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|Missionary Sisters of St Columban|
By Sister Nellie Margate OND
Sister Nellie responds to a young reader who emailed her after reading her article in the July-August 2006
issue of Misyon and listening to another Sister tell of her time in the Solomon Islands.
Sister Betsy must have told you all her experiences in the Solomon Islands where she stayed for several years. You’re asking me about my feelings, being on ‘mission’ . . . it was both happy and sad in the beginning. Happy to be with people whose culture is very different from what we have grown up with; and sad because ‘communication’ is difficult. One feels completely uprooted and then planted in a place where everything seems so strange.
We didn’t have people we could call ‘friends’. I feel that that was the real experience of poverty – not being able to communicate, with no friends to walk with. On the other hand, at that time, God became so real, a friend who is always there. He is in our struggles to learn and enter a new culture. I feel too that God must be amused with me as I become a ‘laughing stock’ for people, adults and children alike, who all of a sudden become my teachers as I am learning their language.
I had great fun myself, especially when I was assigned in Daru, a place whose language seemed like a tongue-twister to me. ‘Adi duduere orogido’ is how you say ‘Good morning to you’. After a few months, I could communicate with them quite well, to the delight of all my teachers. There were occasions, however, when I evoked hilarious laughter by mispronouncing certain words and thereby saying something completely different. I’m now assigned to Tabubil and we go on patrol for our ‘Barrio outreach’. The language is again very different from what I had studied. Well, I realize it is a continual journey of ‘learning’ and being shaped by the culture itself.
I’m going to the mountains for the leaders’ workshop and recollection today. While in the area, we usually maximize our time to meet and give formation to the different groups: women, youth, children and so on. Our creativity is surely put to the test – if the plane gets to fly! It’s an experience of seemingly ‘forever’ waiting. The flight is just about 20 to 30 minutes but it takes three days for local people to walk. If I walk with them, it may take me a week because it involves clearing tracks, going up and down steep mountains, crossing slippery rivers and walking on a long log to cross swiftly running creeks. One other thing that makes my insides shake with fear is the leeches that surely would feast upon me!
These are the challenges we meet just to be with people in remote areas. Unthinkable! Yet joyful because when we are there, their happiness is written all over them. It is as though the whole area ‘lights up’ with our presence.
Please pray for me and all our mission partners that we will be ‘convincing’ instruments of God’s love despite of our limitations.
You may email Sr Nellie Margate OND at email@example.com
or write her at: PO Box 317, 332 TABUBIL, Western Province, PAPUA NEW GUINEA