I have traveled here in the U.S. on several occasions, but I didn’t get the chance to visit Omaha during those travels due to limited time. I am glad to have been granted a sabbatical here, and so I thought to reconnect with the Columbans in the U.S. will be a good part of my sabbatical year. While arranging my visit to Omaha, I was invited to participate in the donor visitation activities with donor relations officers Angie Determan and Angela Bennett. Below is a short reflection on the experience.
As a lay missionary, a woman and Asian, I had initial reservations to participate in the visits basically because I wasn’t so sure if my status (lay missionary, a woman, and Asian) would be appealing to the donors. I suppose part of my reservation was coming from the “Asian hate” that is much publicized in the U.S. But I must also admit that part of me was excited to experience such activity; the opportunity to see places, a good opportunity “to test the waters,” an opportunity to connect and thank our donors in a personal manner, and an opportunity to share mission experience/stories.
The visits were well coordinated and well-planned. I appreciated the initial preparations done by Angela and Angie from making the appointments and making sure that I had some essential information regarding a particular donor, and of course, sightseeing on the side.
The relationships that are formed and strengthened throughout the years between the Columbans and our donors palpable. The depths of sharing by the donors are genuinely built on trust – this in itself is an indication of the importance of the work. I also observed the mutual and sincere relationship between the donors and our staff. I believe the “Columbanness” is a mutual ground in the development of such relationship.
Having experienced donor visitation, I realized that being a lay missionary, a woman and Asian isn’t a limitation. I realized that I underestimated the generosity of our donors particularly in their capacity to welcome a stranger like me. I felt welcomed, listened to and that our donors are interested in what I do. I felt affirmed in each of the visits. Indeed, I felt blessed to be able to connect and thank our donors in person! I believe our donors do appreciate the visits conducted over the years. They talked about the experience and the joy of having visited by a Columban missionary even if the visit occurred ages ago.
Benefactor visitation is a valuable activity which every Columban Missionary (lay or ordained) must commit to doing. We missionaries are equipped with mission stories. Through their generous and continuous support, our donors deserve to hear our stories. I believe that sharing our stories is good recognition of their participation to mission. Benefactor visitation is a ministry. I am grateful to have been invited to be part of this ministry here in the U.S.
Columban lay missionary Beth Sabado is currently on sabbatical in the U.S.