News & Events
May 19, 2017
Reflections on a West Coast Missions Trip
Fr. Dean Henderson, Chaplain for the University of Victoria and Camosun College, recently took a group of students on a mission trip to the West Coast. Here are excerpts about the experience from two of those students.
By Ada Loewen
I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to join Fr. Dean and other students from UVic on mission to Port Alberni and Ahousaht.
We started with three days in Port Alberni, where we were well taken care of by the parishioners of Holy Family/Notre Dame and our host Marge (Norell).
Our time in Ahousaht was quite a contrast from our time in Port Alberni. We had little in the way of a planned itinerary, an uncomfortable reality for those of us accustomed to structure, but by God’s Grace each day was filled with new opportunities for us to make connections and to be present in the community.
The community has faced pain and loss over the past year, yet we saw a lot of joy and hope in the children we met. I was inspired by their uninhibited openness to strangers, their desire to love and to be loved, and by their innocence and resilience. It was such a joy for us to be around them. It was a good reminder to me of what it means to be “child-like”, and to not be caught up in the worries and stresses of adult life.
There may be no easy solutions to the challenges faced by this community, but we were able to be present with the people we had the opportunity to encounter, and to listen and sympathize with them. I am reminded that the most important thing you can do for another person is to be present, and show them that they are important and worth listening to. I have learned so much from the stories and experiences we heard throughout our trip, and I hope we were able to offer something through our presence with the community.
By Ying-jeng Wang, International student from Taiwan
For me, the mission in Ahousaht was a real challenge, not just because it is remote, but because Fr. Dean briefed us about the deaths, sometimes tragic, that have occurred in the past few months. I was not sure if I had the capacity to comfort the living. Our main goal, based on Fr. Dean’s instruction, was to be present with the people.
Fr. Dean was right. Four days without a concrete schedule gave us many opportunities to hang out with the locals. We had several occasions of encountering First Nations cultures, such as taking part in the traditional dances of the Nuu-chah-nulth people at the community centre, where we just dove in and danced with them.
We also listened to the stories told by Elder Louie. He firmly stated that God is everywhere, both in the city and in remote places like Ahousaht, and that He doesn’t forget His people. In a hoarse yet steady voice, he affirmed that as long as people trust in the Creator, He will give everything they need. When he said this, his wrinkled face was glowing with a radiant light.
For me, being present with others has always been a huge challenge. I am like Martha, busy with tasks. Nevertheless, from this mission, I have realized that it is by no means about completing a pile of tasks. Rather, the essence of the mission is to offer oneself up as an instrument for God right then and there. This time, I have chosen to be Mary, who listens to Jesus patiently at His feet.
Miraculously, the moment I courageously opened my heart and showed willingness to be part of their lives, I found Jesus coming quietly into my heart and into theirs.