Learning is a Never-Ending Journey
On August 1, 2017, I travelled from the height of the Korean summer to an equally hot Philippines to study English. Upon my arrival, I was impressed at the sight that greeted me in NAIA airport in Manila, because it was around midnight and there were a lot of people waiting for their guests at the airport. I was concerned about how I would find the people who would pick me up and thus began my second term of missionary life in the Philippines full of anxiety and fear.
After a short orientation program, I began my English class with excitement as I was joining another new culture. I was studying English at a school very close to the Columban lay missionary house – only three stops away by train. Every day on my way to class, I would see homeless families in the street which would shock me, because it wasn’t just one or two individuals, there were couples with children. One woman was even pregnant. They were poor, and they seemed not have enough money to take care of their children. They sleep, cook, eat and even take a shower in the street. I was worried for the health of children. I felt impotent as I couldn’t do anything for them except pray for them. If it had rained heavily, I worried even more about where they would stay. It filled my heart with pain and sadness. I prayed for them every moment of every day.
In the language school, I met many students. There were religious Sisters, brothers, priests, missionaries and seminarians from different countries. I had to adjust to a new culture and a new environment. We empathized with each other as we all shared the common fact that we were religious and non-English speakers. I received a lot of encouragement from them, including the teachers. They helped me to adjust to life in the Philippines as well as helping me with my English. We always prayed first before the class. I felt I was understood by them. Studying English for a year is not nearly enough, but it gave me the confidence I needed with English, and I was grateful to the Columbans for affording me this opportunity.
While studying English I got the news from my family that my uncle had passed away. It was a big blow to me, and I wanted to attend the funeral Mass. It was a hard time and a huge challenge for me. After that, I had two more funerals in my family, all within one year. I was disturbed by this sad news in my family and reflected on how valuable life is for me.
Being a missionary sometimes brings with it a lot of challenges. One of them is the language which was indeed a big challenge for me. My dad would often say that, “Learning is a never-ending journey.” Especially when it comes to learning languages, we should accept the different cultures, learn to understand each other and try to live in harmony.
Thank you, God! As a Columban lay missionary, I have learned many things during my time in the Philippines. and I have grown in my appreciation of the Columbans and their families.
Originally from Korea, Columban lay missionary Sihyeon Teresa Bae lives and works in Taiwan.