Dec 27, 2016 to January 31, 2017: Trip to Southern Africa and Dubai
Any mistakes or broken links? ... please let me know: email@example.com
Thank you for a prayers! Dec 28 to Jan 30: my trip to South Africa, Lesotho, Zambia and Dubai. See daily reports, below. God bless all benefactors!
South Africa Lesotho
YouTube - 29 mins (including some advertisements) - South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) program Special Assignment: The Last Run - has info about my visit to South Africa
7 extra videos made by Special Assignment team with a link to English transcript: Here
Tues Dec 27, 2016: Tonight I'm due to leave from HK for South Africa. I'm not sure when I next will be able to update this website. DV on reaching Johannesburg I'll buy a mobile phone card and then put its number at the top of this menu by Dec 29. Each day while away I'll try to check email. But in some of the places I'm due to visit, the internet connection may not always be working. Aims of my trip are the same as Jan 2015 (Tanzania) and Jan 2016 (Kenya and Uganda): to visit the families of prisoners in HK, to promote awareness about the danger of drug trafficking to HK, and to lobby for prisoner transfer agreements.
Wed Dec 28: Pease God, as you read this, I am on a plane on the way from HK to Dubai, then another plane to Johannesburg ...where I'm due to start meeting families of prisoners in HK ...and do some publicity to stop drug mules coming to HK. See coming days for fuller reports and photos.
Thurs Dec 29: Hello from Johannesburg where I arrived yesterday around midday after a 9 hour flight from HK to Dubai (where I had a long meeting ...1am to 2am local time.... with airport security officials re drugs arriving on transit flights from Sao Paulo, Brazil ...then given to couriers to take to HK), then an 8 hour flight to Johannesburg (after one hour on Dubai tarmac ...take off delayed by fog).
computers at J'burg not working and staff undermanned
...so getting through immigration took about 90 minutes
...with a crowd of many hundreds not amused...and at times
jumping the queue.
Then I stayed another hour at J'burg airport getting hooked up, so to speak: USB modem for my trusty Toshiba notebook + sim card for mobile phone ....then 20 minute trip by taxi to accommodation location in J'burg South. Am staying in a very peaceful but very secure motel, Road Lodge, in southern Johannesburg, has security fence and security team. Safety a major concern for this traveller. Am due to meet the first of some 20 families in the J'burg area tomorrow Please God (families of prisoners in HK). Photos of Road Lodge Here
Thank you Jesus for Day One!
Frid Dec 30: Yesterday I travelled to Eastgate shopping centre to meet the family of a lady in prison in Hong Kong. Was a lovely experience meeting two of her daughters and five little grandchildren, including two babies she has never seen, but I was saddened to learn that the father of one group has abandoned them, and the father of the other group refuses to get a job. Audio recording for playing on Bruce Aitken's Sunday night radio program "The Hour of Love" to which inmates listen
Before the meeting I planned to go to an internet shop in Eastgate to check on some broken links on my websites ....and just as I was wondering where I'd find an internet shop, who should I see coming towards me but two of Mother Teresa's Sisters of Charity. As we started chatting they told me they were going to the post office, which had computers for customers to use! So we went to the post office. I told them about the family I was about to meet (I knew in advance of their situation, which is why they were the first on my visit list.) The sisters kindly offered to help them in the future, so I gave them the sisters contact details.
I'm having internet connection problems ...which is making it difficult for me to prepare this website ....and catch up on a very large backlog of emails. Sorry ...
Thank you Jesus, for Day Two!
Sat Dec 31: On my previous visits to Africa (Jan 2015 to Tanzania and Jan 2016 to Kenya and Uganda) - to meet families of prisoners in HK - I often met two or more families at a time. But on this visit, with a little bit more time available, I'm meeting one family at a time ....and learning a lot about the circumstances in which people took drugs to HK.
Yesterday I spent quite a while travelling to meet a remarkable family, and spent a couple of hours with them in a centre near their home. They want their story - the story of an inmate in HK - made public (in fact the arrest details are already public) ...in order to stop a local Drug Lord who is continuing to recruit women as drug mules.
Story will, DV, be on this website in the coming weeks
Photos of the meeting yesterday are Here (with permission of the family). Audio recordings are Here and Here
Thank you Jesus for Day Three!
Sunday Jan 1, 2017: A woman from South Africa in prison in Hong Kong asked me to visit her sister in Soweto, next to Johannesburg. This I did yesterday, meeting the sister and her family at the famous Regina Mundi O.M.I. church in Soweto (the largest Catholic church in South Africa ...been visited by Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama).
I expected slums in Soweto, but instead found modern homes everywhere .... and not at all a dangerous place (at least in the day time).
The woman in prison and her sister both are abandoned wives (very common here). Each has two children. The six of them were living in a two-room garage for whose rent they paid 1,000 Rand (US$73) per month. Their only income was a government allowance of R350 per child. That's R1,400 per month. After paying rent they had R400 to live on.
Which is why the older sister got caught up in drug trafficking ....desperate to get money for the family. Now the younger sister is minding all four children....sometimes not able to give them food. The children going to school sometimes go on an empty stomach.
Thanks to kind HK friends I've been able to give them enough to pay 5 months rent ...plus a bit extra. And I've asked the younger sister to use the ideas in Good News for the Poor to break out of the poverty cycle. In fact I've given her a job: translate GNFTP into her native language, Sotho. Almost impossible for her with so many children to find ordinary work.
With the younger sister and four children yesterday was an unemployed male cousin (with health problems) and another abandoned mother with a one month old baby (a neighbour of the younger sister), and three other young friends of the children.
Photos of the group are Here (shown with permission of the family). Audio recording Here
Signs everywhere in Johannesburg: "Safe and pain free abortion ... phone this no." But in fact: big risks for mother ... and not exactly safe or pain free for the baby
Yesterday I felt so sorry for the family I visited - they really are struggling to exist - that I gave them everything I had in my wallet ...including my taxi fare home ...planning to get money for the driver on my arrival. But three teenagers in the family group got wind of this and thought they would be helpful by explaining my predicament in Zulu to a taxi driver I was negotiating with. Driver promptly declined to take me as a passenger. So I said to the teenagers, please don't tell the next driver I ask! (Next driver no problem ...got paid on arrival)
Jesus, thank you for Day Four!
Monday January 2: Yesterday morning I concelebrated Mass at the O.M.I. church in one of Johannesburg's poorest (and most dangerous!) areas: Alexandra ("Alex"). See this 2-min YouTube of a drive through Alex. As usual at African Masses - beautiful singing.
After Mass I joined three other O.M.I.s and a diocesan priest for a New Year's Day gathering - most interesting sharing during a lovely meal.
I visited a home in the parish - of a lady recently
returned to South Africa after 6 years in prison in Hong
Kong. Lady's mother so happy to have her daughter back.
Hope this joy is soon experienced by other families of
prisoners in HK.
Word has it
that the residents of Johannesburg most affected by New
Year's Eve festivities were ....the birds. Yesterday they
showed unusual signs of fear at the sight of human beings:
those creatures who make explosive noises (fireworks .....
Thank you Jesus for Day Five!
Update - one of the three O.M.I.s I met was Fr Ron Cairns. He was carjacked on Feb 15!
Tues Jan 3: Yesterday I visited the family of another inmate in prison in Hong Kong ... an inmate due for release in April. Only three months to go. Something to hope for, by both the inmate and the family.
Inmate was a migrant from another South African country who came to South African looking for work to support her abandoned family.... only to be exploited and recruited for drug trafficking.
I'm now helping a South African TV station to do a documentary on this whole issue of vulnerable women in South Africa being exploited by Nigerian men. Hope the program does a lot to stop women going to prison in HK
Yesterday as I was in a taxi going to visit meet the family of a woman in prison in HK, the driver was not sure of the way .... it was a long journey ... Johannesburg is a big place....so several times I helped him use my phone to speak with one of the people I was going to meet. That person kept saying things like "turn left after the robot" and "after the 2nd robot". Turns out that in local English a robot is a traffic light!!!
Thank you Jesus, for Day 6!
Wed Jan 4: Yesterday at midday in Johannesburg I met with another family - the mother and sisters of a South African man in prison in Hong Kong for drug trafficking, recruited by a Nigerian man. Photo Here and audio Here
Then I went to nearby South Rand Hospital to apply for the medical record of a South African inmate in HK - he's hoping his medical record will help his appeal against sentence.
Late yesterday afternoon I met with one more family, that of a South African woman in prison in HK for drug trafficking - recruited by a local woman with ties to a Nigerian Drug Lord.
(and in between the 2nd & 3rd appointments I enjoyed a refreshing swim in the pool of the motel where I am staying ... my third such dip in four days)
Sign on fence of a home near South Rand Hospital:
Thank you Jesus for Day 7!
Thursday Jan 5: Yesterday with the help of a local Johannesburg taxi driver I visited two very poor families who have members in prison in Hong Kong. Seeing the families' situations made me understand why two mothers of young children took the desperate step of drug trafficking to HK.
One family was in the town of Evaton West, about an hour South of Johannesburg. Photos of the house and street. A very, very poor area. I got my driver to go and get something to eat and bring it back to the house, since it was not convenient for two of the four adults in the house to go out: one totally blind, one on crutches with a broken leg.
Then I went to the nearby town of Orange Farm, to meet a grandmother and two of the four grandchildren she is struggling to look after. The mother of three of the grandchildren is in prison in HK. The other mother is deceased, as are the three women's husbands.
I had taken what I thought was enough money to cover a decent donation to both families, but once again (like Dec 31) I was overcome by the poverty of both families, and came home with an empty wallet ...asking the taxi driver to wait while I went inside to get some money to pay for his services.
As I continue to use Taxis here in Johannesburg to visit the families of prisoners in HK, I feel sometimes like the taxis belong to a Bible company ....considering the names of the drivers ....so far I've met Solomon, Titus, Elias, Emmanuel and Jeremiah
Thank you Jesus for Day 8!
Friday Jan 6: Yesterday here in Johannesburg I met with one more family of an inmate in prison in Hong Kong for drug trafficking ....and again a now-familiar theme emerged: the inmate was very likely recruited by a Nigerian man known to the family.
To balance the books, I must say I have met two excellent Nigerian men over the past week ....both trying to stop their countrymen from recruiting vulnerable people in South Africa
Seems that everyone knows what's happening, but concern-fatigue has set in and no one has the energy or whatever to do something about this sad situation.
But as the man in white who lives at the Vatican said to everyone, especially priests, when he visited a drug state of Mexico last year: "Don't give up. You must keep fighting to stop this madness" (or words to that effect)
Yesterday's meeting place with the family of an inmate in HK - Newtown - has a bad reputation for all sorts of violence ...and the inmates had told me not to go there. But all was well ...meeting was in a lovely new mall which maybe the inmates don't know about. Mind you, as I waiting for my guests, for some reason or other Robin Hood came to mind ... with the thought that he should have been called Robing Hood!
Thank you Jesus for Day 9!
Sat Jan 7: Yesterday I went to the outer Johannesburg district of Boxburg. An noon at East Rand Mall I had a lunch meeting with the families of two inmates in HK. The inmates are good friends, and yesterday, for the first time, their families met up and now also are good friends.
3pm I met two more families with the same result: families
now friends, just like the inmates.
And to put icing on the cake, just before 3pm all four families met up and in future will keep in contact to support each other.
Photos of the gathering(s), with permission of the families, are Here. Audios are here: 01 02 03 04
Thank you Jesus for Day 10
Next Tuesday a South African TV crew will be in Johannesburg to interview some of the families I've been meeting, with a view to getting government action about the exploitation of vulnerable people (especially women) by Nigerian Drug Lords operating in the city. Other hoped for positive results of the documentary: more awareness in the community about the danger of drug trafficking to HK ...leading to fewer mules going to HK ....and tighter security at Johannesburg airport .....and a willingness by the government to have a prisoner transfer agreement (like Kenya and other countries)
After my experience in Kenya and Uganda last year ...mosquitos and mosquito nets ...I brought two tubes of skin protection cream to South Africa. But up to now ....after 10 days, I have to report I have not seen even one mosquito!
Sun Jan 8: In Hong Kong prisons, most prisoners have a radio. One of the English-speaking prisoners' most popular programs is "The Hour of Love", heard each Sunday night at 8.30 HK time on Metro Radio. Tonight's program will feature recordings from some of the families I have met with over the past week here in Johannesburg. Messages are partly in English, partly in other languages.
more recordings were made yesterday when I met some more families
- this time in Pretoria, about one hour's drive from Johannesburg.
The trip was made in the rain ...most welcome rain because the
dams here are dangerously low.
Thank you Jesus for Day 11!
Mon Jan 9: Yesterday I went 90 minutes by taxi to the small town of .....well...maybe I should not put it's name, because that might identify people. Anyhow the drive was through beautiful countryside. South Africa really is a lovely country.
At the town I met two more families of inmates in prison in HK for drug trafficking. Members of the family said how Nigerians "dominate drugs in every small town".
Today I'm due to spend time on a media report which hopefully will help stop people, especially poor people, doubly especially poor women, from being recruited by the Nigerian Drug Lords to go to HK as drug mules. I also hope the report will encourage the authorities to take action against the Drug Lords.
Thank you Jesus for Day 12!
Yesterday on the long road trip to visit two families of inmates in prison in HK, I saw a road sign I'd never seen before: "Owls - next 5 km" ...very appropriate for yesterday's Epiphany story about the 3 Wise Men!
Tues Jan 10: Yesterday in Johannesburg I spent much time with three families meeting a media team - preparing a report on the situation of drug trafficking to Hong Kong by South Africans. The program will be available on YouTube after it goes to air and I am sure it will do a lot of good in many ways ...encouraging people to name and shame Drug Lords ....stopping people being recruited by the Drug Lords ....and encouraging the authorities to take more action against the Drug Lords (e.g. by tightening security at South Africa's three international airports).
Thank you Jesus for Day 13!
The school year in South Africa begins tomorrow....Come Holy Spirit and bless all students/teachers. Yesterday I noticed not a few Mums and Dads with a shopping basket doing some last minute buying at a book store near where I'm staying. No children in sight ...just a parent by him/her self trying to decipher a school shopping list
Wed Jan 11: Yesterday I spent most of the day with three families and a media team - working on a documentary that will treat the issue of South African drug mules being recruited by Nigerian Drug Lords to take drugs to Hong Kong.
And late yesterday afternoon I had the privilege of meeting in person someone I've been in email contact for several years - Patricia Gerber.....a courageous and tireless campaigner on behalf of South Africans in prison in other countries. Patricia's website is well-named: Locked Up In A Foreign Country
Thank you Jesus for Day 14!
Now that I'm on holidays (?) I'm trying to do a job I've been meaning to do for a long time: make this website more user friendly for handheld phones. Two days ago I bought a simple handheld phone that will help me check the formatting etc of the website. That same afternoon a little boy of about 6 years old, whose home I was visiting with media team, when he saw me fumbling with the phone and trying to use it, said to me "It's upside down". Sure enough, I was holding the thing the wrong way up!
Jan 12: Yesterday
was one of those days when everything goes ....right! A TV station media
team - for the third day! - met with families of inmates in prison in Hong Kong.
And something very special happened ....not convenient to give details yet
....details coming in the next week or so. One photo Here
Then last night I got news that a high government official has agreed to meet me this afternoon in Pretoria.....to discuss issues like a prisoner transfer agreement etc. DG!
Before this meeting (at 2pm) there will be a meeting in Johannesburg with another special person at 10am ....and after the 2pm meeting there will be a meeting in Pretoria at 4pm with another family. No trouble sleeping tonight.
Thank you Jesus for Day 15!
Frid Jan 13: Yesterday's three meetings, together with Patricia Gerber - one in northern Johannesburg, two in Pretoria - all went well. It was a special privilege to be able to meet an important person at the National Prosecution Agency in Pretoria ....to lobby for a prisoner transfer agreement and to lobby for more action against Drug Lords (e.g. tighter security at South Africa's 3 international airports - Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town).
The final meeting in Pretoria - with the mother, father and 6 year old daughter of a husbandless woman in prison in HK for drug trafficking - was another reminder of the suffering endured by inmates' families ... in this particular case, two aging parents are struggling to look after 4 parent-less grandchildren (the 3 other children's mother is deceased and their father has abandoned them). When this website's campaign stops someone from going to prison in HK it also helps a family to avoid hardship.
Thank you Jesus for Day 16!
This afternoon I'm due to fly from Johannesburg to Maseru, the capital of Lesotho. I'm due to be in Lesotho till Jan 17. I will try to update this website and check email each day if internet connection is available. Thank you for a prayer!
After so many meals with families at KFC and McDonald's over the past two weeks, it was a nice change to have last night's 6pm meal in Pretoria at a Pizza place!
Sat Jan 14: Hello from the friendly mountain kingdom of Lesotho, pronounced "Lesutu", (see map, at top) where I arrived late yesterday afternoon after a one hour flight from Johannesburg to Maseru. Many photos of Lesotho Here. And photos of Maseru Here.
At Johannesburg airport I had a meeting with the husband of a woman in prison in Hong Kong.
I am now at the O.M.I. Mazenod Centre in Maseru where the local Oblates have warmly welcomed me.
Today Fr Tanki O.M.I., a prison chaplain, is going to take me to visit the family of a Lesotho woman in prison in HK. On Monday he will also take me to visit a local prison!
I'll try to post some photos of the beautiful property of the Oblates which includes the Mazenod Centre ...and also includes a cemetery with the graves of about 100 Oblates (scroll down at this link).
One slight problem here is internet connection. The wifi has a hiccup ...and I'm now using a borrowed USB modem. Another problem is that the power socket does not fit my HK equipment ....so I can't charge my computer. I hope to buy a multi-socket plug later today.
So ... please excuse this mini-menu. I'll try to do better tonight DV.
Thank you Jesus for Day 17!
Sun Jan 15: Hello on my third day in the the friendly mountain kingdom of Lesotho which is the most Oblate country in the world: 3 of the country's 4 dioceses have an Oblate bishop, half the country's 200 priests are Oblates ....and, no insults intended....the country has no Jesuits, Franciscans or Dominicans!
Yesterday a full time prison chaplain Fr Tanki O.M.I. drove me for the two hour trip to the town of Hlotse in northern Lesotho - see map of Lesotho, above - to meet with the parents of an inmate in prison in Hong Kong for drug trafficking. While in Hlotse, Fr Tanki and I met a very special person - see photos Here.
Today I'm due to go with Fr Tanki for Masses in two of his five prisons.
In addition to being on the road all day yesterday, I've had a saga of troubles with electricity, internet connection and phone connection. So ...please excuse me once again for a mini-menu.
Thank you Jesus for Day 18!
Monday Jan 16: Another memorable day yesterday here in the Kingdom of Lesotho (population 2 million). In the morning I went with Fr Tanti O.M.I. for 9am Mass at a men's prison ....before which I was given the chance to speak to all the inmates in the prison ...about 500 of them...in their compound .... and then 11am Mass at a nearby women's prison. Choirs at both Masses really good. Staff at both prisons really friendly and helpful. Local Correctional Services report says that 60% of female inmates are HIV positive (from this link)
It was good to be able to speak with the inmates because on release they (especially the women) will be prime targets for Drug Lords trying to recruit drug mules
the two Masses ...on a very, very, very hot day...I invited Fr Tanki for a
restaurant meal ....coming home from which I saw an extraordinary billboard -
...scroll down to Jan 15.
(Also at this link are more photos from Jan 14)
Just got back to the O.M.I. Mazenond Centre in time for Bruce Aitken's call from HK for a chat on his Sunday night program "The Hour of Love" (now 8.30pm HK time) which is playing recorded messages I send from the families of inmates I'm visiting here in Southern Africa.
Then I had some Chinese visitors ....a kind couple who run a little supermarket just in front of the Mazenod Centre ....they came looking for the foreigner who spoke Chinese when buying mosquito spray! Photo Here (scroll down to Jan 15)
Then in the late afternoon some enjoyable chats with the local Oblates ....and a quiet stroll around the lovely Oblate property.
Wifi still not working, so I'm still using my mobile sim card in a borrowed USB modem to access the internet.
That's it for another day.
Thank you Jesus for Day 19!
Feb 23, 2017:
Women released from Maseru prison, thanks to help from HK friends!
Tuesday Jan 17:
Hello again from the Mazenod Centre in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho.
Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting the grave of Blessed Joseph Gerard O.M.I. in the district of Roma, about 30 minutes from Maseru. Like Pope John Paul II in 1988, I knelt at Gerard's grave. For Oblates, Gerard's grave is the second holiest place in our congregation, after the grave of our founder St Eugene de Mazenod in Marseilles.
Photos of yesterday's visit are Here - photos of Gerard's grave and photos of the beautiful countryside of the lovely mountain Kingdom of Lesotho!
Today I'm due to travel by road to Bloemfontein, then take plane to Durban to meet with the families of 5 inmates in prison in Hong Kong.
Forgot to mention yesterday: last Sunday at Maseru Women's prison I was able, thanks to the kindness of Chinese friends in HK, to do the same as last year in Kenya: arrange for the release of one or more prisoners by paying their fines (such is the system in Africa ...fines can take the place of years in prison...but most prisoners have no family or friends who can afford to pay fines)
Thank you Jesus for Day 20! .... and many thanks to kind O.M.I.s of Lesotho for your kind hospitality these past five days
For African people rain is a sign of blessing. Well, yesterday, for my final full day in Lesotho, there was not only rain ....but hail!
Wed Jan 18: Yesterday morning after Mass with 6 other Oblate priests at the Mazenod Centre at Maseru in Lesotho, I was blessed to find that one of them was driving after Mass to Bloemfontein in South Africa... where I needed to go for a flight to Durban.
At the lovely little Bloemfontein airport I caught up on some computer work and then enjoyed a great 50 minute flight to Durban. As I looked out at great expanses of fields, then the breathtaking Drakensberg mountains, then glorious cloud formations, I thought to myself: how could a pilot be an atheist?!
Last night I arrived at the OMI provincial centre in Durban. Today I'm due to meet with three more families of prisoners in Hong Kong. Photos of OMIs in Durban
Thank you Jesus for Day 21!
Bloemfontein's Bram Fischer airport is easily the best small airport I've ever experienced. But I had to smile when I looked at the computer screen projected above the check-in desk: it had the words "This is not a genuine copy of Windows. Click here to obtain a genuine copy"!
Jan 19: A
scene that keeps coming back to me is what I saw about 7.30am on the main road
through Maseru the capital of Lesotho as I was on my way to Bloemfontein a few
days ago: hundreds of people lined up outside factories, hoping to get a job.
Desperate for work. No unemployment benefits in Lesotho. My O.M.I. driver said
that the people are there each day ....maybe a few of them will sometimes get a
And I keep thinking: no wonder people turn to crime ...even become drug mules....desperation. And ...why doesn't the Lesotho government create jobs: build homes, make new roads (urgently needed)? May the hearts of the government leaders suffer an attack of compassion and care.
Yesterday here in Durban I met with two more families of inmates in prison in HK...each, as usual, for a couple of hours. Both inmates were recruited by Nigerian Drug Lords.
In fact, the daughter of one of the inmates was also asked by a Nigerian to be "a courier" ....and a taxi driver yesterday told me how his sister is being chatted up by a Nigerian man. Groan....
Thank you Jesus for Day 22!
Football/Soccer Africa Cup is on at the moment ....people here glued to TV each night. And I know that African prisoners in prison in Hong Kong are also following with keen interest ....and a little bit of gambling!
Frid Jan 20:
Yesterday morning I met with the family of an inmate in prison in Hong Kong for drug trafficking ...and then....since I had an hour before meeting a second family at Durban's famous South Beach...a holiday moment! ....I had a swim in the lovely surf! It was glorious! Photos of beach. Second family - photo and audio
By the time I got home to the O.M.I. centre where I'm staying it was just about time for the community's evening prayer which I joined (just like the 6.45am prayer and Mass each day). After which one of the Oblate priests kindly took me for a tour of Durban's "rough areas" ...including a meal and chat with a local Nigerian football coach who really helped me understand more about the poverty and unemployment situation in Nigeria which is a breeding ground for the recruitment of drug mules who in turn often become drug lords in other countries. Photos
Late night last night ....so just a mini-menu for today.
At midday today I'm due to fly back to Johannesburg...after hopefully meeting one more family at Durban airport.
Thank you Jesus for Day 23!
Yesterday morning at Durban airport I met with one more
family of an inmate in prison in Hong Kong for drug trafficking.
Then as I was waiting in the departure area for my flight to Johannesburg I saw a priest in a short sleeve black shirt with a clerical collar. Being a friendly Australian O.M.I. I said hello to him and asked him if he was a Catholic priest (...Anglicans and others wear the same type of clerical shirt). He answered "Yes, I'm Cardinal Napier"!
He was on his way to Lesotho where today he is today due to install retired Bishop Sebastian Khoarai O.M.I. as a cardinal (86 year old Bishop Sebastian not being well enough to travel to Rome for the recent installation of new cardinals)
Cardinal Napier in real life is very friendly, humbly travelling second class ....very different from the image portrayed by some international media.
Turned out my seat was just in front of his ....and as we said goodbye at the end of the flight he remembered my name and wished me well in my work of visiting prisoners' families.
If I'd know about the installation date when I was planning my trip in October I would have tried to have been in Lesotho today ....but I'll be there in spirit! (Installation date was only set in November)
Today I'm due to make another trip to Pretoria to meet with two more families of HK inmates.
Thank you Jesus for Day 24!
Jan 22: Yesterday
I again made the 60 minute trip (by taxi) from Johannesburg to Pretoria - to
meet two more families of inmates in prison in Hong Kong. And once again the
occasion saw two families in the same boat becoming friends ...to support each
other in the future.
Today I'm due to go with a media team to visit a special family .... hopefully the media coverage of drug trafficking to HK will lead to a reduction in the number of people being recruited as drug mules for HK.
in South Africa has really opened my eyes to what will happen in other countries
if there is no concerted effort to combat the Drug Lords. All countries face the
same battle, but SA with its widespread corruption is losing the battle. God,
please help SA!
Thank you Jesus for Day 25!
Taxi driver yesterday asked me about the Bible verse which says "Don't shoot the messenger". I told him the words are not in the Bible. Just now Google helped me learn that the words come from .....Shakespeare!
Monday Jan 23: Today I'm due to fly from Johannesburg to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia (see map, above). In Zambia I'm due to meet with three families of inmates in prison in HK.
Yesterday I spent most of the time with a media team visiting the home of an inmate in HK - with the hope that continued media publicity will lessen the number of drug mules going to HK. During the visit, Bruce Aitken phoned, by arrangement, for a live chat with the family on his Sunday night HK program "The Hour of Love", to which the inmate was listening. Thank you Bruce! And for icing on the cake: the chat was recorded on camera by the local media team! Photos 01, 02
It's with a sense of sadness that I leave South Africa which has been my home since Dec 28 (including 4 nights in beautiful Lesotho). I've met with the families of 23 inmates ....usually for two hours or so each time....and at each meeting it's as if I become a member of the family ...and the family becomes a member of a much wider family. As one mother in Tanzania said to me in January 2015 "When I see you I see my daughter".
Doing this job is a happy task and a great privilege.
Thank you Jesus for Day 26!
Yesterday I phoned someone who looks after a Chinese Catholic group in Johannesburg.....but I noticed that my Cantonese showed signs of not being practised for a few weeks and was more clumsy than usual. Bit like playing the piano ...a pianist needs daily practice to stay in tune!
Tuesday Jan 24:
packed up yesterday to leave South Africa, I had one special regret: there was
one family of an inmate in prison in HK ... just one out of 24 in South Africa
.... that I'd been unable to contact. I had phoned many, many times without
Yesterday morning, before leaving early for the airport, something (Someone) made me try one last time ...and the phone was answered....and my airport taxi driver took me to meet the inmate's family before we went to the airport. Thank you Lord! The inmate would have been so disappointed if I'd not made contact with his family. And his family is a very special one where I've been able to help bring about a very important reconciliation. DG!
my joy turned to confusion when I arrived at the airport:
Last time I was at Johannesburg airport - for my trip to Lesotho - I had enormous trouble finding the right check-in counter. I asked numerous airport staff who sent me from counter to counter in Terminal A and Terminal B.
Today I was pleased with myself when I went straight to an information desk where a lady had the correct info in her computer ...and she gave me the correct location of the check-in counter for Lusaka. But when I arrived at the check-in counter, I learned that my 3.45pm flight had been cancelled!
did receive a refund notice from South African Airlines some days ago, but I
thought that was a refund for a flight from Lesotho to Johannesburg which I
cancelled after they rescheduled me from a midday to a 6am flight (not very
convenient for myself or the Oblates I was staying with).
But I didn't read the fine print at the bottom of the message - it's Here - from which I was meant to realize that a new booking was needed!
DG I was able to get a 7pm flight to Lusaka ....all's well that ends well!
I'm due to travel to the town/city of Kitwe (just above the name
"ZAMBIA" on the map of Zambia, above) to visit the families of two
more inmates. 2009
YouTube of Kitwe
Thank you Jesus for Day 27!
Wednesday January 25: O.M.I. congregation began 201 years ago today.
Yesterday morning I was up at 4.30 (after a very late night) for 5.30am Mass with Brother Max O.M.I. who then, after a quick breakfast, drove me the 6 hours on a slow one lane highway from Lusaka to Kitwe (in the copper belt of Zambia ... lots of Chinese mines and businesses) where we spent two and a half hours with two families of inmates in prison in HK ....then one or two other jobs....then the six hours back to Lusaka (with a stop for a meal) ...arriving home at 11pm....and we are due to be on deck for 7am Mass today for the O.M.I. anniversary. Kitwe families
So....please excuse this min-menu.
Today here in Lusaka I'm due to see the very last family of the HK inmates.
Thank you Jesus for Day 28!
January 26: Yesterday
morning I joined about a dozen other O.M.I.s for 7am Mass at the O.M.I. centre
in Lusaka, Zambia where I've been staying these days. Then at midday my faithful guide and driver, Bro Max
O.M.I. and I had a meal in a
local mall with a very special family of an inmate in prison in Hong Kong. That
was the last family I was due to see in Southern Africa ....all now
seen....all 27 families ....and also one of an inmate recently
released...that's 28 ....and several of them more than once ....like one whose
husband and children are in Johannesburg and parents in Lesotho.
Yesterday afternoon Bro. Max took me to the O.M.I. "pre-novitiate" (seminary) where I had a sharing session with about 20 students.
morning I'm due to visit a diocesan radio station (managed by the Oblates) for Mass and an interview
....then two more O.M.I. centres before I head for the airport and a flight to
Much trouble yesterday with internet connection. Wifi not working. USB modem not working. I am typing this in the hope that help is on the way. I'll try to post another update here before my flight to Dubai. But if internet problems continue I may not be able to post another update until Dubai.
Thank you Jesus for Day 29!
Friday January 27: Hello from Lusaka airport in Zambia, where I'm waiting for a flight to Dubai....after another long but happy day:
This morning my faithful guide Bro Max and I were at the local Catholic radio station for 8.15 Mass, arranged by the O.M.I. director of the station Fr Singini.
Then we took part in a one-hour live program at the station, explaining the situation of people who are recruited as drug mules to go to Hong Kong.
Next we visited nearby Mary Immaculate O.M.I. parish one of whose priests is the world's newest Oblate priest, Fr Abraham - ordained January 21. (A security guard at the radio station is named Isaac. Not often one meets Abraham and Isaac in one morning!)
Then after lunch back at the O.M.I. main centre, Delegation Leader Fr Freeborn kindly took me to a meeting with several prison chaplains, followed by a visit to Lusaka Central Prison and the National Marian Shrine....and lastly the airport....where after posting this mini-blog, I'll try to catch up on some email (internet working well here!)
Photos at radio station and at churches
What a month! I could a book about each day. I'm looking forward to a bit of a rest in Dubai and time to do a report on the trip and a number of other trip-related jobs.
My Mass at the radio station this morning was for all the people who made this trip possible, for all the people I've met on the trip (especially the families of prisoners in Hong Kong) ....and for Africa!
Thank you Jesus for Day 30!
Saturday January 28: Hello from Dubai (see map, above) where I arrived around 7am yesterday morning and where I once again (like Dec 28) received a free tea/coffee and biscuits when I spent some time with security officials at Dubai airport discussing the problem of drugs in the transit lounge of the airport. (c.f. Dubai airport a transit point for drugs traffic to Europe ...and Asia! ...more than 20 people in prison in HK for drug trafficking after collecting drugs in transit lounge of Dubai airport)
Two days ago when I joined Fr Freeborn O.M.I. for a late afternoon visit to Lusaka Central Prison in Zambia, we heard officials say that earlier in the day they had deported 147 Ethiopians who had been found some days (?) earlier in a container bound for South Africa. Google "Ethiopians container Lusaka" for photos and info about such a terrible example of human trafficking.
In Dubai I'm hoping to meet some media representatives.
Thank you Jesus for Day 31!
On Dec 28 when I visited the police office at Dubai Airport (to discuss the flow of drugs in the airport's transit lounge) the staff kindly gave me tea and biscuits. Yesterday morning when I went to another police office at Dubai Airport (to discuss new info after my trip to South Africa) ... again tea and biscuits. THEREFORE: If you are ever hungry at an airport, go to the police office!?
Sunday Jan 29: Hello again from Dubai.
I hope all dear Chinese readers have had a happy start to the new lunar year.
Here in Dubai there are many Chinese people. Also many, many Filipinos.
Yesterday after a record 12 hours sleep (7.30pm to 7.30am ...I was very tired after a month on the go in Southern Africa) I did a bit of walking ....and in the late afternoon had a 90 minute meeting with a reporter from a local newspaper. Hopefully there will be a story published next week warning people about the danger of drugs in the transit lounge of Dubai Airport (where at least 20 drug mules in prison in HK collected their drugs) ...a warning especially important for the large community of Filipino domestic workers here.
Today I'm hoping to attend Mass at a local church ...then possibly the beach!
Thank you Jesus for Day 32!
Monday Jan 30: Yesterday I attended the 12 noon Mass at St Mary's Catholic Church, Dubai ....led by an Indian Capuchin priest ....with a congregation of nearly 2,000 people ...and amazing overheads on three screens. Dubai has complete freedom of religion. See Muslim Dubai hosts world's largest Catholic community
Then after a walk on the seashore of one of Dubai's beaches, I did a lot more walking in the African area of Dubai.
As I saw more and more of this busy, modern city, I kept thinking to myself: the whole place used to be desert. Just shows what can be done with deserts!
Tonight I'm due to fly back to HK after a truly memorable trip. My Mass intention this morning was for all the kind people who made the trip possible.
Thank you Jesus for Day 33!
After three days of walking around Dubai I still can't get used to the fact that cars give way to pedestrians .... just like in Australia. I'll need to forget what is practised here, or I'll be in trouble back in HK!
Tuesday Jan 31: Hello from Dubai Airport late afternoon of Jan 30 where I'm waiting for my flight to Hong Kong. This airport is the world's busiest airport for international passenger traffic. A little while ago I had good chat with the manager of the Dubai Airport International Hotel .... concerning the issue of a local Nigerian Drug Gang using rooms at the hotel for the transfer of large quantities of cocaine to drug mules ...some of whom consume the drugs into their bodies ...others receive in "biscuits" and "chocolates" for their hand luggage.
Manager said that hotel staff are aware of this problem, and for some time now have been giving airport security full information about any suspicious Nigerians who book rooms at the hotel. This is good news. Of the 20 HK files I have of drug mules in prison in HK who received their drugs in the transit lounge of this airport, eight of them were given their drugs in a room of the hotel. Please God there will be no more such dealings.
The most precious items in my luggage are photos and other items from the families of the 27 inmates I have visited in South Africa, Lesotho and Zambia. Photos are at a non-public location on my server which a number of special readers know about. If anything happens to me, someone please print these photos and get them to Deacon Edwin Ng in HK to send to the inmates!
On the positive side, I'm really looking forward DV to posting the photos and other items myself, and then visiting the inmates in the coming weeks for sharing about the trip. Hopefully over the past few weeks most inmates have already heard the recordings from their families which I made and which Bruce Aitken kindly played on his Sunday night radio program "The Hour of Love" which so many inmates listen to.
I'm also supposed to deliver I can't remember how many hugs and kisses ....!
Thank you Jesus for Day 34! (the final day). Please bless everyone who made this trip possible and bless everyone I've met - especially the inmates' families. May the publicity done on this this trip help reduce the number of drug mules from Africa going to Hong Kong.
p.s. Hopefully in the next week or so there will be a report about the drug mule issue on "Special Assignment", the famous investigative program of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Google "special assignment youtube" for previous programs to get a sample of what to expect ... journalism at its best!
Exiting Dubai means taking off your belt and shoes as you enter the immigration area of Dubai Airport. Same happens in some other airports in this part of the world. Which means it's good to wear clean sox ... and make sure your trousers stay up without a belt!
of the Drug Lords named in the Special Assignment report:
Hendrik van Rooyen and Primrose Ugwe
Oct 12, 2016: Letter to inmates asking if they would like me to contact their families