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04/12/2008: Philippines

“I bring nothing. From the top of the mountain
I could see other splendid, verdant fields and a crystalline lake.
I was so struck by the vision that I have brought nothing back to you;
but I am entranced by this new place to which our tribe is called.”

Time moves on as we make our Mission ad Gentes formation program. As the course has unfolded, we have had important experiences along the path of discernment. The discernment helps us attend closely to God’s word in the events of life and the experiences with are brought home to us in such events. Now we have taken a further step. We have gone to encounter God in the midst of His people. As a part of this process, our most recent activity was an insertion experience. For two weeks we lived and shared life with some needy local people and their families. We, the Ad Gentes Brothers were sent to three parts of the countryside. Emmanuel went to Buda, a rural area of Davao; Juan and Doroteo to the local montagnard people of Don Marcelino; Cesar and myself to the people who live in the poor areas of Butuan City.

The experience brought back to mind a story that Brother Benito shared with us some years ago in his Circular, “Walk Peacefully, Yet with a Sense of Urgency.” He relates a legend from the Americas, a story concerning a tribe which from time immemorial had lived at the foot of a great mountain.

The tribal chief, seriously ill, called his three sons to him. He said, “Go up the sacred mountain. The one who brings back to me the most beautiful gift will succeed me as the chief.” One of the sons returned with a beautiful, rare flower. Another son brought him an exquisite, colored stone. The third son said to his father, “I have brought you nothing. From the top of the mountain I could see in the distance resplendent verdant fields and a crystalline lake. I was so dazzled that I could bring you nothing, but I am beset with the idea that the distant sight is a new place on which our tribe can settle.” And the old chief replied, “You will be the chief, because you have brought as your gift the vision of a better future for our people.”

Such has been the experience of the recent days for me: to have a vision of our future missionary presence in Asia, sharing a simple life, sharing the reality, the work, the joys and the sufferings in the midst of very poor people in the countries to which we will be sent. It has been an experience of discovering God in the midst of His people, His poor ones, in their poverty, simplicity, generosity, hospitality; discovering His countenance and His presence upon the faces and in the names of real people who shared with us, who received us in their houses and communities during these days as a part of their families. The experience has also provided the chance to share our brotherly lives in simplicity and brotherhood and to let us be touched by our God Incarnate who once again compels us to commit our lives to the poorest.

To wrap up our immersion experience, we took a few days to speak together about what we had experienced, to gather the fruits of the experience, to pray and to celebrate the way in which we have seen Christ in the midst of his people; to understand how his call is being actualized and is made present for each one of us; to renew once again our commitment to follow him in the prospect of missionary life in Asia or wherever he desires us to be signs of his love and goodness.

___________
Brother Gilber Barillas

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