A Night to Remember. Thieves in Chipata, Zambia.

Joe McMeninmem 2014 JPGBy Joe McMenamin, M.Afr

It all began at 23:30hrs on Friday 11th March 2016. I was awakened from sleep by what you could call thunderous banging on my bedroom door which was locked (the thieves didn’t have the manners to knock!). At first I thought the roof of our house was collapsing then, one wakes up to the reality, I realised it was at my bedroom door.

It all went so quickly. Suddenly the door was flung open, the light was switched on and I am face to face with two sturdy men (no masks). One was brandishing a steel bar called a crowbar the other had a knife. The command was given (they spoke in English) “money, money, we want your money, all your money”. I came out of the bed and went to put on my trousers. They ordered me, “get back, just sit there and don’t move”. They took some money that was on the table. Then they took the wallet from my trousers in which there was money. Again they demand “more money, more money” I told them I don’t have any more money, luckily there was very little money in my room at the time.

Then began the ransacking of everything in the room rifling through the cupboard, the filing cabinet and shelves opening drawers throwing all the contents on the floor. They picked through everything,  taking anything that they thought could be of value, some clothes, shoes, phones, watch, travel bag for putting in the stolen goods even a cross, etc. When I saw they had taken all the backups to my laptop computer, two external hard drives and memory sticks, they then went for the computer. I said, “no, don’t take my computer”. I pleaded until, to my great surprise, they put it back again on the table.

When all this was going on I could hear voices in Fr Dave’s room next door and I realised he was going through the same ordeal. Once over (20 minutes of humiliation), I went to console Fr Dave from whom they had taken everything of value in his room. Then, I thought of the watchman, is he OK? Has he been harmed? I kept calling him at the entrance to his little house. After some time, he eventually woke up oblivious of all that was going on. It was indeed “a night to remember” and also a lesson to be learned as the Bible puts it “be on your guard because you will never know when the thieves break in and steal”.

My version of our unwelcome visitors. By Dave Cullen 2014 PNGDave Cullen, M.Afr

This is what happened: we had a midnight visit from the thieves who broke into our house through the kitchen window, bending the security bars back and entering in. Suddenly the light was switched on in my bedroom and two young men with weapons in their hands (not guns) came in. I just stayed in bed and pointed to the drawer where there was some money. There came in two others who had found that Joe’s door was locked so it took them a bit of time to smash it open. Besides the money they also took my laptop, phone, watch, camera and a few other items. All my drawers were opened up and everything poured out all over the floor as also some clothes from my cupboard lest I was hiding something there. They also looked behind my pillow and mattress again searching for hidden treasures. Our watchman slept through it all! Anyhow we thank the Lord that we suffered no physical harm. We are in the process of hiring a more reliable security system and hope we will not have a repeat performance.

Thieves in Chipata - news March 15, 2016 copie

Need good legs to be the Parish Priest of Nabvutika! Zambia

Nabvutika 2014 15By Fr.  Serge St-Arneault, M.Afr  
Mary Mother of God Parish is situated at Nabvutika (the name means, “I suffer”) a very poor compound on the northwest outskirt of Chipata. Zambia.
About 15000 people live there without any land or the possibility of having even a vegetable garden. The soil is rocky and the slope of the mountain nearby is unproductive. Everyone needs to find ways to get some income to survive. Side roads and local markets are full of vendors selling vegetable, charcoal, etc. brought from Malawi through the mountains and other areas. Life is tough, especially for sick and old people. The town of Chipata, which hopes to become a ‘city’, provides electricity and water for those who can afford but no health clinic is available.
I was privileged to walk around part of the compound with Fr Joe Mc Menamin the Parish Priest and a group of dedicated women. The compound starts from the crossing gate leading to the church. The last remaining few hundred meters or so of the road leading to town is in bad condition and impassable during the rain season. Soon, we entered into a house to greet an old women who is partially paralysed following a stroke. Then, we move on through small and crooked paths to greet more people.
 The houses are small and poorly constructed. The Parish is involved in building a house for poor widows; a pre-school and clinic for the people in the compound. From there, we stopped at Anastasio Kolowa Banda’s house; a tiny shack with thatch roof. Old but quite alert, Anastasio, having lived some years in Tanzania speaks Kiswahili better than the local language. We exchanged few words in Swahili to the amazement of the women walking with us.
After a long stride, just before going back to the church, we stopped to see Maria Kabwe, Bemba speaker. I fell on my back while trying to sit on a small stool put on the slight slope facing Amai Maria. The neighbour quickly brought me a chair. Greeting her was very nice. Her vision is restricted because of cataracts but her mind is clear and her character cheerful. She like so many others is totally dependent on the St Vincent de Paul organization for material support, food etc.
 Joe walks through the compound each and every day. Indeed, he needs good legs to be the Parish Priest of Nabvutika. His mission is challenging and inspiring. He is assisted by a diocesan priest for weekdays and Sunday Masses.
Situated at ten kilometres from the new Formation Centre for the Missionaries of Africa, Nabvutika offers an ideal place for pastoral work for forthcoming candidates of the Missionaries of Africa.

Many thanks to Joe, a truly good fellow … with good legs!

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