In the Name of the Trinity, I am a Missionary

By Luda Egbalic

A Messenger of His Love
Luda in traditional Talaandig dress
I am not a writer, but I’m writing this reflection for myself and for others, hoping to be enlightened more about the Trinity’s love and God’s desire for each one of us to become a messenger of His love and the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life.
 
I’ve always believed it is the love of the Trinity that brought me to this beautiful country, South Korea, and compelled me to persevere on mission. I also believe that this mission is not mine. It is God’s mission, and He has blessed me to carry it out with Him. God is always at the forefront, and I follow Him. There would be times when I kept my distance from Him because I felt tired and even tempted to stop. But along the way I knew God had sent the Holy Spirit to keep me going.

For my ministry, I was assigned to the parish of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary ( 성탄 ), Neungguk, Diocese of Uijeungbu, created from the Archdiocese of Seoul in 2004. I would say about 75% of the church-goers are the youth and older parishioners. Most often the youth and young professionals or couples are seen whenever they sponsor Masses. But what is really inspiring is having many of the elderly who, despite complaining about the pain in their backs or knees – are joyfully carrying out their ministries in the church. They are more involved in church activities, because we cannot ask for more time from the youth due to their studies, nor the young adults due to their work. Because of the high cost of living, the younger parishioners need to work hard to earn enough to be able to afford their daily needs and maintain their lifestyles which are influenced by fast-changing trends and fashions.


What is it like to be a Columban Lay Missionary in situations like these?

I visit the sick and the elderly in their homes. Most of them live alone, but there are those who are alone only during daytime because their family members are at work or in school.

Luda celebrating her birthday with friends
Grandma Ana is one of the women I visit. She is 75 and suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, which makes it hard for her to breathe without an oxygen tank. Her son, who is in his 50s and is mentally disturbed, and her granddaughter, who is studying in middle school, both live with her. Grandma Ana doesn’t have other relatives and had no one to help do errands for her. This is why whenever I visit her, she would always express her gratitude. In return, I would always answer, ‘We are one in God’s family, Grandma’. A few times I went to the hospital to see her doctor to explain her condition, using my limited Korean. On each occasion the doctor gave me the prescribed medicines for her. It is a challenging ministry for me, but I believe God works with me all the time.

Another patient I visit is Theresa who is undergoing hemodialysis. She is 58 years old and has two sons. The eldest son lives with her. Her son leaves the house very early and arrives home late at night from work. Theresa’s right arm is paralyzed, and she has difficulty standing up as well as walking. She cannot prepare meals by herself. She is dependent on her son who prepares her meals for her. During my visits, I noticed Theresa would eat either bread with milk, noodles, or even nothing for lunch. Oftentimes, I’d bring some food for her. But I sense she is more grateful for my presence than the food I bring. When I’m with her, we would share about our experiences with smiles and tears, watch our favorite television programs and pray together. I help her with a few house errands as well.
Footbridge

There is another grandmother I visit who is in her 80s. She lives alone. Her house doesn’t have its own toilet. With her physical condition, I sense her discomforts especially during autumn and winter. She is hard of hearing and communicating by phone is impossible. Whenever I ask her about her family, she replies, ‘They’ve all died’. During my early visits she refused to answer or listen to my queries. Eventually, I gained her trust enough for her to open up about her family. She still has a daughter who lives in the USA, but she has not visited South Korea since she left. I could sense the pain in the facial expression of the grandmother. I was happy when she told me to come again. Since then, I’ve been visiting her regularly.


What is the Holy Trinity’s message for me?

God, the Father created the world with human beings as the stewards of His creation. God sent His only Begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus suffered, died and rose from the dead for all humankind. The Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity are bound together in love. As a lay missionary assigned to South Korea I believe that I must bind myself in God’s love and be the messenger of the Giver of life to others, Christians and non-Christians, most especially to the elderly and the sick.

Jesus Christ has taught me that to be a lay missionary means to love. When I love I have to die to myself. It is not an easy way of life. With my little faith and love, I commit myself to following God and to be with others especially those who are suffering from emotional poverty.

Korean Sunset
There are times when I wanted to go back to the Philippines, particularly when I got sick and missed my family, my friends and familiar comforts back home. My faith wavered during these low moments. I experienced God’s love which has brought tears of genuine happiness and striking pains as well, which is beyond my human understanding.

In my prayer, I heard Him whispering to me His words through the Gospel of St John, ‘If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them’ (John 13:17). In facing different circumstances in my life, I cannot fully understand God’s will, yet His love is amazingly powerful and inspiring that it has moved me to continue on this mission whether in happiness or in sadness.
This is why I always begin and end my prayers of thanksgiving ‘In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’







May 2017

Seeing What is Right in Front of Us

By John Din


I had the privilege to visit the Punduhan (Stopover) ng Mga Dumagat Center in Norzagaray, Bulacan as part of the elaboration of an Eco-spirituality module that the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance is developing. The module is based on the practices of the Dumagat, a tribal group that lives in the Sierra Madre mountain ranges in the island of Luzon, Philippines. I went with the organization with a concrete program in mind -- to conduct a workshop with the indigenous group with a view of drafting a spirituality based on the way of life of the Dumagat.

We arrived at our destination on a Friday evening in the middle of torrential rains. Mud was everywhere, even inside the makeshift school and small houses that served as our sleeping area. This sight raised a concern to me as to what would happen the following day. Would there be a suitable place to hold our planned workshop that was free from rain and mud? Would this planned activity be a failure?

I slept over with this preoccupation in mind in a small nipa house, a typical stopover place of the Dumagat, designed mostly for resting and sleeping. This is an integral part of their nomadic way of life. I was lucky I was offered a sleeping bag to keep me from the cold winds brought about by the rain. I woke up the following day still with the same preoccupation in mind.

While waiting for our activity to start, something happened that just imbued me with a sense of awe and wonder looking at what seemed to be familiar and natural. I saw the Dumagat children walking around as if everything was fine despite the non-stop rain and mud inside the school caused by the water coming in. After seeing the kids playing in the rain barefoot, I saw, or maybe it was revealed to me, how there was simply an inner homeness in their habitat, not an uneasiness of the natural world.

Homeness is not only defined by the walls of the nipa house but extended to the natural world. This is indeed a very different concept compared to our current technocratic paradigm where we shield ourselves from a world that is becoming stranger to us. Our security is based on the walls we build.

In contrast, the Dumagat is very at home with the weather, the animals, the trees and everything that surrounds them. There is nothing strange to them. Home for them is everywhere in the Sierra Madre mountain ranges. Their habitat is their home. Thus, defending the Sierra Madre mountain range is to defend and ensure the existence of the Dumagat tribe. Currently, Sierra Madre is threatened with continuous illegal logging, mining, land grabbing, road construction and the construction of a dam supposedly to ensure the water supply for Metro Manila.

Indeed, the mindset that promotes these wanton destruction is alien to the Dumagat people. This experience has taught me that the spirituality of the Dumagat tribe expressed in the reverence and respect towards the natural world is deeply grounded and rooted in their habitat. We were there with the task of putting words to their experience but we found the limits of  words to describe  an inner at-homeness with the natural world. I waited for the Dumagat to tell me how they come to have a way of life that is one and connected with the environment, but instead, they have shown me their innate ease with the natural world. I was grateful for that gift to see what was right in front of me.

Indeed, the Dumagat people as well as the different indigenous peoples around the world, particularly those in Peru and Brazil with whom I had the privilege to meet, have a very important lesson to teach us – to rediscover this sense of at-homeness with the natural world, with creation, because we are a part of it.


Posted: May 9, 2017

(This article first appeared in Laycom, January 2017)

THE LITTLE THINGS

by Marjorie Engcoy
Columban Lay Missionary, Fiji

After six months of language studies during my first three years in Fiji, I was assigned to Holy Family Parish, Labasa, a parish in Vanua Levu island, looked after by the Columbans. To get to the parish, one would need to ride a bus early in the morning and travel for two hours to reach the wharf, then board the boat and travel for four hours to reach the northern island, and another three hours and a half bus ride to reach Labasa (pronounced Lam-ba-sa).
Excerpt from Lonely Planet

Whilst there, I had the opportunity to meet someone special, special in the sense that her life and herself has inspired me even until today. She’s one special woman that I could not help writing about her.

“Nau Asilika”, I fondly call her. She has a very special responsibility in the daily life of the parish. Every day, at five o’clock in the morning, sometimes earlier than that, she comes to the church and says her prayer. After saying her prayer, she opens the doors of the church. On Mondays, she cuts the hosts needed for the week’s masses; on Wednesdays, she cleans up the church, helps out Sr. Angie in washing the vestments and altar cloths. She also partakes in some responsibilities in her Small Christian community. Most importantly, she’s a loving mother, wife and friend.

Marjorie Engcoy (middle) with two mothers, Fiji
Relating to her was not difficult at all. It didn’t take long for the two of us to become very good friends. She’s very meek and humble. She’s always happy and her smile is contagious. She’s also very aware of what other people say about her — they may be good or bad.

One day, coming back from our visitation at the Old People’s home, I asked her, “Nau Asilika, how are you able to do all these things that you’re doing?” That question led us to sit at the dining table with our cups of tea before us, and then her sharing began rolling once more. And this, she told me, of which I could not forget, “Noqu lewa, he loves me so much to the point of no condition at all. This is the least I could do to show that I love him back. It’s true, I face problems daily, I sin again and again, etc. but every time I come here at dawn to pray, I gaze at Him there in the altar. And seeing Him on that cross, my pains are nothing to what he went through on that one Good Friday. I have been doing what I have been doing for many years now. And I love doing it. It brings me life and joy to serve Him in these little ways that I can. And I intend to keep doing this as long as I am able to.

I saw her commitment to keep following Christ despite the odds she’s facing and will be facing. I definitely saw Mary in her ways and in her person. Most probably, it was her strong devotion to our Mother Mary that enabled her to embody some of her characters; she helped her to keep loving Jesus.

Nau Asilika is just one of the many ‘mothers’ I have gained here in Fiji, and one of the many people that inspired me in my own journey to follow Christ. She is one of my constant reminders that no matter how rough the road can be, it is only through Him, in Him and with Him that I will get through it. May God bless her more and may she inspire more people the way she has inspired me until today.

A Labasa village market (http://fathomaway.com/postcards/good/vorovoro-fiji-voluntourism/)

Congratulations LTL!

One of the ministries Columban Lay Missionaries is engaged in is in livelihood programs. In the Philippines, Korean Anna Noh Hyein has been successful in building a candle making program meant to be a source of income to the mothers of Novaliches diocese. Last Saturday 6th May 2017, LIGHT THE LIFE (LTL) Candles in the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy celebrated not only their 2nd year anniversary but also the birth of the LTL Learning Center. Congratulations!


Anna with LTL mothers


By Marivic Mercene
Staff Member, Columban Lay Mission
May 2017

REDEFINING APPROACHES TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOUNG PEOPLE

By Lorelei Ocaya
Columban Lay Missionary, Ireland


As part of the on-going formation and education of lay missionaries, I am privileged to take a six-month-course on facilitating retreat for young people. The course has given me an in-depth understanding on the psyche and culture of young people in this modern time.

Lorelei Ocaya (in white pants) with the youth of Ballymun and St. Joseph
In the course, I learned that there are two major factors among other aspects that contribute and influence to the behaviour of almost all teenagers of today. Number one is the internet and/or social media. This replaces the conventional ways of social interaction. Sadly, most teenagers thought internet/social media is the coolest way to establish relationships. Researches on adolescents show that teenagers, no matter what strata of society they come from, they have access to internet. I was bewildered by the magnanimity of young peoples’ access to internet and social media. Every piece of information they want to know is laid open to them in just a click and most of them believe in these information whether they come from reliable sources or not. It is sad to realize that the games we used to play as a form of social interaction have been replaced by a gadget -- the smallest it is, the coolest it will be. Yes, teenagers might be knowledgeable about things around the globe yet very ignorant of what’s going on in their own homes or neighbourhood. What makes me more dumbfounded knowing that most parents don’t know much about what their teenagers are doing and how much time exposure in the internet these teenagers spent in a day.

Footprints in the Sand

By Gilda Comayas
Columban Lay Missionary, Chile


Gilda (middle)



We live in an ‘upside-down’ world where societies give more attention to things such as how to make more money, how to be powerful and how to live a very comfortable life, while there are so many poor people who are abandoned, suffering from hunger and war with no houses to live in, trying to survive it all.

At present, I’m working in a desert place called Alto Hospicio, which is north of Chile. Here, people try to live within their limited means to survive. Most of them come from neighboring countries like Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru. They migrated to Chile hoping that their lives would change for the better.

There is an area we visit called ‘La Toma’, a place for undocumented settlers. There are already around a thousand families in this area hoping that the government can grant them a piece of land. Some have been staying here for three months waiting for advice or support from the government.

Many have set up their own houses. But sadly, since there is no guarantee that the government will grant them the land, there is a possibility that what they have built will only be demolished and their hard work wasted. What also melts my heart is that this place used to be a garbage dump site. Children have gotten sick because of the unhealthy surroundings. On a very cold day, it would be difficult for those who live in tents or in temporary houses with walls made out of cartons and plywood, and for those who sleep on the ground with thin cushions. But they still remain in this place because they don’t want to go back.

Their struggle to survive in the desert is almost as difficult as trying to find water, in a manner of speaking, as this place is the driest desert in the world. Their small income is not even enough to pay for house rent nor pay for food, not to mention provide education for their children. With no water and electricity, life here is difficult. But they have to bear all these and cling to the hope that one day they will have their own place they can call home.
Many undocumented settlers in Chile live in 'La Toma', similar to  the one above.
I know suffering is part of life. To survive through it is to find meaning in suffering. Sometimes, from the heart of suffering, we can draw out our inspiration and means of survival. But it is not easy to say to them that everything will be alright because I didn´t have the same experience as they have. Even if I put myself in their shoe, it will still be a different feeling.

Living in this reality where they have to face their struggles and sacrifices on a daily basis reminds me of the story of “The Footprints in the Sand”. In the story, a man dreamt that he was walking with the Lord along the beach and, as he looks back, he realized that at his most challenging times, when he needed God the most, there was only one set of footprints. Eventually God reassured him that during those difficult times God was carrying him, letting him know that when he was in most need of God, He was nearest him.

I realize that mission is not just about showing people verses from the Bible, telling them everything is going to be alright and then just leave. It is about accompanying others and be witnesses of God, reassuring them that He is always there through people who are willing to give their time and effort to help, no matter how small. This is all part of the great journey we have with God.

Our team in the ministry is composed of a Columban priest, a deacon, nuns and us, lay missionaries. We do our best to help them in our own little way. When we visit these communities, we listen to their struggles and needs and try to give them spiritual assistance. Since the place for the settlers is still new, we’re planning on celebrating mass every Sunday with them. Maybe in the future, we can also begin to organize some formation, activities, workshop or livelihood programs that can help them. I hope, by the God’s grace, we can fulfill these plans.
Gilda, holding a guitar, during a mass in La Toma
I believe that with prayer and doing something worthwhile, we can make a difference. I consider this as a big challenge in my journey as a missionary. But I let life´s events come freely and welcome the lessons they convey. I let go knowing that God will give me the strength and inspiration to fulfill my mission.

(This article first appeared in Laycom, June 2016)

THE 'HOPE' EXPERIENCE

By Rosalia D. Basada


Through the years I have met friends and I have been involved in many organizations. One of my ministry is with the Ujamaa women's group which is a part of the ‘Hope Projects Organization’. The organisations’ work is to support and empower asylum-seekers and provide emergency short-term accommodation for destitute and homeless people.

When I started volunteering at the Hope Projects the women’s group were engaged in sewing and knitting. Over time its services developed from providing support and training to providing information regarding policies and integration and advocacy work .

The women's group as a support group for the women provides opportunity for socialisation, building of friendship and sisterhood. It is also a forum where the women share the challenges they face each day and struggles they experience on their asylum application process.

As for myself, it has been a real blessing and privilege to have been able to volunteer in this project. I have interacted with women from different cultural and faith backgrounds. It has been a humbling experience. One of my favourite activities with the women was the last Tuesday of the month gathering. We cook our traditional dishes and share a meal together. This day were at sometimes marked with birthday celebrations or an announcement of ap-proval from the government for a ’Leave to remain’ (LIR) status, (an immigration status granted to a person who does not hold the right of abode in the United Kingdom (UK), but who has been admitted to the UK without any time limit on his or her stay and who is free to take up employment or study without restriction). When there is an announcement of the LIR status, I could see happiness in everyone’s faces. Cheers and wishes of congratulations were extended to the person.

Recently we had our first Inter-cultural day. It was organised for ourselves and the Hope Projects supporters. Everybody wore traditional costumes, we shared traditional food, we danced and sung songs to entertain ourselves. During this celebration, it was also a moment for them to say farewell to me as they know I would be leaving soon. I felt heartened to hear their kind words and receive a gift from the group. I know how little they have but they managed to contribute to buy me a gift which I didn’t expect at all. Their generosity and thoughtfulness touched my heart.

To have been able to ‘hold the hands’ of the women during the long waiting time of asylum application pro-cess and during their happy moments of being granted ‘leave to remain’ status or having access to a temporary accom-modation, has changed my outlook in life. It allowed me to become a more selfless person. a better person. The great-est lesson I gained in journeying with the Hope Women's group was, to value to each person without judgement and love them as they are no different than I am.

My experience working with the Hope Women's group has deepened my spirituality as a missionary. Their faith has enriched my faith. I find it so touching when they would ask me to pray for good results on their asylum appli-cations or when they feel depressed or ill. Despite the difficulties they have gone through in their lives they remain hopeful. The possessed an inner strength. Their faith has shown me to be more thankful of the small things I have in life and for being called to participate in God's mission in Britain through the Columbans.

I thank God for giving me the wonderful opportunity to be part of the work of the Hope Projects Organisation. As I conclude I also pray for God’s blessings upon all women who are suffering any form of violence and hardship in life.

(This article first appeared in Laycom, September 2016)

A Memorable Train Ride

November 21, 2016

by Lenette Toledo
Columban Lay Missionary

The author (L) and fellow CLM Catharina Son
Last March 2nd (2016), right after our retreat,  Catha and I decided to take the train back home. I always love to take the train because, aside from being comfortable, I enjoy looking at the beautiful landscape and scenery from my window. We bought tickets for the 5 o’clock evening train and to my delight it was twice cheaper than the bus. At 4:30pm, Fr. Philip and Paul drove us to the train station and made sure we were settled in our seats before they left! Two generous, kind, and hospitable people we have met in our journey! When I saw what the train looked like, I can only describe my reaction in two words! Oh! and Ahrrg! 

The windows were open which meant I had to brace myself from insects like mosquitoes and who knows what else! And it was windy, dusty and cold!! We couldn’t stop laughing when we realized and imagined how it will be sitting for 17 hours in such a rough journey. But it was not until the train started moving that we soon realized it was tougher and rougher than we had imagined! The train was really very slow and I felt I was horseback riding! It was awfully bumpy but surprisingly, rather than feeling agitated because of discomfort, I found myself so amused by the whole situation I couldn’t stop from laughing for a few minutes, so much so that our fellow passengers noticed our reaction and started to laugh with us! Whenever the train rattled we looked at each other and laughed! I had only one concern - will my body still be intact if I make it home the following day?! The train is divided into sections. I think we had the best accommodation compared to those of others where seats are made of wood and I can’t imagine the discomfort all night. 

Sunset from the train
Seventeen hours of rough journey with nothing else to do but to sit and feel my body bouncing and shaking, I was led to reflect on my personal journey here in my new mission for eight months which has been like a train ride. There were bouncing, rough and shaky times, hence God has been great as he kept His promise to carry me through His grace. Life can be very challenging sometimes but with positivity, humor and light heartedness, like my reaction to the train, I can beat all odds. After all, I was able to gaze at and bathe in the beauty of the magnificent sunset and beautiful scenery on my journey and empathize with the local people who can’t afford the expense of taking air-conditioned buses and planes. Surely, there is beauty in every experience even if at first it’s hard to notice. Just keep your eyes and heart open and you will see it!

Be My Feet and Be My Hands

November 2016

by Gertrudes Samson
Columban Lay Missionary, Britain

My Two Poems

I wrote these two poems last year during a workshop training on poetry writing in one of my ministry with asylum seekers.  I thought of polishing it and sharing it here because making these was memorable to me for it led me to deeper reflection and recall important events in my life.  It also reminded to be thankful to God for the great privilege of serving Him in mission and the grace to say “Yes” to his invitation. Hopefully these poems gives people a glimpse of what I do in mission trying to be feet and hands of Jesus for others. 


“Be My Feet”

“My Feet" reminded me to be thankful for the gift of God to me of being able to walk again. When I was around 7 years old, when I woke up one morning, suddenly I could not walk.  My feet up to legs suddenly became painful whenever I tried to make some steps. Every day for several months, my father patiently carried me in his arms and took me to the doctor to have my injection of medicine.  My mother prayed a lot so hard and even made novenas to beg to God to make me walk again. God heard our prayer. He made me walk again.

Thank you God that you made me walk again and I was able to use it to reach out to others as you asked me and led me to mission following you.


 “Be My Hands”

Now that my second term as a Columban Lay Missionary in Britain is about to end this coming October 2016 , I suddenly remember one of God's messages to me in my final discernment retreat in Philippines prior to my coming here to UK in 2010. The retreat was several days and on that day, I decided to stay and pray in my room. Usually rooms in retreat house have plain cross or crucifix (cross with image of Jesus nailed on the cross). I found one in my room a crucifix which is fix on the wall.  But then, when I look at it closely, I am surprise to see a broken cross, the image of Jesus on my crucifix got no hands. Suddenly I remember the story about a church with a broken crucifix. So people who saw it asked the priest, "Father why is it that our crucifix does not have hands?" The priest answered, "because Jesus is asking us to be his hands in reaching out to others." And so in a symbolic way, on that day, I believe Jesus said to me, “Be my hands”.

Thank you God for inviting me in mission and the grace to allow you to use my hands in reaching out to others. 


Being Feet and Hands of Jesus in Mission

I must admit that being hands and feet of Jesus in mission is not always easy. Together with the bed of roses comes the thorns too. Together with the joy of mission comes also the tears. There are victories to celebrate but there are also challenges to overcome.  But looking at the life of Jesus he undergo the same thing, even Him was not spared.  He even suffered very much much worst, so I tell myself why should I complain.  But certainly you would feel that you are not alone, God is always with you giving you the strength to bear everything and helping you to overcome every trials that come your way. Definitely there is Joy in knowing that you are doing the will of God.

Being hands and feet of Jesus will take you to pilgrimages too where things are unpredictable with turns and bends like going to a labyrinth, the path just unfold in your eyes as you go through it, sometimes it also seems endless.  But I think no matter how long and challenging it would be if you trust in God and do not give up, and surrender things to Him even at times that it is not easy and we can't understand, definitely time will come that you will reach the centre destination where you will meet God at core of your being, enjoying His Peace that comes in trusting to His Unconditional Love and having deeper relationship with Him.

As Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid”. John 14:27