Thursday, August 25, 2022

ECHOES OF MISSION: The Joy of Wasting Time

 By Marley May Dacanay
Columban Lay Missionary in Taiwan, 2003-2006

 “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”- Antoine de Saint- Exupery, The Little Prince

 

    After a year of Mandarin language study, the next phase was to engage in a part-time ministry. I chose the Aborigines ministry and so I lived in the mountains of Taiwan. Eventually, I decided to have it as my full-time apostolate. Our Mission team was composed of 2 Columban Priests and 2 Filipina Columban Lay Missionaries.

    I rode on a sturdy mountain bike as I moved from one village to another. I did mostly home visitations and attended house prayers to get to know the place and the people. In time, I ended up driving an automatic motorbike to be able to reach far-flung villages. We had 8 villages to accompany.

    Riding a motorbike gave me a sense of freedom since I can waste time by doing casual visitations in the villages anytime I wanted. I was always amazed at the beauty of the mountains that sometimes I got so caught up that I went past the houses I was supposed to visit. But, riding a motorbike has its downside too. There were several instances that I would be chased by dogs, or a snake would be crossing my path. Also, driving in the rain and during the winter season is a struggle too. I believe in my heart that those special prayers offered for me by my family, relatives and friends have protected me from danger and helped me overcome the challenges in mission. My personal prayers likewise enabled me to see God’s hand in my day to day life in mission.

Marley (L) with her cousin and teammate Lilibeth Sabado

    The first person we visited was an elderly lady that I and my Filipina co- missionary visited every week, who was living alone in her house. We wasted time chatting with her as far as our broken Mandarin can bring us and always ended our visit with a short prayer together. It has become a routine visit for us that even her neighbor, a lady with a mental health condition, would go over her house and would be waiting to join us, maybe she understood our Mandarin language or got curious about us. She became our friend too.

    We then started to waste more time by joining the communities in their cultural activities like weddings, wakes and funerals among others. Our network of friends then expanded. I found comfort with the adults and enjoyed being with the kids. What surprised me was that I was able to get along with the youth too. Annual summer camp for the kids was something I always looked forward to since it would be a great time to work together with the women, staff, and the youth volunteers. The summer camp would run for a week. My part was to give English class activities to the kids.

Marley, 2nd from right, with her teammates while taking calligraphy lessons
 
    
        
     Every Monday morning I would drive my motorbike to the bus stop, and along the way, I never failed to stop and waste a few minutes with an elderly lady “Yaki”, my Monday mornings with Yaki would be like; I would greet her “zao an -good morning”, chibaole ma?- have you eaten?, etc, and always, the old lady would just stare at me without saying anything. I would then politely say goodbye to her and park my motorbike at our friend’s place near the bus stop. I would then ride the bus to the lowlands going to the Central House for our weekly TMU (Taiwan Mission Unit) dinner. 

    Time flew so fast, that I was about to leave Taiwan and so I started to say my goodbyes in the mountain. One Monday morning while driving to the bus stop, from a distance I saw “Yaki” seated outside of her house as usual; but that day, I did not stop to greet her, I deliberately drove past her, and then I heard someone calling my name “DouYu “(my aboriginal name), I looked back, and it was “Yaki” waving and calling my name, I was happily in shock, for the first time she was talking to me, she asked “ni qu nali? (Where are you going?), happily, I drove back to her and wasted time to chat with her. It was the first time we really had a conversation! Up to this day, that memory with Yaki still gives me a warm and happy feeling. When I finally gave up to win her friendship, it was when I realized that wasting my time with her was not in vain.

    Certainly, the people I met in mission made me richer in faith and experience! Doing mission in the mountains with the aborigines with our group of 2 ordained priests and 2 lay missionaries with different gender, culture and background surely was very challenging and at the same time rewarding. Group witnessing in mission was truly a grace from God. After all, it was worth wasting time in Taiwan!

 

   After Taiwan, I  joined another lay missionary group and was assigned to Cambodia, and later Brazil. I am now back home.   

My  previous overseas lay missionary experiences prepared me for my present commitment. I am now my mother's personal caregiver. She is 91 years old. I assist her in her daily activities and live with her 24/7. This responsibility includes managing the house and the entire household. I have a few years before my own retirement age, but I have to put on hold the few options I have to live my life the way I wanted. I am holding on to God's assurance of "Be still and know that I am God."

 

July 2022, Marley(2nd from left) beside her mother (in purple) with other members of her family

 

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