Culture of Encounter
“A church that sees itself as missionary through and through – always going out, reaching out to the margins [is a church that] lives and breathes a “culture of encounter” in order to communicate the gospel.”
– Pope Francis
I have been sincerely trying to live out those words of Pope Francis. I would say my mission in Korea has been really inspiring, life-giving, self-transforming and truly challenging. I always claim that I am an introverted person who becomes an extrovert when I am on my mission. I cannot simply hide in my comfort zone just because of the language; I need to encounter people of different nationalities and listen to their beautiful, sad or happy, life stories whether in Korean, English, EgbalicTagalog or Cebuano. I am so humbled by the trust they had given me and am forever grateful.
I facilitated an English Bible sharing group with a few parishioners in the parish. We would read the Gospel in English, and during the sharing, they could speak their own language. On one occasion after the sharing, a woman came up to me and said “Thank you Luda, you give me hope for my husband. I will never cease praying that eventually, he too will worship God with me during the Eucharistic celebration.” I was moved by her deep desire for her husband to know God, and I pray that God may strengthen her and for her to continue to be inspired by our Bible sharing to live out her faith.
Recently, I was assigned to St. Andrew Kim Taegon parish, Uljeungbu diocese. With the support of our parish priest, Fr. Joseph Jang, and the parishioners I am peacefully and joyfully serving God’s people. During weekends I spend my time at Paju EXODUS Migrant Center relating to the migrants and our multicultural families. It has always been a blessing for me to be with them. Every person I meet inspires me, especially on how to live-out that “culture of encounter” faithfully.
One day, I was asked to meet with a migrant couple who came to Korea for work. The wife was pregnant with their second child and, due to their difficult family circumstances, was considering terminating her pregnancy. That situation brought me back to my own, very personal, experience when my mother, due to financial instability, had also considered aborting me. Thankfully she changed her mind and was very happy when she delivered me. Sharing my very own experience and faith in God with them, I was able to help them reflect very carefully on their decision and other options available to them, and look beyond their current difficulties and see God’s greater plan. Just months ago, they gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Praise God!
Mission is a constant challenge. But God’s words, “When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy spirit and of Faith.” comforts me and empowers my zeal to communicate the Gospel to God’s people. My heart has felt how much God appreciates my simple acts of love and to Him, I am forever grateful. AMEN.
Originally from the Philippines, Columban lay missionary Luda Egbalic lives and works in South Korea.