John is a primary school teacher based in Birmingham. He is taking part in the Columban Invitation to Mission programme and here he shares his experience of the first of two preparation gatherings for the group, who will be visiting The Philippines this Easter.
The first preparation meeting of the six who are to to visit the Philippines in April 2019 went very well. The team, led by Stephen Awre from the Columbans, with Marina, Katie, Catherine, Joe and myself were introduced to one another and to the programme ably by James (Columban Justice and Peace Education worker) and Nathalie (a Columban lay missionary and programme co-ordinator), who have run the Invitation to Mission Programme and taken groups to other countries where Columbans work over the past 4 years.
Through a creative mix of reflection and discussion, the group discovered their shared motivation to encounter the work of the Columbans in the Philippines and to engage deeply with the reality of Filipino Christians, who face many challenges.
The 100 year history of the Columbans as a missionary society was shared by Father Denis Carter. How fascinating and humbling it was to watch the testimonies of now aged priests who had spent decades in East Asian and South American communities.
The Columbans’ philosophy?
Listen to understand the people’s needs and then respond practically in the Holy Spirit. This is Columban faith in action; a steadfast resolution to build the people of God’s church by working together for peace and justice, to seek God’s will in all difficulties and to constantly celebrate His saving grace and love.
The group were guided to leave the ‘baggage’ of pre-conceptions and judgements at the airport and to be ready to experience the very different reality of the Filipino communities they would meet. Joyously, the visit will coincide with Holy Week and what a privilege it will be to celebrate this greatest of feasts in Malate Parish, Manila; the first parish adopted by the Columbans in 1929.
The second preparation gathering for the 2019 Invitation to Mission programme is taking place this weekend in Birmingham.
The visit to the Philippines will take place from 16th – 27th April and there will be a follow-up gathering on 18th May.
During the visit, the group will write a diary blog about their experience, which will be shared here at www.columbans.co.uk