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Young Blood

My Mindoro exposure

Being a missionary is not easy. Indeed, it is so difficult. I am fully aware that I have to give up everything that I value most. I have to say goodbye to my family, loved ones, friends, neighbors, and hometown. And the most difficult: I have to take my own cross to follow my heart’s desires.

Entering this kind of life is like going into a forest or journeying into the desert. It is a venture into an unknown and unfamiliar world and leaving behind my comfort zone.

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Late last year as we prepared ourselves and packed our things for our 6-week mission exposure, my fellow novices were busy and excited. What I felt was totally different simply because I did not want to be assigned to Mindoro. I preferred to be sent to Malabang, Lanao del Sur. But as the saying goes, all things fall into place. Whether I liked it or not, I had to go where I was assigned.

I arrived in Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro, at 6:35 in the morning of Jan. 1, 2012. I was happy enough because I got there safe and sound. I attended the Mass and Father Dong introduced me to the community.

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I appreciated the warm welcome of the parish staff, catechists, and parishioners. I wondered what activities were in store for me, but unfortunately I had to wait; there was no plan yet. I became quite bored thinking of what would happen next. It seemed to me that my stay in the parish would be useless.

I needed to do something to brighten my day and keep from getting bored. I was preparing to talk with the catechists and staff of the parish when suddenly  Ate  Yolie invited me to visit her place and conduct a Bible study there. Without hesitation I accepted her invitation.

When I reached the place, I was led to their gathering. The lay minister requested me to share something during the homily. I was quite nervous and didn’t know what to do but, although unprepared at that moment, I said yes. I decided to talk about the story of Job because it is my favorite story in the Bible.

Later I was surprised to hear  Ate  Yolie saying that I did well and that she learned something that somehow touched her. I realized that when faced with something unexpected, I needed to challenge myself to go on.

At the end of the day, I was happy. For the first time I had conquered my fear of standing in front of a crowd. It was like hitting two birds with one stone: I overcame my fear of speaking in public and at the same time motivated my audience to have faith in God.

Much of my stay in Occidental Mindoro was spent teaching catechism in different public schools in the parish. We went to the remote areas of the province. The realities I found there moved me and encouraged me to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher or a priest so I can serve the less fortunate and marginalized sectors of our society. I realized that there was no need to travel to another country in order to do mission work.

I was extremely saddened to see young Mangyan children making charcoal for a living. At their young age, they were being forced to engage in dangerous work. I was moved and decided to give them money although I was aware that it was merely temporary help and was in fact not enough. I might have been able to feed them for a day, but what about the next day and the next? I knew that the children would continue to make charcoal until they grew up, became adults, and eventually died. I came close to crying and began to appreciate my own circumstances in life.

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In the past I always complained about the hardships that I had experienced in my life. But after seeing the children and comparing their situation with mine, I realized that my so-called hardships were nothing. I am lucky because education was accessible to me, unlike those children who have never had the privilege of education. I am lucky that I am able to eat any kind of food that I want, unlike those children for whom bananas are enough. I am lucky that I can wear decent clothes and shoes, unlike those children who have to go barefoot and who have to endure cold and hot weather without clothes. I am lucky that I sleep on a comfortable bed and in a fully furnished room, unlike those children who have to cope with a leaking roof every time it rains.

The plight of those children encouraged me to persevere to attain my dream in order to be able to help them someday.

My mission exposure in Mindoro changed my perspective in life in many ways. First, it strengthened my vocation. Second, I realized that missionary work is very much needed in our own country. Third, I learned that I should be open to all possibilities and surprises in life, for had I refused my mission assignment in Mindoro, I would never have encountered the Mangyan children there. Fourth, I realized that I should be thankful for everything that I have and for all that I am. Lastly, I realized that in order to profit from my experiences and realizations, I must remember them and value them in real life.

God wants me to do more than simply remember this experience. It may be His way of bringing growth into my life. And that’s the beauty of my Mindoro exposure.

Arfie John Maghanoy Gultia, 26, holds a degree in public administration from Mindanao State University and is a novice of the Missionaries of Jesus.

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