Steve Widelski – Lungi

Steve Widelski
Lungi, Sierra Leone

The dictionary defines closure as: the act or condition of closing; a finish or bringing to a conclusion. I can tell you from experience that it is a lot easier to say or define closure than to actually achieve it. I have now been serving in Lungi for two years and two months and will be leaving after Easter on the 4th of April. As another missionary chapter of my life comes to a close I’ll just take a few moments to reflect and relate to you the things that I’ve experienced during this mission.

Like the other places I’ve volunteered, I always feel I’ve received so much more out of the experience than I could have brought or given. I’ve grown to love another culture, people and way of life with the poorest of the poor. I’ve matured in my thinking, actions and in my spirituality. I attribute this to community life with the daily mass and prayers. I can look back and see how far I’ve come with my prayer life and look forward to what I need to work on to continue to grow closer to God. I especially thank the Priests and Brothers here in Lungi for showing me what it is to live community, and for acting as spiritual director and confessor during my time here.

The kindness and unconditional love shown to me by the great people of Sierra Leone has brought the Gospel alive. I’ve seen first hand how the preventative system and St. John Bosco’s philosophy of working with youth can change someone’s life. We have had many such cases here during my time, where a little love and attention directed to a youth has had a positive and life altering impact in their lives. When I first came to Lungi, I was “porto” which means “white man.” Now I can hear my name 20 times just walking to the church or youth center. I can’t even begin to learn all of their names but its enough for me just to acknowledge them and smile or greet them in return.

I’m very proud of my past catechumens, from Madina and here in Lungi, who came for religious instruction every week over the past two years. Some were Baptized others received First Communion or Confirmation and I feel privileged to have been a part of their coming to know God. I was involved with a lot of wonderful works and projects. Teaching at the Vocational school, teaching catechism, working with the alter servers, working at the youth center, running Saturday oratories in the out stations, helping to start the “Feed the Children” program and keeping it going and also taking an active interest in the street kids from “Savio House.”

The church here in Sierra Leone is relatively young and there aren’t too many Christians. My two years plus might seem like a just a drop of water in a pond, but I’m sure with God’s help some of the ripples will grow and in turn create more ripples. I pray that Lungi and Sierra Leone can grow in faith like the mustard seed from the Gospel. “The smallest of all seeds will grow into the biggest of shrubs and become a tree, so that the birds of the air can come and shelter in its branches.”

I thank God and the Salesians for this opportunity to share some of my time and talents in the missions and hope to be able to do some more in the future. Finally, I would like to thank each and every one of you for your prayers, support and good wishes during my time here in Sierra Leone. I couldn’t have done it without you. Continue to pray with me for our works here, the missions and also for a safe return home.

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