Sister Anafrida Biro, a missionary, a Chemistry and Biology teacher, wishing to become a dreamer, above all, a learner at a daily and free school of Jesus, as she says. She shares with us her missionary experience.
Can you tell us how God has called you?
I think that God called me first of all through my family: my grandparents and my parents who loved Him, trusted Him and brought me to Him through the Sacrament of Baptism, etc.
How did you meet the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa - White Sisters?
I owe my gratitude to Sr. Chimwemwe Mgangira from Malawi, who came to the school where I was studying (Rugambwa Girls secondary school in Bukoba region). She shared with us her Missionary experience during Religion class. It is good to let you know that I had thought about joining religious life right after my primary school as it was possible that time for local congregations. But because I was chosen to join a good secondary school, I decided with my parents and my vocation director to continue with my studies. While listening to Sr. Chimwemwe, not only did I feel a great fire/passion in my heart to become like those Missionary sisters but also, I saw a great door open for me to offer my life, to give a helping-hand to those in need. Before this, I wanted to serve in my diocese but now the sister was speaking about the whole of Africa! Interestingly, today when I look back, I understand the meaning of the big door which I perceived being open before me. Because, God was not only calling me to English speaking Africa as I thought at that time, but even beyond – to French speaking Africa, to Europe… Oh, what a surprise!
Sister Anafrida, you come from Tanzania. What do you love most about your country?
Peace, unity in diversity of culture and traditions, in religion, even skin colour. I love the nature – landscape, plants and animals – Tanzania is blessed with natural resources. The country is progressing thanks to the efforts of many but also thanks to good leadership, no matter the various human weaknesses they may have.
Is there something you miss from your country that you don’t find in Poland?
Yes and no. Yes, because I can’t find any food that I used to eat from my childhood to adolescence. But at the country level there are things like rice, potatoes and some fruits… that are both in Tanzania and are found here in Poland. No, I miss nothing because here in Poland I find what is essential to any human being – LOVE. I love people and I feel loved or at least accepted. I feel at home.
In which countries have you worked?
I was in Kenya for my religious formation and practice; then I spent five years in Mauritania and now I am in my ninth year in Poland. Between times, I have been in other countries for different purposes linked to our Mission and Missionary life.
What is your mission in Poland?
Presence, listening, informing, encouraging, inviting, reminding, awakening, thinking and missionary vocations. Another aspect of my mission in Poland is to build bridges between people, particularly those of Africa and Poland/Europe.
What does it mean for you to be a missionary?
It is to be chosen and to be sent to others and to oneself – to one’s own life. It is an invitation to be “all to all people” far and near while caring for one’s personal relationship with God/Jesus who sends and without whom we can do nothing! For us Missionary Sisters of our Lady of Africa, it is also to live in an international community with all that this entails – richness and challenges.
What are some essential qualities of a good missionary, and how can believers cultivate these qualities?
Faith, listening, courage, faithfulness to prayer, availability, flexibility, non-judgemental attitude, patience, love that goes beyond...
Believers can cultivate these attitudes by first becoming aware of their reality in their relationship with God, with self and with other people. By daily putting into practice the words of Jesus – to love as he has loved us while putting one’s total trust in God and His compassion. Good to keep trying each day, not to be discouraged when we fail.
What is for you the biggest joy in being a missionary?
Inner freedom. I have experienced a continuous presence of God in what I am living and in those I am living with. I see myself growing in confidence and trust in God who has a plan for my life and that of others. A plan for peace and not for disaster (Jer. 29:11). I really need not to worry much but rather to be as responsible as I can. My only desire is to be God’s free instrument. To be or to go where I am needed and not necessarily where I might wish.
Yes there are and they are various. First of all it is at the level of physical separation from those who have become dear to me – my family, friends, other people I have met, a different climate from that which I am used to, different food … Learning new languages, facing new traditions and cultures, new ways of thinking, personality/behaviour differences and different family backgrounds.
Your own missionary model, hero?
Jesus himself, the very first Missionary; otherwise apart from other people who are also in our own religious congregation, it is St. Paul. After having been called by Christ, St. Paul’s YES was a firm one and I think that his attachment and love for Christ could not have been stronger. This is seen in the letters he wrote, for example: “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." – Ph.1:21. Or “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." – Ph.4:13. Paul was no longer counting on his own strength and knowledge but only on Christ.
What guidance would you give to those who are considering missions but are not sure?
I think that it is good to clarify their motivation and desire for missionary life. Where does that come from and how did it start? Another way would be to name or identify their fears/doubts and see what God/Jesus would say about each one of them.
Sister Anafrida, what can we wish you?
Anything that you wish, anything that can help me in my relationship with God and people. I profit of this occasion to ask you to pray for me so that I may accomplish God’s will and God's Mission of love wherever I will be. If ever anyone experienced some inconveniences from me I am so sorry for that. Once again, thank you so much; may God bless you now and forever!