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austraLasia #3396

  

Michael the Mission Marathon Man

Seoul: 17 March 2014 
-- 
In Seoul the forsythia (sunny splashes of bright yellow flowers) are letting us know that spring is budding. As the door is closed on winter, hopes turn to the colours and scents that flowers represent. So too, many youngsters in the springtime of life in Poipet, Cambodia, preparing for a bright future, may have picked up a rather special 'scent', sweaty though it may be: a marathon in Seoul on their behalf.

The protagonist of the story was Fr Michael Chang, head of the Mission Office as well as Provincial Economer. Fr Michael took part in the Seoul International Marathon run by Dong -A Ilbo,a major newspaper in Korea. It's called 1 won for 1m, an appeal to the people to participate in fundraising activities for supporting the missions by depositing 42,195 Won (about 40 USD) per head.

He had already completed the full marathon course four times when he was the 
principal of Salesian High School in Kwangju. His idea then was to run with his students to help them overcome the difficulties they meet in the marathon of life and help them feel that they were being accompanied by the Salesians. Now he has added a new meaning to it all - to the help the missions. His former high school colleagues who ran with him at that time gladly took up the invitation to join him in this marathon for the missions. "The Marathon started out as an educational idea, but it seems that the Lord is happy to work through simple means. Don Bosco Youth Center in Poipet, where two Salesian  Korean missionaries are currently working (Fr Gabriel and Fr Mark) until now have been supported by help coming from European countries. Hearing their difficulty in managing things because the economic crisis in Europe has seen a great reduction in aid, I thought of planning this event."

Fr Michael launched a ten day Marathon campaign, from 5 to 15 March, and received a great response, about 500 individuals, who raised 21,000,000 Won (about 20,000 USD). A double success from the project: "I kept running to the end, carrying with me the prayer intentions of benefactors who took part in the campaign. I can tell you there were critical moments when I wanted to give up the race, but I managed to find some big strides, thinking that with this effort I could contribute to the realisation of the dream of many boys in the missions."

Fr Michael ran for six hours non-stop, face drenched in sweat, legs almost conspiring against him. The smile, however, spoke of the unfailing joy of completing a race which plants a seed of hope for young people who do not find it easy to dream.

One might add - Korea has roughly 400 marathons organised in any one year. Fr Michael will be very busy!!!