The Journey with Many Blessings
When people ask me about my job, I still hesitate with my answer. I find that I don’t fit in with a conventional category of any job listing. Even within our own Catholic tradition, many clergy find it strange when I answer that I am a lay missionary, along with my family. In this missionary journey I have met people from different walks of life, many background and diverse beliefs. And this makes me ponder on the many blessings I have received over the years.
I have shared with Muslim women who have taught me of their deep convictions and the power of prayer. I acknowledge there are differences with our Christian traditions, but prayer is and should be central in my life. However, would I wake up in the middle of the night to pray? Or how do I prepare before I enter into prayer? These friends have certainly challenged the way I see prayer.
Friends from Africa have taught me about the simplicity of life and the power of laughter. Often they talk about what life was like back home and what little they had then, but everything they had was shared with a smile. They talk of the hardships of having to walk miles to fetch water or to go to school. Many of them grew up with very little yet speak fondly of childhood memories filled with adventures and many, many smiles.
I have met wonderful British friends who have taught me about generosity. Not that kind of generosity where you put your hand in your purse to feed, to clothe or shelter someone, although that may well happen. I have seen them given themselves selflessly to others in need; friends who believe in the Gospel message of “loving your neighbors,” who daily welcome the stranger in their community and lend a hand to those in need. In my journey in Birmingham, I have felt blessed and privileged to share my life and work alongside these people.
I have been blessed to witness the birth of a few babies through serving in the Doula Bethel project. I have shared the pain and joys of those mothers in labor who had no one to accompany them at that particular joyful moment in their lives. I have seen many of those babies grow and become lovely children. I thank God for that bond, born through that birthing experience.
Journeying with asylum seekers has certainly challenged my own life in many ways. How would I face each day in “limbo?” Living with many uncertainties is something I would struggle with, not knowing where I’ll be in the next day, waiting for years for an important decision, having no access to cash, endlessly sharing accommodation with people from different background and beliefs, to name some of the daily challenges they face. Despite all these they wake up day after day hoping that “today will be the day” that things settle and they are granted permission to stay in the country. It is this teaching of endurance and hope that I find fulfilling. Life continues for these dear friends; there are new added struggles and pains in their journeys but they long for a brighter future. This reminds me of the covenant God made with His people... Never tire because there is the Kingdom of God.
I have been present rather than done deeds, I have journeyed and learnt many life lessons from people I never imagined I would meet. All these have been God given moments, and I am thankful to God for that.
Columban lay missionary Nathalie Marytsch lives and works in Britain.