South Sudan – Fr Nakholi's testimony: "Serving poor young people, especially lepers of Tonj, has given me so much happiness"

03 June 2021

(ANS – Tonj) – Father Chisomo Joseph James Nakholi is a 33-year-old Salesian missionary from Malawi, who is serving the people of Tonj, in South Sudan. Today he shares with ANS his Christian and Salesian Vocations, as well as the birth of his missionary vocation and the joys and the challenges he gets doing his job where God has called him.

I went to the Minor Seminary at an early age in Malawi. I was so young then and life at Mzimu Woyera seminary in Chikwawa really gave me an opportunity to discern my vocation. Priesthood was not on top of my life choices. I wanted to study Aeronautical Engineering. God has his own ways. As days went by things began unfolding in both dreams and daily encounters with people that I decided maybe serving the Lord was best for me. When I was in my final grade of high school I had to make two choices. Thanks to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit I decided to serve God as religious after a year of discernment. The Jesuit spirituality had attracted me so much. I hadn’t seen the Salesians. I knew Don Bosco Mission in Lilongwe the capital of Malawi but it was not what I wanted to embrace. When I went for the come-and-see program in the Jesuit house I met a friend who introduced me to the Salesians and interestingly the first priest I met (Fr. Jorge Ormeno, a Peruvian Missionary to Malawi at the time) made me understand well who Don Bosco is and I couldn’t resist. I prayed about it and after consulting the Family with some difficulties I began my journey to priesthood in the Salesian Congregation. As I look back I have learnt that sometimes where God wants us to be happy he never let’s us choose. I am convinced to become a Salesian was the will of God and the peace I have now I am sure wouldn’t be felt anywhere.

The experience of meeting so many missionaries in Zambia and elsewhere arose the desire to serve others too. I spoke to the Provincial at that time Fr. Joseph Czewinsk and later Fr. George Chalissery who offered so much support without making my desire for missionary life difficult. After applying to the Counsellor for Missions at the time Fr. Vaclav Clement, I was sent to Rome for the course and my mission was to be South Sudan. It was a place I never expected, never planned and by all means wasn’t ready to go to. I spoke of dreams above in pursuit of my vocation. I had dreamt when I was in Form 2 that I was a priest and serving some tall dark-skinned people. Then it was just a dream. When I googled about South Sudan those images from childhood became so clearly that Sudan was the destination. People discouraged me to go. I saw sense in their discouragement. I had lost the spirit too. I took it upon myself to travel and see for one year and if things get hard go back to Zambia. Today I look back and say if I ever made a best decision in my life, it was deciding to come and work in South Sudan. There is no turning back. I am ending here as long as my health and superiors find it fit.

South Sudan is a very amazing country with very beautiful and kind people. The suffering as a result of so many years of war, the temperament of the people and their challenges of daily life automatically made me fall in love. Staying here I became a man. You face reality as it is and adjust accordingly to survive. Serving the poor young people especially the Lepers in Tonj has given me so much happiness.

There is also some good support from the confreres. The Delegation superior Fr. Joseph Pullikal and his team, My Rector Fr. Paul Antimi are supportive in the growth of my vocation considering that I am a new priest. Somehow tough life helps us to build beautiful communities. I never feel alone.

I have always believed that when we have no challenges within, challenges from without us can have no control. Cultivating sanity within me has made it bearable to handle the daily sorrows of daily life. I have a ‘why’ to live and that makes it possible to face anything that comes. At the moment I can say seeing the young people with so many problems challenges me. Learning to be within the culture of the people will take sometime and that needs time and prayers. Finally, dealing with people who have been through war is not easy. But that builds me each single day to learn and trust God more.

Have peace within. Seek Christ deeply. He heals deeply. Purity makes us happy. To truly love the Lord fall in love with the Bible and trust the powerful intercession of our Mother Mary. Life is hard and it is so for everyone. Challenges and problems are ways in which God speaks to us. Hard times strengthen us. Never settle for anything that will make you detached from the Lord. Be passionate. Follow your dream. Intimate not only imitate Don Bosco. You never called yourself and only God who started an excellent work in you will bring it to completion. Do not let anyone make you believe otherwise. Missionary life is beautiful. Go beyond the limits of your fears. And leave the rest to God for him alone is permanent. All things are passing. Be joyful in all things.


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