Coming Back to Christ Through Mission Youth Philippines
By Ana Rafaela L. Sarmiento
President, Mission Youth – Philippines
For most people, Holy Week is a time to go out of town or take a break from school or work. However, every year, about a hundred youth and a few consecrated women and priests go to a community in Cabuyao, Laguna to spend time with the people there and bring the good news of His Kingdom. Though most of the youth participants are students, during Holy Week we become missionaries and soldiers for Christ.
Going to Holy Week Missions is a difficult task and is truly a sacrifice. For most of us, it is a stark contrast to our usual, comfortable way of life. First of all, there are no proper beds and we sleep on sleeping bags on the floor of a classroom for an entire week. We wake up at the crack of dawn and walk around all day under the sweltering heat. More often than not, we need to wait for hours because there are only three working showers and about fifty girls.
Why do missionaries like me keep on going back despite the hardships? The answer is simple: because Christ Himself calls us to be His instruments to bring people back to Him. The experiences and lessons learned during missions are incomparable and irreplaceable.
During Holy Week Missions, we go around the community and engage the people in conversation. We ask how they are doing and though some are cold and closed off, most are willing to share their stories with the missionaries. In my experience, I have been welcomed into countless homes and I have been regarded as a member of the family. I’ve even been asked to be a godmother to one of the children!
During the afternoons, the missionaries have Catechism with children
Many missionaries are daunted by the idea of going house to house because they are afraid of making conversation with the people or being rejected. It takes an immense amount of courage to go to Holy Week Missions because aside from the physical difficulties, it takes guts to go out every day and talk to complete strangers about the Word of God. Before going out to the community, sometimes I ask myself, “Will I be turned away? What if they don’t listen?” Of course, there is much to be afraid of but this is why we must have the courage, trust, and humility to give ourselves up to Christ.
Mission youth teaches us to “Be not Afraid” and tell the world of His love
It was actually during community visits that I had some of my most meaningful Holy Week memories.During one visit, my team and I decided to have lunch with the family who owned the carinderia we always bought our food from. It was such an enjoyable experience because before having lunch, we helped them prepare and sell the food at the palengke. Afterwards, we all had lunch together and it was honestly one of the best meals I’d ever had. Their generosity amazed me because even though they had so little, they unselfishly shared whatever they had with us.
National Director in the Philippines, Regnum Christi Consecrated Claire Umali in one of the house to house visits in the community
Going into the community, we missionaries have the mindset that we are there to bring Christ’s message to others. However, sometimes I find that it is even the people there that bring Christ to us and teach us invaluable lessons. What continues to inspire me when I’m on missions is meeting people who, despite their status in life, still continue to be strong believersof Christ. I realized that given the comfortable life we live, it is so easy to believe and say that He is good. However, in times of hardship it gets more difficult to believe that Christ is there with you, yet some of these people seem to have even more faith than we do. It is inspiring and invigorating to see how much these people love Christ and it makes me want to have that same fire and love for Christ within me. During missions, we also do catechism with the children. We play games, sing songs, and tell stories, and it is one of the most enjoyable, albeit tiring parts of missions. Being with the children teaches us to be humble and we must not forget Christ’s call for us to be child-like in the way that we receive Him and others.
During this time of sacrifice, Christ calls us to be one with Him in His suffering and to be selfless. We are called to be generous, not just with material things, but more importantly with our time and effort. On Holy Week Missions, we spread love and continue to give love, even when sometimes that love is not returned.
Some people think that they’re not good enough to be missionaries. I beg to disagree though. Sometimes, Christ calls us at our worst so that we can change for the better. This is a time when Christ is calling us to be His instruments and for us to let Him back into our lives. As Catholics, we recognize Christ’s presence in our life and Mission Youth gives us the opportunity to share His light and love to others. This is the goal of Mission Youth and Regnum Christi – to bring about the new evangelization and welcome people back to Christ. I believe that each of us is called to missions for a reason and that is to touch lives and remind people of His love.
Get to know more about being a Missionary at: Mission Youth Philippines