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Give Thanks!

Luda, far right, and friends

Guided by God's Love

By Luda Egbalkic

One year has passed since I came back to Korea for my second term as a Columban lay missionary. Indeed, time has flown so fast. In that one year alone, many events have taken place. It is with great joy and contentment that I accepted my mission assignment at St. Kim Taegon Church located in Pongilchon, Paju City and as a part-time volunteer at Paju Exodus migrant center.

Guided by God's love
Luda (far right) and friends

At the beginning, I was reluctant to go to the parish as I would have preferred to work at the Paju Exodus migrant center. full time. However, on reflection, it is a blessing to journey with our parish priest, Columban Fr. Joseph Chang, and the parishioners as it nourishes more my spiritual side and is a better venue to improve my Korean language. Our parish priest asked me to support many ministries in the parish such as working with the Lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, and the St. Vincent de Paul group. I also work with the youth to assist their English Sunday Gospel reading and reflection once a month and to attend our daily Mass. I also do home visitations with the locals and migrants.

My ordinary day-to-day encounters with the people and daily Mass has strengthened me and made me persevere in my mission. During my first day, a church leader shared with me her thought, “It is good to see a Filipino’s face. Always smiling spontaneously.” I felt shy at her comment and sincerely thanked her. During our ministry time, I once asked a volunteer “Why do you serve in the church?” and her answer to me was “because I am in the church. If I am not here I will not be able to serve.” I continued “Are you happy doing it?” to which I received a confused smile as a response. I smiled back as if I understood what she meant. I asked the same question of myself “why am I doing mission abroad?” I silently answered, “I choose this life because of God’s love.”

During weekends, the Filipino community, the Vietnamese community and the other nationalities in Paju Exodus migrant center would give me a more in-depth understanding of the OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers) reality and the multicultural dimension of their married lives. Complex emotions would silently trigger me. When you listen and get to know the great sacrifices they make for their loved ones at home in their respective countries in order to augment their economic status, I feel deeply moved, inspired and happy for them. But when you discover their unfaithfulness with their loved ones, I have a hard time understanding and accepting such a situation. It makes me feel really sad, but I always remind myself never to judge. I could eventually understand and accept that these things happen and are still going on but I would never tolerate wrong actions. During the short catechism, I would have the chance to remind and encourage them to really grasp the real meaning of loving God and others. In my heart, when you really love someone, you remain faithful and committed to them wherever you are. Paju Exodus migrant community has given me the opportunity to grow more mature in dealing with complicated married relationships and it has given more meaning to my life as a single person.

Every Monday is time for our Columban community gathering. A few months ago, Columban lay missionary Roberta Kim finished up her role as the lay mission coordinator, and another lay missionary decided not to return to the program. These situations were not mine to decide, although I admit I was greatly affected by them. I felt really sad and alone especially during our Monday gathering. The situation brought my introvert side to the fore. I preferred to be alone most of the time after finishing my ministries. I felt like depression was creeping up on me.

However, during these moments, God had sent me His angels. The support and concern shown to me by our leadership team, the Philippine region and my Columban family here in Korea pulled me out from my imaginary hideout. When the other lay missionary left, I realized I lost a dear friend and sister. It is always difficult to find a real friend when you’re in a foreign land. So, I made myself my best friend. I reminded myself once more not to lean solely to human’s strength but also on God. With all the complexities I had experienced, I am seeing and following the light still. As I continue as a lay missionary, I hope that in all circumstances, I will continue to give thanks to God, believing and trusting that this is His will for me in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Columban lay missionary Luda Egbalic lives and works in South Korea.