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How Hard Could It Be – Part 2

The Host Country

There were also deeper adversities. In this host country, as in many others, the cultural/religious gap between the minorities - especially the transients - and the majority is well pronounced. And this perhaps constitutes the single most difficult area of adjustment a visitor has to undergo. Despite a liberal amount of democratic space and tolerance, it is not uncommon to see locals scoffing at the community practices of aliens. Household meetings held in CFC homes for example are viewed with distrust. At times and in some places where non-Christians abound, CFC charismatic worship is feared as a fundamentalist celebration. Once when we had grown enough to organize a YFC camp, parents of the youth participants thought the weekend was a cultist gathering and alarmingly alerted the parish nuns who helped organize the event. That was the last time we ever heard from the good sisters again. And from the boys who finished the camp. For some skittish but unexplained bias, the passion of our religiosity, the conversations we carry, sometimes even just the different color of our skin, elicited aloofness from even our most friendly hosts. The language barrier was likewise an impenetrable wall. Despite a common tongue - English - used to bridge understanding of ideas and persuasions, the essence and color are somehow frustratingly lost in interpretations and accents. Simultaneous conversations in each other's native tongue also bred confusion, if not outright suspicion. And that made it difficult for us to assimilate, more so, evangelize local people into the way of life of our community. Looking back and summarizing, it seemed like the locals really felt threatened and had to just instinctively resist even a clearly winning proposition.

I do not know how you move about in your area of mission. I'm sure that many of our brothers and sisters you have met and who are residing in the countries you are visiting provide you with some kind of transport in the few days or weeks of your service-visit. That was not so for us during our emigre years. Members lived so far apart from one another that commuting by train, bus, tram, ferryboat - or all of the above - was normal during household meeting nights. Travelling the distance of say, Manila-Tarlac-Manila was typical. And since I was then (and even now) the appointed music minister in the household, I had to carry guitar case, music stand and songbook in the entire length of each route. Of course there were other assemblies, General Assemblies, teachings, Lord's Day, etc. We had something of a routine that logged us the equivalent of a generous free mileage in an airline, if you know what I mean.

The Larger Picture

Let's talk about the weather. You see our brothers and sisters in the Philippines do not seem to appreciate the fortune of living in a tropical country where there are only 2 seasons in a year (some say, wet and very wet, except during El Nino, when it's dry and fry!). We just have too much of the Hollywood stereotypes about sleigh bells and ice figure skating that the pain associated with the harsh cold of winter becomes only subliminal to us. I am sure you know what I mean having been exposed yourself to single and negative degree centigrade atmospheres. I am particularly moved for instance remembering the burden of carrying household meeting paraphernalia in 20-flight climbs over street stairs at 2 degrees centigrade, wearing a heavy overcoat on top of a 3-ply sweater at 11 in the evening. And more so, as I now recall the sight of my wife shedding real tears over the physical pain inflicted on her asthmatic and frail body during those difficult service days, I feel an empty but deep sense of nostalgic agony. Of course, these are mostly just physical difficulties, easily shrugged and rested off. Effective time and motion management is always the simple but smart solution for these types of fixes. Perhaps the more oppressive trials are those arising out of emotional strains, where a considerable amount of resiliency in mind and body becomes a critical requirement. There are, for example, relationship problems within a mixed household where the clash of cultures among Filipinos and non-Filipinos heavily stir up what otherwise are just harmless disagreements and slight differences of opinions. In such volatile situations, patience and endurance are put into a litmus test. Another is being physically away from home. This concern can hound mission worker's. And I don't mean homesickness. I am instead referring to depression caused by nagging thoughts about the physical conditions of family left in Manila. In my case, I had 2 sons who did not join me over the years of my foreign assignment. They had to stay and live on their own. Of course, that really turned out for the better, but that's another long story we will reserve for sharing when you return. But at that time, I suffered those intermittent fits of insecurities that affected both my service and secular work in varying degrees. Almost always the end effect is exhaustion - a condition similar to something like emotional dehydration which can only be restored by some sort of spiritual rehab with the Lord. Lastly, I must warn you, the world around is the other strain. A wily fox clothed in sheepskin. Its attractions are so subtle yet so magnetic to lull one into a false sense of security, and thereafter. complacency. Things to buy, places to see, food to eat, etc. can distract the focus of the work at hand. The world is a strain because it will tempt you - as it did to me - into believing that there is no need for suffering. It can twist Christ's message in the Transfiguration by inverting its process and thereby subverting its true meaning. Be on guard. You know that is not possible. There can be no glorious Christ without the suffering Jesus. The world's dizzying influence will try to convince you that no one appreciates your work; that your efforts are better spent at home where your family needs you more and that there is in fact no longer any need for a mission worker like you. My soul mate, do not listen to the world, Listen only to Him who sent you. You know, as well as I, someone needs you out there… there where the spiritual battle does not stop.

I have said a lot more than I need to. I will just leave you a mental note of assurance; I am praying for you always and I know many more are. How I wish I can imitate your dedication and find the courage that continuously propel you in your noble task. How I also wish that your example of selfless commitment will wake up those of us who remain lethargic to the call for mission. And how I wish and pray that God will touch us as powerfully as He did you and many more of our CFC mission workers like you. God speed. Always yours in Christ. By: Chito Magsajo

Back to Part 1

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