A deep missionary sharing of the first Malaysia rector, Fr. Ramon Borja
Kuching, Malaysia, 24 February 2018 -- It has been more than six months since I first arrived here in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. Honestly, at that time, I was thinking, by this time, construction of a Skills Training School that will be run by us, Salesians, the first in this country, would already be on-going, or at the least, on its beginning. Such that by 2019, we would have classrooms and shops, chapel and convent, a dorm and a playground, Bosconians and lay mission partners (though few at first but growing in quantity and quality), and people in this part of this country supporting our noble cause.
Well… obviously… God has other plans. All we have up to now… are plans.… Very good and very optimistic, but still, nothing but plans. Truly, God’s ways are not man’s ways. For the first time in my life, I find Isaiah 55:8 so true and alive. Before, I only hear and read about it. Now, I do experience it. God is telling me, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and My ways are not your ways.”
The very recent (just a few days ago) and very historic (the first ever where the SDB FIN Provincial and the Kuching Archbishop had a dialogue and decision-making together about the school project and the presence of the Salesians in the Archdiocese) visit of my Provincial, Fr. Anthony Paul Bicomong, accompanied by my classmate, Fr. Jose Armando Cortez who is the FIN Province Delegate for Missionary Animation (PDMA), made me feel so glad and grateful.
Fr. Andre and I felt we’re not alone. We are not left on our own. The Congregation, the whole FIN Province, in particular, is with us. To them we belong. In fact, our very presence here only means that the Salesian Congregation, through the FIN Province, through us two for now and more in the future, partners with the local Church here in caring for the young, especially the poor and the needy. The presence of our Provincial from the eve of February 17 until the morning of February 21, bringing with him not just the prayers, greetings and best wishes of the whole Province but also the concrete and substantial financial support given by all the confreres of all the Salesian communities and by the EPC of DBA Mabalacat made us feel so encouraged.
On a personal note, honestly, especially when they left (while the sky was darkening though it was mid-morning), I also felt a tinge of low-spirits. The very challenging reality started to confront me more strongly -- the reality that the school we are dreaming of will only take full shape after at least three years, only if we have Malaysian ringgit in millions and at least a minimum number of Malaysian lay who have both the competence and the heart for this kind of stuff and of Malaysian companies or individuals who are willing to partner with us, and thus acquire certification from the government which surely would not be easy and speedy. I thought things would not be this arduous. I thought things would not take this long. I felt so tempted to succumb to impatience. It was Ordinary Time when we first arrived here. Then the season of Advent came. Christmas season has ended weeks ago. We are already in the season of Lent. Why do I feel it is still Advent?
God wants me to wait. God wills that I do. This is His, not mine, not even ours. This is God’s… and it will only unfold in His time, in His grace, in His ways. Through my superiors, my Provincial, the Rector Major, my Archbishop, and the people that God continuous to send, let me be guided and led that I may be His humble though passionate, docile and compassionate, Salesian missionary priest instrument of His.
Please don’t get me wrong. Forgive my musing as a neophyte missionary. Know that I remain so happy, honored and hopeful here, feeling so blessed, wanting to be a blessing. God is not just making this Don Bosco Malaysia dream come true. I feel, He also purifies me, humbles me, crafts me, as He is doing so. God strips me of the things that I had before -- the fun, fame and fulfillment of my living my life as a Salesian priest back then in the Philippines -- so that I can and would cling to Him alone. Here in Sarawak, while all the while waiting, God invites me to a life of more surrendering, trusting and praying (and more jogging too, hihi)….
Who knows? If you feel you are part of this Don Bosco Malaysia dream, maybe He also does the same to you.
You know, just this evening, I joined the many faithful who devoutly prayed The Way of the Cross in St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Kuching. It was raining… and that made it more dramatic for me. Of the many sentiments through the words said and songs sang in that prayer activity, the following struck me so deeply. I felt the words of the song came from God, asking me, ushering me to make them my own…
I Know Who Holds Tomorrow
I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.
When will that tomorrow be when Don Bosco Malaysia becomes a full reality? I don’t know. (How I wish it would be in my lifetime though!) All I know is the God holds all tomorrows also holds my hand…. And that is more enough for me.