Christmas Gift

Fr. Taemoon visits Yang Ai

Fr. Taemoon visits Yang Ai

Those Whom Jesus Loves

Fr. Taemoon Kwon

I am Taemoon Kwon, a Korean Columban who was ordained a priest in 2010.

Currently I am working in China. My main ministry is to share with Chinese Sisters and priests about spiritual direction and retreats and to look for Columban vocations.

Fr. Taemoon, his mother and Yang Ai
Fr. Taemoon, his mother and Yang Ai
(in the wheelchair) on an outing

As Christmas is coming, I would like to share with you about my unforgettable experience with a lady who was revealed as another face of Jesus during my first mission assignment in China in 2007.

After studying Chinese at Hua Zhong Normal University for a year, I began to do ministry. Some Chinese seminarians helped me find some ministries. With their help, I visited many patients at a residential home which was a very poor and old two story building in Wuhan city in China. I cannot forget the date of visiting the patients for the first time. There were about ten old ladies lying in bed. They were all naked and groaning. Because there was only one person who cared for the patients, they did not expect to receive good care and suffered from several bad sores on their backs and hips. In addition, because of the smell from the rotten sores, I almost vomited. I was shocked to witness such a painful scene and did not to go there again. But life often goes opposed to our wants.

After many twists and turns, I began to minister to the patients again. It was then that I met a woman who was 48 years old and paralyzed. I called her Yang Ai; Yang is her last name and Ai means auntie. When she was 18 years old, she had a stroke which resulted in paralysis and was then sent to the residential home. Because her family was very poor, no one could take care of her while they worked to make a living. Her family paid about $18 per month for her care at the residential home, so you can imagine how desperately poor the residential home is. Because she was lying in bed for thirty years without any physical therapy, her back bone was curved. When I saw her for the first time, I had an idea to bring her out of the place for refreshment in a wheelchair. So I asked the director at the residential home, but he said that he did not have enough money to buy it. So I talked to the Columbans about this, and then we bought a wheelchair and donated it to the residential home.

Finally, helping her sit in the wheelchair, I pushed her outside of the residential home. It was the first outing in 30 years for her since she was sent to the residential home. The first outing in thirty years, can you imagine it? I brought her into Wuchang Catholic Church. Entering into the church, we saw the big painting of Holy Family hanging on the ceiling. I explained to her who are Joseph and Mary and Jesus.

Yang Ai
Yang Ai

When I saw her watching the painting with deep awe, it brought tears to my eyes because first, she had to stay in the residential home for thirty years, but with my help, she could go out and was guided to go to Church and saw the image of Jesus. I thought that it was the grace of God bestowed to both me and her, so I was moved to tears. Second, without someone's help, she could not walk, could not wash, and even could not eat. Such a poor and weak image of her is like our image humbly standing in front of God. I reflected that a human being without care of God is very weak and fragile, and I shed some tears.

The second outing with her was on Christmas day. Even though the weather was very cold, she really wanted to attend Christmas Mass. So using the wheelchair, I helped her to attend the Mass. After Mass, I brought her back to the residential home, and then, I went back to Church, and prayed to Jesus just born at a manger. At that moment, three gifts the magi brought came into my eyes, and baby Jesus seemed to speak to me:

"You brought the best gift to me which I really love. The lady whom I most love. I was waiting for her for a long time. You know how much I love her. Thank you."

When I felt myself to be loved by Jesus, and when I feel Jesus loves other people, such two different kinds of feelings of love made me understand Jesus' love at a deeper level. It teaches me who Jesus really is with so many kinds of love and compassion.

Especially He loves those who are very poor and in pain. This experience of feeling that Jesus really loves them gave me a great sense of belonging to God. My strong belief that God never abandons me no matter what I do and a great understanding of mission where I should go as missionary which is to look for those whom Jesus loves.

This experience, until now, remains so powerful to me and gives me strength and energy in doing mission work. I always remember that another face of God reveals in and through the life of people, especially the poor and the marginalized. In the end, I would like to ask you, "what gift do you prepare for baby Jesus?"

Editor's Note: Yang Ai passed away two years ago. The residential home no longer exists. Now it has become a private house. We pray for Yang Ai and all the patients who stayed there.

Ordained in 2010, Fr. Taemoon Kwon lives and works in China.