My Heart is Growing in Humility
I am presently working in the Catholic Diocese Hsinchu Migrants and Immigrants Service Center (HMISC). I chose this ministry not because it's very near to our apartment but because I felt a call to work with the migrants. One of the services of HMISC is to provide shelter for migrant workers who had problems with their employers. Those who are staying at this shelter are Indonesians, Vietnamese and Filipinos. I am the female supervisor in the female shelter.
During the first meeting with the staff of HMISC, the director challenged me to communicate not only with the Filipinos but also with other nationalities staying in the shelter. I felt anxious. For me it is easier to communicate with the Filipinos and other workers who can speak and understand English. I wondered, how can I communicate with those who don't speak or understand English? I was still studying Mandarin at the time, and my Mandarin is still not good.
After the meeting, another challenge posed to me by one of my colleagues was, "What if the workers cannot trust you or don't listen to you as they are used to living in the shelter without a supervisor? Many workers are older than you and are of different nationalities, cultures, ages and orientations. They are also wounded people, what are you going to do?" I felt worried when I heard this. He had a point. I also wondered what if they will not listen to me or don't trust me? How can I start my apostolate and face those challenges? I hadn't started my ministry yet, and I felt anxious. With the challenges put forward to me, the first thing I did was to pray to ask God for guidance. I also prayed to Mama Mary because she experienced doubt and fear when she was called to be the Mother of God. I asked for her guidance despite the limitations I have. I entrusted everything to God and committed myself to do my part.
Starting in my ministry I hoped that something good would come out of it. I started to reach out to the residents and introduced myself as their supervisor by building rapport first with those who knew English then to those who didn't know English like some Indonesians and Vietnamese. I ate and talked with them during meal times. At first, there was some awkwardness between me and the residents, because every time I talked with them in Mandarin, they didn't understand me. I felt embarrassed, but I still tried and sometimes I made signs whenever I could not say something in Mandarin. In the evenings I went to their rooms to chat and check on them. It wasn't an easy task, but it was helpful. Lately, they started to communicate with me sharing their stories and the painful experiences they encountered in their previous workplaces. Though I didn't fully understand what some of them were trying to share with me, I tried to listen to them. They were like people lost in the wilderness needing guidance. During those times I sensed that they needed someone to talk to and journey with them. I felt that this was a need I could respond to.
We started having meetings with them every Friday. We also do some activities like Zumba dancing, prayer services and teambuilding workshops that helps them to be positive in life. As I continue to journey with them I felt that they are able to understand and listen to me better. It seems that despite their challenges, they found comfort and care in the shelter.
There are no permanent residents in the shelter. They come and go. They stay for few days or months. Some of them have left for their home countries because they were not able to find new jobs. I felt sad for them. Others left for a new employment. It is a constant challenge to build trust with each new arrival but I try to do what helps them.
The HMISC staff is composed of people of different nationalities, i.e. Taiwanese, Filipino, Indonesian and Vietnamese. We are all adjusting with one another. Sometimes, I felt alone when they talk in Mandarin especially during staff meetings or break time. It's another challenge for me to mingle with them with my limited Mandarin. With prayers and with the help of other HMISC staff members, especially my pastoral adviser, I am able to communicate better with my coworkers given my limited command of Mandarin. Sometimes if I make mistakes, they smile and correct me. I feel embarrassed, but I am thankful to them because they are very patient and supportive of me. I felt humbled with the patience of the staff members with me. I have found a "new family" who accepts and encourages me to discover my gifts and talents in my ministry. I am happy in HMISC. Even with the many challenges I face as I respond to my missionary calling, I am full of hope. My heart is growing in humility, and my faith in God is deepening.
Columban lay missionary Marea Lyn Almiranex lives and works in Taiwan.