“Don't ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive, and go do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”
How time flies! I have been assigned to the region of Britain and have competed one full year as a Columban Lay Missionary. I pray to God that he continues to sustain me with His goodness. I thank God for His grace and mercy, for keeping me safe, healthy and happy despite the pandemic and the various challenges that have arisen as a consequence.
Recollecting on the last year, I have encountered many challenges and frustrations, but there have also been blessings too. These challenges and blessings have made my ordinary life extraordinary! Reflecting on the quote from Harold Thurman, I thank God for answering my prayers and continuing to guide me on my missionary journey.
There have been times when I felt discouraged, lonely and restless, but during these times I’ve been able to get to know myself better. I have challenged myself to grow because the grace of the Lord is sufficient. There have also been times when I have felt content, joyful, and serene and I hope I was able to radiate this to others around me! I have learned how to make myself happy and to do my best for the good of others knowing the Lord delights in the cheerful giver.
I thank God for the St. Columbans Mission Society and for their help as I embark on this new adventure. I am very grateful for the support and encouragement I have received from my Columban companions. I have no doubt that whatever happens during my missionary journey I will be enriched because we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Since I arrived in Britain in September last year I have enjoyed supporting ‘Let’s feed Brum’, a local initiative working in the heart of Birmingham city centre that distributes breakfast and provides friendship to the marginalized, those with drug addictions and those who are homeless.
I have also had the pleasure of assisting asylum seekers living at Fatima House. Besides providing friendship to the residents, I thoroughly enjoy accompanying the women when they go window shopping or for walks in the park. We might sometimes go to the open market together, share food as part of a celebration or participate in some gardening activities. I enjoy listening to them as they share life experiences and supporting them with their different needs.
In addition to these ministries I have also been involved with the Narthex Resource Center where I assist by sorting out donations and preparing clothing, shoes, toiletries and bedding for the vulnerable living in the local community.
I have enjoyed supporting the Kindness Project too. As part of this ministry I was required to do some training on mental health and have learnt how to successfully and appropriately listen to people talking about bereavement. Unfortunately I have not yet had the opportunity to encounter anyone in this project. I try not to be disheartened by this. I remain upbeat and see this experience not as a waste of time, but as an opportunity of self-development and self-care. I believe it will be useful to me in the future.
Finally, I am also involved in Invitation to Mission Projects. The programme invites lay people to live out their baptismal call and missionary vocation by reflecting upon and experiencing “intercultural living” as a disciple of Jesus Christ. It encourages participants to explore faith in the local and global context of Columban mission today, in order to deepen their understanding of dialogue, justice, peace and integrity of Creation.
I have enjoyed being amongst people, sharing life and being able to cheer people up. I have enjoyed outings with my companions and my local and ministry exposure, other than that meeting new people and making friends.
I have learned during this time that I need to have patience when things seem slow, or things are stuck. Once I manage to go with the flow I feel much better! I have learnt more about humility, generosity and vulnerability. I understand how to be open, how to share, how to observe and how to be a good listener. I have learnt to respect differences and understand more about intercultural living too
I am still waiting for some other ministries to re-open and I will continue to explore where I can help and what can I do to support others whilst I am waiting. Meanwhile, I am learning to live life to the full and I am enjoying whatever comes along my path. I am reaching out to strangers, offering help whenever I can and being there whenever people ask for help.
In conclusion, I am still adapting to my new life in Britain. There is always change and uncertainty coupled with challenges. I like the company of others, I express my need and I humble myself to ask for help. I open myself to people I meet, despite the risk of it not being worth it. I do this because I need to make myself feel at home and I need to feel settled. I will make an effort to build relationships with people who God has placed for me to meet on my journey, including those who I have met and yet to meet in my ministries.