Divine Word Missionaries blog will share some of the latest mission updates from around the world. The more than 6,000 Divine Word Missionaries are serving in 84 countries with a variety of provinces/regions that are then grouped into four zones, namely, the European zone (EUROPA), the Pan-American zone (PANAM), the Asia-Pacific zone (ASPAC), and the Africa-Madagascar zone (AFRAM). The zones may work as geographical sub-zones wherever this seems suitable. Check back often for real-time stories from the missions.
My Walk in the Clouds
Apr 23, 2018
We recently came across this account from Frater Son Vu, also known as Joseph, a Divine Word Missionary seminarian from Vietnam. Here he describes his Overseas Training Program experience in Papua New Guinea:
I have been in Papua New Guinea for two years. I spent the first six months in language studies, first learning English at Divine Word University and then Toks Pisin, a form of Melanesian Pidgin English, in Kunjingini. After these lessons I spent nearly one and a half years doing my pastoral experience. I am very grateful for this meaningful mission experience in the Simbu Province in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
From the beginning I made new friends with different backgrounds. In my English class, I befriended people from different countries. They included other Divine Word Missionaries, such as Father Jokri Krisantus SVD, who had just arrived from Indonesia, and Father Dongming (Joseph) Cheng SVD from China. Also in the class were a Holy Spirit Missionary Sister from Madagascar and some national staff of Divine Word University.
I was lucky enough not to feel homesick thanks to the company of my ‘wantoks,’ two visiting Vietnamese seminarians from Australia also doing their Overseas Training Program and my colleague from the Vietnam theologate, Frater Huyen (Joseph) Tran SVD. More than English, I have learned how to interact with people from other cultures.
After my English studies, I had more opportunity for enculturation by learning Toks Pisin and meeting with local people in the villages. I also went to visit the outstations and stayed with the people there, eating what they ate—saksak (sweet dumplings), yams and binatang blo saksak. This made me understand the life of the people in the coastal areas.
After the Pidgin course I was assigned to Dirima Parish, located at Gumine District in the South Simbu Province. Dirima Parish is atop of a mountain, almost 2,000 feet above sea level. I loved Dirima for its pristine environment, breathtaking scenery, fresh rain water and clean air. I enjoyed the long walks to the different outstations; it afforded me a deep connection with God’s wonderful creation. I observed the varied cloud formations, the beautiful sunrises and sunsets and the refreshing waters flowing from the mountain. Here I was able to connect with God and did much personal reflection while walking. Being with nature is being with God.
Vietnam does not have many mountains. Hiking the steep mountain trails of my parish was challenging at first, but I grew accustomed to it. I walked up and down the valley again and again. That was a great time for me. I usually traveled together with Father Peter Kim SVD, the parish priest, or Fr. Cheng, his assistant priest, to the outstations. I enjoyed these trips, and I now have the strong leg muscles to show for it.
I still remember the first time I reached an outstation: I was catching my breath like a man running to win a race. After that arrival we rested and the villagers gave us some kaukau (sweet potatoes), their staple food. People here are so generous. I remember the many times they gave me support as well as fruit, vegetables and bilums (bags made of string).
This was also my first time living as part of an international community. In the Dirima community, we came from different countries: Fr. Kim from South Korea, Fr. Cheng from China, seminarian Kenneth from Papua New Guinea and I from Vietnam. Despite our national differences, we were all Asian and we all used chopsticks! I felt comfortable sharing a home with my confreres.
During district meetings, I had the chance to see and talk to great Divine Word Missionaries who served many years in this country. I was grateful they took the time to talk to me and share their experiences. I am very proud of their work here and of their contribution to Papua New Guinea.
I came to realize that to work in such mission places demands love, patience, dedication and commitment. These qualities define the missionary apostolate. The mission in Papua New Guinea is challenging and unlimited, and to you missionaries working in such environments around the world, I highly respect your missionary spirit of dedication, commitment and love in working with the people of God in such difficult areas.