Giving Honor

Arlene (center) with other lay missionaries in Korea
Arlene (center) with other lay missionaries in Korea

Joy and Gratitude to God

By Arlene Villahermosa

Every day in our lives we meet people of various ages and from different backgrounds. Many of them we don’t know but some of them we get to know and interact with. And maybe, in one way or the other, whether we know them personally or not, certain people make an impact on our life.

I will never forget a neighbor I had in Korea back in 2003. Her name is now blurred from my memory, but her face and what she did for me found a permanent place in my heart. I was new to the area, and the only foreigner residing there at that time. The apartment I lived in was located beside a small interior road. My room was situated midway between the basement and the ground floor; while my neighbor’s room was located at the back of mine. It was wintertime. At around 6:00 am, while I was still in bed, somebody knocked hard on my door, a knock that seemed like an emergency, but later I realized it was meant to wake me up. I stood up and opened the door.

Arlene at a Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation rally
Arlene at a Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation rally

And there she stood and without uttering a word but with just the movement of her hand, she invited me for breakfast. It was still dark and cold outside so I simply put on my warm clothes and followed her. It was dark in her room.

There was only a small night light plugged into the socket. We sat on the floor eating boiled cabbage, boiled potato and kimchi for breakfast, just the two of us. No words were spoken, except when I said my thank you in appreciation for what she did, but her gestures of generosity, thoughtfulness and kindness will forever be etched in my heart with gratitude. Here was a very simple old woman, with almost nothing in her room, but sharing with me all she had, welcoming a stranger with love. She had shown me what mission is really all about.

There are a good number of people who, by their works, words and by simply being, have given voice to those who have none – especially the poor, those on the margins, and creation itself – and have become inspirations to those who are in need. They have given hope to peoples and nations and have inspired many to continue to share the love and goodness of God by working for justice, peace, dignity of life and integrity of creation. My neighbor shared with me the goodness of God and gave dignity to the stranger she was in me.

We honor these people who have given so much from what they have – others have been abused or ill-treated for the sake of the Gospel, while some have been killed for standing up for what they believed in. There are also those who generously and selflessly help out in whatever way they can so that the mission that Jesus started will continue to flourish.

It is my hope and prayer that the efforts and lives of these courageous people will not fade into oblivion but will spark a light in our troubled times and awaken our consciousness to the great work of loving life in all its forms and living out love amidst all the world’s difficulties and challenges. And we will do this with joy and gratitude to God who is love and life itself.

Columban lay missionary Arlene Villahermosa lives and works in the Philippines.

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Columban logoThe Columbans are a society of missionaries, including priests and lay people, who minister to people of various cultures as a way of witnessing to the universal love of God.

We go in the name of the Church to announce, by deed and word, the Good News of Jesus Christ.

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Missionary Society of St. Columban
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