A Messenger of His Love
I am not a writer, but I’m writing this reflection for myself and for others hopefully to be enlightened more about the Trinity’s love and God’s desire for each one of us to become a messenger of His love and the Holy Spirit, who is the Giver of Life.
I’ve always believed it is the love of the Trinity that had brought me to this beautiful country, South Korea, and compelled me to persevere on mission. I also believe that this mission is not mine. It is God’s mission, and He has blessed me to carry it out with Him. God is always at the forefront, and I follow Him. There would be times when I kept my distance from Him because I felt tired and even tempted to stop. But along the way, I knew God has sent the Holy Spirit to keep me going.
For my ministry, I was assigned in Negguk Church, Uijeungbu Diocese, which is outside the district of Seoul. I would say about 75% of the church-goers are the youth and older parishioners. Most often the youth and young professionals or couples are seen whenever they sponsor Masses. But what is really inspiring is having a lot of the elderly who are in their 60s or 70s who–despite complaining about the pain in their backs or knees– are joyfully doing their ministries in the church. They are more involved in church activities, because we cannot ask for more time from the youth due to their studies, nor the young adults due to their work. Because of the expensive cost of living, the younger parishioners need to work hard to earn enough to be able to afford their daily needs and maintain their lifestyles which are influenced by fast-changing trends and fashion.
What is it like to be a Columban Lay Missionary in situations like these?
I visit the sick and the elderly in their homes. Most of them live alone, but there are those who are alone only during daytime because their family members are at work or in school.
Grandma Ana is one of the women I visit. She is 75 years old and is suffering from pulmonary fibrosis which makes it hard for her to breathe without an oxygen tank. Her son, who is in his 50s and is mentally disturbed, and her granddaughter, who is studying in middle school, both live with her. Grandma Ana doesn’t have other relatives and had no one to help do errands for her. This is why whenever I visit her, she would always express her gratitude. In return, I would always answer, “We are one in God’s family, Grandma.” A few times I went to the hospital to see her doctor to explain her condition using my limited Korean. The doctor would then give me the prescribed medicines for her. It is a challenging ministry for me, but I believe God works with me all the time.
Another patient I visit is Theresa who is undergoing hemodialysis. She is 58 years old and has two sons. The eldest son lives with her. Her son leaves the house very early and arrives home late at night from work. Theresa’s right arm is paralyzed, and she has difficulty standing up as well as walking. She cannot prepare meals by herself. She is dependent on her son who prepares her meals for her. During my visits, I noticed Theresa would eat either bread with milk, noodles, or even nothing for lunch. Oftentimes, I’d bring some food for her. But I sense she is more grateful for my presence than the food I bring. When I’m with her, we would share about our experiences with smiles and tears, watch our favorite television programs and pray together. I help her with a few house errands as well.
There is another grandmother I visit who is in her 80s. She lives alone. Her house doesn’t have its own toilet. With her physical condition, I sense her discomforts especially during autumn or winter seasons. She is hard of hearing and communication using a phone is impossible. Whenever I asked her about her family, she would just reply, “They’ve all died.” During my first visits, she refused to answer or listen to my queries. Eventually, I gained her trust enough to open up about her family. She still has a daughter who lives in America, but she has not visited South Korea since she left. From her facial expression, I sensed her pain. I was happy when she told me after visiting her, to come again. Since then, I’ve been visiting her regularly.
What is the Holy Trinity’s message for me?
God, the Father created the world with human beings as the stewards of His creation. God sent His only Begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus suffered, died and resurrected for all of humankind. The Holy Trinity are bound together in love. As a lay missionary assigned to South Korea, I believe that I must bind myself in God’s love and be the messenger of the Giver of life to others, Christians or non-Christians, most especially to the elderly and the sick.
Jesus Christ has taught me that to be a lay missionary means to love. When I love I have to die to myself. It is not an easy way of life. With my little faith and love, I commit to following God and to be with others especially those who are suffering from emotional poverty.
There are times when I wanted to go back to the Philippines, particularly when I got sick and missed my family, my friends and familiar comforts back home. My faith wavered during these low moments. I experienced God’s love which has brought tears of genuine happiness and striking pains as well which is beyond my human understanding.
In my prayer, I heard Him whispering to me His words through the Gospel of St. John, “If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17). In facing different circumstances in my life, I cannot fully understand God’s will, yet His love is amazingly powerful and inspiring that it has moved me to continue on this mission whether in happiness or in sadness.
This is why I always begin and end my prayers of thanksgiving “In the Name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Luda Egbalic is a Columban lay missionary living and working in South Korea.