Sunday, August 21, 2022

Made to Feel Welcome

By Monaliza "Mona" Esteban
Columban Lay Missionary in Pakistan


    A few months ago, I had the strange experience of having my hands washed by an old lady in a rural village in Pakistan. She grabbed my hands and started washing them. I did try to stop her, but then I decided to surrender to the moment.

    It was an ordinary day of visitation to the villages. Our team usually included an ordained priest, a catechist, a lay missionary and/or Sister. While the priest and the catechist were talking with the village men, I mingled with the women.  That day was my first time to meet this old lady.

    It was a pleasant day, and everyone seemed happy, going about their business of preparing our lunch before Mass. I was like a grasshopper, jumping from one chulah (clay stove) to another to chat a little with the women while they were cooking.  At the end of my hopping about I landed on a charpay (stringed bed) where an old lady was sitting.  We had a good chat about her family and life in the village. She was so enthusiastic about telling her story which I enjoyed listening to. We exchanged questions. I felt she wanted to tell me something – a story of joy and blessing.

    We were killing time, laughing, and story telling when a basin was placed in front of me by a woman holding a jar of water. Suddenly this old lady grabbed my hands, smiled at me and started washing them.  I tried to pull my hands away and protested that I could do it myself, but my defense was not strong enough. She held them with her hands and while she was caressing them, I could only gaze at her smile.

Mona with a Pakistani Parkari mother

    Her hands were neither soft nor manicured. They were hands that had sown seed and reaped the rewards after long months of patiently nurturing the land, hands that bleed during a hard rush harvest, hands to be proud of and grateful for because of their hard work, hands that tell a lot of stories about life’s lessons.

    I still remember her face smiling at me while saying something which I couldn’t make out, even though I was just in front of her.  Maybe I was so struck by what she was doing that what she was saying just didn’t register.  At that moment, deep inside me, I was experiencing mixed emotions. If this was Jesus washing my feet, this would possibly be the feeling I will experience.

    I am in awe that I got to witness this kind of love from people I had just met for the first time.  Her humble witness to a complete stranger really made me feel welcome. 

Pakistani chulah (clay stove)

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