Gifted To Give: The joy of service
By Fr. Henry V. Lozano, M.O.P.
It’s been 26 years since I became a member of the Missionaries of the Poor (MOP), a lay religious Institute of Brothers of Pontifical Right ministering to the marginalized and most rejected in society. Within this timespan, I have had the privilege of serving in such countries as Jamaica, Haiti, Uganda, Kenya, and now back in my home country, the Philippines. Furthermore, I have also had the opportunity to make frequent trips to the US and Canada on concert promotions and mission appeals.
Being away in foreign lands—and I was, for some 24 years—can sometimes be very challenging. For one, there are differences in culture, language, customs, etc. Some form of readjustment is therefore called for. Yet, the very same differences make for richness. Indeed, there is a lot that I have learned from them—just as I hope, they have also learned from me. In addition, my being exposed to them provided me the opportunity to discover just how awesome our God is whose creativity is simply infinite! Furthermore, it also enabled me to see the beauty and splendour of our Catholic Faith which embraces all sorts of cultures and peoples.
Among the unforgettable experiences I have had serving in these places are the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 which claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and the cholera outbreak in the same country later that year which also claimed some 8,000 of its citizens.
Setting out for the capital Port-au-Prince, the epicentre of the earthquake, a few days after this catastrophe, we then went around for an initial assessment and to bring some comfort and relief to the earthquake survivors. Although the devastation was extensive—and the sight of it was truly heart breaking—the spirit of the Haitian people was certainly not broken. Going around some of the evacuation camps, we met people who were still cheerful and whose faith in God remained unshaken—to our amazement and spiritual edification. Thereafter, we assembled our own little relief team from our Cap-Haitien Mission and camped out in Port-au-Prince for almost 3 months where we fed 1,000 children each on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we distributed food packages to adults. With the help of our American friends from the medical field, we also conducted mobile clinics.
Then we had the cholera outbreak which also reached our Mission eventually and even took the lives of 7 of our own handicapped children and abandoned elderly. With a small team of just 18 Brothers and some local staff, we worked round the clock each day attending to almost 300 residents trying to ensure that no one else gets infected and that those that were infected were saved. Harrowing an experience as it was, I could not help but give God thanks that we had such a committed set of Brothers who poured themselves out day and night for the safety and well-being of our homeless and destitute residents. Indeed, the experience drew out the best from each of us, that part in us which is a small reflection of Christ Himself “who came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” (cf. Matthew 20:28).
There is truly so much joy in serving, especially in serving the poor. Regardless as to the situation, when we simply pour ourselves out in service of others, our joy becomes complete.
Fr. Henry Lozano is a member of the Missionaries of the Poor. He is presently the Mission Superior of Naga Mission of the Missionaries of the Poor.