An Indonesian Dutchman and a Flemish Ecuadorian
The Netherlands and Ecuador, January 2020 -- Fr Andy Jebarus (37 years) and Fr Jef Delporte (77 years) are both Salesian missionaries. Fr Andy was sent to the BEN Province (Belgium North - Holland) in 2009 and comes from Indonesia, while Fr Jef from Flanders (BEN province) has already spent 46 years in Latin America (Paraguay and Ecuador).
How did you meet Don Bosco?
Andy: When I was 20, I met a young Salesian by accident in a church in Jakarta. I had never heard of Don Bosco before.
Jef: I met Don Bosco at the oratory in the diocese of Bruges, Belgium as one of the youth. I went there every Sunday with my friends. I met Don Ackaert, a priest and friend who made Don Bosco's life come truly alive.
Are you happy?
Andy: All vocations have their challenges. Despite everything, I am very happy with what I am today. I am an enthusiastic and optimistic person and I hope to stay so, especially in my mind.
Jef: What characterizes me is that I feel happy as a Salesian and as a priest. I also learned a lot from ordinary people. That's how I thought I brought Jesus to the people, but he was already there before me.
How do you see the future of the faith?
Andy: I'm here in Amsterdam to live my faith totally. I want to make my faith visible to young people and therefore make the presence of Jesus tangible. Everyone believes in something, I think. If all Christians made their faith felt, I am convinced that there would be a great future for the faith and for Jesus Christ.
Jef: Being believers is a challenge. Here among the Shuar people faith was the force that supported everything. Now they look to the modern world and their faith fades. But the values of faith attract them, especially young people. And that is our task: to make Don Bosco alive, his heart, his faith for God, Jesus and the Church. Today, with these people.
How do you contribute to this future as a missionary?
Andy: I do the ordinary things that have been entrusted to me in the name of God. Every day I try to make the love, meekness and kindness of Christ tangible through my words and actions. This is only possible by staying close to people and living among young people.
Jef: I spend a lot of time with indigenous people, especially through youth ministry. We recently organized a large Youth Congress here. About 500 young people have arrived. It is the 18th Youth Congress in Ecuador.
How do you rate your experience?
Andy: Being a missionary in Flanders and the Netherlands is a big challenge! Just like a child, I had to learn everything from A to Z again. The language is difficult, the climate is terrible, the culture is different and the way of thinking is also completely different.
Jef: I am grateful to the Salesian Congregation for all that it has given me. From Westhoek I ended up here among the Shuar in Ecuador. For me it is something special. It is not my merit, but a gift from the Lord. And I thank the Lord for being able to do something for the young people. The young people themselves taught me a lot.
Do you have a dream?
Andy: My biggest dream is that people - and especially young people - can experience the love, sweetness, justice and kindness of Christ. And I pray that everything I do will bring them closer to Christ.
Jef: Yes, to continue my work among the people and to teach young people to discover Don Bosco.
NB: Fr. Jebarus is one of 7 missionaries for Project Europe in BEN Province.