Fr. Isaiah Mary is the Spiritual Director & Vice President of the St. Francis Xavier Lay Missionary Society, a group of lay Catholics who build up the Church in Asia. Once a year, he goes on mission to Hong Kong with lead missionary, Tricia Bølle. Over the summer, Fr. Isaiah Mary will offer some insights, stories, and observations of his time in Hong Kong from last May. We hope you enjoy!
Bleary eyed, a little confused, and feeling slightly nauseous, I gazed ahead of me. Sixty some-odd rows of humanity, sitting in neat tight rows, everyone either sleeping, watching a movie, or playing a game. We have been flying from the bay towards Hong Kong Island for over thirteen hours. The orange-yellow track lighting illuminating drowsy passengers and seriously-minded attendants, most everyone on the plane inhabiting a quiet, professional demeanor.
I turned towards Tricia, who herself was looking slightly bored, yet fully awake. The man next to her read the number one newspaper from Taipei, a grimace etched on his aged face. Taking out my prayerbook from the planeseat pocket, I waved it at Tricia. She nodded, and took out hers.
Just then, the captain chimed a bright, smooth bell to get our attention. Mother Gravity will have its way and we will land upon solid earth within a few moments. Between the sprawl of humanity on the plane and airplane protocols, we figured that we had plenty of time to pray for our trip.
“O Lord, open my lips,” I began.
“And my mouth shall proclaim Your praise,” she responded.
We read the psalms back and forth, doing our best to contemplate despite the folding of newspapers, bells, the rushing of attendants, and plane engines. After a reading from scripture, we allowed the Holy Spirit to marinate His wisdom into our hearts.
“Amen,” came a third voice.
We both turned towards the random voice.
The man reading the paper from Taipei asked us, “Is that Acts of the Apostles?”
“Why yes, it is,” Tricia responded in a charming, yet confused voice.
“You’re Christians?” he asked. “What translation are your Bibles?”
“Actually, they’re special books of Christian prayer that incorporate Scripture and the psalms to follow in keeping with St. Paul’s admonition to pray without ceasing,” said Tricia as she began to offer a quick explanation of the Liturgy of the Hours to our guest. Afterwards, we returned to the prayers.
Many moments later, we prepared ourselves to deplane.
Tricia asked our newfound friend, “What brought you to Hong Kong?”
“Well,” he said, tilting his head left and right, “I help out people with acts of kindness. Yeah, part of a church in Dallas. Not Catholic, though.” His voice was gruff.
After a few vocal slights of hand, we discovered that our newfound friend was a Taiwanese Christian non-Catholic, who goes back and forth between Texas and various parts of China on a regular basis.
We, in turn, told him about our trip to Hong Kong and the Called and Gifted Workshop.
“That’s such good work—and we need it in HK,” he said, his eyes growing serious. “I will pray for you and for the workshop. We have a prime opportunity to evangelize, and the American Church is so weak in that, right now.”
“Amen,” we responded.
“I remember,” he said, the first smile to appear on his face, “talking to some gwei-lo and he was so happy talking about his relationship with Christ. He was so, so happy. And you know—I was baptized while in grade school, but I never heard of that joy before. Hong Kong is a beautiful and wonderful place, but it doesn’t have Christian Joy. We need that. Keep on working. We’ll be praying.”
At that moment, he grabbed his paper and his carry on, nodded to us, and left.
Tricia once joked that missionaries come in three categories: priests, sisters, and Protestants. So here is this random man, who obviously helps the Church in this part of the world, encouraging us as we try to offer the Joy of Christ to those who have yet to hear His Name.
This interaction spoke as a precursor to many things that came during this year’s mission trip. Meeting friends on the journey, Christian or not, from all walks of life, supporting us with smiles, support, and even the occasional free cup of Hong Kong milk tea. God fingerprinted His creation, and it is the lovely task of a missionary to seek those fingerprints, and to invite those embedded with those fingerprints to hold the hand of their God.
Not all of us are called to foreign mission, but all of us are called to radiate the joy of Christ from where we are. And in that way, we, like Jesus, fall into the foreign territory of sharing what is precious to all we encounter. It spoke to me, deeply, that this man—who didn’t seem much interested in anything minus is newspaper—suddenly emitted a joy about his faith that I rarely see our side of the Pacific. It taught me—it constantly teaches me—of constant readiness to share our hope and faith regarding the One we love.
This summer, I hope to share with you stories & insights about Tricia and my mission trip to Hong Kong. I’ve been to the blessed island three times now, and return fulfilled, exhausted, yet eager to learn more. God gifted Tricia and me a short friendship with this Taiwanese man, and it was just the beginning of a trip overflowing with grace. May these reflections offer you a similar grace, and inspire you to pray for our Church throughout the world.
Be part of the mission! St. Francis Xavier Lay Missionary Society is a Catholic non-profit organization dedicated to evangelize to young adults in Asia. You can give financially via Paypal at www.laymissionary.org, giving a monthly or one-time gift of $50 or more, we are an IRS recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.