from Rene and Pius at the Fraternity of New BellPius and Rene at New Bell
Two young brothers live in Douala, a large town in the south of Cameroon. It is a life marked by poverty, unemployment and also by a form of violence. Rene and Pius tell us about their first impact in the neighbourhood and their work.-
from Rene Greetings, everyone!
A few days after moving into our 'new Nazareth', we started settling down and tried to form some new friendships. No easy task to begin with, for as newcomers to the district we were treated with suspicion and closely questioned by several local people. But with the passage of time, and the help of God’s grace, things became easier and we now feel proud that we are already on friendly terms with some people in the area and nearby; we have been trying to put into practise the theoretical skills which we learned in the novitiate.
As far as work is concerned, I have not found a paid job, but I am not unemployed. I am 'available' at the fraternity.
I sometimes also use the free time available to me to meet some young people whom I knew in Bafoussam, and who are now studying here in Douala. We share our anxieties about their future, which seems very uncertain given the political, spiritual, moral and economic conditions in our country, all of which leave a lot to be desired. Some of them (the girls) invoke these conditions to justify the deviant activities they undertake to satisfy their various needs – times are hard, they say. But when all is said and done, we do try to agree on one point, namely that one must not after all give up hope, for God, and he alone, knows where he is leading us.
We are in a district which is very unsafe, which helps me to understand why we are here: ours is a discreet and almost silent presence, that of instruments of Christ serving his brothers. Never a night passes without our hearing shouts such as "Stop thief!" or "Help me!". Sometimes I want to leave my bedroom and jump in to help these people in distress.
I am happy in Douala, where I can have a taste of the real 'Nazareth life' and seek to deepen it, so that it can be useful to me as I pursue my great adventure in Christ’s company. This is a good place to live, and there are many times when I am aware of the grace of God in the atmosphere of this town, which makes me strive towards my final goal, while not being afraid to put my faith in God to the test. But I know where my trust lies, and I also know that I have many brothers supporting me during my journey to the Promised Land.
-from Pius,As you know, I am a carpenter/builder. Since our arrival here on the 12/01/09, I have been going out every day for work in different building sites run by individuals.Pius, the carpenter I am working with some of my friends whom I knew before. We form a group of three people. What unites us is that we are all builders and when one of us has a job, he will call for the others
One thing I love about being with them is that we understand each other and they know I must get back on time to join my brothers for prayers. When one has a job and calls for the others, we will be paid on a day-by-day basis, and it is on Saturdays that we receive our pay.
It is on these weekends that I really understand why the Little Brothers live with people and share their lives. What touches me most is that on Saturdays, when one is not paid it becomes a sorrowful day with all the fatigue of the past days. On Saturdays, one usually come back late because he was waiting for his pay, and on some days we wait till the owner of the house comes and say he does not have money.
Another aspect of sharing life with people is where we are working now, in the Congo Market, in one mosque. In the Congo Market there are so many mosques, one after another, built by different people from different countries in Africa, such as Senegalese, Malians and many others. T here are also Chinese people who are here for business purposes. Just as people are here for different businesses, there are also differently disabled people such as lame people, crippled people, blind, mad people and thieves. Within these groups of people, each has his own place where he/she seats to beg for money. Lame people sit more along the roads with crippled people; some of them have wheelchairs but when they are sitting to beg, they don't sit on them. Mad people and blind people go up and down. For the blind, they are led by children aged from 7 to 12 years old.
Most of the blind women carry their babies on their backs, and when you look at the small child on the back plus the one leading the mother a question comes to your mind: what will this child's future be like? The thieves are mostly young boys who are jobless. They go round the market looking for something to steal. You can't know them by their faces. Most of the time in the mosques, those who come in for prayers usually complain about their missing shoes. One day, I caught one boy searching our clothes where we used to change before work, and he ran away. What touches me is that these men and women are mostly Muslims and they come from different countries. The question I ask myself is how did they manage to get here? I know they are Muslims because at 6 to 7 p.m. they gather in one place around the central mosque for their evening prayers.
For life here around the fraternity, we are still new to the people around us. People here don't know me much because I go out in the morning and come back in the evening.