One Step at a Time
Allow me to share with you my one-of-a-kind, exciting and meaningful adventure. I am just an ordinary, simple woman. I was a teacher by profession. I happily and passionately taught the children for many years. I was comfortable and content with my life. For me teaching is a mission not just a profession. During my idle chat with friends, we talked about how to become financially stable quickly. Going abroad was the fastest way to do it. As for me, I responded, "If I would go abroad it would not be for money but for mission."
The world was so alluring. A saying goes, "When you are totally at peace with yourself, nothing can shake you." It shook my life which finally gave me the courage to listen to my heart. Entrusting myself to God, I took one step at a time. I volunteered for a year, did mission in my own country for some years, and finally I left all my comfort zones and let God bring me to where my deepest heart's desire was, to the most unknown zone.
In May 2014, I was sent to South Korea by the Mission Society of St. Columban with Jenanydel, another lay missionary. My one-of-a-kind adventure had begun. South Korea is a beautiful country with four seasons. When flowers started to bud, spring took my breath away. When the snow fell and made rooftops, mountains, roads and side streets all white, winter awed me. When the leaves of the trees began to fall and trees bared themselves, autumn surprised me. Summer was the time for lots of escapades in beaches, mountains and parks.
Arriving in South Korea reminded me of a Ralph Waldo Emerson's quotation, "Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow."
This country's culture and language are so much different from mine and have given me opportunities to grow. At first, I disliked kimchi's smell and taste, although I was amazed by the way they innovatively prepared their foods. It made me anxious that the taste was really different from our Filipino foods and servings were to be all eaten. Gradually, I appreciated and found the foods not just nutritious but really delicious. The language was more challenging. I almost reached the point of giving up, but I developed humility and patience instead. I finally realized that learning the new language is from tabula rasa, to a lifetime. In my ministry, a crooked language when spoken with love and respect will just naturally be understood.
South Korea is also an aging country. I visited the sick and elderly in my ministry in Nengguk parish where I was assigned for two years. I did home visitations alone and voluntary works with the church volunteers and social workers. When I met elderly people (aged 70 and above) or sick people who lived happily by themselves, I was happy and grateful for them. However, other sick or elderly people were in diffi cult situations. They were feeling neglected, unloved, abandoned, alone, depressed, sad, etc. Listening to their life stories and looking intently into their sad or happy facial expressions really touched me. When I journeyed with them I also journeyed into the innermost part of my being. I became aware that despite choosing a happy life, it is really natural to feel lonely, homesick, depressed, uncomfortable, etc. Whenever the need to be loved is mostly deprived, emotional poverty will be manifested more.
What did I do during my visitation? I played the guitar and sang/learned Korean songs at the start of my visitations. When needed, I massaged their shoulders, backs or aching legs. I held their hands to let them feel they were not alone, while I listened to their own stories and complaints. I assisted them when walking. I shared my own life stories, despite my imperfect language, which made them smile or laugh. I was with them silently while we watched together their favorite TV program. That desire in my heart to reach out to them so they may feel comforted and loved made me forget my own need. Unknowingly, they had reached out to me as well. As a Columban lay missionary, I recognized that my limitations and weaknesses to share God's love have always been a challenge.
By God's grace and mercy, I fi nished my fi rst term of mission on May 20, 2017. It took courage for me to say yes to God's call as His lay missionary. Truly, "Whatever is to make us better and happy, God has placed either openly before us or close to us." (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)
I made a choice that brought me to my one of a kind and more meaningful adventure. My heart sings joyfully to our loving and merciful God, the Trinity. Unworthy as I am, He had bound me in His love. I heartily thank all those with whom I journeyed with during my fi rst term mission–especially my mission family, the Columban lay missionaries and the Missionary Society of St. Columban.
Originally from the Philippines, Columban lay missionary Luda Egbalic lives and works in South Korea.