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Interview with Fr Andrew Tin: My call is Mongolia!

By our own correspondent

Darkhan, Mongolia, 30 October 2020 -- Twenty years after the 2000 AD Jubilee Salesian Missionary Expedition, Fr Andrew Trung Tin (53 years), now a member of the Darkhan community, is one of the more than one hundred Vietnamese SDB missionaries. Indeed since 1999, almost 130 Vietnamese Salesians have been sent as missionaries ad gentes by the Rector Major, and Fr Andrew is the first of this lineup of missionaries as a member of the 2000 expedition. After being 'stranded' for 10 months in his native Vietnam due to travel restrictions, a few days ago Fr Andrew was able to return to his beloved Mongolia and now shares his missionary heart with us.

How was your missionary motivation in 2000 and how is your missionary motivation now?

Actually my first motivation to become a missionary happened in the novitiate. That time I was eager to do something for the young anywhere according to the needs of the Congregation. Then before priestly ordination I replied to the appeal of the Rector Major for the 2000 Jubilee Missionary Expedition. Of course the animation of Fr. Luciano Odorico (Missions Councilor) was crucial in this process. I really wanted to offer my life for others, those most in need!

Now, it's already 20 years of missionary life since I left my own country. Due to the pandemic I have returned a few months later from my home visit. While I was staying in Vietnam and could not return to the missions, many people tried to convince me to stay and even my family told me that 20 years have already passed and that is enough! Now stay here with us and work for your homeland, there is a lot of work in Vietnam - it's not necessary to go to Mongolia again! Yes, there were a lot of temptations and the invitation to stay. But I myself knew that was not my call, not my true vocation!

My call is for Mongolia! Now I am back on the mission already. After many years of living and breathing the Salesian air, spirit in the mission land, my motivation is just for the love of Jesus, the love that makes me focus more and clearly on one single goal! The only strong motivation for me is to choose a humble service to God and his people. And I long to see God’s children return to him. That is paradise, that is my salvation!

What makes you a happy missionary now?

Am I a happy missionary? Really, this is a good question for me too! Being a happy missionary is not always “smiling” while being rejected, being hated, being misunderstood or being a stranger, a foreigner. Can we be happy amidst all this? I'm really sometimes down, due to different trials, different companions or different areas…. But I think missionaries aren’t meant to be miserable. I am here to experience many things and also happiness. “People are meant to have JOY”. I am happy to be a missionary because I believe that this is God’s plan for me, God called and sent me to this mission, I can see that people are still happy with me and I am living with them in an active way. I can see the hope, the future in this mission. While we contribute our good education for the young, we share our faith with the people.

What are your main challenges as missionaries ad Gentes in Mongolia?

There are some sacrifices: the family, the aging parents, friends and cultures left behind. These are not easy things to just forget and leave behind. To cross geographic, cultural, linguistic barriers is still extremely challenging. Also a foreign context, unfamiliar context, culture struggle to find our way around, nothing is familiar or simple. Then we face the struggle to know whom we can trust; lack of meaningful friendships, feeling lost or confused.

The language challenge: not being able to express yourself, language also encapsulates cultural ideals and practices therefore lack of fluency in Mongolian language may cause weaker cultural exchange, struggle to understand all of the non-verbal communication which is all around.

The challenge of the mixed culture or international environment among the confreres. Sometimes you may feel a kind of indifference, when the confreres do not open their heart to welcome other cultures with mutual love and sense of acceptance.

The challenge of Gospel proclamation. Yes, it has never been easy in the history of the Church and here for us as a foreign religion and the line of thinking that does not mash with or make sense for their particular world view.

And last but not the least is the environmental challenge of health, climate and geography. All these things hinder our daily work, sometimes we are even forced to return home.

Many challenges seem to be almost impossible to overcome from a human perspective but our God doesn’t operate and work within human limitations, He’s all powerful, all knowing, all present everywhere. He has power to change hearts, minds and transform lives.

How do you experience the intercultural richness in your Mongolia delegation community, with 9 SDBs from 7 different nations?

Yeah, there is a lot of richness, so we can inspire creativity and drive innovation: Our international community is more competitive and effective in apostolate, we are more attractive and stronger in the mission. Our international communities are more productive, foster mutual respect, bring advantage of adaptability and a happier life.

There are challenges, too: some cultures are maybe less likely to let their voice be heard, we may be lost in translation, communication can be misinterpreted or misunderstood across languages and cultures in different ways. There might also be conflicts in working or living styles within our community life. And sometimes we feel it is not easy to correct each other, because of different standards and concepts.

After 20 years in the missions, what are your dreams for the Mongolia Delegation's future?

Dream! We are all sons of the Dreamer, Don Bosco. There are many dreams, but the first dream is for the Salesians: how to be a good and happy Salesian missionary, with mutual love, care and concern for each other. The same about our heart and mind for the mission. Planning all things together but to make more fun, joy with our companion, without distracting from our main goal.

Dream for the mission: How to provide good and quality education of the young. Not only technical or academic knowledge but human growth towards a mature, self-confident and responsible character. How to educate for the sense of life for others, for the country or for the church community.

Dream for a better life for the Mongolian people, where everyone has a proper job to do, basic needs met and has a family to love!

Dream for the Mongolia Catholic church, that is alive with the Joy of the Gospel. A Church that is welcoming and also is welcomed, a Church that offers good teaching and provides a foundation in order to transform for better this society.










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