Sunday, November 9, 2008

E-mail from Father Michael, Nov. 5, 2008

St. Teresa Parish

Comboni Missisonaries

Nyamlell (Aweil West)

P.O. Box 21101

Nairobi, Kenya 00505

Nov. 5, 2008

Dear Good People,

We have six and a half weeks left in the 2008 school year and things are picking up nicely with a good school year and we had to overcome many difficulties but the end is in sight and we all have great hope that there will be good results. During the week I am mostly involved in the school, which I enjoy, and then on the weekend I am out in the field of pastoral work in the chapels and in the centers.

This year we have a big flood in the entire parish of all the rivers in the area and so this makes getting around on bicycle next to impossible or at least much more difficult and having to carry the bike instead of it carrying me. However, boat travel is easy but the trouble is one needs a boat. I had two short trips on an NGO boat and am planning my last trip to two chapels this weekend. Another big advantage is there are lots of fish. Wherever there is water there are people who are fishing day and night right on the side of the road. I was out with the car for All Saints and All Souls and almost ran a number of fisher people sleeping along the road even with their mosquito nets. I prayed no one would roll over in the way of the car -- mine or someone else’s -- or a big truck. I went to three chapels and of course had bone filled fish at every meal.

After coming back from Kenya from a ten-day break which ended on September 10th; I found some two workers from the Nuba Mountains who agreed to put the roofs on the Science Lab, and on two more classrooms of the High School . The walls had already been repaired and windows and doors were already in place. Well I told them that I did not have any timber and so we couldn’t do anything. They said they would try to get some. Well, lo and behold, two days right at the end of the school day came a lorry and the two told me that they needed $10,000 to pay for 700 2 x 4’s of mahogany.

I was surprised but was able to find the money and so now that is going on and one building should be finished quite soon. At the end of August Coraid (a Dutch NGO) finished building of four spacious classrooms for the Comboni School in Marial Baai. All very nice and I paid $60,000 to them for it. It is already in use. Then to my shock they told me they had spent $100,000 and wanted the rest from me. Well, I agreed to pay an additional 15% and I had to throw in the boat and another $4,000 to pay off the additional sum; it is now all paid and they are off my back.

Soon after that some other men agreed to make a new metal gate for the Order of our Lady of the Sacred Heart Sisters compound as the wooden one was falling in and not secure at all. They were local Dinkas and did a decent job and cost me $750. Now as their fence is quite weak I am trying to get them to make another 100 metal poles. I am not sure that it will get done. But I shall keep trying. We are trying to do everything locally and not from Kenya.

Next year if money and workmen can be found I would like to build a permanent church in Marial Baai. We shall see how things work out and if God will dispose favorably to this plan of mine.

We’ll have a retreat for the High School and the class eights for the last weekend of November. Then in the middle of December there will be a general meeting for all the parish’s catechists. Afterward we shall go out to all the Centers to celebrate the Year of Saint Paul and the new translation of the New Testament into Dinka Rek and another Rumbek-based Comboni will do it for the catechists and six of the centers and I will do the rest. Father Colombo will be here to help me for Christmas. Boy, do I need help.

Also in September we had a course for the Eucharistic ministers and have the Eucharist kept in two chapels and taken to seven others from time to time.

May God bless you and keep you! Stay well and keep the faith.

Yours in the Sacred Heart

Fr. Michael Barton

Letter from Fr. Michael dated Sept. 2, 2008

On Aug. 23 and 24, I went to visit two chapels and as the River Lol is full we had to canoe across and had to pay. We continued our journeys on our bikes. I always travel with a young boy from our school, who helps me in my safari troubles. We found water and mud in many parts of the road. That same Saturday the East Timorese Sister went with another boy to a village in an opposite direction to take communion in another chapel and found water and mud in many areas along the road. She found herself sick with malaria and prayed and went back to Nyamlell where she had to remain in her room bedridden for three days. For my part I found a large congregation and had confessions, Mass and anointing of the sick, and then had about 35 infant baptisms.

We then had to cross the river again to get to the next chapel where we were going to spend the night at a small town where we have a Comboni school; getting there was more mud and water to walk through. I even fell once and cut one leg and ruined my tennis shoes with too much water. Then the water must have made the patches on the tires rise and go flat, so the last two miles I had to walk pushing the bike and body through more mud and water, but I got there.

I went straight to see the school. Since April 2007 a Dutch NGO had been building a block of four classrooms, which they just finished in the last part of August. I went to check it all out. I was quite happy with the result and now am in the process of making the last payment to pay off the $60,000 that it cost me. We now have a dream of building a similar building to be used as a church as soon as possible in the year 2009. They are already using the classrooms and I hope will give more for the building of the church too.

On Sunday morning I had lots of confessions and Mass and about 50 infant baptisms and then we repaired both bicycles and I was told that one needed a new inner tube, which we could not find in the local market so I rode and Joseph walked. When I got to the river a gig wind started and made the water very rough. No boats could cross. Joseph came and we waited for two hours before the paddlers would dare to get into their boats. We got across at dusk and my bike was now flat and unrideable so I was now walking and I was still 23 miles from Nyamlell and my bed. We walked in the rain and made it to Joseph's village and his family home where we spent the night.

On Monday morning we crossed the Lol for the second time and reached Nyamlell a half-hour before the school year was to start. I taught in my muddy clothes on that Monday and went to bed early that night.

On Tuesday I had a full day of school and announced the mid-year would begin that afternoon and would have a two-week break. I had a catechists meeting and had to pay the teachers and the parish workers.

On Wednesday we -- one Indonesian sister, a Kenyan teacher and myself -- drove to Aweil and got there very early and went to Mass and caught a plane to Wau, then another plane to Lokicoggio in Kenya. We had to spend the night there and on Thursday evening we all arrived safely in Nairobi. I came to get a broken tooth fixed and other business to do. The three of us will go back on Sept. 9 and 10. School starts the next day with lots of plans for the last three and a half months of the school year.

May God bless you and care for you always.
Sincerely yours in the Lord Jesus,
Michael D. Barton, mccj

Letter from Fr. Michael dated Aug. 6, 2008

St. Teresa Parish
Comboni Missionaries - Nyamlell
Aug. 6, 2008

Letter from Father Michael Barton:

We have one of the Indonesian sisters going to South Africa for a course on spirituality of her congregation of the Daughters of the Lady of the Sacred Heart and so I take advantage of her going to get this letter off to you. Sister Ernestine should be back by October.
We are having a good rainy season and this is the only time of the year that greens and vegetables are available locally for our meals. The sisters and a Kenyan teacher working here have nice gardens and the greens are enjoyed and shared with me.

On July 31 and Aug. 1 and 2 we had all the first semester exams and the preparation and checking and the correcting are all extra work but part of the job description. Half the year is over and half to go. So far so good, even though there was a teachers' strike for no reason and they had demanded a five Sudanese pound bribe from all the lower primary children and when confronted they all vehemently denied all wrong doing. So when I had collected enough evidence they walked out on strike, which lasted a week. Two teachers did not come back and I was able to find another one; the lower primary got going again and the upper was never interrupted as the sisters, the Kenyan and I take those lessons.

Then one of the grade eight boys hit Sr. Jeanne and knocked her down and as a result got himself expelled from the school. Sister just kept on going to her next class and told me at the break.

I have organized the pastoral work to be mainly on weekends and after school. Since Father Pax is not able to help in saying Masses, I go out one weekend and am here for the next. On more than one occasion I have all the six sacraments that I am allowed to celebrate, and on many Sundays I get home well into the night. Since it is the wet season I am more often on the bicycle than in the Toyota. I have not been able to finish the Science Lab or the last classrooms due to lack of materials. A church or two on permanent basis is always very much in my mind.

I do pray for you and hope that you are well and very happy and blessed by the Lord in every aspect of your life.

Yours in the Heart of Christ.
Michael D. Barton