A Transformative Experience
One afternoon while walking from work to the house, I met some people I did not know, and one of them was very helpful. A local deputy asked me where I was going. At first, I was surprised with the question since I constantly walked along the same route and no one stopped to ask me where I am going, despite the fact that I went to a Catholic Church, where I lived. The person immediately asked me about the address of the place, and once I let him know that information, he told me that the weather was very warm, that he could take me to the place indicated, which I accepted.
During the ride we talked a little about my country of origin (Peru) and what I was doing in Taiwan. Despite my limitations with the local language we were able to talk. Once I arrived at the place where I lived, I thanked him, and the person left.
My walk is about 70 minutes, and that day I was very tired; I wanted to rest for a few minutes. When the person stopped, I thought that he would ask me about my nationality the same as other people had asked me before. So the initial question made me curious, and I did not want to say home. Instead I answered that I was going to a Catholic church, thinking that the person would leave, because he probably wasn't Catholic. But he asked me the direction of the church, which made me hesitate for a moment, but I was tired and did not want a long dialogue, so I told him where it was located. He then offered to take me to the place and as I was tired I accepted. It was as if that person knew of my lack of desire to walk at that moment.
Once at home I was amazed how a person I did not know helped me. At the time I was very happy because I was tired, and he helped me when I needed it. His action made me reflect on the importance of being sensitive to the needs of people, even more as a Catholic missionary I must be aware that my needs are different from those of each person. An essential part of my faith is to build the Kingdom of God on Earth, and it becomes a reality when it comes to people responding to their needs. This person was able to see my need and help me. It is important to note you cannot be a Catholic in the same way in different parts of the world. We must be open to change. I should not hold on to doing things in one way; it is always an opportunity to be in disposition of God and seek new possibilities.
At the same time I was taking into account one of the fundamental tenants of my faith, which is to help others. But it is service done with love. The same love that God had for humanity, a total and unceasing commitment. That is, love can only be manifested in concrete actions, moving from discourse to practice. This is not to say that I don't love people or my neighbor. It is always about making others feel dignified. This is very challenging, as on the one hand I am not always aware that God is present in my interaction with other people, and I do not always see my daily activities as part of a program. On the other hand, I accept that God is the center of everything. It is simple but not superficial.
Remembering the help that the person gave me, he did not do it for me to praise him for his service. Being in Taiwan where the Catholic population is small means that Catholics are always in contact with people of other religious beliefs. In short, I cannot reduce God to my religion alone; being a Catholic does not give me the power to possess God. I must always be open to God through the Holy Spirit to continue to transform the realities of people.
The person who helped me made me remember that we can manifest the act of God, where faith is not left alone in a beautiful speech. That is, faith needs concrete actions. I hope that God continues to give me new experiences that will transform me and guide me in the journey of my faith.
Salustino Villalobos Mondragón is a Columban seminarian.