By Sr. Smitha Gonsalves fma
God said: “My presence will go with you; I’ll see the journey to the end” (Ex 33:14)Trusting in the promises of God and entrusting ourselves to the motherly care of Mary, we the four Sr. Rita D’Souza, Sr. Savina Naik, Sr. Meenal Bhosale and myself Sr. Smitha Gonsalves ventured out from Mumbai to the distant North-East of India, to the city of Guwahati to participate in the 10th Faith Exposure Programme, organized by Archbishop emeritus of Guwahati Rev. Thomas Menamparambil and Fr. Varghese, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Guwahati. Every step of the way, every move we made and every smile has a story of its own to tell! Our participation in the faith-exposure program is an incredible story and we want to share it with you.
This event brought together around 700 participants, all young formees (Aspirants, Postulants, Junior Sisters and minor Seminarians as well as a few young Priests) belonging to around 40+ Congregations. We were divided into 63 groups. We began this venture with a solemn Eucharistic celebration followed by an introductory session by Fr. Varghese. “Don’t be afraid, just stand still and watch; the Lord will walk with you today, the Lord himself will fight for you, stay calm” (Ex13:14). With this assurance of the Lord we began our programme with full vigour to move out to our assigned villages in the Garo hills.
The day began at 4.00 am with adoration, morning prayers animated each day by various Congregations, Holy Eucharist, followed by a cup of tea with a few biscuits. Then we had 2 hours of continuous listening to the sharing of missionary life by several priests and nuns working in North East India. After an early lunch at 9.30 am, we moved to our respective villages with our groups and returned to our base at 4.30pm in the evening. Once again we had to listen to 2hours of sharing of missionary life. Supper was served at 9.30pm. Each evening, groups were assigned to present a cultural programme to the “missionaries” and the day concluded at 11.00 pm with a solemn Night prayer.
The villagers we met were really simple people like the people spoken of in the gospels. We went to give them Jesus through our thoughts, deeds and especially with our smiles and kind words, being assured of the unfailing promise of the Lord: “I will put my words into your mouth and I will direct you what to speak”(Jer 1:19)The Spirit of the Lord did work in us and through us, although language was a big barrier since the local people speak only the Garo and Assamese language, with no knowledge whatsoever of Hindi. However, we were able to communicate Christ and His love with our smiles and friendly deeds. We taught them action songs, played with the children, gave them some tips on hygiene and emphasized the need for education sincea good number there are dropouts from school. The villages have a majority of Christians of the Baptist denomination, some Hindus and a few Catholic families. The Catholics willingly accepted and listened to us but a few Baptist families were reluctant to accept us. However, the Lord’s words that “some will hate you because of me” (Mt 10:22) did come true during our visits to the families.
However, this experience has really enriched us: to be missionaries in our own vicinity being an answer to someone else’s prayer helps us to find answers to our own queries. For a zealous missionary who wants to make Christ known to others, language can never become a barrier because Love is the only language that can truly communicate Christ to others. We thank our Provincial Sr. Rita Dora for giving us the opportunity of this rich and wonderful experience and we also express out thanks to Sr. Elizabeth George, the Provincial of Guwahati Province and all her sisters for their warm hospitality and kindness towards us during our stay there. May the God of love fill their lives with His Love so that may you continue to radiate that love to all. “Lord we are the clay in your hands; use us as instruments to spread Your Kingdom of love”.