Br Peter, a misssionary from Vietnam to Samoa tells us about some of the things he has already learnt in his breif time there so far.
Firstly, I would like to thank God for the outpouring and overflow of His graces upon me and all the supports and encouragements from all Salesians and friends since the beginning of this year. When I arrived in Samoa the Alafua community warmly welcomed me and hearteningly accepted me even though I still have many limits as a human being.
After 6 months of living, I was asked by a Samoan man, “Do you have a culture shock here, Brother?” Honestly, when I moved to a new place different from my birth country, I felt like I was reborn and I had to restart my learning from the very beginning with the most simple of things! For example, Samoan dancing style is the first thing I tried to learn and then became really interested to join my students to dance in some shows. About language, I have been learning from anyone I met: Brothers, students, teachers, the faithful - in these ways i am learning how to live a new life in Samoa, “my new Home”!
The more knowledge I acquire from the local culture, the more I understand myself and my life as a missionary vocation. What I have obtained here is not just knowing a culture, but much more than that - the happiness of people around me. When I learnt a new Samoan word or phrase and spoke out, all listeners were joyfulyl suprised, including myself! I am happy and joyful with simple terms, such as “Malo uso!” which means “Hi, Brother!”, or “Manuia le aso” meaning “Have a nice day”, and so on. I still wonder how I could get into this new culture without all these lovely brothers and friends whose kindness and generosity have proved that wherever and for whatever I need, they will be there for me. Sometimes, I did not understand what was going on around me when people burst out laughing, but I now know that “no need to fear, a friend is here”.
Sharing time with students helps me understand them and grow up in my own life. There is one very strong student of mine in class. After our classes, he asked me to share about love to help him know what real love is. First, he shared with me “his deep sharing” saying that he does not know how to choose the right way in his life. He is struck in many ways so he wanted me to give him some advice. Giving advice is not easy for me, as each person experiences really different situations. So instead, I shared my personal experiences with him. I went into detail about values of life, responsibilities, and importantly what love means to me and the aspirations that drive me to be the Salesian I am. Not long after, he passed to me with a smile and said “Thank you, brother, I know what I meant. See you next time”. I saw his happy face. which reminds me to thank you, all my Salesians and friends who listen to me when I want to say something. Who support me when I feel weak, who pray and keep me faithful day by day.
I was so surprised when I heard the question from one student; “we are Christians, but why have so many churches? I have no idea how to answer this question!. “We are all Christians, we believe in God and God created us so why can't we just be happy with that and live?” I responded at that time, we see each other to recognize our own Christianity and we were happy with the smiles on each face. Actually, we sometimes forget who or what we are and go on beyond to make our life become a difficulty. I thought when I can recognise the people and accept them more easily with the same languages, ideas, then I may be able to help them however first of all I must aware of the sense of belonging with God “Life or Death is from God”.
On 24th May we celebrated the Feast day of our mother, Mary Help of Christians. Sometimes we cannot find happiness in our life. But our Mother always protects us and helps us in so many ways. It is also reminded us about our identification as Christians and in the same way Our Mary whom to give full dedication of her personal life for God. “We entrust ourselves to her, the humble servant in whom the Lord has done great things, that we may become witnesses to the young of her Son’s boundless love”. Last but not least, I am so glad to share my good experience so far in Samoa. It is important to learn and study the culture as it is for fostering understanding “day by day, many simple things will build my life with God and each other”.Have you thought about becoming a Salesian brother or priest? Would you simply like more information?