Fr. Eugen Nkardzedze stands with children in his home country of Cameroon.

Fr. Eugen Nkardzedze stands with children in his home country of Cameroon.

BRUNSWICK

St. Charles Borromeo Church of Brunswick, part of All Saints Parish, has welcomed in a new missionary this summer. Father Eugen Nkardzedze of Cameroon, Africa, has traveled across Maine and much of the Eastern seaboard the past three years, working tirelessly to spread his love for others and for Christ, while hoping to provide for his home country.

“I applied to my mission on behalf of the diocese of Kumbo (in Cameroon),” said Nkardzedze, who knew he wanted to be a priest by the age of four. “They gave me a chance to come to the U.S. When I came to Maine for the first time I did an appeal at a church and the response was good. We raised $18,000. That was very encouraging.”

Originally from the village of Nkar, Nkardzedze returned to his village of 10,000 people in Cameroon as the only priest out of 14 who had traveled to America. Soon he went back for another mission, and enrolled for his PhD in systematic theology in the process. Then, this summer, he continued his missionary work by coming to All Saints Parish and working with Marcy Brenner, coordinator at All Saints.

“We are very fortunate to have him,” said Brenner. “We really need someone like him around. He’s brought that love, that mission. We all want to do something for his people (back home).”

“I think the exposure of coming to America is great,” said Nkardzedze. “It helps you grow, and we have done a lot of developments back home because of my being here.”

Hope for a hospital

The biggest has certainly been the village hospital of which Nkardzedze has overseen construction. Called Our Lady of Lords Hospital, there is a full foundation and structure standing at present day, but the complex still needs around $300,000 to finish and be fully fitted-out.

According to the diocese, Nkardzedze said the new hospital is something he is passionate about because his own mother had to walk 10 miles to the hospital when she was about to give birth to him. She made it six-and-a-half miles before having to stop at the home of a man who would become his godfather. He says his name reflects that journey, literally meaning ‘Nkar has given birth to a child on the way.’

“I always wanted to build a hospital in my town,” Nkardzedze told The Times Record. “But my dream is to build something nice. The bed you sleep on should be comforting. We want electricity and running water to be there. Half of Cameroon is not lit.”

Nkardzedze began sending items back to his hometown this summer. The idea started when a friend gave him a 240 volt electric cooker, the only voltage available to villagers in his part of Cameroon.

“It was too big to ship, and I have a small car, so for me to take it down I had to hire a truck, and that was expensive,” said Nkardzedze. “So I ended up stuffing my car full of softer things, like towels, blankets and dresses, and started shipping those over to Cameroon.”

The idea caught on, and soon he saw the true fruits of his labors paying off.

“I saw some photos of the smiling children (after receiving the shipments),” said Nkardzedze. “Their faces strike something in the heart and the soul that you cannot explain. They are happy with nothing. They are dirty, torn dresses, some wearing nothing. But they smile and they’re sincere.”

In the past two months, as Nkardzedze has spoken in churches from Bath to Boothbay Harbor, the community has helped him fill a 40- foot container full of items for the hospital, including used hospital beds.

According to a news release from the Diocese of Portland, volunteers spent hours last month moving items from a former assisted living facility — Brunswick’s Skolfield House.

The buidling’s new owner, Amy McLellan, is converting the building into congregate care and independent living apartments and was looking to sell the beds.

However, McLellan had decided to donate not only all the beds but armoires, lamps, curtains, sinks, and even trash cans to the new hospital, according to the diocese.

Volunteers moved the furnishings into a storage container made available free of charge by Peter Labbe of Ray Labbe and Sons, Inc.

On Aug. 31, more than 30 volunteers, from Boy Scouts to seniors, showed up to move the items across town to the parking lot of St. Charles Borromeo, where the storage container was placed.

“The African Express,” as the parish has dubbed the hospital donation project, came together quickly, according to the diocese.

“It’s kind of like a God thing. You have a confluence of events that wouldn’t happen if God wasn’t directing it,” said Sheila Murphy, the youth ministry coordinator for All Saints. “It’s kind of like, ride the God wave.”

“I used to attend St. John’s School, and we would go and sing to the residents, so I have a history with this place,” said Natalie Brown, a youth ministry intern. “Just the fact that Marcy organized this, and we could put the two worlds together was amazing.”

More to be done

The parish still needs to raise approximately $7,000 to ship the items overseas.

Meanwhile, Nkardzedze hopes to fill another container before shipping the supplies overseas this fall.

“I call this a miracle,” said Nkardzedze when speaking of the donations. “The fact that we can do this is a sign that people here have a very big heart. Those things don’t just happen.”

Nkardzedze stressed that this hospital will be unique in their area of Cameroon.

“We want to give people the opportunity to get something good at a moderate cost,” said Nkardzedze. “We want to start doing things like CATscanning. We have doctors, but we don’t have the equipment. Some of these doctors are very good. We want people in countries like Nigeria and Gabon to come and use this hospital. We are hoping America can open these opportunities to us.”

Brenner cites Nkardzedze’s gracefulness for being able to navigate an uncertain world.

“There is so much hatred in the world, and it’s refreshing to meet someone like Father Eugen,” said Brenner. “He has a charisma about him when you talk with him. His full attention is always on you.”

But Nkardzedze points to a greater power that guides him and his fellow priests in the diocese.

“We are not just people who go out and do good,” Nkardzedze said. “We do good for a purpose. We do good for Christ. We do good because it is our religious value. Good is holiness for us. Good is virtue.”

Donations to help with shipping costs can be sent to: All Saints Parish, Attn. Dr. Martha Corkery, 132 McKeen Street, Brunswick, ME 04011-2980. For more information, contact the parish at (207) 725-2624. or visit allsaintsparish.com.

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