Malawi – A missionary “Ad Gentes” reflects on 12 years in Africa

05 March 2021

(ANS – Lilongwe) – Salesian Deacon Peter Nguyen Khanh is a Salesian Vietnamese Missionary in Malawi, ZMB Vice-Province (including Zambia, Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe). He has been serving African youth for the last 12 years and today he shares his experience with ANS.

What makes you happy as Salesian missionary Ad Gentes in Africa?

I was very happy to have in my life the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa of Saint Pope John Paul II. I had to confess that the more I read and meditated on the reflection of Saint John Paul II, the more I believed that my life is for Africa, especially when he called me: “Comes Home.” That’s why, as Salesian missionary Ad Gentes in Africa, I found my true home where I can bring the peace of the Christ, our hope, is risen to the people and with Don Bosco, I reaffirm my reference for the young who are “poor, abandoned and in danger”. They are in great need of Good Samaritans who will come to their aid.  

What did you learn after 12 years from the African Catholic youth?

I think that I learned from them many things, for instance: their commitment, their sacrifice, their happiness even when they face a lot of difficulties in their lives, but they always keep hope and optimism, therefore they never lose hope in God. This is the most important thing I could learn from them so that I will fulfill the mission that God already entrusted to me through the charism of Father John Bosco.

How do you feel as a Pre-novice master in Malawi?

In 2017 I met my Provincial when he came to Rundu Community for his canonical visitation, and during the spiritual talk, he requested I join the Lilongwe Community and be in charge of Pre-novices; after hearing him, I felt some anxieties, I was even afraid, and immediately I was rejecting his invitation, but by his encouragement and also by the help of other Salesians, I accepted even though: “I do not know what should I do?”

In 2018, after a while I arrived safely to Lilongwe Community and I have found that my greatest joy is to feel so welcome amongst the confreres and especially with the help of God through the community, we began together the Pre-novitiate well and with my experiences I can say that I am very confident and so happy to share my religious life with the Pre-novices. I love what I am doing and I do it with my heart and I always believe that what God already started God will end well; I am just an instrument in His hands.

What challenges did you overcome as missionary Ad Gentes?

In fact, when I was sent to Africa in 2008, especially to the Vice-Province of Mary Help of Christians, I did not know where it was. After that, I had an opportunity to search from the Internet. I found many challenges waiting ahead for me, for instance: cultures, foods, languages and the most challenging for me could also be the mentalities of the people, in particular for Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Namibia, and I asked myself seriously: “How can I survive?”.

But I remembered the words of Father Václac Klement (General Councilor for the Missions by that time), he said: “Without love, nothing can happen, but if love exists in us, everything is possible.”

Thereafter, I believe that love already helped me to stand and overcome my challenges and I also left all my challenges for Jesus to set out on the new paths He has pointed out.

Any suggestion to the Salesian in Vietnam?

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” (Romans 10: 15)

My dear young confreres, in 1952 the first two missionaries landed in our country. They came from the Province of China and after 69 years how beautiful Salesian is in Vietnam nowadays. We should thank God for His blessings, especially the gift of our Father John Bosco.

I would like to quote from the Gospel of Matthew 10: 8, which tells us “We received without paying, give without pay.” We already received the Good News through the missionaries in the past; now is the time for us to give the Good News through missionary work. Do not be afraid to answer God's call that: “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 2: 3)


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