Missioner Tales, Summer 2024

Reading Time: 3 minutes

At the United States-Mexico border where I serve as a Maryknoll lay missioner, an Annunciation House shelter for asylum seekers was in full swing. At the time, the shelter was welcoming 15 to 60 guests per day. The majority of arrivals were families.

I especially got to know a single mom with three children ages 1 to 7. The youngest son was a toddler when they arrived; soon he was attempting to stand and push chairs (as walkers) around the halls.

One day, the middle child wanted to play outside the building but needed a sweater. Our clothing room was temporarily out of service. With only limited pieces of clothing at hand, in place of a sweater, I took a big T-shirt and wrapped it around his neck like a cape. He was thrilled and imagined himself to be Batman. Along with his sister and a friend, they became superheroes — Superman and Wonder Woman.

It was great to see them having fun with simple stuff, playing make-believe as children should.

Coralis Salvador, MKLM

BINGO! The sound of that word brings a smile to everyone’s face — along with an excited feeling that they won something.

When I served in Taiwan, I got numerous requests from people who wanted to learn or improve their English, whether for business or to visit sons or daughters working abroad. I started a course called Practical English for Travelers. As part of our lessons we played Bingo. Not the ordinary game with numbers, but a specially-designed version using words and phrases from our class. Usually, the winner got a small prize or a piece of candy. I also had the idea to write short quotes or inspirational messages on colorful pieces of paper. They loved it! Hardly anyone chose the other prizes.

One day during our game, a student, Lily, was getting discouraged because it seemed that everyone but she was winning. I could see she was eager to win.

I quietly bent over and reminded Lily to be attentive in playing; in doing so, I took a quick glance at which words were still left on her card. Then I discreetly cheated and called the words she needed. What a shriek of joy when she won!

Well, after all, the point of the game was to learn English and keep all the students engaged.

Katrina Eggert, M.M.

Life is a gift to be shared. Back in November 2021, fraternal twins were born in our United Nations camp for internally displaced people in Malakal, South Sudan, where I served for 10 years.

One day, after our liturgical celebration, George Alphonso invited members of our church to go to his tent home to meet his wife, Angelina, and these newborn twins, named Martin and Estella. We prayed together that God would bless and protect all newborn children in our camp. At the conclusion of the prayer, we were offered a glass of mango fruit juice.

Then George and Angelina spoke of how grateful they were that we came to support them. They looked forward to the baptism of the twins in our tin-roof church.

God’s gift of life flourishes and is celebrated even in difficult places where people live, such as our camp.

Michael Bassano, M.M.

My first experience of preparing children for Communion took place in Bolivia while I was still learning Spanish.

On the day the children were to make their first confession, I worried about whether my pupils had understood me. Had I explained sufficiently? Had they learned enough? I sat in the church, praying nervously. Two or three boys had gone in and out of the confessional — in those days, a dark, box-like place where the person confessing spoke through a semi-opaque screen.

One of my students, little David, came out. He stood there looking all around until he saw me. He ran over and said excitedly, “I saw him do it!”

“What did you see, David?” I asked. David put his hand in the air and made the sign of the cross. “I saw him do it!” he repeated. “He took all my sins away!”

I have never forgotten the fervor of that act of faith. I may not have explained the sacrament perfectly, but the Holy Spirit did.

Elizabeth Roach, M.M.

Featured image: An elderly couple is shown reading in Taiwan. (Nile Sprague/Taiwan)

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Missioner Tales

Tales of life in the missions around the world.