By Columban Lay Missionary Febie Gonzalez

It took a long time for me to discern my full-time ministry until I finally found myself working with mentally and developmentally challenged individuals at Ai Jia (House of Love) Development Center in Taiwan.

Let me tell you how it all began.  One day while I was waiting in the bus queue after a meeting in Taipei, an old man approached me asking for help while pointing to the bottle of water inside his bag.  He was not speaking clearly, so I didn’t understand what he was trying to say.  I presumed he needed help to drink his water so I got the water bottle from his bag and helped him hold it while he drank.  Afterwards, he was very happy and we parted ways.  This experience inspired me to visit the centers for mentally and developmentally challenged individuals.  I went to visit three centers and I finally decided to work at Ai Jia Development Center in Longgang, Taoyuan.  This is a center for mentally and developmentally challenged adults.  My work is to help the teachers look after the students and take care of them.  I help feed them, accompany those who need assistance in going to the toilet, assist in maintaining their personal hygiene.  I also participate in their classes, helping them with their exercises and games, I pray and eat with them, and we all attend Mass together.

Febie Gonzales

At first I had difficulty understanding them because of the different languages including Mandarin and other local languages.  Nobody speaks English.  Thus, it challenged me to embrace the difficulties in learning the language and immersing myself into the environment.  As time passed by and with my prayers I gradually adjusted to and enjoyed my work in the center.

My work is not easy.  In fact, it is very challenging.  Every student is unique and needs special attention.  My work demands a lot of patience, strength, understanding, kindness, humility, compassion and love.  Each day I have a different experience in journeying with them – good and bad, happy and sad.  However, at the end of the day there is always a deep joy that I feel in my heart that strengthens and inspires me to go on.

Eventually, the challenges I faced everyday became my greatest blessings.  Wherein I discovered and reflected my own weaknesses, imperfections and brokenness, all of which led me to self-acceptance and most of all an appreciation of the gift of life that God has given me. Moreover, the students have taught me to be courageous and to be confident in speaking Mandarin and their language out of pure love.  Aside from that I learned to live a simple life by living in the present moment that is full of joy, happiness, love and peace.

I am so thankful to God for calling me to this ministry.  My life in the center is a joyful experience of sharing the greatest blessings of God’s love that He gave me.  God is love. Faith, hope and love; the greatest of them is love.  – 1 Corinthians 13:13

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