Patience Mollè Lobè (Cameroon) is a 56-year-old widow, the first woman to hold the position of Vice-Director at the Minister of Public Works in her country. Her story is marked by commitment to her people, which is rooted in a deep evangelical lifestyle. Her decision has led her to begin a foundation for helping teenage girls at risk; promote Economy of Communion projects and help citizens become aware and actively involved in promoting progress in the country. Her decision has also won her some enemies. She has received several death threats, but remains unrelenting in her efforts.
“I came to know about the Ideal of unity in 1977,” she explains, “while attending high school. I had always been accustomed to seeing religious sisters teaching catechism, but this time it was a simple woman. Athough she had a nice way of relating to people and this appealed to me: she was a focolarina. I wanted to know more about her life and was invited to her home, the focolare. I left that encounter with one idea in my head: the importance of loving, of serving everyone. My first move was to prepare the food for my aunt, even though I had never liked to cook.”
When her teenage years with the Gen ended, she decided to spend a year and a half in the Focolare’s permanent Mariapolis in Fontem, Cameroon, because, as she explains, “before going to university I was looking for a deep spiritual experience that would help me lay solid foundations for my life.”
She was the only woman in the School of Engineering. “During the last year at university,” Patience continues, “I was engaged to a young man from my region, and we were soon married. God never gave us children, but we didn’t take this as a loss because we involved ourselves in serving the community on many different fronts: in activities of the EoC and in a foundation for teenage girls at risk. Then, unexpectedly, my husband, who had always been so athletic and healthy, began to suffer stomach problems and a few months later died at the age of 55.”
Now a widow, she carried out her role as Head of Service for the Ministry of Public Works until the Governor wanted her at the Secretariat of the Commission of Public Affairs. “But after a few years,” she recounts, “I saw that corruption had infiltrated the environment, and so I resigned. Then, totally unexpectedly I was promoted as Sub-Director. I tried to carry out this new service according to my Christian principles,” Patience explains “even though it wasn’t easy.”
“A year later, in 2007, I was promoted as Vice-Director of the Ministry of Public Works in the wealthiest area. It was the first time a woman had ever held this position. But the threats quickly began. A few colleagues felt as if their hands were tied; they couldn’t do things as they had before my arrival. They tried to force me into making mistakes, presenting budgets for work plans that contained errors. I had to thoroughly review each and every contract before signing the grants. I received several anonymous phone calls. One day while I was away in the city 5 people tried to break into my home, 15 km from Douala. The security guard was able to stop them. There would be people loitering around the entrance to my property, which I would report to the police. The police told me to keep them informed of each of my movements. My life became impossible.”
Meanwhile, the Minister, seeing Patience’s ability to help people to work together, wished to transfer her to the Ministry. She was weary from the battle, but “I realized that I had to still ‘give my life for my people.’ I accepted the position as director in order to bring the spirit of the Gospel into that difficult environment, remaining firm against illegality. I carried on because I didn’t have any personal interest. It was my way of contributing something to my country. Now, even though I’m officially retired, I preside at a commission of public affairs. I’ve evaluated hundreds of cases, so that public funds are not be used illegally.”
“The next day, after the nominations were listed, during the night I awoke to a pistol at my neck. . . Even though she was considered the better candidate, without explanation the post was taken by another. “Nevertheless, I went house by house, encouraging people to get out and vote, and this created a nice family atmosphere in my home which, meanwhile had become campaign headquarters. On election day there was another threat: Five armed military men came to my house in search of me. . . but they didn’t find me. I had been warned by the authorities.
The election results would arrive a few days later. Her party would probably win, but Patience says that her goal had already been reached: to work for the good of the country, despite the results; and overcoming the fear and threats witht he strength of the Gospel.
Interview of October 12, 2013 at the international Volunteers Centre of the Focolare Movement, Grottaferrata, Italy