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I Learned Love

Thanks to the Indigenous People in the Mountains of Taiwan

By Sihyeon Bae

Dear brothers and sisters!

"Lord, You created me through your love…" This is the first verse of a Korean morning prayer which I pray every morning. This beautiful verse has touched me deeply, and it is my favorite phrase in the prayer because I believe that God created me because He loves me.

I worked for you and with you (indigenous people) here in the mountains for two years. Living on the mountains, I received the biggest present. Before I lived here with you as a lay missionary, it was my belief that God loved me, but it was difficult to feel it. It is here where I felt God's love through you, and I learned how to pray to God because of you.

When I started pastoral work, I had difficulty in speaking and listening in Chinese. I would always feel nervous and tense. I remember wanting to approach you and introduce myself, but I was afraid you wouldn't understand my Chinese. I even thought that you would not know about me, even my name. But one day, one of the parishioners called me. I was surprised that she knew my name. At that time, I felt happy and relaxed. My nervousness was gone. Thus, I realized that this is love; when we remember someone's name, this is love; when we call someone's name, this is love; when we pray for our neighbors rather than ourselves, this is love; when we help others, this s love; and when we share from the heart, this is love as well. Moreover, love is an expression of concern. When I lived with you here in the mountains, I recognized God's presence among you. When we prayed for each other, and when we helped each other God was with us. I was conscious of God's presence with you in your everyday life. For every day of the two years I lived with you, I was thankful for living with you. Your love was my strength in my missionary life.

In addition, I learned how to pray with you. I remember when I heard one of the parishioners praying. I was amazed at how grateful she was to God for everything. I also noticed that she prayed like she was talking to a friend. I sensed that she was very sincere in her prayer, and it was coming from the heart. She is also someone who was concerned about other people especially those facing difficult situations in life. Yes, your prayers my dear brothers and sisters were so beautiful, and I was touched by them. I thought beautiful prayers were made of beautiful and well-chosen words and long sentences. There were times that I struggled to pray. Sometimes my prayer was not from the heart as it was just a mental exercise. However, I was thankful to God, for He taught me to pray through you, the parishioners. Now, we celebrate the Lenten season and we ask ourselves, "Why did God send His only son as a servant to us?" The answer is love. Where is God's love in our lives? Who does God use as instruments to show His love for us? I believe that it was God's plan for me to come here to the mountains because He loves me. The Gospel says, "After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became a dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them."

Truly, I am grateful for God's love and God's grace. My experiences up here in the mountains with you changed my life—it "transfigured" my life!

Moreover, I would like to thank you for everything. Thank you for giving your love and your prayers. I will pray for you and your families. May God bless us all!

Columban lay missionary Sihyeon Bae shared these thoughts during the Mass for her farewell with the parishioners.