Fr. Arkado, who is stationed with me and is an SMA priest, and I traveled crossing the Serengeti to arrive at the town of Mwanza on Lake Victoria. Arkado went to attend a gathering of his missionary society, The Society of African Missions. Thirty SMA priests and volunteers had come together for a week of meetings. They come from nine countries, including Poland, Ireland, The Netherlands, The United States and many African countries. Except for four or five with more than sixty years, all were in their thirties or forties. Most work with the Sukuma people, traditional enemies of the Maasai. Raiding parties regularly travel to the territory of the other’s area to steal cattle. Each tribe believing that they are the only ones with the God given right to own cattle.
I accompanied Arkado because the Superior of the SMA group asked me to give a presentation about the work in Maasai country, the vision we have for our work and our approach. Arkado and I gave a presentation lasting about an hour and a half.
We explained to the group that we shape our teaching and liturgy so that the Maasai may experience the church as
an outgrowth and completion of their own beliefs and religious practices. This involves incorporating their religious myths into our teaching. Examples would be their stories of Creation and the fall. We also welcome their language, music and religious symbolism into the liturgy. Our aim is for the Maasai to feel at home in the church, fulfilling and at times correcting their traditional religious beliefs and practices.
In a new area we meet with the elders and explain who we are and where we come from. We explain that the Maasai know God from time immemorial. We come to talk to them of this One God, EnkAi, whom they know. We ask them if they would agree that we come regularly to speak to them of EnkAi. If they agree and most do, we go to the place each week for a meeting of prayer and teaching/discussion.
I was very apprehensive about standing up before a group of people with so many years of missionary experience to talk about being a missionary to the unevangelized. As it turned out, our talk went well and was very well received. There were plenty of questions and a lot of discussion later on over cups of coffee.