Originally Published on OMIWORLD.ORG
This summer, we had the opportunity to travel to Madagascar with a group of 11 young adults from the Toronto area Oblates of Mary Immaculate Parishes. We were accompanied by Fr. Marcin SERWIN and Fr. Piotr NOWAK. The purpose of our trip was to experience missionary life and the life of the people in Madagascar. For three weeks we worked with the members of various missions, teaching the basics of the English language, math, health and geography. We attended Masses in the Malagasy language and learned many of the local traditions. Fr. Marcin kept us busy, making sure we weren’t sleeping more than 4 hours a day. The days were long and hard, physically, emotionally and spiritually, but the joy we saw in the people we crossed paths with gave us the extra push we needed. How could people who have so little be so much happier than those of us
who have everything we could possibly want?
The answer came to us during the final days of our experience. Along with the parishioners of the St. John Paul II Parish in Morondava, we built a fence around a new chapel that had been built in an outlying village in the bush. There was only one Catholic family in that village, but they were sure the faith would grow. That was our greatest eye-opener: the growing faith gave these people something to believe in; the knowledge that God still cared for them and looked out for them. One evening during adoration by candle-light, we looked around us and saw how deeply the people were praying. Every word, every moment, they had faith that their prayers would be heard. During our final drive back to the capital from where we would travel back home, we saw an accident happen. A van transporting people from village to village turned over. Without waiting or questioning their own safety, anyone who could was helping the passengers to safety. It was the sense of community that finally gave us our answer. The people of Madagascar are so happy with so little because they have more than we do. They have a strong belief in faith and an amazing sense of community that unites them into a great family. Those are the things that matter to them and make them see true joy in life, the fact that they live not for themselves, but for others, to share their love.
Our journey began the moment each of us signed up with Fr. Marcin for the experience. For three months prior to our departure, we spent our weekends fundraising and raising awareness for our experience. In the evenings, after days spent at our jobs, we would each work on our assigned projects. Every program we presented and taught in the villages of Madagascar was created by members of our team. We worked hard on learning the Malagasy language in the hope that we would be better able to communicate with the local people. By learning the “Our Father” we would often surprise parishioners when we started praying with them. For them, hearing a “guest” speak their language was a new experience for them. They would help us with pronunciation when we had troubles and we would give them lessons in English and teach them something new. They opened their homes to us and welcomed us with songs and dances. The children played with us, gave us smiles and hugs from which we could feel their love pouring out. And still we asked how they could be so happy.
Even though Fr. Marcin told us how enriching this experience would be, we left for Madagascar thinking that we would teach the people we would meet more than they could ever learn on their own. When we think back now, the very opposite happened. The people of Madagascar taught us more than we could have ever learned on our own. They showed us what life is truly about and that we don’t need everything and anything to be happy. Our faith and community will always be there for us and that is enough. Each of us changed during this experience. It might not have been a big change, but it opened our eyes and made us see clearly for the first time in our young lives. We would like to thank the Missionary Oblates in Madagascar for making this experience possible for us. They became a part in making us who we are. (The Young Oblate Missionaries from Canada)