“You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” (Jeremiah 1:7
The missionary sending emanates from a faith act and trust in God and conducts the human desire of supporting others in “something.” This “something” takes us to the coasts and mountains in an adventure and an unexpected experience that will remain in the heart forever.
As missionaries, we are ready to listen to and to look with our eyes wide open our surroundings. We are available for going and leaving our land of birth and we let ourselves to be guided by others. Our land also needs missionary people, but in a specific moment we are sent to other lands according the necessities that those lands have, so we are able to give a hand to the work or apostolate in our Church. I want to express my gratitude to many people who helped in my formation and supported me to be part of this work of charity.
In 2001, I learned for the first time a new language in a foreign land. It was when I received a new assignation after my perpetual vows. I think I had loved that language long before I knew it and before I was able to talk to a native speaker.
I felt myself as Timothy or John the apostle, I had to live with great missionary people. They were sisters who still live enthusiastically many years of religious life. I was not a girl, I was not born yesterday, but I asked myself, what can I do among these women? I remember when prophet Jeremiah said: “Oh Jahve! I know that I cannot express myself, I’m too young.” And Jahve said: “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.”
Something like that happened to me. For two months, I was carrying my book in my apron during any task I could support the rest of the sisters (taking care of chickens, watering the plants cooking with the ladies, rehearsing songs with people from the orphanage, healing and playing with people suffering from scabies). The most surprising thing was the Eucharist, where the priest provided an extended homily in which I did not understand a word. Time passed and I was as a “deaf-mute”. I was not able to understand whether the children talked to me or made jokes on me. A tremendous disability requires a lot of humility for learning from children, mi greatest masters and friends. This was a great stimulus for learning the language if I wanted to understand how people from community and parish talked.
In fact, I am not a person who get easily surprised, but I found from this reality a fight for learning how to live and to accept new forms for doing and living with them. In those moments, I prayed lonely to Nossa Senhora de Aitara (in Soibada), looking at our chapel in the top of a mountain from the porch close to us. I felt like one of those girls who taught me to recite the Rosary, the Lord’s Prayer and also daily activities, such as preparing food in the Timorese style. I was feeling useless because I was not able to express what I felt or what I wanted to say. In the community, everybody supported me, and it was really convenient for me, because there were two Timorese sisters who spoke English and who came to my city for their religious formation. Although they spoke Portuguese, something I hardly understood, I decided to learn Tetum, because I wanted to communicate with children and people from the parish. I truly believe that wishing is a great plus for the mission or in anything that we want to improve. As usual, wishing to change myself is a challenge, because I it requires to get back to my faith. Furthermore, it is necessary to have clearly the reasons to stay in “the mountains of life” or in inhospitable places, so far away from civilization. Everything is possible when we trust in God and in the community, especially when we want to keep on doing things for the love we feel for others.
There were also frustration moments, because what I wanted and believed as something “normal” to learn in the orphanage during the student life, it was not possible due to the context in those times. My disability debilitated my patience as well as my tolerance to the things I did not know, and children suffer with me. I felt that all my teaching illusion was in vain. I had to reject my own impulse and to learn again in order to live and walk along with them. I had to avoid being the protagonist in many times, I had to stop waiting for a change. Instead, I had to let myself to be carried out by reality, something that is substantiated by faith.
In that isolated mountain I felt God closer and that made me happy, it taught me life’s simplicity and the joy in setting myself free from “not having” and focusing on “being.” Nothing was easy, but I was happy without needing many things, including internet. In addition, I felt how the community loved and took care of me, how children supported me in the moments I needed their help. I learned to take care of them, to work with them and love them with all my soul. It seemed to me that I was knowing a kind hidden face of God.
Every day, we took care of the vegetable garden by sowing bananas, peanuts, melons and corn or by picking them up for our food in the hard times, where more than seventy people were fed, who depended on God’s providence through our work and people. Many of them had lost their parents in the war of 1999. Many times, we crossed mountains, rivers and lakes by foot and walked long roads when the only mean of transportation broke down because of carrying so many harvests. I learned a great lesson with some candidates who helped me a lot for “knowing what to do” when it rained a lot or when the sun was unbearable. They also taught me what to do in that cold water from “Mota Boarahun”, which constantly flooded the pace. Never crossed the river when its border is full of water. Crossing from one side to the other is impossible at times for up to three days! It was about surviving cold weather, hunger and thirst until someone who lived close would give us something to eat. Neighbors offered us coffee or tea with “aifarina or ailuka” (tapioca). All this taught me to trust in strangers and to wait patiently and cautionly – it was as being a person anywhere. To observe and treat them as I observe and treat myself. This way, having faith in the good God and hope in the heart help us to do things and to get used to live in freedom by following the great commandments of Jesus.
In the end, the parable of the Good Samarian in Luke 15 is well explained in the way of being and living the mission shared with others. To learn to see, “getting off the horse”, feel sorry for, healing wounds, or sharing transportation is -in itself- the act of walking and sharing life with our brothers and sisters. It is the gift of being, listening to and feeling as others do, the way they look for and fight for surviving life’s hardness, and of course, to please ourselves in small victories achieved in communion. This is for me, a way of how followers lived with their friends during the seasons and the beauty of life given by the Good of everybody. Walking with them the ways, sharing life and the Word that life gives.
Nini Rebollos (Madrid)