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Missionaries in Asia



Young couple with a Marist missionary vocation

27/02/2014: Cambodia

Rodrigo Sánchez and Estela Ramos, a young couple from Mexico, together with their son Josué, take part in the Ad Gentes Mission of Cambodia. In this note they share their motivations with us.

Now, after a few months, we will try to answer the question that perhaps some of you had in mind, and that some actually posed. Why are you going to the missions? (And the subsequent question: why going so far?). I think we didn’t give you a full answer before because there was no real time to engage in conversation. It cannot be a simple answer, for it implies our vision of the world and where we stand in it.

Not that our experience is extraordinary in any way, but we do want to talk about our motivations because, as we usually say, we firmly believe that sharing about your life is the best way to enrich it. This is our only intention in writing what follows, and we will keep the story as brief as possible not to bore you.

Long ago, our mothers started having the first labor contractions and realized we were about to come to this world. Wait a minute… We’re beginning the story too early, aren’t we?

To sum it up quickly, we signed up for missionary life because we wanted to respond to an invitation (a call) from God. The question is: how did we become aware of it, and what was the invitation all about? That’s where the story gets complicated…

Since we were teenagers, we were touched by all the suffering we saw in the world. At that point, we thought it meant that God was absent in those situations of sorrow, not because He wanted to, but because we didn’t allow Him to be there. Since that time our hearts longed to bring God to the places where He was not known. That is how our interest for the missions began, and we discovered it was a source of joy for us. That analysis is still valid now; it hasn’t changed in its essence, and yet it has matured along with us.

We never heard a voice from Heaven, but what we felt in our hearts was as clear as a voice. We heard God speaking through different events and people, in the joy our missionary work, in the unhappiness we felt when we were not taking part in a solidarity initiative, in the silence of our prayer and, of course, in the love between us.

So, with the passing of the years, we gradually realized that our true happiness consisted in leaving our home and our country to share the Good News.

Why should we bring the Good News to people? Because we believe this is how we can help the world become a better place to live.

Why abroad? Because it makes us happy! We realize there is need and suffering in our own country, but we felt this “invitation” to leave, in the same way others feel they should stay (and sadly others feel no invitation at all).

And last but not least, we would like to share with you the way we understand this whole thing of being missionaries (Good News). We had a notion before coming, and have confirmed it with joy by living and sharing with other missionaries in Asia. This conviction also determines our work here, and is an answer to the question of why we are here.

We understand the mission (evangelizing, bringing the Good News) as a continuation of the work that Jesus started. More specifically: a) showing everybody that God is a Father-Mother who loves us deeply, and b) improving the people’s life conditions, especially of the poorest among them.

Therefore, we want to share our life with the people of Cambodia (regardless of religion, age, gender, etc.) and work with them to improve their life conditions, especially in our areas of expertise (or where we are less incompetent), specifically health and education. From the bottom of our heart we believe we are bringing the Gospel to life through the work we are doing. To the extent that we address people as brothers and sisters, we acknowledge and bear witness to the fact that God is the Father-Mother of every person.

We also know that sharing with the people will enrich us and make our life fuller. For this reason, we had no doubt about involving our son in our dreams, for we are confident that he will grow as much as us (or even more, because a child’s heart is even more open).

We are not here to convert people, or to baptize Buddhists and increase the number of Christians in Asia, or to persecute Muslims. We are here to dialogue, learn, and work with all of them. We will surely be working in the parish, singing in the choir, and teaching some Bible lessons – if our mastery of Khmer, the Cambodian language, allows us to do so! We cannot help engaging in what will be our small local Church because we like it and love it. And if someone asks about why we are here, we will say with joy that we are Catholics, and that everyone is welcome to share life and faith with us. And perhaps we will do our bit so that the Church we love will be closer every day to what Jesus wants from her.

In short, we are moved by life, and we allow life to lead us.

Rodrigo and Estela - January 2014


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