by Elbert Balbastro
Elbert Balbastro is a Columban seminarian
During this turbulent time, I always remember to pray for the safety and protection of my family, friends and Columban mission partners. Once a month, I meet and mingle with our Columban Mission partners in Cubao as they conduct their monthly recollection in the formation house. Unfortunately, due to the enhanced community quarantine, those activities are placed on hold. I miss our Mission Partners but I know that we will meet each other again.
One day, as I was passing by on our dining area, I saw three mite boxes inside a plastic. I was surprised yet happy to know that our Mission Partners are still generously sharing their resources despite the difficulties that everyone is experiencing at this time of pandemic. Seeing those mite boxes made me realize that the mission never stops even though many countries are in quarantine and closing their borders. To me, those mite boxes mean that I need to continue my mission in whatever ways I can manage in order to serve God and my neighbours. They also make me feel grateful to our Mission Partners for their unwavering support in spite of the odds that they are facing at the moment.
Mite Boxes of the Columban Missionaries
As I reflected on the generosity of our Columban mission partners, I remembered the acts of kindness of two women I met during a pilgrimage walk that the Columban students made in 2012.
We walked from Bulacan to Manaoag, Pangasinan. Already on the third day of our pilgrimage when we arrived in Tarlac at noon. I was tired and my feet were aching. We were looking for a place to stay to momentarily relieve ourselves from the scorching heat of the sun, when we found a nipa hut where a mother was preparing vegetables for lunch. We asked her if we could stay under the shade of her house for a while to cool down. Even though we were strangers, she gladly accommodated us and she gave us water to drink. We chatted for a bit and shared that we were heading to Manaoag for a pilgrimage. Turned out, she is also a devotee of Our Lady of Manaoag. As we bid our goodbyes after an hour of rest, she said, “My apologies if I cannot invite you for lunch. Our food is just enough for us but I will keep you in my prayer so that your journey will be safe.” Touched by her kindness, I replied, “No worries Ate, the water you gave, your warm accommodation and your prayer are enough for us to continue our journey.” Though I felt tired, hearing those kind words from her boosted my energy and gave me hope that we will reach our destination soon.
It was getting late when we reached the last town of Tarlac, so we went to the parish of Gerona hoping to get a place to stay for the night. The parish secretary welcomed us, and at dinner time, she asked about where we were heading. I noticed that the woman serving our meals was listening to our stories. After dinner, that woman handed me 25 pesos to buy food for the next day. She said that she believes in our objectives and that she will pray for us.
I found out later on that she is a laundress. As a part time worker, her salary was only a hundred pesos per day. She sometimes helped in the kitchen so she could have free meals.
She is a simple person in her old age struggling to survive, but she was still willing to offer the little she had. She has seven children to feed but she gave me 25 pesos. I couldn’t say anything but thanked her.
There is a commonality between these two women and our Columban Mission Partners. Regardless of their difficult circumstances, they are willing to share from whatever they have and to pray for us. Through their generosity, I am reminded that there is no crisis can stop our mission even during an uncertain time. They are living proof that goodness and kindness can triumph over uncertainty, fear and hopelessness. In the middle of the dark, there is a ray of light.
In this time of crisis, I consider the three mite boxes in our dining area as vessels of hope, inspiration and love.