Walk in Love
As lay missionaries, when we are sent to another country for mission, the first thing we do is to learn their language. Since I joined the Columban lay missionaries in 2000, I have been learning various languages such as English, Tagalog (Philippines), Spanish (Peru) and Burmese (Myanmar) for my mission work in those countries.
When I was assigned to Hong Kong in 2018 as part of the Central Leadership Team (CLT), I hadn’t had the opportunity to learn Cantonese, the local language since the focus of our responsibility is in the leadership team. Apart from the CLT’s responsibility, I am doing prison ministry as my part time ministry. I visit the inmates who only speak English or Spanish. Not speaking the local language, there are limitations in building relationships with the people.
I often see a cleaning lady resting alone at the corner of the street as I make my way to the office, so I greeted her one day. Then she started to talk to me a lot with very friendly gestures. I tried to let her know that I could not speak any Cantonese, but she kept on talking to me until she finally realized that I didn’t understand any of her words.
One of my joyful experiences in my previous mission countries is sitting beside people, especially the elderly, and listening to their stories which is not possible to do in my current mission. Connecting with people where I am living is what I miss most here in Hong Kong.
With God’s grace, I slowly got to know some Filipino volunteers who also do prison visitation on their free day from work. Through them, I got to know a local person, Jessica, and her “Walk in Love” group which mostly comprises of Filipino migrants who have the same interest in sharing God’s love, serving people who are in need and also encouraging each other to live their faith in God. Although they sacrifice their free day to serve others, they always make themselves be available pleasantly. They say that it is their mission.
Since this pandemic started, Jessica has organized food distribution to the elderly on two occasions. We were given a list of elderly people from the Caritas Center and then visited them with packages of rice, pickles, and facial masks. Some Buddhist volunteers joined us in this distribution. We divided the small group of 4 -5 people and visited different sectors. Jessica, being the only local person in our group, led us from house to house.
Most elderly people we visited live alone in a small studio-type room. When we rang the house, they opened the door with big smiles on their faces. We couldn’t communicate with them as we cannot speak Cantonese, but we could see how happy they were to see us. I think it is not only because of what we brought them, but also because they were remembered by someone like us. Despite our language limitation, we could connect to each other and this made us feel blissful and motivated to continue doing this kind service.
On October 1 during the mid-autumn festival, we visited the homeless (street sleepers) at Tung Chau Street Park. Some Filipino volunteers joined and offered their day-off for this event. There was a new volunteer. He is a Hong Kong resident and told me that he got to know about this event through Jessica’s Facebook page. With the support from the benefactors, Jessica prepared lunch boxes that included a can of cola, pickles, moon cake and cookies.
When we went around to a small area where homeless people were laying down to hand the lunch boxes, I found that the volunteers already knew some of them, as they used to visit them occasionally. They were concerned about those who they had not seen there for a while and hoped that they had left the place for good. Some needed medicine for their poor health and some approached us to show us the wounds on their bodies. Jessica conversed with them, took note of their names and additional information and gave some medicine which she had already prepared. Although we all felt tired and hungry after the distribution in hot weather, the volunteers were still excited to talk about the next mission plan.
Despite our language limitation, we could connect to each other and this made us feel blissful and motivated to continue doing this kind service.
Besides the charity service, they never forget the importance of prayers. They upload some religious video clips, inspiring stories of Saints and helpful information related to Catholic faith into our WhatsApp group chat. They have such a strong devotion to Mother Mary, that each volunteer will pray the rosary one day of the week and afterwards, share their prayer intentions into the WhatsApp group chat, “Dear all, I offered my Rosary for the Global Healing and world peace. Help us to see the world thru God’s visions, without dividing lines…; Hello friends, I just offered my Rosary prayer to Our Blessed Mother for the following intentions… Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima, pray for us!; For the sick and poor, for the church of Hong Kong, for Peace of the world…Pray for us,” which we respond “Amen.”
Some of the members in this WhatsApp group live outside of Hong Kong and some don’t speak English but only Chinese. So some reflections or sharing are written in Chinese which some of us cannot understand. Nevertheless, it doesn’t discourage them from continuing to share their faith and encourage each other as sisters and brothers in Christ.
By accompanying them in their various activities, I feel my life is more connected to the people in Hong Kong. Beyond religion, nationality, our statures, our ability or limitation, we can be interconnected through our humanity which allows us to care for one another. These Filipino friends of mine, with their solid faith in God and their joyful and generous contribution to God’s mission work despite their hard life as migrant workers in a foreign land, have inspired me so much while at the same time challenged me to live my faith wherever I am and to continue my journey with our Lord.
I thank God for allowing these people to be part of my life in Hong Kong! God bless those who walk in love together!
Columban lay missionary Son Seon Young "Catharina" lives and works in Hong Kong.