Democratic Republic of the Congo - TOKOLA LISANGA IN KINSHASA

’Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.’ Mark 10:14

My name is Ernestine, and I am Congolese. I live in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo where there are two LSA communities. I made my vows on the 4th of September 2010 and since then I have been working in our little nursery school called Tokola Lisanga which means: ’let us grow together’. 
Our little school came into being in 2006, which means that it has now been in existence for eight years. We work with children aged 3, 4 and 5 years old. This is the third year that I have been working with these children. 
The aim of our little nursery school is: to participate in the education of the children, help them to develop their personality and accompany them in their growth so that, with others, they may become citizens and Christians who are useful to Congolese society. 
For two years I was a teacher with the youngest children (three years old) and for one year with those aged five. 
At present I am working in the management of the school. Oh, how beautiful it is to work with the children! I lived with children in my family and in our locality before entering the convent, but I didn’t pay attention to their behaviour the way I do now. The children are really marvellous, I am very fond of them, they are very interesting. Now I pay particular attention to their gestures, the way they play, their way of talking etc., and I am discovering that they are tremendous! 
I give thanks for this opportunity I have had to carry out my mission with small children. This experience will remain engraved on my heart. It has greatly helped me and it plays a big role in my Christian and religious life. 
Since I have been working with these children I have come to understand many things that I didn’t understand before; I have learned from them and I have acquired knowledge and qualities that I lacked. 
With the children I have learned patience, self-control, joy, deep forgiveness, confidence etc. With them, one must really have great patience, the heart of a mother who loves all the children without having any preferences. Love everybody, the most gifted and the least gifted, the outgoing and the shy. The children show more confidence in us than in their parents. For them, it is what the sister says at school that carries weight. 
When they arrive at the school in the morning at 7.30 nearly all of them are happy and smiling, but a few sulk a little because they were woken up early and they wanted to finish their sleep! 
At 8 a.m. we have the song in a circle. This is an important moment when the child who was cross or who was crying recovers his or her usual attitude, and it helps them to begin the day well. 
With regard to the management, all is not easy, but I am constantly challenged to be vigilant, prudent and sensible, and I am always supported by help from my sisters. 
Once, during the recreation, a little boy pushed one of his friends, who came to me in tears saying that somebody had hit him. I called the two of them and told the one who had hit his friend to apologise. Without hesitation, without any reflection, he apologised to his friend and I asked the other, ’do you forgive him?’ He replied, ’yes, I forgive him’ and, at that very moment, the two friends held hands and then continued to play as if nothing had happened. That really impressed me because, for us adults, forgiveness of that sort would be something naive and wouldn’t have much meaning. However, for the children this is deep forgiveness, it is truly real forgiveness. Then, I immediately thought of the words spoken by Jesus: ’… unless you become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Mt 18:3) 
I thank God for giving me this opportunity to carry out my mission among children and, with Jesus, I thank God by saying: ’I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.’ (Mt 11:25) 
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