Jom George Koippallil shares the journey of 8 Singapore JYs as they go on their first Mission exposure trip.

It is quite natural to be ‘reluctant’ at times to respond to our call. But what happens when we blindly say ‘YES’ to the lord? The answer is, ‘birth of Missionaries,’ says Jom George Koippallil, who was one among the eight, of the first batch of missionaries from Singapore.

We were 8 who said ‘YES’ to the Lord, despite the typical strains on our mundane lives. We were not perfect. We had financial struggles, joblessness, depression due to demise of a parent, prolonged wait for a life partner etc. But we decided to put aside these and surrender ourselves to God. The result was, the first batch of missionaries from Singapore was born. We were Aji George, Maria Merin Antony, Ashish Kurian, Phyllis Goh, Jerin Paul, Fionne Grace Lai, Jennifer Francis and myself, Jom George.

We landed in Guwahati airport on February 16, 2019 and were welcomed by the Guwahati JY co-ordinators. Soon after arriving, we realised we are already out of our comfort zones. We had to walk for hours searching for a restaurant to have our breakfast. Normally, everything was given to us without delay. But here, we were learning patience and tolerance. After a late breakfast, we set off for Shillong, which was a three-and-a-half-hour journey from Guwahati.

The Scotland of the East Shillong is the capital city of Meghalaya, a north-eastern state in India. Known as the “Scotland of the east,” it is a Christian dominated state. Though majorly Christian, the majority are not Catholics. Presbyterians are a major denomination there. By the time we reached Shillong, it was evening and the temperature was a chilling, 9° C. The JYs of St. Antony’s College, Shillong welcomed us and after refreshing we gathered in their vintage styled chapel for an introduction, a time of worship followed by Holy mass. Personally, I felt the love of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. His love, to choose me as one among the eight and to know him through his people in this part of the world.

Next morning, we set off on a two-hour journey to Phramer village parish for a weeklong mission. There, we were privileged to attend the centennial celebrations of St. Joseph’s church followed by a Eucharistic procession through the village. We witnessed the respect given to the Holy Eucharist as it passed each home. That night, we were divided into groups of two. Our group (Jennifer and I) stayed at Phramer parish with Fr. Joy and Fr. Raphel. We visited four nearby villages namely Pammanik, Mynso, Mynska, and Khlookynrln over the next five days. The rest of the groups stayed in village homes and led a sacrificial and conventional village life for five days.

Grace of the Eucharist We had Holy Mass daily at 6.30am in the icecold weather, and grace from the Eucharist fuelled us for our daily mission. Some of us had to walk 3 km every morning to attend Holy Mass. Mowtyrshiah village in Mawkyndeng parish does not have a priest to celebrate Holy Mass every Sunday. An appointed priest comes only once a month or once in two months. So, on every Sunday a selected person helps the community by celebrating communion service.

Singapore is a country blessed with 32 catholic churches and Holy Mass is celebrated in the morning, noon, and evening daily. Yet, these were blessings we were taking for granted. The situations in the villages made us realise the preciousness of Holy Mass and the need to give it most reverence.

A week-long Mission Schedules for each day were a surprise from Fr. Joy. Our visits, which went until late dusk everyday included visiting a church, schools attached to it and the village houses. School teachers invited us to address children in morning assembly. During class visits we interacted with them and taught them JY action songs and English vocabulary. The tiny tots soaked up everything being taught. Their dynamics made us forget our age and we became one of them. The joy was inexplicable.

The hospitality and love shown by the people was unforgettable. We were served a table full of vivid dishes. The vegetables and meat were interestingly home grown.

We sat with the people of the houses, talking and listening to them, asking their prayer intentions and praying for them. After interacting with families, we came to know that most of the couples were ‘living together’ and had not received the sacrament of Matrimony. But their faith inspired us regardless, as they openly shared their problems and prayer requests with us. We prayed for them and shared messages inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Our group covered 6-7 homes each day. We were accompanied by local translators who translated English to Khasi. Our translator, Br. John, had started a ministry called ‘Divine call ministry’ for the youth of the parish and on a few days, they accompanied us. The youth were very lively, jovial and pious

Though the days of the mission were packed with schedules, God gave us the time to introspect and bring out talents buried within us. For instance, Jerin and Aji could explore the ‘gift of teaching’ within them. One night, we were invited to lead adoration in Mynska village church. We also learnt to pray through small sacrifices.

We were also blessed to meet people who moved and inspired us with their spiritual lives. Br. Arnelius, a JY Shillong co-ordinator recites 20-30 rosaries daily and when he finishes 100 rosaries, he donates the rosary to someone who is spiritually weak. Another inspiration was, music. During worship, the people would immerse themselves in the praises and songs that it felt like they were floating. The Khasis lacked basic needs like drinking water (polluted by coal mining), proper shelter, and proper medical care nearby. Yet, they were content and satisfied. Even amidst their misery, they joyfully gave thanks to the creator.

Though it was a nine-day trip, we felt it was a much-needed break from our busy work schedules. The spiritual satisfaction and everlasting Joy we got out of small services to Christ, was worth cherishing. We have now committed to reciting rosaries every day, attend daily mass, read Psalms 23 and 91 and say grace before and after meals.

It was initially tough for us to cope with temperatures below 10°C and limited facilities; power cuts, no water heaters, suntans and skin blemishes, but our hearts were on fire to serve Jesus.

Shillong Mission: What they experienced…

Jennifer Francis When we take a step, God take a thousand steps towards us. He makes new things and his ways are mysterious. Being on a Mission team allowed my personal relationship with God to take a new dimension. The place and events did not make as much an impact as to the transformation that one experience in the soul.

Fionne Grace Lai I could really see God in the people I met in Mulieh village, where I was staying. Though the weather was so cold, the people were so warm. Some of the families we met had only limited facilities, yet when we visited them, they tried to give us the best. Even though they were struggling, they were still so joyful and content with what they had. In this mission exposure trip, I thought I will be the one giving them something but in return, the villagers taught me valuable lessons.

Maria Merin Antony It was an amazing experience showing our Lord’s great providence and guidance. God had invited us all personally for this mission. In my case, first he provided me with an extension for my project presentation so that I can go for this mission. Once I was back, I had to advance my project presentation which was a very difficult situation for me to handle. But he removed all the hurdles and also provided me with a good job. The mission exposure made me realise once again that “Say yes to Lord,” rest he will provide in all situations of our life.

Ashish Kurian When we are aware of our “limitations” and when we face struggles across our journey, the only thing that remains is the “unlimited” trust and hope in God. I had severe throat infection before the journey and knew that we were going to a place where temperature goes down to 4-5 degrees. It was the inner voice of the spirit which inspired me to take this mission. And was truly his protection that helped me to complete it without any medication for those nine days. I knew it was God who choose me to be his instrument to mould them and myself with his divine love and compassion. It’s truly in our sacrifices that God’s Love exists and when we serve with that Love, the real meaning of mission will get fulfilled. As Mother Theresa once said, “Faith in action is Love and Love in action is Service.”

Phyllis Goh During the Mission trip I could feel the socalled grace that people shared about a real God. Guess he’s indeed “Merciful” to me or should I say, he’s merciful to the people I come across.

Jerin Paul There is a big change in my life before and after mission trip. Few decisions about my life and career which I was not able to make before became easy for me after the mission trip. I could also discover my hidden and buried God given talents from the mission.

Aji George Being a part of this mission trip helped me recognise God’s unconditional love towards me. It is our actions that blocks us from receiving God’s grace. But the moment I said Yes’ to the Lord, I realised how beautiful it is to journey with the Lord. My perspective towards life changed. Everything that I enjoy now is a blessing from God. My trials may still be there as long as I live, but one thing that remains forever is God himself and I experienced that His name is higher than any such problems. Moreover, I found out that my greatest strength is “joy” and I’ve been chosen by God to bear fruit so that I may live.