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A Subtle Christmas

Catholic priest giving communion
Yet Spectacular!

A Columban Missionary who lives in a country where a foreigner who professes their faith in Christ can be expelled. Life is made up of stories, and each of us has a favorite story to tell. Now I will share one of my favorite stories with you!

While enrolled in university classes in 2015, I got the chance to organize an activity in class to celebrate two birthdays — Prophet Mohammad and Jesus. Through the persuasion of my classmates who were experiencing homesickness during the holidays, I finally gave in and thought it would be an interesting opportunity to experience and taste food from the eighteen different cultures represented in the class. It would be a chance for a subtle intercultural and interreligious dialogue, I thought. As the class president of the class (being the oldest), I had to negotiate with our class adviser.

An angel playing a mandolin To convince my teacher to support our plan I said, each one will get the chance to introduce their food, how it was prepared, learning at the same time having fun, I added. Thank God it wasn’t difficult to convince our teacher, but she did provide a few rules to follow like to close the window blinds, to minimize noise so as not to attract attention and disturb other classes in the building.

We had a week to prepare, and everyone was so excited, energized. We had smiles all over our faces. From the sharing of food, another idea popped up that each of us had to wrap a gift to exchange. The day came and everything just fell into place as planned except that we need to resume normal classes at 3:00 in the afternoon. I had already thought of asking permission to leave the class early so I could catch the celebration of the Eucharist at 6:00 in the evening. I had to leave class at four so I could secure a good space in church. I gathered the courage to ask permission saying that I have something important to attend to in the afternoon. I was glad she nodded in agreement but when I was in the train on my way to the church I received a text message from my teacher asking me if I am a follower of Christ. All of a sudden, I felt so insecure thinking that it might be my last day and the demise of my missionary journey in the country had come. I managed to collect my thoughts and replied, why do you want to know? She replied, tomorrow I will whisper in your ears why.

I had a sleepless and long night. Arriving in my classroom the following day, Christmas day, I took a deep breath and approached my teacher. At first I was confused to see her seemingly comforting smile. I bent over and she touched my hand, and whispered, “I am a follower of Christ too.” Hearing her say those words made that Christmas so memorable. She further shared how risky it is to show her faith in the open, fearing her being a follower of Christ will jeopardize her work including the safety of her family.

I am grateful for the birth of friendship built on mutual trust, a Christmas miracle. Although I must admit that initially I maintained a close but cautious relationship with her. Over the years, the friendship that developed with my teacher provided me venues to know, understand, and experience up close and personal the life of the people in the country.

That December 24th and 25th in 2015 was spectacular! I carry this mission story in my heart and at every opportunity share it so people who are willing to hear it so that they may appreciate and treasure the freedom to express, and live their faith in the open.