Skip to main content

In the Hands of the Master Baker

Doing Ordinary Things Extraordinarily

By Evangeline "Jinky" Ucol

I’ve been working in the parish of Christ the King in Ba, which is located in the western part of Fiji, for more than a year now. Near where I live is St. Theresa’s Primary school which has a statue of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Every time I leave the house I can’t help but glance at the statue and St. Teresa’s celebrated quote “Doing ordinary things extraordinarily” keeps ringing in my ears as a reminder for me to put love into everything I do.

Master BakerEvery day is full of surprises. Who am I going to meet? What am I going to do? Things unfolded for me slowly until I discovered the focus of my ministry. I was asked to help in the Faith Formation Commission, preparing children for their Confirmation and First Communion. Once a week I visit two communities on the coastal area. The first community is Votua, which I visit in the morning, and in the afternoon, I take the bus to the other community, Nawaqarua, to facilitate the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) group and the First Communicants. The road is dry and dusty, and most of the time the weather is baking hot. But this is nothing compared to my joy in sharing the Gospel and experiencing the kindness of the people I meet.

Whenever I am free and have time, I visit the Women’s Development Training Center, which teaches baking, sewing, weaving, recycling, flower arrangement and handicrafts. I joined the group during their baking lesson where I had the chance to mingle with some Indo-Fijians. Most of them are Muslim, Hindu and Methodist. I enjoyed my baking lesson with the ladies, and after several weeks together we have built a unique bond of friendship. One of the Muslim women I met is Arishna who has two daughters and lives in a house along the coast. During Eid Al-Adha, she invited me to come to her house and celebrate with her family. Eid Al-Adha, Feast of Sacrifice, is an Islamic holiday which commemorates the time when prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) obeyed the will of Allah to sacrifice his son. Part of the celebration is to slaughter a cow and share the meat with their families and friends.

In baking you need to be patient. You have to give enough time for the dough to rise.

I was touched by the warm welcome of the family. They happily offered me some of their traditional dishes and even taught me how to cook them! It was a joy to visit such a wonderful family and share life, faith and stories which are the foundation of a genuine friendship.

When I came to Fiji, I did not know anything about baking. I noticed that baking is part of the everyday life of most women in the village since baked goods are part of their daily meals. Whenever there is an important celebration, bread or cake is always present. But I am always curious how to make the bread and cake taste better.

I learned that baking is an art, and you have to follow the proper procedures and use the right measurements in order to get the bread to taste right. There are also different styles and techniques that allow the bread to be more soft, fluffy, tasty and attractive. In baking you need to be patient. You have to give enough time for the dough to rise. You also need presence of mind, focus and organization in order to avoid mistakes, especially when it comes to mixing the ingredients, measurements and kneading. Putting your whole heart into it will give you a great sense of joy and fulfillment.

Now, I can join with the ladies in the village when they do their baking. I can also teach them the different styles and techniques I have learned. This is my way to reach out to them and at the same time motivate them to learn new ways of doing things they are used to doing and enhance their skills.

With the help of the Women’s Center, we organized a flower arrangement outreach program in Nawaqarua community. This is to help the women develop new skills and could also be a source of income in the future.

My faith-journey as a missionary is like the art of baking. I have been given all the necessary ingredients. All I need to do is bake. It is just up to me how I will mix those ingredients together. I learned to be patient with myself, with the things I do, and with the people I work with. And most importantly I learned to be grateful to God for the simple things and to be happy journeying with His people. My experience has taught me the value of doing ordinary things extraordinarily while trusting God, the Master Baker.

Originally from the Philippines, Columban lay missionary Evangeline “Jinky” Ucol lives and works in Fiji.