generally like that. The concept of someone is good or bad depends on how you respond to their needs. If you give them then you are good, but if you do not give them then you are bad. So there are two things quite different I got from Lodwar during one year living in Lodwar. It is my story from Lodwar. I like work here because we really serve the poor people.

Bro. M. Efrem, BHK

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