Sarawak, Malaysia: Learning to be a Missionary for all Seasons

What happens when Mission is challenged by unprecedented circumstances? Well, as the English expression goes: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going’.

As a missionary I had to think twice during the COVID 19 lockdown. As a priest, I thought of trying to be functional in some way, despite all the churches being closed and pastoral programs suspended. As a missionary, I realized that a healthy environment makes for a healthy mission. In this regard, my perception of mission has now changed, prompting me to look beyond normal horizons. Mission is not just about proclaiming the Word of God, but rather it is to be steward of creation. Therefore, as a missionary priest, I must learn to be in touch with nature, I must pray for the wisdom and insight to read the signs of the times.

As a former general secretary to the Episcopal Commission for Creation Justice in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, I had to sit down and find ways to initiate and implement the “Laudato Si” objectives, as prescribed by our Creation Justice Commission, in Julau parish. Even before Covid- 19, we had started to look for ways to “Ecologise” the different ministries in the parish, with the aim of making St. Alphonsus a greener parish. The ladies Guild replaced plastic plates with stainless steel ones in the parish kitchen. The Legion of Mary started planting trees, used old tyres for flower gardening, and had started growing organic vegetables in the Garden of Joy. The youth also got involved by collecting plastic bottles and cans etc. and bringing them to the Recycling Centre.

On a personal level I embarked on rearing rabbits and local chickens. I use the rabbit urine as a pesticide and their feces as organic manure. The above projects have kept me going during this second lock down. I have worked in the Garden of Joy as part of my personal exercise. I have even started to harvest tomatoes, pineapples, passion fruits and ginger. I am happy to see the Garden of Joy bearing fruit. Despite the Church being closed some parishioners do come to check on the Demonstration Garden and some to harvest flowers from our Flower Garden. This is how I am trying to cope with the Covid-19 crisis, and I pray and hope it will end soon. Amen.

Fr Oniz Kihokolho mhm

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