On April 3, 2008, my mother came from Korea to China to see me. My plan wasn’t to go sightseeing but to let her see how we Columbans work in China. As a result, we met many of the people whom I was encountering in my ministry.
With my mother I went to Jingzhou to meet Korean Sisters and others who work with lepers; also to Xiantao to see the Chinese priests and Sisters there. My mother was impressed with their simple lifestyle, especially that of the late Bishop Peter Zhang.
One day my mother, a Chinese seminarian and I went to the first Yangtze Bridge with Yang-Ai. Paralyzed at the age of 18, Yang-Ai was now 48. When I escorted her to the church in Wuchang last year, using a wheelchair, she said she wanted to see the First Bridge. She remembered being brought there when she was eight. With our help, her wish of 40 years was finally fulfilled. It was a great moment for me, the Chinese seminarian and my mother.
My mother also met many parishioners in Wuchang Church. We had dinner together, took pictures, chatted and listened to the history of the Church in China. She was delighted with the experience.
The last day before she left, my mother said, “Tae-moon, do you know how happy I am? Now I have the answer to my prayer when I asked, ‘What does it all mean?’ Before you left Korea for your First Mission Assignment, my prayers were entirely for you, but somehow they have changed.
“Now my prayer is not only for you but for all the people you encounter. I did not understand why the object of my prayer had changed in this way because it was not my intention to change it. But now that I have met the people whom you know in China, I understand why I pray like this. Even though I did not know them before, even though I cannot speak Chinese, I feel strongly that they are my family, my children, my sisters, my brothers, my parents and my grandparents.”
When I heard her say this, I was so proud of my mother and the Chinese people I had come to know. I could feel how close she had come to them and how close they were to her as one family in God.
When she went back to Korea I found myself reflecting on her time here. Before I came to China for my First Mission Assignment, I often wondered about the work I could do because of my limitations in the Chinese situation. Here I have met people with mental and physical disabilities, lepers, elderly people, children of poor migrant parents, seminarians, priests, Sisters and the humble and faithful parishioners in Wuchang Church.
These people are exactly the same people whom Jesus helped, loved, often met and ate with, during his time on earth. They treated my mother and me with great love, kindness and hospitality. They eagerly shared their lives with us. Could it be any better? I gain confidence from those people who give me the energy for mission and help me to improve. Even if my pastoral work is restricted by the Chinese Government, God has given me a great sense of love and relationship through his people in this country.
I am grateful for the opportunity to experience God’s love, to feel His presence and to realize the extent of His compassion.
Fr Tae-moon Kwon was ordained to the priesthood in Korea in January 2010