Gertrudes signing her commitment form
... But it also Flows Like a River!
We always hear the expression “Time flies!” and indeed that is true. In 2020, I suddenly realized that I was already celebrating my 10th anniversary as Columban Lay Missionary. Truly, it is amazing how by God’s grace I made it this long, which I myself did not expect. Looking back at my 10 years of experience as a Columban lay missionary, time in mission does not only fly but also flows like a river too.
When I began my first three-year commitment to lay mission in 2010, I was thinking three years is very long, so each day seems so long too, perhaps like the flow of river in winter because the water is still frozen you could see only very little. I experienced the terrible winter of Britain that year too; the news said it was the hardest winter in the UK in the past 50 years. Snow could still enter even my high knee boots. I had a terrible cough, because I was not aware yet how to protect myself from the cold. In spite of that, it is amazing how God continually asked me to stay and even asked me to renew.
I said, okay, God, if you ask, I will renew for another three years. That second term flows smoothly, perhaps like the river during the spring. The water just flows smoothly, too–maybe because I am already familiar with a lot of things in mission and there are less struggles, unlike the first term. During my first term, I needed to adjust and adapt to many things: language, culture, food, environment and most of all the cold weather of Britain. Indeed, being in cross-cultural mission is like being born again–like a baby!
Then towards the end of my second term, God made me realized He was calling me again to continue. At that time, honestly, I started to complain. I said, God, this helps that you are asking me, but it seems endless and would take a lifetime– and I have my own plans for my life, too! I think I tried to wrestle, but in the end, I still said, okay, God, I will renew for three years only–but not six years!
Perhaps, like the flow of the river during autumn struggles due to falling twigs and leaves, I struggled too. I needed to let go of certain plans and embrace the invitation to be part of God’s eternal plan.
God is good, and during my third term He made me realize that indeed He wanted me to be part of His eternal plan, and that is because I am His daughter, and part of the heirs of His Kingdom. So, I have to continually take part in taking care of the business of my Father’s Kingdom (which is also my own Kingdom too) as his child. He is right–who else will help the Father but His children!
And that business is to spread love into the world wherever I go, in every opportunity or situation that is presented to me, to demonstrate the love and teachings of my brother Jesus Christ, because God is love!
Realizing that, I learned to set aside my own plans and trust God. As a result, I began to enjoy more my mission and catch the little pockets of joys that every situation brings. Mission is now my way of life, and Britain is now also my home.
Perhaps now, like in the summer when the water on the river flows more smoothly, I can see things more clearly now too and am able to remove obstacles that block the flow of graces and blessings. Since the surroundings are brighter, like in summer, I could better see the wonderful details of flowers and tiny little creatures like butterflies and ladybugs around, the little pockets of joys and blessings that God surprisingly throws into my path when I least expect it. He is indeed the God of Surprises.
And so finally, last June 25, 2020, at the midst of coronavirus pandemic, I signed my additional six-year commitment, and this time as a long-term Columban Lay Missionary!
Since gathering in an enclosed space is still not allowed due to lockdown and social distancing rules, we could not have a party or a celebration as we had planned.
I requested instead that I simply sign my commitment not just in any open space but specifically beside the streams. Why? Because for me, I find that symbolic in line with these Bible verses that served as my inspiration that day of the renewal of my commitment, and is also the inspiration for this article: “...Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 New International Version).
God, You are the river that watered me over the years and kept me growing in spite of the challenges and changes of the seasons throughout the years. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be part of your eternal mission of spreading love into the world!
St. Columban, thank you for the seeds of inspiration and courage that you passed on to our founders doing cross-cultural mission, the same seeds that were also passed on to me until this day. St. Columban, pray for us! And please keep me eternally in your prayers too!
Originally from the Philippines, Columban lay missionary Gertrudes Samson lives and works in Britain.