Upon taking on my responsibilities in the parish, I wondered if we could welcome a volunteer. It took me a while to make this a reality. The obstacles to this project were many : the elderly population of the taiwanese Church, the difficulties to communicate with each other because of the language barrier, as well as the pastoral and religious dimension of the project.
The arrival of a young frenchman as a teacher started off the project. We began slowly, having him come three times per week only at first. His mission was simple : through various activities, bring a missionary dynamism to the parish. We brought back french lessons that had been abandonned due to lack of time. We also began, once a week, a workshop for making waffles, which were then distributed freely to the children in kindergarten, their parents, as well people passing by. Finally, we continued to develop the visits to HIV-positive people in a non-christian center that was on the parish grounds. The objective of these activities was clear : we wanted to open up the parish to the exterior world and build encounters in a city where many suffered from loneliness. This first experience, which lasted six months, was a success since it led to a dynamism during the weekdays, which were usually very calm. It allowed us to welcome more people in our parish centers.
A full-time success
Despite the doubts if such a mission could fill a weekly schedule, the parish ventured into a full-time experience. Looking back, I have to admit that it is a success, since we now have two volunteers.
The presence of MEP volunteers in a taiwanese parish is a pastoral and missionary asset. The joy and novelty brought by the volunteers is clearly visible. The presence of young frenchmen helped the elderly to have a breath of fresh air, and continue on their journey. They feel a calling to devote a part of their year to the service of the Church and the mission.
The presence of volunteers allows for a broadenning of the missionary field of action. We do not wish to be content with just a pastoral life. We want the parish to become a place rich in propositions to welcome both christians and non-christians, where people can have intercultural meetings, find brotherly support, or simply a place where everyone can be themselves, free of the pressures in their work or at school.
After giving up the so-called perfect mission, and accepting the project as it is, and not as it is wished to be, the volunteers discover joy in taking on the challenge of a christian mission in the big city of Taipei.
The sower has left to sow
The activities have allowed the project of opening up the parish to continue, and helped change the point of view of our neighbors, loyal to their traditional religions and relatively closed to the Church. They have allowed us to welcome more and more non-christians to the french and cooking lessons. They also allow us to be present in places where we were not before, such as centers for AIDS patients, an orphanage, visits to migrant workers, and in schools for french lessons. « The sower has gone to sow ». (Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 13, verses 1 to 9).
Although the presence of volunteers requires us to devote time to ensure their integration into taiwanese society, they are also beneficial to me as a missionary. Working with these young french people, with their faith and dynamism, has motivated and stimulated me.
One of the charisms of the MEP is the presence of missionaries among non-christians and the building of christian communities. Reflecting upon this experience, I notice that this missionary charism that we all shared, mutually enriches us and unites us in the service for the men and women of the Zhonghe parish.
Etienne Frécon, MEP