ECHOES OF THE MONASTERY OF THE TREE OF LIFE
Democratic Republic of Congo
On Easter Monday, 2011, we moved into our new monastery. We take this opportunity to thank all those people of good will who helped us in the construction, and especially P. Martin Neyt and the whole of the AIM. We are happy to be here, in what we will always call our ‘Promised Land’. We have room to expand our monastic life in every direction, and especially for its primary purpose, prayer and work. The most striking feature has been the welcome which the surrounding people have given us, a people poor but full of life and faith. From the day we arrived many of our neighbours have come to pray Lauds and Mass with us, and on Sundays the noviciate room which functions as our temporary chapel has been full to bursting, so that we have had to add benches outside. We need a chapel! The fervour of the Christians stimulates us in our own vocation.
Our neighbours come not only to draw nourishment from the Word of Life under the Tree of Life, but also to supply themselves with vegetables. Thanks to the gifts we have received, we planted many fruit-trees and root-vegetables. With the help of a friend who is a farmer we have had plenty of other vegetables, fertilizer, and some tools. Now we are harvesting a quantity of fruit, and our vegetables are on sale, to the great joy of the local population. We have already harvested more than 400 kilos of tomatoes; there are more in the garden and we harvest them every three days. One of the young men who works for us has paid us for his upkeep from his salary, and one of the women pays her rent with the work of her hands.
We do not sell our tomatoes to the large shops: an impoverished local woman comes to buy them at a moderate price in order to sell them on, and thereby pay the medical expenses of her children. We also sell flower and vegetable seeds very cheaply so that everyone can grow them in their turn. We can only thank you from our hearts for everything that you do for us and for the whole population. Apart from this matter of food, we offer also drinking water to our neighbours, thanks to the well which the gifts of our Belgian sisters have enabled us to sink. We have a well 125 metres deep, and, according to the engineer who sank it, it is really a matter of water flowing from the rock. We have a reservoir of 500 cubic metres with an electric pump. The local people pay 100 Congolese Francs for a container of 20 litres of water, and we turn on the tap three times a week. We use this money to fuel the motor, and it also helps to pay for the hospitality.
It is upsetting that the village is in the dark, while we have electricity. A group of neighbours came to ask us to help them get the village electrified, and we went to the National Society of Electricity to present their case. There was a promise to study the case, but nothing has happened yet! We are glad to say that a technician has told us that the river which crosses our property makes it possible to install a turbine which will provide electricity for the whole population. We shall see! In the matter of health, one of our sisters has studied nursing, and opened a Health Centre in a tent, though we had to interrupt this work because a building is necessary. So we have been looking for funds to construct a few rooms so that we can provide First Aid.
As though to encourage us, the municipal authorities of Mount-Ngafula have recently baptized the new city with the name of ‘City of the Tree of Life’. We are living out a great joy. The young pre-postulants of the Trappistine community of Mvenda have come to live with us for a year of formation. This has strengthened our links between the two communities, and inspired us to live a more generous and authentic monastic life.
In the joy of Christ
Your sisters of the Tree of Life.