By Lilibeth E. Sabado
I was 33 years old when I joined the Columban Lay Missionaries (CLM). When I was young I had my life all planned, graphed with timelines that started from high school and college graduations. My childhood blue print includes finding a stable career, how much money to save, owning a house and cars, when to settle down, number of kids to raise with their possible names, where to reside, where to retire, what to do during retirement, etc. Abandoning that childhood plan and leaving my family and friends were difficult at first. Making a decision can be compared graphically with that act of stretching an elastic band. Yes the elastic band. Two forces pulling both hands to different directions, the two opposing pressure had led me to let go and follow just one and that is the ‘road less travelled’ as described by many.
It was said that “God isn't looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him." Following that ‘call’, that ‘restlessness deep within’ was worth it all, I realized. Through time I got to understand the great paradox of ‘abandoning’ my comfort zones and the familiars; from dying to birthing; that light is worthless if not seen; that we cannot influence the world for good if we remain hidden, etc. I found it profoundly affirming what was written in Matthew 6:33: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and everything shall be added unto you.” Indeed, everything has been added unto me. I now belong into many and bigger families where I experience the same love of parents and siblings, relatives and friends, my home are all over the globe and across cultures.
|Marawi City, 2002, Me (2nd from right) with my team mates RP12|
The experience of mission over the years has brought me to deeply discover His presence in me. The deeper I dig into it, the more I realize how little I know. There were times when I had to ask what I have gotten myself into especially whenI plunged into an unknown and overwhelming territory. The experience has put a flesh on my existence understanding that as a baptized Christian, life has two aspects, one internal and the other external. The internal aspect has to do with the call to personal holiness, growing out of selfishness and more into selflessness. The external has to do with the call to service and mission. One is about how we live as Christian, and the other is about what we do as Christian. One is concerned with faith, the other with works, loving God and loving neighbormust go together.
|During an advocacy activity for migrants in Taiwan|
My journey as a lay missionary, has led me to an awareness, consciousness and involvement with issues concerning justice, peace and integrity of creation. I have understood and appreciate religious and cultural differences by having a complete head to heart conversion. This involved a process of changing my long held perspective of seeing God as associated with Church and primarily with Christians, to seeing God as a person who is present to all peoples and present in all religions. I firmly believe that our differences must not divide but unite us and therefore must be celebrated. Our differences of beliefs should not be the basis for defining who we are, but, rather should be a space in which to understand and respect one another. This is one of the significant contributions of the CLM in the life of the Church. We offer ourselves by crossing boundaries of cultures, creed and race. We became a bridge connecting the gap caused by ignorance and injustice.
I believe that the experience of mission has led to the evolution and development of the role of the laity in the participation in the Catholic Church but this, as well, is packaged with challenges that vary across cultures.
It is my hope that one day people will call each other by name and not by labels of creed and race. In my journey as a Columban Lay Missionary and my experience of cross cultural mission, I see God as - no limits, no boundaries, but a Being who is present to everyone, and in the midst of every group, regardless of ‘tribe and tongue, people and nation’ (Revelations 5:9). Following God’s blue print is enriching and fulfilling, I cannot ask for more. I am forever grateful for the gift of mission through the Columban Lay Mission.
|Nov 2017, Me (3rd from L) and my fellow Columban Lay Missionaries at the Columban Regional House in Singalong,|