FTF / Isawisay the missionary

12:30:00 AM

In the summer following my college freshman year, my friend Paul invited me to join the Youth for the Third Millennium (YTM) Catholic Missionaries for the Holy Week Mission in Sto. Tomas, Batangas. To join, though, I had to cough up Php2,000.00 (less than US$50.00), which was a big sum for me then (well, until now, actually! Haha!). I didn't have money but I was more than willing to join. Good thing Paul found me a sponsor! 

My Mom was very supportive of the trip - she even helped me pack my bags for it! It was my first time to join an out-of-town mission, and also my first to spend Holy Week away from her. I was already 16 years old at that time, so it was about fine time that I did some things on my own. :)

Anyhow, the girls stayed in a guest house owned by the town's vice mayor. It's actually the top floor of a bank building, and I think the place is rented out regularly. Four people shared each room, and I naturally bunked with my friends, Sabs, Miko and Jackie. We spent as much time talking as we did sleeping.

Our spiritual directors were Marcelo and Mimi, a Brazilian couple. Marcelo handled the boys and Mimi took care of us girls. Marcelo was actually a Theology professor in Ateneo - and that's why we were all college students in the group. Andrea was another YTM leader, although I'm not sure if she is also from Brazil (her accent was a bit different from the couple's). They gathered us at the end of each day to collectively process our experiences.

The mission was unlike anything I've ever experienced before. On our first day, we literally went from one house to the next to talk to people about God. Some welcomed us graciously and even offered us water or juice. Others, however, were very suspicious that they wouldn't even talk to us, which was as understandable as it is sad. One of my friends even got shooed away by a homeowner, and hearing that broke my heart.

I was walking in the shoes of the Mormon missionaries in the Philippines - going door to door, getting rejected more times than getting accepted. We weren't trying to sell anything, and we weren't asking for money. We were there to talk to them about God. We wanted to invite them to the special Mass we've arranged for them. But I guess not everyone is interested.

On the afternoon of the second day, we held catechism mini-classes for kids. We were pleasantly surprised with the good turnout. Apparently, word got around that we were legitimate Catholic missionaries, so those who initially rejected us actually let their children join the activities. The Mass was equally well-attended, and we were grateful.

To be honest, I didn't get as much from this experience as I would have liked. I was young. I haven't had any Theology classes yet, and I had yet to begin understanding my personal spirituality. What I brought home from this journey was an appreciation for missionaries, regardless of actual religion. It takes a lot of courage to knock on strangers' homes, moreso to talk to them about a God they may or may not believe in.

Theirs is not an easy job, so if they knock on your door, BE KIND!
(photo from the internet)
A week after the missions, two Mormon missionaries knocked on our door. Without hesitation, I let them in and offered them something to drink. I told them upfront that I wasn't in the least interested in embracing their religion. But as I personally experienced being a missionary (albeit for only a couple of days), I felt for them. They shared that I was the first person in weeks who treated them well, so I told them about what I went through in Batangas the week earlier.

We talked for about fifteen more minutes before they stood up to leave. They thanked me for my hospitality as they walked to the house across the street. From where I stood, I saw my neighbor shut her door before the two missionaries could say anything. I just shook my head, and sadly watched the Mormons walk into rejection yet again.


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