When I said YES to the Lord and joined PCLM in 2009…it was a YES all the way, no ifs & buts…no turning back. It was not a yes without the angst of “letting go”.
I’ve often felt I am called to a “road less travelled” as Scott Peck aptly termed this kind of life we live. Being active in church activities way back in college coupled with my desire for healing…introduced me to knowing God in a more profound & intimate way. Who is this God who they say-loves me more than anyone on earth could love me? It was intriguing. This motivated me to grab the opportunity to join AdDU IIRE’s post-grad scholarship program on theology (Thank you Fr William Malley).
After landing my 1st & last stable job- in government service, I recall attending a vocation animation session which focused on world mission. What struck me most was the statistics presented: world’s great religions vis-a-vis number of population per continent alongside the number of missionaries/area. I was further struck knowing that Christianity is a minority. The disparity challenged me to ask myself…can I possibly be one among those who will respond?
The inner ‘stirring’ began that way. I was 23 then. But I protested. Lord, give me some more time. You granted me this job at gov’t service fulfilling my desire to serve the country & help my family. If I serve well, it’s as if I am already serving you… or so I thought. So I stuck with service through the youth ministry & the PPC (OLPGV Dadiangas Parish, Gen. Santos) after office hours. (To further assuage my guilt of not serving full time, I started giving to a mission society called (surprise!)…PCLM as partner-in-mission.)
This “time-standstill -protest” later narrowed down into “5 more years,Lord” then a couple of ”2 years na lang,Lord,pwede?” In short, I dilly-dallied for so long until the ‘stirring’ became like buzzers and doorbells… then the sound of ’wang-wang’ of an ambulance. Rick Warren’s bestseller “Purpose-Driven Life” drove home the point in 2003. I was 39. I considered it Year 1: discernment period. Every year since then I invested in a 3 to 5-day personal retreats anywhere. Then an 8-day Ignatian retreat nailed me down, finally. Bro. Noel, SJ, then JRH Director in Malaybalay, ably guided me in my heart-wrenching confrontation with …myself, no less. It is now or never.
Thus, in May 2009, after submission of application for early retirement from a 21-year- gov’t- service, I took my last salary. And joined the 33rd PCLM Formation program in Davao City. I was 45, the age limit imposed on applicants. Nakaabot og last trip.
Fast forward. Told that missioners are not free to choose their initial assignments, Elvie,my partner & I were sent to Tubungan, a 4th class municipality in southern Iloilo. This assignment was a detachment from what I got used to: always in a hurry; having things my way; w/ immediate resources at hand; w/ staff at my beck & call. Yes, a comfortable bed; friends & family just around.
Whilst, mountainous Tubungan is so laid-back. I actually felt the silence of the nights – deafening, literally. The green ricefields during the rainy season; the sweet ‘pajo’ (mango) of summer; the gentle stream intertwining two barangays which is traversed by foot…in less than 2 hours if we walk fast enough and; most importantly the love of the people esp in the barangays made the initial adjustment soothing to the heart. Leaving my own family & home to welcome more families, more homes…is worth the sacrifice. The organizing (of BECs) may be not a bed of roses but sowing the Word of God in otherwise not-so-fertile hearts (like our own, sometimes) is more than enough healing and reward.
That is the romantic side of mission. The flipside story is as normal as gathering mud in our shoes during the rainy days. The disappointments and frustrations eventually …came & must be overcome. In my heart, I knew the ‘call’ was genuine, my decision – right. I found the peace that is ‘beyond understanding’. My only regret: I hadn’t said yes when I was 35. Today, I can truly say, we walk (not run) by faith, not by sight. I knew I am already a missionary long before I joined PCLM. (Thank you, Christ’s Youth in Action (CYA) for such tremendous influence). All are missionaries by virtue of our baptism.
Let me close by sharing this prayer by Thomas Merton:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me. Nor do I really know myself. And the fact that I think I am following Your Will – does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have this desire in all that I do. I will not fear for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Evangeline “Vangie” Q. Pico