There is a section in Marynoll magazine called Missioner Tales that highlights short mission stories written by members of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Maryknoll Lay Missioners, and Maryknoll Sisters. The anecdotes, often heartwarming, comical, or insightful, allow readers of the magazine a small taste of what mission life is like for those who serve.
For this month’s post I decided to showcase three tales from the Lay Missioners – one each from mission in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Joanne Miya – Tanzania, 2011
While I was visiting my family in the United States, my father passed away. After the funeral, I returned to Tanzania, where I serve as a Maryknoll lay missioner. The day after my return, six members of the staff from our AIDS project arrived at my house to say, pole, the traditional expression of condolences. They came bearing gifts of fruit – enough to fill a large basket – as well as a live chicken, brought in from the village. We shared hugs and prayers.
A member of the local Maryknoll Affiliates group gave me a gift of local cloth and said that when I’m missing my father, I’m to wrap the cloth around me. The cloth was printed with the words, “God’s love is everlasting.”
The healing presence of the people with whom I live and work reminds me of why I stay in mission. We really do need each other.
Edward Sisokak – Thailand, 1999
Traveling back to Udon Thani in northeast Thailand, where I serve as a Maryknoll lay missioner, I was riding a songtaw (a pickup with benches used for public transportation). I got to talking to the driver.
“What do you do here?” he asked me.
I told him I have a computer center where I teach underprivileged youth and physically handicapped people.
When we came to my stop and I went to pay my fare, he told me to use the money for the kids at our center. “You help our children; I help you,” he said, leaving me both moved and humbled.
Debbie Northern – El Salvador, 2011
Last year I noticed a slender tree with thorns growing alongside the cashew tree in my back patio in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, where I serve as a lay missioner. I cut back the bothersome little tree several times as it was in the way of the clothesline. Recently, I discovered this nuisance was actually a lime tree and it is producing lovely limes for my enjoyment. If I cut it down completely, in my ignorance I would have lost something wonderful. This is a lesson to be careful about making rash judgements: give it time to grow and see what happens.