WAYNE'S MARCH COLUMN
FINAL THOUGHTS OF AFRICA TRIP
By Wayne Weible
For the past three months we have been running testimonies from the people who went with us on our African mission. Just about all have given theirs—except for me. I’ve written about the tour a couple of times but have not shared personal moments; so, here goes thoughts on how this trip permanently touched my heart.
Let me say from the beginning that I experienced many moments of deep emotions, tears if you will, and lingering thoughts of what I saw and heard and experienced on a personal basis with my new African brothers and sisters. However, there were three major occurrences that seared my soul—so much so that they will remain with me forever. My heart was touched to the point of wanting to do all I could for these warm, loving people. Upon our return home, I was homesick and wanting to go back again as soon as possible.
The abject poverty of the people of Uganda and Rwanda overwhelmed me from the first days of the tour. In contrast, the people were happy, warm and smiling constantly, despite having no real material goods and having to scramble daily just to exist. There were hoards of individuals, mostly young people, attempting to sell us a variety of goods as our tour bus slowly wound its way through the rough and crowded roads, while others just wanted to be near us and to speak to us. It left me wanting to help them in every way possible.
We were able to give immediate help by visiting a remote village and bringing with us loads of goods, such as clothing and shoes and religious objects. How incredible to see hundreds of the young people of the village lining the road to welcome us. We were able to spend the day with the villagers and more than 800 orphans. The gratitude was evident on all the faces as they waited to receive the goods, remaining quiet and patient. We shared a meal, danced with them and laughed with them without reserve. That day was one I will never forget.
The second major event occurred several days later when we went to a special church that served as a memorial to martyred priests. A young boy about 14 years of age timidly approached me as we assembled outside of the church. He had a paper with him, which he showed to me and began in a nearly inaudible voice explaining to me what it was. As it turned out, it was a report card from his school. On the grounds of this memorial was a school noted for its high standards of education. The point of the young man’s approaching me was to ask for my help in getting inside the school. He had ridden his bicycle from the bus station to the school hoping to find help in getting admission.
I felt helpless as I explained to boy that I was an American just visiting there. However, I quickly asked our guide to come and try to see what could be done to help this boy.
After ten minutes of conversation, we discovered that the boy had no parents and was living with an uncle. Members of our group began giving him money so that he could take a bus back to the home of the uncle. Within minutes, he had received enough cash to get some food, catch the bus to return to his uncle and have a good bit left over.
Unbeknown to us, we were being closely watched by one of the guards on duty outside of the church. As the boy rode his bicycle away from us and into the crowded street, the guard signaled to two other young men who immediately began chasing after the boy. It soon became obvious to us that the three of them were working together to rob the boy of the money we had given to him. All we could do was pray that he would get away, but we will never know as he disappeared into the mass of people on the street. I was in agony, praying that he could escape from the boys chasing him. All I can do now is choose to believe he got away and was able to take the bus home.
The third memorable event was the days spent at the incredible apparition site of Kibeho, where the Blessed Virgin appeared for many years, running nearly concurrently with those of Medjugorje. It wasn’t about meeting one of the visionaries, Anathalie, or attending Holy Mass in the church or any of the other graces of being in such a place of holiness that affected me. My gift was sitting for long periods of time next to the site where the platform had stood that served as the site where the Blessed Virgin had given so many wonderful messages to the visionaries of Kibeho. It was also the site where she showed the seers what was going to happen to them and all of Rwanda if they did not reconcile with one another. The vision given to them showed rivers of blood flowing throughout their country. Thousands were in attendance and when the message was relayed, pandemonium broke out.
I sensed the feelings of those who were there at that horrible moment of the apparitions; yet, the overwhelming sense was “feeling” the presence of the Blessed Mother and the love of the majority of the messages. Even in the face of the horror of the past genocide, there was love and real peace in this remote little place. It is the reason I can hardly wait to return this November. Meanwhile, I will live with these memories and savor the time spent in Uganda and Rwanda.