My calling as a Columban Lay Missionary

Gertrudes C Samson (Ger), Co-ordinator of the Columban Lay Missionaries in Britain, shares about her calling from God almost 15 years ago, which led to her missionary journey with the Society of St. Columban.

I am an architect by profession. Before joining the Columban Lay Missionaries, most of my past work involved housing for the poor with non-government organizations. So as an architect, housing for the poor became my work and ministry. It all started during my student days at the University of the Philippines. Our student organization UP-Task Force Arki was then helping Fr. Sean Connaughton, a Columban priest in Tondo, on their housing project for the parishioners of San Pablo Apostol.

Although I had been curious about the Columban Lay Mission for the past ten years, I did not plan to join them in 2009. My original plan was to take up my doctorate and level up what I had started with my Masteral Thesis in Belgium, which was on disaster-resistant technologies. I already found a school in Australia where I could apply for another scholarship, and the deadline was June 2009.

But I did not pursue this plan. Instead, I joined the Columban Lay Missionaries.

But why?” you may ask.

One day while I was reading my daily gospel, some bible verses struck me. It was 1 Corinthians 13:8 & Luke 21:33, which said, ‘…where there is knowledge it will pass away .… Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.’  Right there, I realized it was the truth. Yes, I can continue studying, but the technical knowledge I gain will become outdated, and I will forever need to update. But God’s words will never go passé. It is timeless and always helpful for our present and future. It could be passed on from generation to generation, regardless of physical boundaries, culture, race, and gender. And this is how I came to remember the Columban Lay Missionaries again. Suddenly I desired to know the depth and intensity of God’s words. And it was more urgent than a doctorate.

Of course, I had fears in my heart. When I saw a PowerPoint presentation about the Columban Lay Missionaries, I admired the many different ministries of the Columbans as they are reaching out to the needy. But the last part of the presentation mentioned, ‘Let us pray for Pilar, who died in the mission’.

She died due to a heart attack. But this made me ask God, “Lord, is it true that there are those who die in mission?“ This thought scared me. But God whispered, “Ger, whether you are at home, sleeping comfortably in your own bed, if it is already time for you to return to me, then it is your time. These people died in mission because they are the kind of people who chose a kind of death that would Glorify me.” So even though I had inhibitions, I joined the Columban Lay Missionaries.

I am grateful for this chance to learn more of God’s words. I have come to know God more deeply and have become more fascinated by who He is and His great love for me and for all of us. Once, I even told myself, ‘You know, Lord – the more I come to get to know you…the more I am falling in love with you.’

Of course, the desire in my heart to do my doctorate still exists. And I know that in God’s time, he will also give me that opportunity to do so, for he said, ‘Seek yee first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you’.