A missionary experience in Vietnam
A time to center one’s heart
I was sent to Vietnam, to such a different people that from the very first day I was there… I immediately felt at home! How was this possible? This is a mystery; the only thing I know is that I was blessed to be able to adapt so well to this difference and that my daily life (eating, sleeping, timetable…) turned out to be easy.
I would lie if I said that waking up at 4 in the morning is an easy thing to do… but we wake up to go and celebrate the Eucharist, and this desire enables us to overcome any obstacle! Quietly drinking one’s coffee, dressing oneself in white and black as we use to do here, putting one’s cross around the neck, going down to the hall and waiting for the others to arrive. Watching the last one as she closes the door and leaving together to walk on a dark and stony path, crossing the avenue with its infernal traffic and noting with joy that many others have already walked this way and are here in the church. Kneeling down in front of the Lord, in the unceasing whisper of people praying. Beginning the Eucharist being attentive to the smallest gesture that tells me something of what we are living, trying to answer, in my best Vietnamese, in order to unite myself to the community of believers, to the universal Church! Going out from the church, saying hello to everyone, answering their greetings, and as the sun rises, starting a new day : cleaning, having breakfast, prayer, and starting today’s mission.
Always accompanied, my days are made of numerous meetings with my sisters in the community, with the children from the school, with the families we are visiting. In the Vietnamese language, everything is marked by the relationship we have with the other, and at each encounter, I must try to know who the other is and who I am for him/her, in order to be able to talk with him/her… the words, the dialogue, the relationship are marked by this deep acknowledgment of the other – for them, this is a normal thing, but for me, I had to learn this at the gospel school. Was it not what Jesus did? Always placing the other in the middle of the relationship.
During this time, I had the opportunity to visit families, to do a little cleaning in their houses, to work with the pre-school disabled children, to take part in the youth pastoral programmes, with Caritas and the pharmacy… but I feel that my main mission was within the community: to put myself in the service of, to be available, to listen to each one, to accompany life, to welcome, to ask, to cook, to make mistakes, to clean, to learn from everything and everyone.
The community is the place where I have learned to love this people, in this community I have learned to welcome the mystery docilely, thanks to this community many of my fears have left me, through this community I have met Jesus who keeps on saving in feebleness and poverty, in our feebleness and our poverty.
In community among this people of Vietnam, we receive the Spirit and let ourselves be guided and transformed by Him ; I have profoundly lived this.
In fact, not everything is easy: it is hard indeed to feel different at each moment, not to be able to talk, not to understand what is going on, not to have the key – culturally and humanly speaking – that makes you understand or accept. That is why I give thanks to all the ones who led and guided me, to the ones who enabled me to come closer to the other ones, who drove me from one place to another, who put a word on what I wanted to express. I had the opportunity to check that I could not do anything on my own, and as I accepted my inability, my ignorance, my helplessness, this experience turned out to be a pleasant one: with humility, it enabled me to place myself in someone else’s hands and to learn to live all together. What a learning!
When you don’t know, when you are not able, especially when it comes to talking the language, you are impelled to explore new ways of being, communicating, listening. Looks, gestures, imagination, games, laughs, were means of relating with others and in my very daily life, praying everyday brought me support and forged my days. Going along with Jesus, I could decenter the heart of my look, of my culture, of my opinions, to center it back on Jesus, and with him to place the people welcoming me in the middle of my life.
I am graceful to the Lord for sending me to Vietnam, among this people, where sharing and enriching our charism is an answer to a very strong call, where the “evils of the workers” are still – nowadays – an opportunity to serve and save.
Lucia Uceda-Little Sister of the Assumption