Learning to receive in order to give
February 14, 2019
I WENT to Africa to find the will of God. Three years before this, I had cancelled my ordination to the priesthood, got a flat in the west end of Glasgow and a job in the north east of the city. However, I was still a deacon and had said 'yes' to God so I could not just drift along. The issue had to be sorted. I took up an offer to go to a remote parish in Cameroon, West Africa, to try and understand what I should do with my life.
After a year of living with the Bangwa people, I gradually came to the realisation that God was calling me to the priesthood. Rural Africa has a way of simplifying the complicated European heart and soul. There were no mobile phones, no internet, videos or retail parks. Life was trekking through the forests and over the mountains to visit the people in their villages and isolated compounds. Sitting in the evening sharing stories, reflecting on life and faith around a fire or under the stars. And so it was that after a year I came back to Scotland, got ordained one rainy night, and three weeks later returned to resume my life with the Bangwa.
It was Pa Mathias Anu, a saintly, old Catechist who summed it up very well. Pa was like a father to me and so when I came to leave after many years, I went to ask his advice and blessing as any son would do when leaving home.
As I knelt before him, he said: “You were born twice. The first time was when your mother delivered you. The second time you were born was here because when you first came to Bangwa you did not know what God wanted of you. It was here that you discovered the will of God for your life. That is the real birth, the most important birth. So always remember that you are a son of this soil. You will be our 'word' to the people you will meet out there in the world.”
He put his hand on my head and said a prayer of blessing and then we embraced.