Being a Columban missionary in the Britain has been an eye opener and a blessing for me. When I first arrived I was eager to take up my mission in Britain despite the odds against me. The society was cautious about our health and safety and uncertain about our mission work due to the pandemic lockdown which brought the nation to a standstill.
Although my family in New Zealand was sad to see me go, they were proud and supportive of my assignment in Britain. I was equally sad to leave home, especially departing from my parents and my nephews and niece. However, I was reassured of their prayers. I am thankful to the Columban fathers in New Zealand and Fiji who have been like a second family to me in my journey to becoming a lay missionary. Without their wisdom and prayers, I would not have been able to embark on this journey and discover the wonders of mission in this part of the world.
Birmingham is the second largest city in England. The industrial revolution has made her an economic powerhouse for England and within Europe for all its important roles and interests. With a population of more than 1 million people, the city is made up of diverse ethnic groups. Due to the human rights crisis in many Asian, middle eastern and African countries, Birmingham has become a city of hope for those who seek refuge.
One of the core missions of the Columban society in Britain is to reach out to asylum seekers by providing shelter and assistance. Fatima House is one of the major projects that lay missionaries take full participation in. My involvement includes accompanying the residents of the house and working closely with the management for the running of the house activities. Being with the people has been one of the most enriching experiences for me. I am touched by the simplicity and kindness of the residents. I am blessed and humbled to hear stories told by each and every woman I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. They have taught me the value of upholding the dignity of every human person. Every encounter and story heard has inspired me to share God’s love.
Pope Francis in ‘Let Us Dream’ says ‘Jesus restores dignity to the people in acts and words that perform God’s closeness… The problem is not feeding the poor, or clothing the naked, or visiting the sick, but rather recognizing that the poor, the naked, the sick, prisoners, and the homeless have the dignity to sit at our table, to feel ‘at home’ among us, to feel part of a family. This is the sign that the Kingdom of Heaven is in our midst.’ These women have made me feel ‘at home’ by generously sharing all that they have on the table. Indeed, they have shown me what the Kingdom of Heaven is like!
Unique to the ministry works in Birmingham is the ‘flavour’ of multi faith culture and religion of the minority groups. Birmingham has much to offer in the context of inter-religious dialogue with the presence of these groups. Sharing our faith in open dialogue amongst each other has helped me reach deeper into my own faith. These minority groups have upheld their traditional values with pride in the diversified city filled with challenges. Not only have they enriched the fabric of the society, they have shown their solemn attitude of service and solidarity towards the nation in their own ways. To my surprise, nothing stops them from reaching out to the poor and the needy, even during the Covid lockdown.
My other volunteering work includes teaching English to refugee women seeking to engage themselves in society and working with local charity ‘Let’s Feed Brum’ which provided breakfast and friendship to those on the streets. While the Columbans are passionate about global climate issues, Laudato Si’ has greatly inspired me to sew and encourage the use of reusable face masks as a way of caring for the environment.
My journey so far has taken me across religious and cultural boundaries, seen me engage in dialogues and be present to the people. I am living a simple lifestyle, sharing the gospel through ministry works and challenging myself never to be afraid but to trust in God. Through all these, I have learnt, discovered and grown to know more about myself and God’s creative plans for the future and the people He has placed on my pathway.
“The problem is not feeding the poor, or clothing the naked, or visiting the sick, but rather recognizing that the poor, the naked, the sick, prisoners, and the homeless have the dignity to sit at our table, to feel ‘at home’ among us, to feel part of a family. This is a sign that the Kingdom of Heaven is in our midst.”