Interview with Fr Ephrem Kisenga Mwangwa, SDB
Taipei, Taiwan, 19 August 2019 -- The Taipei formation community has received a valuable contribution from the AFC (Africa-Congo) province since last November 2018, in the person of one valuable formator, Fr. Ephrem Kisenga. Although he is still adjusting to the new culture and studying the Chinese language, he was ready to share his insights after his first nine months of missionary life in Asia. At present the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) is the only country in Africa with two provinces, AFC: with its provincial house in Lumumbashi, 240 SDBs and ACC (Africa Congo-Congo Brazzavile, 120 SDBs): with its provincial house in Kinshasa, the nation's capital. This latter is the fastest growing Salesian reality in the continent with 170+ Salesians in initial formation.
What was your motivation for coming to Taiwan?
To be honest I didn't have any special motivation, because the proposal came from my provincial, so I accepted it as any assignment, believing that God wants me to be where the superior wants me to be and I don't regret being here. I'm happy.
Did you suffer any cultural shock so far?
Cultural shock as such... I think just the food in the beginning. It felt a bit strange because it tasted sweet to me... but after one month I got used to it and now I like this food so much. One thing which surprised me is the time, even if I knew about it, but in the beginning I was sleeping during meditation, for almost the whole first week after my arrival. Another thing different from Africa is technology which is far more advanced here than in Africa.
You are experiencing your first year in Asia. What are the common points of African and Asian culture?
My first year in Asia has been very interesting, and I discovered that Asian tradition and African tradition are close; some customs are same, such as solidarity, respect for strangers (foreigners). The worldview is also almost the same, such as the importance given to marriage, the way of counting the months of the year, because in African tradition we have 13 months, and it is the same in Chinese culture. But I can't claim that I know Asian culture yet. I need more time, including learning Chinese!
How would you invite your Congolese Salesians to come on mission in Taiwan?
I think the best way of inviting Congolese Salesians is by giving good testimony of life as Salesian missionary, and the Congolese are usually able to live everywhere and get used to things. I humbly believe China province also needs Congolese confreres just as the Congolese need to learn from the Chinese.
What do you learn from Taiwanese Catholics who are in the minority?
What l'm still learning from the Catholics in Taiwan is their faithfulness. They try to keep their faith, which seems to be a mature faith.
Anything you would like to share with the wider Salesian worldwide community?
What I could suggest would not be so good maybe because I feel it is early, but nevertheless, I think that what Fr. Lanfranco (former superior of China province) proposed for African Salesians, is very important! It needs to be encouraged by the Regional Councillor, wherever he visits the provinces in the Africa and Madagascar Region. I think that especially for Congolese Salesians sometimes it is very good for some confreres to be formed in other provinces and come to work in Congo. So, why not to formed in Asia, specially in China? It could help my home province of AFC (Congo) to have different mentalities, it could help the province specially in administration. I mean, forming our confreres in other provinces, from philosophy to theology. And if it were possible, why not already from the Novitiate? I will make more suggestions for you after getting more experience! Let us stay united in prayer!