er send my younger brothers to school. A few years ago before I knew about the Columban Lay Missionaries, I was enjoying my work in my dream company because I get to travel to many places in the Philippines and meet many people from all walks of life, that actually gave me the inspiration to go outside the country and experience living in another culture. I was very adventurous at that time and ready to give up my dream job.
At that time, I never had any idea about being a missionary. I thought missionaries are only the priests and the nuns. After almost 3 years of living here in Taiwan, I believe God has led me to be in another country not just for adventure but because of a deeper and richer purpose in which only God knows. When I said “yes” to His call, I was ready to leave my family, friends, and other possible career opportunities without knowing what awaits me here in Taiwan.
When Jesus, in today’s reading said to the 11 disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, …teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” I feel that Jesus was also talking to me and that he used the same words to invite me to share in his missionary life. My problem is, how will I be able to do that? Like the disciples, I also had many doubts about myself and what talents or skills I can contribute. I wondered if I’ll be able to learn Chinese and if I’ll be fit for my assignment in the migrants ministry. When I encounter uneasy and difficult situations, I feel that my missionary spirit is also being challenged.
For example, my experience for 2 years of living and journeying with the ladies at our HMISC female shelter for victims of trafficking showed me many realities that are both happy and sad. These realities could also be true to most of us who left our homes and are away from our loved ones. It is true that we can be vulnerable in many ways like when we feel stressed and lonely and we tend to make decisions and do things which can be harmful to ourselves, to others, and the people we love dearly.
At the shelter, I had the opportunity to live with Vietnamese, Thais, Indonesians, and fellow Filipinos and heard their stories of joys and struggles. I remember that no matter how many times a new lady would arrive at the shelter because they’ve been sexually or physically abused in their workplace, I couldn’t help but be affected and get angry towards those who took advantage of them, but of course I would have to try my best to compose myself so I can be present to the ladies needs and make them feel safe. One weakness that I realized I have is wanting to solve a problem right away. I would ask myself, what shall I do, what can I do for them? Sometimes I don’t have the answer at all, which makes me feel very frustrated.
It is also sad to witness how many of us would fall into affairs outside of marriage while living away from our spouses and children. It is even sadder to hear ourselves say, “Only in Taiwan,” lang naman ito”….and later on we don’t realize how it is slowly pulling us away from our families. When I get to have meals together with the ladies at the shelter, they are very free to share with me about their relationships. It was hard for me to hear how their relationships with their husbands suffer because of this unhealthy coping with their loneliness of being away from home. Because we are social beings, of course we all need somebody to be with us, care for us, and share with us in our happy and low moments, but I believe there are healthy ways of doing it, without having to hurt ourselves or the people around us.
Last year, it was also a big challenge for my missionary journey to hear news from home that my brother was hospitalized and was admitted to the ICU. I needed to go home to be with him and my family…and I had to make a decision whether to continue serving here in Taiwan or not. Events such as this would put my faith into test but at the same time remind me that I have a God who sent me to be here, and I don’t have to worry because He would take good care of my family and loved ones back home. Sometimes in our anxious moments, we tend to act on our own, forgetting that we have a God who is greater than our problems.
When Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age,” I am reminded of the support I get from many people. I am grateful for the guidance and encouragement from fellow Columbans, the people I work with and friends whose presence make me realize that I am not alone in this journey. I am also thankful for the friendship that I have gained from the many volunteers in the different ministries and communities of our diocese, and with the moms and dads of HAPI through the seminars we had together. Your presence, life stories, and examples serve as a wonderful inspiration for me.
My heart is filled with joy as I look back to these past 3 years of living, learning, loving, and witnessing on how God is present and is at work in every moment of my life. It is also such a joy to see Jesus’ presence in every person I meet. My prayer for all of us who are gathered here today is that, in times of doubting, may we also immediately be reminded of God’s loving promise…that He is always with us. Amen.