As a missionary, when we are sent to another country for mission, the first thing we do is learn their language. Since I joined CLM in 2000, I have been learning various languages such as English, Tagalog (Philippines), Spanish (Peru) and Burmese (Myanmar) for my previous mission in those countries.
When I was assigned to Hong Kong in 2018 as part of the Central Leadership Team (CLT), I didn’t get the opportunity to learn Cantonese, the local language, since the focus of our responsibility was in the leadership team. Apart from supporting the CLT I am doing prison ministry as my part time ministry. I visit local inmates who only speak English or Spanish. Not speaking the local language, there are challenges in building relationships with local people. I often see a cleaning lady resting alone at the corner of the street as I make my way to the office. One day I greeted her. She started to talk to me a lot with very friendly gestures. I tried to let her know that I could not speak any Cantonese but she kept on talking to me until she finally realized that I didn’t understand any of her words.
One of my joyful experiences in my previous mission countries was sitting beside people, especially the elderly, and listening to their stories which is not possible to do in my current mission. Connecting with people where I am living is what I miss most here in Hong Kong.
With God’s grace, I’ve slowly got to know some Filipino volunteers who also do prison visitation on their free day from work. Through them, I got to know a local person, Jessica and her ‘Walk in love’ group which mostly comprises of Filipino migrants who have the same interest in sharing God’s love, serving people who are in need and also encouraging each other to live their faith in God. Although they sacrifice their free day to serve others, they always make themselves available pleasantly. They say that it is their mission.
Since this pandemic started, Jessica has organized food distribution to the elderly on two occasions. I have been supporting her and the group for some time now. We were given a list of elderly people from the Caritas Center and visited them with packages of rice, pickles, and facial masks. Some Buddhist volunteers joined us in this distribution too. We divided the small group of 4 -5 people and visited different sectors. Jessica, being the only local person in our group, led us from house to house. Most of the elderly people we visited lived alone in a small studio type rooms. When we rang the house, they opened the door with a big smile on their faces. We couldn’t communicate with them as we cannot speak Cantonese but we could see how happy they were to see us. I think it is not only because of what we brought them but because they were remembered by someone like us. Despite the language barriers, we could connect to each other and this made us feel blissful and motivated to continue doing this kind service.
On October 1st during the Mid-Autumn festival, we visited the homeless (street sleepers) at Tung Chau Street Park. Some Filipino volunteers joined and offered their day-off for this event. There was a new volunteer. He was a Hong Konger and told me that he got to know about this event through Jessica’s Facebook page. With support from the benefactors, Jessica prepared lunch boxes that included a can of coke, pickles, moon cake and cookies. When we went around to a small area where homeless people were laying down to hand out the lunch boxes, I found that the volunteers already knew some of them as they had occasionally visited them before. They were concerned about those who they had not seen there for a while and hoped that they had left the place for good. Some needed medicine for their poor health and some approached us to show us the wounds on their bodies. Jessica conversed with them, took note of their names and additional information and gave some medicine which she had already prepared. Although we all felt tired and hungry after the distribution in hot weather, the volunteers were still excited to talk about their next mission plan.
Besides the charity service, they never forget the importance of prayers. They uploaded some religious video clips, inspiring stories of Saints and helpful information related to Catholic faith into our WhatsApp group chat. They have a strong devotion to Mother Mary, and each volunteer will pray the rosary one day of the week and afterwards, share their prayer intentions into the WhatsApp group chat, ‘Dear all, I offered my Rosary for the Global Healing and world peace. Help us to see the world through God’s visions, without dividing lines…’; ‘Hello friends, I just offered my Rosary prayer to Our Blessed Mother for the following intentions… Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima, pray for us!’; ‘For the sick and poor, for the church of Hong Kong, for Peace of the world…Pray for us’, to which we respond ‘Amen’
Some of the members in this WhatsApp group live outside of Hong Kong and some don’t speak English but only Chinese therefore some reflections are written in Chinese which some of us cannot understand. Nevertheless, it doesn’t discourage them from continuing to share their faith and encouraging each other as sisters and brothers in Christ.
By accompanying them in their various activities, I feel my life is more connected to the people in Hong Kong. Beyond religion, nationality, our abilities or our limitations, we can be interconnected through our humanity which allows us to care for one another. These Filipino friends of mine, with their solid faith in God and their joyful and generous contribution to God’s mission work despite their hard life as migrant workers in a foreign land, have inspired me so much while at the same time challenged me to live my faith wherever I am and to continue my journey with our Lord.
I thank God for allowing these people to be part of my life in Hong Kong! God bless those who walk in love together!
“Let all that you do be done in love.”