By Lorna Cañete
The author is from Bacolod, Lanao del Norte. She has been in Chile as a Columban Lay Missionary (CLM) since 2015 with the two other members of PH22, Michael Javier and Gilda Comayas. They are the first group of CLMs from the Philippines assigned in Chile.
If the Philippines has Chocolate Hills in Bohol, the Northern part of Chile has mountains of “chocolates”, no green, just all brown soil.
I never imagined living in a desert in my whole life. Each time I read a passage in the bible which mentioned about wilderness or desert before coming to this place, I could not relate how it would feel like being in the desert, until I found myself in the middle of one.
Columban Lay Missionaries PH22 (L to R) Lorna Cañete, Michael Javier and Gilda Comayas
One of my unforgettable memories is when I travelled from North of Chile to Peru by bus. There I saw different colors of soil along the way, different forms of mountains, different valleys, and different curves and narrow roads.
As I was looking around the deserted place, I was brought back to where I come from – a tropical place, plenty of rains, soft soil, many rivers, vast plains of plants and vegetation, all green.
As we went inward the desert and along the coast of Peru, there I saw the amazing and unforgettable scenery I treasured in my life. I saw a group of farmers planting corns and different vegetables in the middle of the desert! I couldn’t help myself but be awed. It was really an “AHA” moment for me. I asked myself, “Is it real? Are they real?” It really amazed me, and it brought me again to the place where I come from –Mindanao, Philippines.
This experience reminded me of the question commonly raised by the missionaries in my place, “Why can’t people plant? You have good soil, with a regular rainy season.” From what I saw in the desert, I realized that that question was all true. Here, I’ve crossed the desert, witnessed the farmers cultivating it, planting with no hesitant feelings despite of the dry soil.
Lorna visiting Cerros Pintados geoglyphs in Pica, Northern Chile
So came my questions to myself: How about me? How is my missionary life? Am I still in the tropical place where there is no need to exert effort at all and just grow easily? Or am I really on the desert soil where there’s a need for cultivation and watering?
Like the farm in the desert, that’s how I feel about my missionary experience here in Chile. Now the challenge, “How will I do that? How do I become the water in my ministry for it to be fruitful and productive?”
As of this moment, these are my guiding questions helping me to continue being a missionary and I am hoping to have a memorable and significant mission in this place.
Through this experience of mine, I would like to quote the saying, “Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must but take the step.” I do believe that as long as I have the desire and passion to continue despite the difficulties, challenges and worries, there will always be something “big” that may happen, whether it is during my time or after my time, it doesn’t matter.
God... He found me. He cares for me and has encircled me with all the blessings I need... and I feel the need to pay it forward.
Lorna with Columban Lay Missionaries in Chile