By Christopher William Lee, Volunteer
Christopher (28) is a registered nurse from Florida, USA.
He comes from a family of eight children whom he says are: “crazy and awesome at the same time”.
Florida is hot and lined with palm trees and files, so Papua New Guinea feels just like home to him.
He shares his reflections.
Rabaul, PNG, 30 June 2021 -- "There must be something more than this, right?" It is the question eventually moved me to volunteer for the mission in Melanesia. I pondered on this question while I was working at a hospital in America. However, the feeling had been growing for quite some time. I felt that I was called to something more, something "beyond".
As I took this question in prayer to the Lord, the thought came across even stronger. I needed to make a change in my life, and initially it was my spiritual director who pointed me in the direction of the mission.
"Chris," he told me during one of our sessions, "You keep mentioning mission. I want you to pursue it, really pursue it, because you’re not going to be happy until you do."
I believed that it was God’s word speaking to me through my director. I then commenced my search for a potential group to mission with. The journey of my search eventually led me to the Salesians, and when I heard about the mission in Papua New Guinea (PNG), I felt that God has chosen this mission for me. I have always loved to explore and experience of new things, so the thought of going to the ‘end of the world’ was intriguing.
Additionally, as someone who loves to work with his hands, I felt that I would fit in better with students from a technical school rather than from a purely academic school. Until I arrived in PNG, though, I had no idea what I would be teaching or doing, but I needn’t have worried for it was only a matter of time before I was given a program to fall into.
My primary duties at the Don Bosco Technical Secondary School, Kokopo include teaching, playing, and accompanying. In terms of teaching, I’ve been given the duty of Christian Religious Education, and while I am particularly fired up and excited about class, I think the boys here are more interested in games and extracurricular activities. During recess, break periods, and game times, I am engaged with the boys in several activities ranging from music to sports such as basketball, soccer, martial arts, and a variety of sporting activities.
At all times, whether in class or out of it, during games or other activities, I do what all Salesians are called to do, namely, ‘accompaniment’. I try to always make myself available to the boys so that if they have any questions, concerns, or just want someone to talk to, I’m there for them. I treasure those seemingly insignificant moments when I am talking to a student one-on-one. I believe that it is those moments that the boys open up to me and I can both teach and learn from a soul unfettered by the pressures of the world, even if only for a moment. However, many boys don’t approach me or any of the teachers, and it is towards those boys that I am most passionate in my resolve to engage with them.
Often some boys are content to just sit on the side lines and watch, while others are engaged in sports and other activities. I am passionate about trying to involve all the boys in some activity. I know that if they do not learn to get involved here, they may spend their whole life sitting on the sidelines. I have always been drawn towards the outcasts, towards those who don’t fit in or try to avoid interacting with the others. I try to bring them out of their shell to experience life more fully. It is not always easy, given the language and academic disparity between some of the boys and myself, but my past experiences have helped me prepare for this situation.
In teaching or just connecting with the boys, I try to follow the advice one of my teachers once gave me: if you can explain it to your grandma in a way that she would understand, then you can explain it to anyone. I have used this as a guiding principle in my career as a nurse, an area where I am often required to teach sometimes complicated subjects to people with little or no schooling, as well as here at the school. Don Bosco was also an advocate of keeping explanations as simple as possible, and so it is with recourse to him that I try to keep my lessons at a level simple enough that anyone could understand. And although the technical and academic courses are important in laying a good foundation for these boys, perhaps the most important lessons are the ones we teach regarding our experiences with God.
In my opinion, example is the best teacher, and it is through the everyday actions of my life that I try to communicate my experiences with God and my love for Him to everyone here at Don Bosco Technical Secondary School, Rapolo whether they be students, lay persons, or Salesians. Of course, my job here is teaching religious education, so I do the best I can both in the classroom and out of it, but I believe that the boys here will learn more from my actions than from my words.
In conclusion, having spent a month here at Don Bosco Technical Secondary School, Kokopo, I have learned so many new things and made so many new friends that if I were asked if I would still make the decision to come to PNG knowing the things I do now, I would say without any hesitation, YES. God knew what He was doing when He called me here, and I can’t wait to see what other adventures He has in store for me yet!