“God will make a way where there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see; He will make a way for me. He will be my guide, hold me closely to His side. With love and strength for each new day, He will make a way. He will make a way.”
As I look back now how I became a lay missionary of the Hong Kong Catholic Lay Missionaries Association (HKCLMA) in 2006, the repeated lyrics of “God will make a way” came to me. I am really grateful that God gave me this wonderful opportunity by utilizing my skills for serving Him. It has been a life-changing experience which continues to bring much impact in my spiritual journey until now.
When I first came to know about the work of the HKCLMA in 2002, I was moved. I admired those who worked in the medical, teaching and engineering fields because their skill sets are typically most needed and called for in the developing countries. Being a finance and administration person for all my working years, I saw what seemed to be impossibilities to serve despite the fact that I would really like to serve Him by contributing my skills and knowledge to help those less privileged than myself. I began praying by then, telling God my inner desires.
God prepared me and a way for me. While working at the time, I was drawn to and attended almost all the HKCLMA formation programs and gatherings through which I was able to share my thoughts with the HKCLMA. It had been indeed a time of preparation for me: I realized that after all it is our love not our work that God counts and calls for. Also, it is not so much about our playing the role as a giver or helper when we serve; we are indeed needy and the blessed recipients at the same time.
It did not take long for God to make a way for me. I received a call from the HKCLMA one evening in mid-2005, informing me about the need for a finance person to serve in the Jesuit Service in Cambodia (JSC). The community wanted to release the existing priest from handling the accounting work in order to give more time to pastoral work. As I was listening to the needs and the situation, I knew immediately that it was the answer to my prayer. From then on, I underwent further formation programs, including meeting with a spiritual director regularly. I was sent on Ash Wednesday in February 2006.
Lay missionary life in Cambodia was challenging, but God had been my guide and strength in everyday life. Apart from adapting to the hot weather and a new culture, handling finances in a workplace where there was a low awareness of transparency and accountability had not been easy. Much of my days in the Jesuit Service’s finance office were to enhance a better internal control system in order to ensure the basic segregation of duties and check and balances were in place. In accompanying the finance team and JSC staff, I came to understand that working with integrity in a society where corruption is often culturally embedded was extremely hard. At one point of time, I was like Jonah, who disliked the “sinfulness” of Nineveh. God taught me that nothing is unclean in Him and His love and salvation is not exclusive for only a few, but inclusive for all.
Despite the challenges, the days in Cambodia have been a rewarding experience. It was indeed an extended retreat for my reflection, an express train that I took in my spiritual journey. God turned the land of poverty to a “retraining camp” for deforming and reforming me. Having left the luxury or convenience of city life behind and lived a simple lifestyle in the Jesuit community, I was given a lot of opportunities to interact with and learn from the fathers, brothers and sisters of different congregations as well as other lay missionaries, volunteers and the locals. I enjoyed the time spent in the centers of the Sisters of Missionaries of Charity, Catholic student center, parish centers, and various refugee and JS projects. Through service and prayer, I came to know and love my true self. I was (and am) assured of God’s love and His love for me.
On completion of my 2-year mission in Cambodia, I went for further studies and completed a diploma in Christian studies, then a master degree in theology. I am grateful that I had such a privilege of having another extended retreat. I enjoyed my study, through which I learned to know more about the church history, spirituality, Vatican II documents and other subjects in a systematic way. I was particularly delighted to come across the decree on the apostolate of the laity which affirmed my understanding of the vocation of the laity in the mission in the Church and in the world.
After finishing my studies, God made another way for me. Knowing my inner desire is to contribute my skills and knowledge in finance, I was led miraculously to work as a finance and administration coordinator in a non-governmental organization (NGO) whose work is to promote the development of democracy in Burma/Myanmar. Although the organization does not label itself as a faith-based organization, most of the co-workers hold Christian/Catholic faith. I felt like home especially when I knew that one of the board members is a Jesuit priest.
It has been over a year now since I start working with this organization. I am really grateful that I have this opportunity to continue serving Him and the less privileged. My spiritual journey is still on-going. I trust that with love and strength for each new day, He will make a way. He will make a way.