• Wartakanlah Injil kepada segala makhluk.
    Mrk 16:15

  • 你们往普天下去, 向一切受造物宣传福音
    谷 16:15

  • Everything is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit’s Grace.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • Segala sesuatu menjadi mungkin dalam kekuatan karunia Roh Kudus.
    St. Arnold Janssen

  • 我当传教士不是为主牺牲,而是上主给我的最大恩赐
    圣福若瑟神父

  • Với sức mạnh Ân Huệ của Chúa Thánh Thần, Mọi việc đều có thể được.
    St Arnoldus Janssen

  • Preach the Gospel to the whole creation./Anh em hãy đi khắp tứ phương thiên hạ, loan báo Tin Mừng cho mọi loài thọ tạo
    Mk 16:15

  • There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit.
    1 Cor 12:4

  • And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
    Jn 1:14

  • Let the word of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.
    Col 3:16

  • To proclaim the Good News is the first and greatest act of love of neighbour.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • 传扬天国福音是第一且最大的爱近人行动
    圣杨生•爱诺德神父

  • Có nhiều đặc sủng khác nhau, nhưng chỉ có một Thần Khí/
    1 Cor. 14:4

  • 圣言成了血肉,寄居在我们中间
    若 1:14

  • Ada rupa-rupa karunia, tetapi Roh satu
    1 Kor 12:4

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Wednesday, 30 October 2019 12:17

'Mission in Reverse' - a reflection

Fr Michael Knight SVD 150

By Fr Michael Knight SVD

Celebrating Mission Day at Dorish Maru College this month helped me to reflect again on the importance of the concept of 'Mission in Reverse'. Mission for me is never a 'one way street' but rather it flows in both directions at once.

The community at Dorish Maru College in Box Hill, Melbourne, celebrated our annual Mission Day on Saturday, October 5.

A lot of preparation goes into this event. We begin with a presentation by a distinguished scholar followed by a respondent. Then we celebrate the Eucharist and this is followed by a “meal of many foods” in the seminary dining room. It is a great celebration of our interculturality as a Mission Society.

My first concrete experience of cross cultural mission happened for me when I went to Papua New Guinea, as a seminarian, on our Overseas Training program. I was 25 years old at the time and had never been outside of Australia. My two Australian class mates and I began our Pidgin English learning experience in Madang at a Catechist Training School. We were given some basic class room instruction in Pidgin by one of the catechists and then encouraged to practice speaking and listening as much as possible.

Mission in Reverse handshake 450 PixabayI found living and learning in another culture to be quite fascinating as well as very challenging. It is sometimes said that entering another culture is somewhat akin to becoming a child again. I mean this in the sense of becoming, not childish, but childlike. Being childlike is to become open, trusting and vulnerable. At the time I was thinking that this perhaps is what Jesus meant when he told his followers; “unless you become like little children you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. His call to them was to become open, trusting and vulnerable. Of course this is easier said than done.

After we had finished our time in the Catechist Training School we were assigned to parishes in the East Sepik District. I would accompany the Parish Priest to villages for discussions and prayer with the village people. In the beginning this was enough for me but I would always feel like a visitor in the village and of course we would return to the Mission Station the same day.

After some time of this I asked the Parish Priest if I would be permitted to live in one of the villages for some time. This was given and I then went on to stay in one of the villages for two weeks. I enjoyed this experience very much and learnt a great deal more about the culture of the people. At first their reaction was one of asking me why I wanted to live with them in a village hut when I could stay in the Mission Station but as time passed they could see that I was really enjoying the experience. This was something totally new for them.

After the two weeks I returned to the Mission Station but as time passed I asked if I could repeat the experience by staying in another village. So this also came about. The second time round was even more helpful for me.

At our evaluation at the end of this time in Papua New Guinea, I could say that what meant so much to me was not what I had taught the people but rather what I had learnt from them, especially during the time that I had spent living with them in the villages. What they had taught and revealed to me about their way of life was so important.

Before I left PNG I was able to write an account of what I had learnt and it was published in an SVD publication called Catalyst.

I followed the same approach of “mission in reverse” when I was later appointed to Ghana.

Years later when I had returned from Ghana to Australia, I spent time within Cana Community, a group which reaches out to the homeless and street people of Sydney.

I was managing a refuge called Teresa House which provides crisis accommodation for the homeless. We, members of the core group, were also living in shared accommodation, with homeless people in Redfern.

Cana Community was and still is not about “helping people” or “giving handouts” but primarily about the volunteers sharing their lives with street people. Concerning “Mission in Reverse”, two questions become critical.

Firstly: Can I see the inner beauty and goodness under the surface roughness? In other words, can I love my people “warts and all”?

The call here is to love the homeless on their terms and not mine. This is the start of moving from the head to the heart.

We have to go through this inner challenging or we just remain “do-gooders”.

Secondly: Can I also be vulnerable and allow the street people to love me”?

This is much more scary and challenging. The temptation for volunteers like myself is to keep busy, so I don’t let them come closer emotionally. However when I realised I am not here to “change people” but to share my life with them, that was when God was able to break in….

When these movements are allowed to happen, a real ministry to the homeless takes place. Also the focus is not then only one of “what I am doing to help them” but on “what we are giving to each other”. The two way street becomes a concrete reality.

Some may think that this sounds too ideal but it does actually work. I have witnessed volunteers moving from being over-controlling kinds of people to a shared vulnerability in which the volunteer has become a fuller person in his or her own way. That is a gift which we do receive from the homeless people who come to the refuge.

So a big learning for me, as a minister, over the years has been the taking on board of “Mission in Reverse”.

IMAGE: by jacqueline macou from Pixabay