He dreams of becoming a botanist. He loves reading short novels. One day, he lays his hands on a booklet titled “If the seed falls…” and buys it. He feels fooled. Yet, he reads it all the same and his life changes radically. Fr. Brighton Multiply Zimba from Zambia, tell us about his story.
Since I was a child, I developed a strong feeling of affection for the Church. Most probably, because my family was involved with the local Catholic community. My father was a catechist and my mum was the leader of the Catholic women.
My teenage years, however, brought about a change in attitude. The local church became much more to me than an institution. I began to realise the importance of it. It was not the building, the bricks, the mortar, the pews, the programmes, or even the ministries. It was God’s people gathered together for a specific purpose. The turning point, however, was just behind the corner.
In 1998, while I was studying at Chama Boarding High School, in Muchinga Province of Zambia, the most remote eastern area of the country, I came across a little book entitled Mbeu Ikagwa… (“If the seed falls…). It was written in my local language, Chichewa. The cover was eye-catching, and the title quite intriguing. At that time, agricultural science was my favourite subject at school. Anything that had to do with plants and seeds stirred my attention. I decided to buy it. I thought “It will be an excellent complement to my passion for botany”.
From the first pages, I noticed that the book had nothing to do with seeds and plants. It was a short biography of an Italian man, by the name of Daniel Comboni. Disappointed and feeling somehow fooled, I thought at first of throwing the book away. But something inside me kept on pushing me to read at least some pages. About half way through the book, Daniel, the man whose life the booklet was presenting, was reported as saying “The happiest day in my life will be the one on which I will be able to give my life for you”.
There was a flash of light in my mind. I immediately realised that the seed referred to in the title was not “a unit of reproduction of a flowering plant”, it was the very life of Daniel Comboni, the founder of the Comboni Missionaries.
Those words left me spellbound. Everything made sense now. Even the title of the book was spot-on! Comboni’s life had been a life thrown away, lost for the others, and yet completely gained!
Now something inside me was urging me to imitate Comboni and his decision: not just to offer part of what I had to others, but to spend my entire life for the evangelisation of Africa. His motto “Regenerating Africa through Africa” became a refrain in my mind.
My interest in knowing about mission and missionary life grew more and more, and I joined the parish vocational group, which was animated by a Comboni missionary.
At first, I did not have the courage to tell my parents about my desire, for fear that they would not agree to it, since I was the first-born of the family. Finally, I took my courage in both hands and I opened my secret to mum and dad. To my surprise, they calmly welcomed it: “We respect your decision and will pray for you”.
In October 2004, I joined the Comboni postulancy in Balaka (Malawi). I enjoyed the philosophical courses I was asked to attend. They turned out to be essential in understanding myself and the others better. In 2007, I went to the Novitiate in Lusaka, where I remained until my first religious profession, in May 2009. Two beautiful years, during which I was helped to deepen my faith and develop my Comboni missionary identity.
For the theological studies, I was sent to Naples (Italy). Three years later, I went to Cairo, where I attended courses at Dar Comboni Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies. On the 10th October 2013, I made my final religious profession. The following month, I was ordained deacon at St Joseph’s Church in Zamalek in Egypt.
In July 2014, I went back to Zambia for my priestly ordination and the 2nd August 2014 was “the day that Lord had made for me’. It was a great day with all my family and friends. After a few weeks, the superiors posted me to Kosti, in the diocese of Khartoum (Sudan). Working in Kosti is beautiful and hard. Serving is always like that. But I am happy, really happy. I have no doubt that I am where God wants me to be. And the booklet Mbeu Ikagwa? It is still with me, solemnly opened on a small bookrest in the right corner of my desk.