By Marea Lyn Almirañez
I have many aspirations in life. Some of them I have already achieved. I am happy every time I achieve a goal. But every time I achieved something, I felt there was still something missing. I was searching until I became a Columban lay missionary. Here, I recognized what I was missing – a sense of belonging.
I’m a first term lay missionary assigned here in Taiwan. This was not my first time to go to another country. I’ve been in Singapore but only on short visitation. Every time I went there, I stayed with my sister. I had a chance to explore the culture. It’s very easy to travel there, because they use English in many places. I felt refreshed and renewed every time I went there. Going to another country helps me to widen my horizons and see things from a different perspective. But when I arrived in Taiwan, I felt different. I felt mixed emotions. I felt excited about a new adventure, but I also felt sad, because I had left my loved ones in the Philippines. I have been used to being far away from home, but I could easily return whenever I wanted. Being assigned to a mission area is different. Three years in another country without going home feels quite long for me.
I am in a period of adjustment. Taiwan is a small country with four seasons. The majority of Taiwanese speak Mandarin. I remember my first three months staying here. I felt lost, I didn’t understand the language. It was hard for me to travel around, especially in Hsinchu, the city in northern Taiwan where I am staying. Most establishments and road signs here are also written in Mandarin. It’s good that I have group support from the Columban Taiwan Mission Unit. They assist me with this kind of adjustment. I have Mandarin class which helps me to understand the language. Also, I have personal supervision which helps me to understand what’s happening within me. After seven months staying here in Taiwan, little by little, I am learning to understand the language and culture. Now, I can travel around the city, and I can buy food or something in the market. Also, I am comfortable mingling with other Taiwanese. But, my adjustment period is not yet finished.
I received a message from my sister in the Philippines. My mother has a gallstone, and she is also suffering from osteoarthritis. She is seventy years old. She doesn’t want to undergo an operation, because she says she is too old. My parents are both senior citizens, and I’m worried about them. I want to go back home and take care of them, but I can’t. Before, it was easy for me to choose to go back home and take care of my parents. Now, my situation here is different. I love my parents. I’m afraid of losing them. I’m still single and all my siblings have their own families. I realize the importance of a sense of belonging. My parents are the closet people to me. It’s painful to go back home and feel a sense of not belonging. I wish and pray that my parents will still be alive when I go back home.
I started doing my mission here. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to move, especially when I am overshadowed by worries and fears. I’m in a transitional period between worrying about my parents and letting God be God in my future. I don’t know what will happen in this journey. But in the bottom of my heart, God is asking me to trust. Hence, I’m offering my worries and fears to Him and asking Him to give me strength to continue what I’ve already started.