Through the Holy Spirit, a two-week mission trip changed the lives of more than 20 young people who have said Yes to pursue Christ in their lives. Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) from the United States of America organised a mission trip to the Diocese of Miri from the 16th till 31st of July 2018. The mission is a part of their annual Summer missions program, where they set out to different countries across the globe to share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. The team comprised of a priest, 3 full-time missionaries, and 5 student missionaries who were having summer break in their studies and took the time to serve the Lord. The mission also included 16 Malaysian students from various higher learning institutions particularly from the Dioceses of Malacca-Johore and Miri.
The first week saw them arriving in Miri where they settled in Church of Mater Dei, Lutong. They were taught on discipleship, evangelization, how to deliver testimonies, leading bible studies, and having a prayer life to prepare for the coming mission at Lapok while getting to know each other better as they bonded through community living. Daily practices of an hour of Adoration and daily masses celebrated by Fr. Mike and Deacon Adrian truly made the experience even more spiritually gratifying. Eleanor from Curtin University commented, “God worked His ways in making me realize the beauty of Holy Hour and it soon became the best form of prayer for me.” They also took the opportunity to visit the Sisters at the Carmelite Monastery of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Miri, to which they were then invited to witness the Solemn Profession of Sr. Mary Alice. Many were inspired and touched by the sharing given by the Sisters on their vocation. The group then paid a courtesy call to His Lordship Bishop Richard Ng where he gave his blessings for them to ‘experience the life and challenges that Catholics face in the rural parish’.
In the second week, they made their way to Lapok for the mission. They were based in Church of Holy Family, Lapok where they were under the care of parish priest Fr. Andy Lee. Throughout their mission in Lapok, they visited the nearby longhouses and villages of Long Jegan, Rh Agnes, Rh Wen, Rh Peberi, Sungai Bain, Loagan Bunut. There, they reach out to the villagers as they conducted Bible studies, sharing sessions and spent time through community projects such as building road pavements or by simply playing football in the evening with the kids. Seeing as how the villagers were very united not just because they lived in longhouses together but because they were united and empowered by the same love they have for Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour was greatly moving. “It’s not only about one individual but a community. God’s love is like a domino effect. Once you’ve experienced the sweet love of God, you find yourself just craving for more”, said Rachael from UiTM Jasin.
The team also attended mass with the local villagers. Maegan from UiTM Alor Gajah, noted that “Being on the outskirts of town, we didn’t find as many Churches. But being able to spend time with the villagers there made me realize that the Church really isn’t about the building, it’s about the people.” It was such a joy and blessing to have shared the good news to so many people and to have exchanged the knowledge they each pertained throughout their years of living as a Catholic and practicing Catholicism by choice.
The mission was then concluded with a debriefing session back in Miri. Jamie Vergara from Florida, U.S.A. says “This has been the best 2 weeks of my entire life. I’ve learned so much about the faith and how powerful God’s love is. What inspired me the most from this trip is how strong the church is throughout the Malaysian community. The praise and worship was beautiful as well as the music. Seeing college students desire to deepen their relationship with God was beautiful. From Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Miri and Lapok, it has been an incredible journey seeing God’s presence in each of these areas. I’ve also learned how to appreciate the little or big graces God bestows on us. God gave me the best friends, love and patience from this trip.”
Overall, the missionaries felt really blessed for the opportunity in living the life of Catholics from a different background than theirs, and they are constantly reminded that they are always united with the people of Miri through Jesus Christ especially in the celebration of the Eucharist. From the mission experience, many are filled the missionary zeal to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” as Jesus commanded. Take it from our very own USM student, Sam that said, “Now, as ready as they are to proclaim the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to the world, I am too. Being a witness of Christ would be the first step that I would want to take. In fact, it should be a step that we all should take, showing others just how Jesus has transformed our lives.”