An Interview with Fr. Ivan Fang, a Mill Hill Missionary Priest from Brunei. 

After his ordination to the priesthood in 1985, Fr. Ivan worked in the tribal apostolate in Sindh, Pakistan before being recalled back home to Brunei to take up pastoral duties in 1992.  For 14 years he ministered to two parishes in Brunei.  In August 2006, he went to the UK to start his term as the Society web master.  In June 2007 he will take up his new post as secretary general to the Society based in Maidenhead, Berkshire, UK.

Recently, you started the Missionary Community of Corpus Christi.  Tell us why and how this came about.

Well, it is a rather long story but I think it must be told if you want to understand the whole impetus to the backdrop of this missionary venture which I am advocating whole heartedly.

I went to the UK to train as a priest at St. Joseph’s College, the motherhouse of the Mill Hill Missionaries simply because my situation didn’t allow me to go to any local seminary.  At that time I didn’t have any idea who the Mill Hill Missionaries were.  The foreign priests who used to work in Brunei never let on that they were Mill Hill Missionaries.  By all accounts, to us young people at that time, they were just priests from overseas who came to minister to the church.  Only when I started my training in Mill Hill did I realize that there were such people as missionaries who go out to proclaim the good news in other countries.  They leave home and country to go to a distant land to preach the gospel.  For me, it was simply amazing.  It was then that I realized that many of us back home take our faith too much for granted.  We don’t talk about how the faith came to the country and who brought it to us.  We don’t even know much about the background of these missionary priests.  They were simply priests to us. 

What helped you make up your mind to become a missionary?

As part of my studies, I had to attend missiology classes and it was at one of these classes that a lecturer told me that China needed someone like me to go there.  He said that one day, the Chinese of the diaspora need to return to China to make a difference.  Well, to cut a long story short, I decided eventually to join the Mill Hill missionaries even though I was originally sent there for my own diocese.  I think it was my association with the Mill Hill community at St. Joseph’s College that helped me came to grasp with the idea of becoming a missionary myself and which finally helped me to make up my mind to join Mill Hill Missionaries.  They did try to dissuade me but eventually I managed to become a member when the door was opened for recruitment in the countries where Mill Hill traditionally worked in.  So, I became a Mill Hill Missionary and ended up working in Sindh, Pakistan after the offer for me to be sent back to work in Brunei was declined.  I worked among the Parkari Kohli people for four years, learnt their language and lived among them and became very much aware of what it was like to take the gospel message to a people from a very different culture and social background.  Later, I spent some time in the Social Communications field and then spent two years in a city parish that gave me the kind of experience I needed to take home with me when I was recalled back to Brunei abruptly due to the intervention of the Vatican. 

How was it like to go back home to work with your own people after being in the missions?

Arriving back in Brunei in 1992 was very difficult.  I had grown to like Pakistan.  After all, it was my first mission and I could not believe that I could learn to speak not one, but just about three languages.  I seriously believed that I one day I would return to work in Brunei but I didn’t realize that it was to be so soon.  When I arrived back in Brunei, I knew I was there for the long haul.  And I didn’t waste any time to get things going. I sharpened my pastoral skills and counting on my experiences, I developed and changed the pastoral landscape of my own home parish in the first few years of my term in Brunei.  It was during this time that I began to drift away slowly from what I stood for as a missionary and was becoming more content in being just a pastor, looking after the flock.  I was growing too fond of being in my own home parish.  Contact with Mill Hill at this time was also slowly receding to the background.  Apart from the annual contact with other Mill Hill guys in Borneo, I was very much in my own tuft.

What happened then to change all that?

Well, things were not going too well for me in the late 90s.  I love challenges and things were getting a bit too stagnant for me in my own home parish where I had been for nine years.  I felt that it was time for a change.  An opportunity came in the form of a sabbatical year.  I wanted to get out for a while.  So I decided to go back to the UK to do a course on Integral Personal Development at St. Anselm’s for a year as suggested by the General Superior at that time.   I had also decided by then that I would opt for a change in parish when I finished my sabbatical.  After all, the new Prefect Apostolic should be in the capital and in the main parish.  It was then mutually agreed that I would move to a smaller parish when I returned to Brunei.  So in 2001 when I got back, I was transferred to St. John’s Parish, Kuala Belait.  What was different this time was the knowledge that I would not be in that parish for an indefinite period.  My stay there would be reviewed after three years. So, there was a sense of mission in knowing that I had only a certain length of time to accomplish what I had set out to do.  I was not going to make the new parish a ‘home’. I was only there for a short term.  What helped a lot was the fact that I made it a point to go home every week and spent Mondays at home.  What the course during the sabbatical year did to me was to give me a renewed sense of purpose in my ‘mission’, in why I became a missionary in the first place.  I was more assured of myself and what I was capable of.  My contact with Mill Hill was reestablished and at the annual gatherings with the Mill Hill guys, there was a renewed sense of purpose.  I was beginning to play a bigger role in it.  I was able to feel once again that I was a member of the Mill Hill Missionaries.  The overall feeling among the Mill Hill guys was one of closure.  I personally think that the mission work in any place is not completed and will never be completed.  Mission is all embracing and I still feel that Mill Hill missionaries should work on to hand on the missionary charisms to the local communities they have helped established.  Only when that is done, only when the local church is able to take up the task of looking outwards and reaching out to other communities will it be possible to say then that the purpose of being there in the first place is achieved.  It is one thing to say that we continue as long as there isn’t enough local clergy, simply to act as gap fillers and maintain the church as long as there is a shortage of priests in any particular diocese.  It becomes very different if we turn our focus to building the missionary aspect of the church. We then have a duty to see the church through to its maturity, and that is when she is ready to send out missionaries of her own, and not about whether there is now enough local clergy to take over the work of looking after the churches. I see more and more my task as a missionary in this particular light.

So with that in mind, what could you do and what did you do, since you were also in the position of maintaining a parish in your own country?

An opportunity came about through an unlikely source.  I was getting the newsletter of New China Link sent to me and was reading about the developments in the province of Guizhou there.  New China Link is an agency set up by Fr. Matt Carpenter, a Mill Hill missionary who has been in China for many years and in 2002, he set up NCL to handle development work in rural Guizhou with volunteers coming from Malaysia and Singapore.  At that time, I was only passing scant notice to developments in that area because I was still very much involved in setting up the parish, having moved there to work only in October 2001.  But by the beginning of 2004, Fr. Matt had called into Brunei while touring the region to garner support for his projects.  He met up with me and introduced NCL and the future plans for development work in China.  I told him that I would support him in anyway I could possibly do in my capacity as parish priest of St. John’s Church. I thought to myself that this was an opportunity to begin some kind of mission animation work in my own parish.  I invited a few people together to begin a mission awareness group.

What did you hope to achieve by starting a mission awareness group in the parish?

Well, as the name implies, it is to raise awareness concerning the missions. I believe that the best way to learn about something is to actually go about doing it.  There are so many concepts and aspects of mission but that would have been too theoretical for the group to grasp.  The main task of the group was to promote missionary activities, the proclamation of the Gospel to other people.  So some kind of practical activities had to be thought up.  Very soon, one of the projects of the mission awareness group was to visit Fr. Matt’s set up and the NCL’s on-going projects in Zhenning.  A group from the parish went in May 2004. There is nothing like seeing the place and the situation first hand and because of this kind of awareness trip, something did actually come out of it.  Though no one from the group actually volunteered to work in China, there a greater sense of mission work among those who visited the people in the area.  By that time, NCL made it known that any religious groups or parishes could sponsor a centre and send volunteers under the flag of NCL.  Here was an opportunity not to be missed.  The mission awareness group agreed to sponsor a centre in principle.  It was not until December 2005 that a centre was available for sponsorship.  So on our behalf, NCL started a centre at Ziyun, with volunteers from Malaysia sent to set it up for us.  On our part, we began an aggressive drive to raise funds to meet the cost of running a Mission Centre.  We had a second collection for the centre twice a year, we organised charity dinners and many more fund raising events.  It gave the mission awareness group a real sense of purpose.  But it also gave rise to some delicate issues.  At this time, some criticisms were made especially about the amount of energy and time given to the overseas mission cause rather than helping the needy at home first.  I guess it is never easy when it comes to doing charity outside the church.  There are lots of Catholics who think that charity must always begin at home and it is usually at the expense of helping those outside the community who are in real need.  This is one typical example of how the church is still very much inward looking.  A certain section of the local community felt that they were being sidelined in favour of others who were not even Catholics. They felt that rightly they should always be the recipient of charity and the target of the church’s concern.  It is never easy to move the community towards looking outwards from herself and a lot of opposition is bound to arise, even from among the church’s hierarchy.

What do you mean when you say that there was some opposition from the church’s authority?

Well, I don’t want to implicate any bishop or priest in this but it was generally felt at this time that the mission to China was a delicate issue and had political undertones and therefore the church should not be seen to be openly supporting such a move.  NCL was already facing difficulties in garnering support from the Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.  In the face of this, I was very much aware that the support and sponsor of the Mission Centre at Ziyun was on shaky ground.  Nevertheless, as long as I was in St. John’s Church, the support could continue to a certain extent.  We were still not able to find anyone to run our mission centre and therefore had to rely on NCL to run it for us, which was not necessarily a good thing.  To keep the interest going on the home ground, we continued to organize awareness trips to China.  In March 2005, another group went to China, firstly to attend the first AGM of NCL and at the same time to make our first visit at our centre at Ziyun. 

Did you take any steps to consolidate the parish’s support of the mission centre?

I was also very much aware that my three years in St. John’s parish was almost up and the possibility of me being transfer was very real.  In June 2005 I went to Nairobi to attend the Mill Hill Chapter.  After the Chapter, it became apparent to me that Mill Hill wanted me back in the UK. When I returned to Brunei, I began the difficult task of disengaging from the parish.  I knew I had a year to do it.  My new appointment was forthcoming.  The new Councillor of Asia was coming to visit in December that year and also to discuss my possible departure from Brunei.  So immediately back from the Chapter and the UK, I headed off to Ziyun via Shanghai in September and it was during this trip that we decided to move the centre to a more habitable and hospitable apartment which could double as our Tuition centre for English.  That was one of the things I had to do to consolidate our sponsorship of the centre, to make it more attractive and secure at the same time for a Brunei volunteer to take over eventually.  The other thing which we decided to do was to change the identity of the group from a parish-based group to an independent group outside of the church.  Yes, the group is still managed by the same people from the church but the move must also be seen as a way to counter the impression of many donors from outside the church that the money they give is used for the church.  Our major donors are mostly non-Christians and therefore it seems to reassure them that the money is used for the purpose it was intended for.  One other reason for moving the group out of the parish was the uncertainty many of the members felt of the support they would receive over my impending departure from the parish.  The great disadvantage of the move was the cessation of any assumed support from the church.  Now permission had to be sought for everything, even the use of the premises.  From then onwards, the group was known as RBCS Rice Bowl & Chop Sticks

How did you manage the funding of the mission activities without an assured support from the parish?

There are a lot of generous people around who are able to understand what we were doing.  So they give personally. Yes, without the church support it may become more and more difficult financial.  But members are hoping to raise enough to keep the mission centre going as well as to find funding for certain projects.  I believe that the Lord will provide if we are determined to carry out his mission. 

What further steps did you take to make sure that the mission venture would not cease with your departure from the scene?

My greatest fear was that when I left the parish everything that I had set out to do would come to a standstill. And it is still a fear that is very real for me but I have trust in the Lord that he will see the group through.  My greatest regret was that I didn’t set out to start my mission awareness activities when I was in the other parish.  I had more time then and I guess I wasn’t quite ready at that time considering the circumstances.  Still, I had started something and it is my wish to see it through.  I was grateful for the kind of support that was evident among the various members of the mission awareness group.  I made my last trip to China in December 2005 with some of them including some youth who went there to present some funds for a school library. The next move was to try to legitimize the group in one way or another.  At a meeting among some members in February 2006 in Sabah, it was decided that an agency would be registered to cover the activities and projects of the group in China.  It also became clear that the present group couldn’t just exist as an agency.  It was made up of people, with a clear purpose and mission, not an office as such.  So we recognized the two distinct bodies. RBCS would become the agency for facilitating volunteers and for overseas placement as well as for project funding.  Another group would exist solely for members who adopt the vision of witnessing to the gospel in various parts of Asia. They would be called “Tinan do Kristus” (the Body of Christ in the Kadazan language).

In spite of the fact that you knew you were leaving Brunei soon, you continued to expand the group even further.  What was the reason for that?

It became clear to me at this stage that what the group was doing was only the tip of an iceberg, one particular aspect of the great task of mission. There is still more that the group should become more aware of and capable of.  Mission encompasses more than just going abroad to do some development work.  There is first and foremost, the element of witnessing to the presence of God’s Kingdom. And mission is more than just priests and religious being sent overseas to start Christian communities and to build churches though many are inclined to view it as such.  Lay people must realize more and more than they too are called to build God’s Kingdom of love and justice. I believe that the approach to mission work in Asia has to be seen in a very different light altogether.  We must not compete with long established religions in the region.  To do so is to convey the idea that we are more superior than they are and that we are right and they have been wrong all this time.  We cannot blame them if they are not receptive to our presence because they think we have come to tell them that they are wrong and that we are right.  How can we do this?  I believe that the approach should be one in which small Christian communities are sent out to witness to the presence of Christ in how the members live and interact with one another and with others around them.  In this way, people will come to know Christ better because the members of the small Christian community exude the characteristics of Jesus.  I have personally experienced how members of a missionary team fail to work with one another because of disagreements and members are left to do their own thing, weakening further the very values they try so hard to convey through their work as a team. When others see the members of the small Christian communities working together in love and unity, they may be compelled to find out the motivating force behind what they do and come to embrace the love of Christ as well.  I have also seen how individuals out of good faith volunteer to do missionary work, are sent overseas but eventually their enthusiasm wane simply because they lack the support of a group.  They often go as individuals without the explicit support of a faith community and that can be very hard.   What I am saying really is that for mission work to succeed, there must be overall support: support given by team members and support given by those who are sending.  There is another aspect of mission that I want to discuss here.  We are all called to mission and that means that every Christian is on a mission.  So there is also room for mission work at home. 

Are you saying now that you agree with those who say that mission should begin at home?

More and more, I have come to realize that in order for mission abroad to succeed, there must also be mission work done at home. Not everyone is able to go overseas to do mission work.  We all have commitments, especially with our own homes and family.  Therefore, we must be able to make those at home realize that they too can carry out mission work, especially within their own parish.  In all my years as a parish priest, I became more aware that where groups existed and met often around the Word of God and the Eucharist, the commitment to ministry and service was really evident.  So when I said that mission should begin at home, I meant that work has to be done in our own parish to bring people around the Word and the Eucharist so that when they reflect and act on the Word, they are compelled to reach out in love and service towards those in need around them.  Yes, people come to hear the Word at the celebration of the Eucharist but how many of them actually get the support and encouragement of the church in carrying out the mission expounded by the Word?  Many are left to their own devices.  If they are members of a group, at least they are accountable for their actions.  In my tenure as parish priest at St. John’s, one of my priorities was the setting of cell groups around the Word of God.  It was not easy simply because people often find it difficult to come together to meet as often as they would like to because of other commitments.  Home mission is not simply about collecting used and unwanted goods and giving them to the poor.  Mission must involve listening to the Word of God and acting upon his message.  Our motivation to serve must come from our love for God rather than a need to carry out our duties and objectives as a member of a particular group.  So basically, mission at home begins when people are called to gather round the Word of God and love and service flow from there.  So we become actively involved to make a difference in our own church community and in our local society.  Service and ministry becomes mission rather than ends in themselves.

Where does overseas mission come into the picture here?

Any community which is only involved in mission within itself is doomed to failure eventually.  Very often in many church communities, there is no lack of services and ministries.  People are generous, but only to the local church; people are helpful, but only to friends within the church; people serve, but only to their own kind; when it comes to anything to do outside the church community, or even with another church community, then there is reluctance. True mission looks outward, even to the extent of sacrificing one’s own needs to help another.  If a church community has reached a certain level of maturity, it must begin to look out.  That is the meaning of love: to give and not expecting anything in return.  A church that has reached and grasped the meaning of love has no other choice but to reach out in love.  Therefore the community goes beyond itself, outside its boundaries. 

But why does it have to be overseas?  Can a church community not reach out to those outside it within the same country?

A lot depends on the local situation within the country.  If it is at all possible and if there is a need to, then mission work should be carried out.  But I think mission work is hampered by the fact that Christian mission is always perceived as snatching people away from their faith and making them Christians.  Because of this perception, it is often not easy to do works of charity and service outside our own Christian community.  Our reaching-out can be seen as an attempt to convert others to Christianity.  I think any church community thinking of embarking on some form of mission must examine and reflect deeply on its meaning of ‘mission’.  Are they embarking on Christ’s mission of love, or are they on the church’s mission of expansion?  Conversion must be of the heart.  Touched by Christ’s love, people’s hearts are converted.  But this does not necessarily mean that they would or should seek immediate baptism.  So our mission really is to touch people’s hearts with Christ’s love emitted from us, so that they are ‘converted’, but not necessarily become Christian.  Mission overseas is a way of giving a universal face to mission, to allow a church community to embrace the universality of mission; mission is not confined to home.  Overseas mission as carried out by the local church community as a way of communicating the answer to this question: how far would you go to show that you love me?

Let me go back to my original point.  You didn’t give up your desire to promote mission in the region even though you were on the way out because of how you saw mission and your own personal views on it.  So what do you intend to do to continue your quest?

With my departure set for after Easter, i.e. sometimes in April 2006, I was feeling the strain of urgency.  Other than trying to complete my task of renovating the church which I was sent to do, I was also seeking to complete a few tasks on the mission field. There were three important things I had to do in order to kick-start the mission programme I had in mind.  First of all, I had to divert the attention away from China as the only focus of mission overseas.  Therefore, I had to find another mission alternative. I explored the possibility of sending volunteers to Cambodia and I made several trips there to examine the feasibility of starting a mission centre there.  I am still in the process of finalising it.  Secondly, I had to reorganise the mission awareness group into something broader than just a single parish concern and to incorporate into its workings most of my views on mission.  I was of the opinion that it had to be more than just a social concern group.  I was able to extend my stay in Brunei for a further three months due to the delay in the completion of the church renovation and that bought me some time to do some reorganising. An AGM was organised in June 2006 for TDK members and friends in Sabah.   On the feast of Corpus Christi, TDK was officially launched.  Its vision and mission statements were approved by the members and clear objectives were drawn up.  One major breakthrough was the acceptance of the idea that units would form the body of this new organisation. Anyone can now become part of TDK as long as they are in a unit.  The unit members provide support for one another and they gather round the Word and the Eucharist. They can be based either in the parish or overseas in the mission. They carry out their mission of witnessing to Christ at home or abroad.  They are to be the Body of Christ.  Without this concept built into it, the group would simply just be another humanistic group.  Thirdly, because of my insistence that the unit reflects Christ, I believe strongly that there should be some sort of formation programme for members in the units.  Units sent overseas should also have proper formation. 

Did you manage to do everything that you wanted to do before you left Brunei?

Yes and No.  I think the question should not revolve around me.  The buck doesn’t stop with me.  I don’t see myself as the prime mover of this venture.  Not doubt, I am still pulling the strings, albeit from a distance, but I am there to guide the group to move along forward.  They are the ones who are making things happen.  Without their cooperation, things wouldn’t move.  So from my new base here in Maidenhead, I still direct the group as best I can.  So far, since November 2006, our first volunteer from Brunei has taken over the mission centre in Ziyun.  She was responsible for supervising the construction of a Primary School built partly with donations from some generous donors from Brunei.  Another project is now pending.  With my new -found skill, I managed to set up a website for what is now known as the Missionary Community of Corpus Christi. ( www.mc-corpuschristi.org ) It is far from being completed but nevertheless, a lot of information can be found there. This change of name more or less reflects the universal character of the organisation.  A newsletter called missiocom has also been launched. While back in Brunei for a short break in February 2007, I had the opportunity to meet up with the group as well as to promote MCCC in Singapore which resulted in a trip to Cambodia being organised after Easter 2007 for a group of Singaporeans.  Back in Brunei, the KB group has started their training programme, using the materials that are posted on the website.  A retreat is due in June 2007.  Another trip to Cambodia is being organised for the Bruneians.  Negotiations for a mission centre in Cambodia are still going on. There are plans to promote MCCC in Kuching and Sibu. 

What do you hope to accomplish by this missionary venture?  What do you envision at the end of it all?

There are already lots of Christians looking for an opportunity to go overseas to poorer nations to be involved in some from of missionary activity.  I think the greatest contribution MCCC can offer to these people is to facilitate their involvement in the mission field with group support and also hopefully support from their own local community.  MCCC also provides parishes with the necessary set up for mission work at home or abroad, with the required training in place.  With members’ contributions from each unit, MCCC will be able to fund mission centres in many more countries.  It is hoped that through MCCC the Catholic Church in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei will be able to become more missionary in its outlook.  So what I hope to see in the future is that there will MCCC units scattered throughout the region, carrying out the mission of Jesus and acting as the Body of Christ.  In countries where MCCC is set up as an overseas missionary unit, I hope to see priests also being part of the units, ministering to the unit members.  In the case of the unavailability of priests for a unit, a priest should be available to travel to spend a certain length of time at each unit.  Formators should also be made available to travel to spend some time for in-house formation programmes.

You are carrying out all these so-called work.  Has any bishop sanctioned your missionary venture or have you been ‘authorised’ by your superiors? Under whose jurisdiction are you actually doing all this? 

I think this is more of a question of ecclesiastical approval. This question reminds me of the bible passage where Jesus was asked by whose authority he was casting our demons and also the passage where Jesus rebuked his apostles for condemning the man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. I fervently believe that by virtue by our baptism, each of us has been called on a mission.  Our Christian mission is to make Christ known and lead others to him.  That is our calling.  But it is viewed very differently when we are sent out with a specific agenda under a certain umbrella.  There are lots of conditions and requirements that have to be met, especially when we come under the umbrella of the Catholic Church.  When it comes to mission work, it has to be ‘approved’ and ‘sanctioned’ by church authorities and involves furthering the Catholic Church.  Everything in fact, has to be sanctioned by the church, i.e. ecclesiastically approved, before it is to be recognised as having ‘authority’.  Many good intentioned individuals and groups fall short of the requirements as expected by the authorities because I think these conditions are geared especially towards religious congregations and missionary priests.  Lay Catholics who are genuinely interested in mission work are expected to fall under the same conditions and many of them just cannot give the length of commitment and the expected church-related expertise which is often required and essential for church mission work.  They often either have to go out on their own or do not know where to begin and eventually give up trying to go to do mission work.  I believe that there are many lay people out there who would like to do mission work but are unable to do so because there isn’t any concerted effort to organise them or to facilitate mission work.  Most of the missionary activities in the Catholic Church are still being done by religious and the clergy.  If we want to encourage lay people to be more mission minded, then we must allow them to exercise their baptismal right to mission and not tell them that they cannot do mission work unless they meet the requirements and have church approval to do so.  Sharing with another person the love of Christ does not need church approval.  I think organising Christians and facilitating their witnessing do not depend on whether there is ecclesiastical approval.  We have to begin somewhere and if approval is given and the efforts sanctioned by a bishop then it is an added blessing and will make mission work by lay organisations more acceptable.  I feel personally that many bishops and priests are wary of lay people being actively involved in an area which they feel is best left to the more committed and tested people who are trained especially and are accountable to some authority.  In my own personal experience with Mill Hill, I can say that the lay-associate programme offered by Mill Hill is not as healthy as it should be because of the prevailing attitudes among some priests that lay people should remain where they are, and that is, subservient to the priest.  I often find it strange that lay associates are not sent to mission countries as required but need to wait for a Mill Hill priest to request for him/her.  Yes, bishops and priests have a reason to be cautious about lay involvement.  Many lay people have let them down but I think you find the same thing among priests and religious.  So what can we do to placate and pacify the real concerns that arise out of this?  Honestly, I believe that proper training and on-going formation in the mission field and a form of mission spirituality are essential for the success of any missionary venture.  I myself, personally support Gospel sharing as a means to ground the whole missionary experience within the context of the Word. So, where do we go from here?  Do I need approval from the church?  No, I don’t think so.  I am only exercising my baptismal rights.  Witnessing to Christ by doing works of charity does not need approval, but if I were to get involved in baptising people in the name of the church, then of course, I will certainly need approval.  But I do need the church’s blessings and the support of fellow Catholics who believe in the efforts that are being carried out.  I also need Catholics who are committed to the same missionary vision and purpose to carry the venture through. 

So things are still moving even though you are not physically present or ecclesiastically approved.  But do your superiors find what you are doing a conflict of interest?

It is kind of difficult to answer that question at that moment.  There are certain things that still require my physical presence at this early stage and I am trying to find a way round them.  I am in a kind of dilemma and sometimes it stresses me out just to think of ways to get around them.  I sometimes feel that I would be of more use back in Asia than in my present location but then it would be seen as if I would rather do my own thing than pursue the interest of the Society.  But who will be the judge of that? I have God’s mission at heart and I pray and hope everyday that what I am doing meets his approval and will.  I guess that as long as I am able to produce the results that are required while pursuing my own interests, there should not be a problem of conflict of interest.  However, having said that, I should think that we have the same goals. Please correct me if I am wrong!

You have certainly enlightened us on your perception of mission work and your continuing efforts in the mission field.  One final question:  Tell us, why do you continue to pursue this work?  Why take all the trouble to make MCCC work without the explicit support from people that matter?

I guess, many will try to dissuade me and often times, I have felt very disappointed at the many obstacles that have come my way and especially from the people I thought would certainly give support, the people in the church!  I have even asked myself why I should bother at all.  I could easily have an easy life just minding my own business.  But I don’t give up easily.  I embarked on this course of action after reflecting hard on all the past experiences of my life: why I became a priest, and not only that, but a missionary, why I was sent to Pakistan, then recalled home to work, how my pastoral experiences there led me to realise this missionary venture.  I believe that all my past experiences are connected and somehow would point me in the direction I should pursue.  That is why I am where I am now.  Some people will surely accuse me of being egoistic, pursuing my own thing for my own self-glorification.  But God surely knows how much I worry about what other people say.  At times, I feel like giving up but I keep telling myself that if I do so, I am giving up because of selfish reasons and what keeps me going is the knowledge that I am doing it because I believe in what I am doing.  This is the sacrifice, the prayer, the worship I offer in return for what the merciful Lord has done for me.  What more can I do?

Thank you very much for allowing us into how you think and feel about mission work.  I hope that others on reading this will begin to reflect on their own missionary role as Christians in the world.