A letter to a young missionary
This past month the Delegation of Indondesia -Timor Leste sent on mission two of its theology students, who were also two of my best English students. Whereas most missionaries are not sent on mission until after perpetual profession (final vows) or ordination, these young men are being sent on mission while they are still students. I, too, as a student have been sent on mission, but their assignment is different. They will become members of the new delegation of Uganda-Tanzania, whereas I will come back to the United States at some point in the future. They follow the model of our Father general who was sent to mission to Japan at the age of 24 and became a permanent member of that delegation..
Their mission shows the variety of ways we are sent. Some are sent, like me for a short time, others go for a few years, and some will go on mission with their whole life.
Before leaving the brothers shared they were scared to leave their country for the first time, and they were sad they would not see their family for many years, but one of them said, "Sometimes I don't want to go, but I am a missionary and I will go because it is God who is sending me." He had not even left yet and yet he was teaching me how to be a better missionary.
As they left I wrote them this letter, to give them one last encouragement. (The word "adow" is Indonesian for "Oh no!)
At the time of this blog, the brothers have safely arrived and are fully engaged in learning about their new home, the culture, and the new language Kiswahiili. Their latest facebook shows them with giraffes in the background, so I know they are making new friends.
My Dear English-speaking Brother,
At this moment I know you are filled with many emotions like never before in your life. Excited, happy, anxious, enthralled, nervous, mystified, scared, and maybe even petrified (please make sure to look up the words you don’t know in the dictionary, I did want to give you one last lesson Teacher Adow! :-0 because for the next few months your dictionary will be your best friend (after Mary and the Bible of course.)
This is without a doubt the biggest decision of your life so far, don’t worry…you will have many more like this. Moments like these are practice for our final “yes” to God. And right now you are doing great! Try to take in all the blessings and goodness of this moment. Think for a moment of ALL the people that are praying for you (your community, your family, your friends, and least of all me); This is what will get any missionary through the brief moments of being afraid. Think of our Mother Mary and her Son are preparing a place for you. Think of your new brothers who are going to welcome you with their whole hearts. Think of all the people of God in Africa that will need you. The best way to move beyond any fear is to remember your mission and the people to whom you are being sent. Once our focus is taken off ourselves, we are able to move away from our feelings of fear or inadequacy because we think we do not have enough talents, you have all the talents God wants you to have for this mission. If you still think you are not prepared enough, read Luke chapter 9 and remember the apostles were simple fisherman who certainly thought they did not have the talents to preach and heal the sick, yet they did! Lastly, think about God. Please remember “if God leads you to it, He will see you through it.”
The African people love rhythm, in their words, in their music, and in their lives. I was sad about your leaving for a few days but I am at great peace now because God gave me a glimpse of your life in Africa. And at the moment that I saw you entering the rhythm of their dance, my heart came to peace, as I hope yours will. I saw you dancing with such joy, it made me joyful and it reminded me to tell you about one of your greatest gifts.
You leave Indonesia with a treasure from your culture that has prepared you better than any words of mine or Fr. Sabu, or your other teachers and formators― it is your gift of music and singing. This gift is what will help you to deeply enter the lives of those you are to live, work, and pray with in a way nothing else can. You carry a song within your heart that is “good news” for all who will meet you. If you can live in this song, they will listen the words of Scripture you also carry with you. You carry a song within your being that will be the bridge that connects Indonesia to Africa- the notes of the music may be different at times, but this is all the same song―Let every song be of love- The Father’s Love.
Not only the Father’s love for you, but also the Father’s love for them, and the Father’s love for the world He is asking us to build. Many have never seen this love. The songs inside you will help them to see this love that was born of Mary. Be a true son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and let this love be born in you. This love will start small, just as the Christ child was when He was born, but it will grow, as you will, in wisdom, age, and grace. May you always be close to our Mother Mary in prayer, she will bring you with her to the heart of Jesus. You leave Hati Maria (the heart of Mary) that you may live in Hati Yesus (the heart of Jesus). From time to time you may want to look at these words to remember you have a mission―You have been called to enter the African dances with an Indonesian song in your heart.
May the blessings and love of our Mother and her Son surround you brother until we meet again.