Don Bosco's charism is timeless and relevant today
Cebu, Philippines, 16 November 2019 -- The series of interviews with our EAO lay missionary volunteers (who are sent) and the receving SDB communities (who welcome them) continues. We believe, these stories will inspire more Salesians to open their hearts and doors for this important Youth Ministry and Missionary experience with and for the young.
How was your volunteer experience?
Myanmar is one of the least countries that I would have liked to go to. I had not heard so much about it in the past. But when I learned that Don Bosco had a desire to go for missionary work in Myanmar I started to get interested in the place as well and wanted to see the answers myself. I was curious why he wanted to be there so I applied for volunteer work in Myanmar for 3 months. I was placed at Anisakan and my main task was to help the youth enhance their English language. It was not as easy as I thought. The notion of being away from home and going out from my comfort zone, experiencing back pain for 2 months since I arrived there and not being able to sleep well because the pain was too much to bear were my stress during my volunteer service. But it did not discourage me and it was not a big deal for me after all. It helped a lot that the Salesians especially in the community where I stayed in Myanmar were very warm to me and treated me just like family. I appreciated how they supported me all throughout. I was genuinely happy to be with the boys and youth especially when they sought my help because they wanted to learn more. I was enriched to witness Don Bosco’s active works for the youth in a different context and culture. It was reaffirming to see the presence of the Salesians among the youth whether at play or prayer, in studies or in work time. It was also heartwarming for me to know the seemingly insurmountable history of survival of the Salesian works in Myanmar until now. It was something that ignites me more to be a collaborator in Don Bosco’s mission in one way or another. I admit that 3 months was not enough and I yearn to do for more. If given a chance to do volunteer work again, I would like to dedicate longer service commitment or even a lifetime, whichever God calls me to do.
What was one of the greatest joys of the experience?
Being with the boys and youth, talking to them, playing and praying with them, imparting my knowledge to them especially the lessons of life and seeing them smiling back at you.
What was the one of the biggest challenges of the experience?
The language barrier made it difficult for me to engage in deeper conversations with the people there especially the youth. Sometimes I could feel that they (especially the boys and youth) wanted to talk to me but opted not to by running away or keeping silent when I was around because they were shy to speak in English. It could have been better if I put an effort in to know the language well even if I only stayed for 3 months so I could help more, know them better, learn and inspire from their life stories and establish good and lasting relationships with them.
One thing you learned from your volunteer experience?
Don Bosco’s deep love for the poor especially the children and youth, the reason why he wanted to go to Myanmar and the power of active presence and accompaniment of Salesians among the young.
How has this experience impacted your life journey?
It was a journey of spiritual nourishment for me. Despite the fact that I was assigned to a Buddhist country, I was amazed to see myself and the Catholic community there immersed actively in the daily and regular spiritual activities (holy mass, rosary, morning and evening prayers, holy hour, weekly prayer meetings in one of the homes of a Catholic family) in Anisakan from morning to evening. It was something I really thought back over a lot and asked myself how could I not do it everyday back at home when I’m blessed enough to have lived in a Catholic country.
What does Don Bosco mean to you after this experience?
I think Don Bosco was really a man of God. His charism is timeless and his ministry for the poor and less fortunate youth is still relevant nowadays wherever it may be around the globe. Even though he has died, he still continues to fascinate people like me and becomes my instrument to grow strong in faith while I take part in his mission for the youth.
What can the message of Don Bosco offer to the world of today?
Don Bosco’s message offer a great hope to the world today - a hope for the poor and less fortunate children and youth to have second chances and to live a better life; a hope with utmost trust and confidence for fraternal solidarity among the Salesians of today despite the differences; and a hope for humanity, that is to save our souls.