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Abel Eom and Christina Kim

 

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How Becoming Marist Missionaries Changed Our Lives

08/04/2014: South Korea

Abel and Christina participated as Marist Missionaries, for almost 5 years, in the program Ad Gentes. Now they are going back to their home in Korea. Here they speak about their experience.

 

Abel Eom

I am a man of many “titles” - Mr Eom, Lay Marist missionary, volunteer, teacher, ex-Marist Brother, social worker and even a pioneer AMAG. Nevertheless, I call myself Abel, a name that I selected for my baptismal ceremony. Since then, I am still being nurtured by His word and continue to hunger for His love in my life.

In that sense, my experience of serving in AMAG as a Lay Marist for four and a half years was a gift (…). I have enjoyed my busy work here as a teacher at the orphanage, weekend school, formation house and as a member of a youth prayer group. However, the happiest time for me is to spend time with them, such as during annual retreats. I think it is then that we share the same spirit, vision and identity, which we rarely find elsewhere.

When I think about going back home to Korea, I feel a sense of acceptance - I have to accept the reality of my life and move on. At the same time, I am very happy because I am returning with a lot of gifts. These gifts are not only symbols of deep friendships and meaningful experiences but also reminders of my period of spiritual growth.

Ever since my baptism, I’ve always had a spiritual thirst or hunger and it was probably what made me join AMAG. However, now I come to discover that we receive God’s gifts not because of our works or intentional efforts but through His love and mercy. Now I just feel like giving thanks to God for His generous response to me during my time as a Lay Marist. So I leave for Korea with a precious spiritual seed in my heart. I pray that I will be able to nurture it, allowing it to grow healthily for the rest of my life by the grace of His mercy.

 

Christina Kim

Previously I was a social worker in Korea, caring for children with disabilities. And then, together with my husband, I joined the M a r i s t   p r o g r a m m e   f o r missionaries in Asia. Now, four and a half years later, I have come home to Korea and am among the same people, the same familiar places from where I started. But I am no longer the same person that I once was. What are the things that have brought about so much change in my life?

The journey began with a year-long course in the Philippines. This was my first experience of community life and through it, I learned to recognize and accept the differences found in each one of us. One sunny day as we sat around the table enjoying lunch, some members got into a fierce discussion. Suddenly a question came to my Korean way of thinking: “How can I go on sharing rice with these people?” The following morning I saw them embracing each other and asking for forgiveness from the bottom of their hearts, tears running down their cheeks. This incident gave me the opportunity to think once more about the true meaning of community.

Our first mission country was India. When I received this assignment, my heart was ecstatic and I felt the joy of the Holy Spirit, imagining myself accompanying poor children, walking through slums, just like Mother Teresa of Kolkata used to do. When I arrived at our assigned mission I quickly discovered how naïve I was, immediately struggling to cope with the mosquitoes and air pollution.

One day, I saw a Brother from another part of our world struggling to eat his portion of rice, so I asked him why he was feeling so uneasy. He said that he was not accustomed to eating rice and that it made him nauseous sometimes, yet since this was the staple food of the children living in the hostel, he wanted to be like them. When I heard him say that, I was deeply astounded and felt a deep sense of respect for this Brother, for even in a very isolated village in the Indian countryside, he wanted to live our Marist spirituality, putting into practice Jesus’ commandment of love.

Well, now we have returned to our home in Korea. Living with the Marist Brothers for four years has taught me a new way to relate to others, joyfully sharing my life with them, in Mary’s way of being attentive to their needs.

Now the people around me often say, “After those years overseas you seem different. What changed you?” I always find this question difficult to answer. It was not one person or a single event that brought about this transformation. Rather, it was a plain and steady process that has led to my becoming imbued with the spirituality of the Marist congregation. Thus, I find it difficult to adequately express how I’ve changed. As time goes by, memories of the activities in which I participated and the people I met may fade, but now I recognize them as an immense gift, a tremendous grace. My Marist ministry for the past four years has taught me a truly wonderful lesson that I will always cherish in my heart. Here on my desk is a quote from St Augustine - "Fill yourself first and only then will you be able to give to others."

From the bottom of my heart I thank God for offering me this opportunity and experience, and I want to express my sincerest gratitude to all the people who have helped me fill my life with meaning during those precious years my husband and I lived in Marist communities.

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