The team first spent a week in formation together, where they learned different forms of prayer and visited various youth groups in Malacca and Selangor. They were inspired when they saw how God was such a great influence in the lives of so many young people. A big part of the mission was the focus of ‘incarnational evangelization’; that is being a personal witness of Christ to others. The team set out to achieve this goal by bearing witness among the youth groups. We were also able to help out at the soup kitchen at Jalan Bukit Nanas.
Then came the actual mission in the Philippines. From the moment the missionaries arrived in the village of Fatima on the island of Kalibo, they were welcomed with joy and excitement. The village had lost many houses because of typhoon Haiyan but with open hearts each foster family in the village hosted 2 missionaries and some of the foster families even gave up their beds and rooms for their new ‘children’. Many of the missionaries were taken out of their comfort zone, as many common amenities were not present in the village. Yet, the villagers offered all they could, and soon the missionaries were made to feel at home by the richness of the villagers’ hearts.
The typical day in the village for the missionaries began with a morning Mass and a holy hour. They then helped to build new houses at a worksite till evening. “Carrying rocks, digging ditches, sifting and lifting sand, mixing cement and laying bricks was tiring and painful, but it all became worthwhile when i saw the happy faces of the children and the thanks the villagers gave us,” Peter Adap, from Newcastle University Nusajaya said. “It was nice to be able to serve the people.”
After work, the missionaries spent time with the villagers by playing sports, traditional games, singing or joining them in their daily chores. Anselm Yeoh from St Theresa’s Melaka summarised his experience: “Besides lending a helping hand in the construction of the houses for the villagers I had much time to spend having fun with the kids in the village. As it was the connection and the relationships that truly mattered and was of more importance then physical and monetary help, it was my main priority to accept them as family and treat them with joy, happiness and as equals without pity and sympathy”.
Besides the corporeal service, the missionaries also shared their testimony of Jesus Christ. Jonathan Dason from the Church of the Immaculate Conception Johor Bahru said he learnt to ‘always prepare a testimony, because people will ask you questions like, what was your experience? Or what’s your story? When they do ask, that will be your chance to give a testimony. The testimony need not be long; a five minute one will suffice most of the time’.
At night, the team said the rosary and their night prayers with the children of the village following along. At the end of the mission trip some of the villagers thanked the missionaries for being a witness of the Catholic faith to their children. Indeed, there was a young man from another village, who heard about our group and travelled from afar and spent a few days with us. ‘We see a lot of Protestant missionaries but it is rare to see young Catholic missionaries so I wanted to see for myself’ he said.
When it came time to say goodbye, the missionaries left with tears in their eyes. “In our time here, we came in as strangers but we leave as family,” said Carol Fernandez from UTM Skudai. “They may be materially poor, but their rich love allowed them to share Christ’s love with us. The love of God is the most valuable gift that you can give to a person and there’s where true happiness is found.”