Dear Columban Friends,
Columban lay missionary Jinky Ucol is a bright light in Fiji where she is missioned. As a Columban mission sponsor, you help make the work that Jinky does possible. For this she and we are very grateful. I asked her to share a little bit about her life with the Fijian community where she lives. I hope you are inspired by the faith and energy she brings in her mission.
I am a first term Columban lay missionary here in Fiji. In the village, I am known as a missionary from a faraway land. I bear this name like a mark wherever I go and whatever I do. This mark gives meaning and purpose to my experience of living with the people. Prior to joining the Columban lay mission program, I used to live and work in Manila, Philippines, as an educator in one of the private schools run by the religious sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Just imagine the life and the stress of living and working in a congested environment where people used to leave from the office early to avoid the hustle and bustle of congested roads and traffic jams. Then, staying up late because they had too much work to accomplish. That was my world, and it was moving very fast. Then, the Lord picked me out from that life and put me in a place where I needed to slow down, calm my spirit and just enjoy speaking and listening to the people whose culture and ways of living are totally different from mine. Such is the missionary life.
In the beginning, I just observed and listened to the people, though I could not understand their language. I wanted to speak or join in their conversation and laugh with them, but the only thing that I could do was to smile and say “Bula” which means hello, “Moce,” goodbye, and “Vinaka Vakalevu,” thank you very much!” Having listened to people speaking “Bauan”, the Fijian national language, sometimes I felt frustrated. Mostly because I hardly understood them and felt I was so slow to learn. There were times I asked myself. “why am I doing this? Why I am here trying hard to speak what the people are speaking, eat what they eat, dress how they dress and more?” The answers to these questions amazed me when I slowly learned to speak the language and do away with my judgments and prejudices. It is like seeing light from the dark! The things I have done and the words I have heard and spoken bring me into a deeper meaning and purpose as I slowly learned to embrace their culture and ways. These realizations slowly transformed me and helped me to see the beauty and wonder of the people whom I talked to and live with. I am beginning to appreciate the beauty of their songs and prayers, their music, their food, their language, their expression of faith and unity, their values and culture. Indeed, I am beginning to feel at home!
I realized that my mission here is not only sharing my life with the people of God in Fiji, it is more like encountering Christ Himself in the life of others, sharing life with Him and growing in faith, joy and love with Him. It is being vulnerable before Him. It is like an experience of becoming one with the people by sharing in their life, joy and struggles every day and discovering what God has been doing in their faith-life journey.
I now know that the best gift that I can offer is my gift of presence with my time and heart and ears to listen. Just by simply being myself and dealing with others with a sincere heart helps me to develop relationships that are built on mutual trust and respect. This kind of experience with the people gives me a glimpse of what mission is all about. As I continue my journey, I believe that God who has called me by my name, will always amaze me with new learning experiences. He will continue to transform my heart. Today, I can say from my heart that I am home in Fiji! Cheers for Christ! To Him be the glory!
Simply by being herself, Jinky is bringing the light of Jesus Christ wherever she goes! Her passion, positive attitude, and enthusiasm for mission are invigorating for us all. It is your steadfast support that makes it possible for Jinky to leave her home and find a new one in Fiji. Columban missionaries worldwide echo Jinky’s sentiments and say “cheers to you for bringing Christ to the world!” For you we are eternally thankful.
Gratefully Yours in Christ,
Fr. John Burger
Director, U.S. Region