We always hear the expression “Time flies!” and indeed that is true. This year, I suddenly realised that I am already celebrating my 10th year anniversary as a Columban lay missionary. Truly it is amazing that I made it this long, since I did not expect this! Looking back on my 10 years’ experience as a Columban lay missionary, time in mission does not only fly, time in mission flows like a river too!
When I began in 2010, I felt 3 years’ service was very long time, and each day seemed so long too, perhaps like the flow of river in winter. During winter months, the water, in parts, may be frozen and you can see only very little. I experienced the terrible winter of Britain that year too, the news said it was the hardest winter in the UK for the past 50 years. Walking outside, the snow would still find its way into my knee high boots! I had a terrible cough because I was unaware of how to protect myself properly from the cold. In spite of that, God continually asked me to continue on my journey as a lay missionary and even encouraged me to renew.
So I said, ‘Ok God if you ask, for another 3 years I will renew.’ Like the river during the spring where the water flows smoothly, that second term flowed smoothly too perhaps because I was already familiar with a lot of things in mission. There were less struggles unlike the first term where I needed to adjust and adapt on many things including the language, the culture, the food, the environment and most of all the cold British weather! Indeed being in cross cultural mission is like being born again as a baby.
Towards the end of my 2nd term, I felt God was calling me again to continue. At that time, I started to complain, I said, ‘God, this help that you are asking from me seems endless and would take a life time. I have my own plans for my life too!’ I think I tried to wrestle with the calling I had from God but in the end I agreed, ‘Ok, God, I will renew for 3 years only but not 6 years!’ Perhaps just like the flow of a river during autumn, with falling twigs and leaves that means the water struggles to flow, I too was struggling. I needed to let go of those plans I had for my life. I had to put them to the back of my mind for a while and embrace the invitation to be part of God’s eternal plan.
God is good and during my 3rd term he made me realise that indeed he wanted me to be part of his eternal plan. I am his daughter, and an heir of his Kingdom and so I have to take care of the business of my Father’s Kingdom. Who else will help the Father but his children? I must help him to spread love in the world wherever I go, in every opportunity or situation that is presented to me. To demonstrate the love and teachings of my brother Jesus Christ, because God is love!
Realizing this, I learned to set aside my own plans and trust God. As a result, I began to enjoy more of my mission and catch the little pockets of joy that every situation brings. Mission is now my way of life, Britain in now also my home. Perhaps like in the summer when the river water flows smoother and even better than during the springtime, I too can see things more clearly now and I am able to remove obstacles that block the flow of grace and blessings. Since the surroundings are brighter, like in summer, I can better see the wonderful detail of flowers and tiny little creatures like butterflies and ladybirds; the little pockets of joy and blessings that God throws into my path often when I least expect them. He is indeed the God of surprises.
And so finally on June 25th, 2020, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, I signed my additional 6 years commitment, and this time as a Long Term Columban Lay Missionary! Since gathering in an enclosed space was not allowed due to lockdown and social distancing rules, we could not have a party celebration as we were planning. I requested instead that I simply sign my commitment not just in any open space but specifically beside running water. Why? Because for me, I find that symbolic in line with Bible verses that served as my inspiration on the day of my commitment renewal.
“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”