Message from Fr. Mike
MY TRIP HOME ~ Part 2 By Fr. Mike
Instead of inviting the families to come to our home, I took the food to their homes. The problem with this system of distribution is that not everyone would receive food on December 31st, as they live far apart from each other. Secondly, I am not acquainted with ninety percent of the beneficiaries, so I needed to ask for directions. The positive aspect was that this method preserves their privacy. They did not know that they were on the list, so there was an element of surprise, some never expected me to come to their home. Personally, it gave me the opportunity to know their home situation.
The distribution took two days, December 31st and January 1st. It took four phases. My younger brother, John, accompanied me on the first phase. He knew those families and where they live. My two nephews and a niece accompanied me on the second phase. The local Catechist accompanied me on the third distribution. My nephew, who lives in Pico Rivera, and my brother John, helped me on the last distribution. Here are few examples of the recipients of this grace of God. The fathers of two of the families were blind, their wives did everything. These wives do not have serious jobs, they work here and there. One lady was both a widow and blind, and the son who takes care of her is himself disabled. In another family, the woman has three or four children, and she is blind. The husband walked away from the family, and she is completely dependent on her 13 year old daughter. There were widowers, too, and couples.
This project was not planned, it was completely spontaneous. However, I believe it was God ordained because of the many beautiful things that came out of it. By participating in this project and visiting these families, my nephews and nieces saw a world that was not obvious to them in that town. They were so touched by this experience that my nephew, who lives in Pico Rivera, promised to buy more bags of rice the next time I go home. I said to him; “From our visit it is clear that they need more than rice. A few are blind and have no help. There is no government program or public assistance for them.” My niece replied; “I am concerned about the 13 year old girl with a blind mother. What about her education?”
On January 11th, I went back to Lagos to be with my uncle who was sick. He is the younger brother of my mother. According to the family, he had been waiting for me. When I entered his room, to the surprise of the wife and the nurses, he opened his eyes, smiled, and spoke for the first time in three weeks. We talked late into the night. He was happy and relaxed. The next day, I celebrated Mass in his room, Anointed him, and prepared him for the inevitable. Every day, I would recite the Rosary with him in the morning and in the evening. Like his mother, reciting the Rosary was his favorite prayer. Things got worse on Wednesday, by Thursday afternoon his breathing became rapid and shallow. At 10:14 pm on Thursday he took his last breath. It was as if he knew that I was about to go back to Los Angeles, and he did not want me to leave him again. He left before I left. Although I am deeply saddened by his death and my inability to be at his funeral, I am happy he got his wish — to see me, and to have me there when he took his last breath. I ministered to him as a priest and a nephew, just as I did for his sister.
I left Lagos on the evening of Monday, January 18th, and arrived at Atlanta International Airport in the early Tuesday morning. In Atlanta, we walked straight to immigration, presented our documents, and went to the connecting flight to Los Angeles. Los Angeles County requires all returning residents and visitors to register with the city. I did. They also require every returning resident and visitor to quarantine for 10 days. I quarantined for the next ten days, starting on January 19th. My trip was designed by God, everything fell in place.
To God be the glory and praise!
MY TRIP HOME ~ Part 1
By Fr. Mike
Have you ever returned to your home town, where you were born, and where your family has existed for about four generations, for vacation? Was it really a vacation, or work? This is the question I have concerning my recent trip. It was a trip to remember. The original purpose of the trip was for the following:
- To attend and preside over the funeral of my brother-in-law.
- To attend the traditional wedding of the sister of my godson.
- To attend the funeral of Dr. Agu (who died in Harbor City near San Pedro in California).
- To visit my ailing uncle.
When I arrived, the agenda quickly changed from four items to nine. It now included the following:
- To visit and give rice to the poor.
- To attend the funeral of the mother of a family friend from Inglewood, California.
- To attend the wedding of the sister of a priest friend.
- To officiate at the wedding of my cousin.
- To arrange for the funeral of my uncle.
I had about three weeks to finish these tasks. The locations of some of these events were far from each other. It is about an eight to ten hour’s drive from one location to the other. None of the deaths were as a result of Covid-19.
With regard to Covid-19, the two countries, the U.S and Nigeria handle it differently. The Nigerian government requires that you take a Covid-19 test 72 hours prior to arrival to Nigeria. After taking the test, the traveler has to email the result to the Nigerian embassy. If the result is negative, the embassy will issue a travel permit that allows you to board an airplane. On arrival at the Nigerian airport, the first station is the Covid-19 station. You need to show the travel permit as well as your Covid test result. They take your temperature. If everything is alright at this station, then you proceed to Immigration, and later to Customs. I was pleasantly surprised by their seriousness. However, once inside the country it was a different story. As in many countries, some have taken it seriously, and others have not.
My first assignment was to preach at the funeral of my brother-in-law. His death did not come as a surprise because he had been sick for more than a year or two, and he was elderly. He was the traditional ruler of that part of the town. Many dignitaries attended the funeral. For our family, it was two day event, the 29th and 30th of December.
Prior to my arrival, I had inquired about the impact of Covid-19 on the economic life of the ordinary citizens. It was not good. In Nigeria, I changed all the generous Christmas gifts I received from the Parishioners of Assumption into the local currency, and bought 21 bags of 25kg (about 55lbs) of white rice, onions, and other condiments. This was to be given to families in need. The criteria we used to identify beneficiaries was as follows:
- They must be widow or widower with little children or with unemployed adult children, and are barely getting by.
- Couples with children who are not meaningfully employed.
- Single ladies with no meaningful employment or source of income, therefore very vulnerable.
In this part of the world, people live off the land and conduct little businesses. It is by the grace of God that they make it every day. The plan was to give these bags of rice to the families on December 31st so that they could celebrate the New Year with it. I collected a list from my brother and the local Catechist.
~Part 2-Food Distribution