Passion is mission. Mission is passion. These two words are key to what Pope Benedict XVI calls the New Evangelization. In the community that my wife and I serve, we believe we should add two words to this catchphrase — On Fire! It is only when mission work is imbued with blazing passion that an evangelizer can succeed.
My wife Irma and I have a passion for adventure. We enjoy going on mission abroad and in far flung provinces. Whenever we go on mission we chat with hosts, we eat native delicacies, we sing and dance in worship, we stay with families and join community gatherings in animated conversations, warm storytelling, we enjoy the fun of participating in sports and cultural recreations. That’s pretty much the process of our evangelization work — simple, sincere and always trusting the process. It is serendipity at work.
We believe that mission work will fail if the people we reach out to do not sense the love we have for them. In our simple thoughts, words and deeds, everyone we meet must sense the love within us and be inspired by the simplicity of our message — God is love. We do not preach, we are not theologians nor academicians, we are not intellectuals or proselytizers. We are simply Christians witnessing to lives transformed by the love of Christ.
When my wife and I migrated to Canada 15 years ago, it was with a purpose. It was not simply to seek a better life abroad. We had responded with alacrity to our community’s (and God’s) call to be missionaries. It was not an easy decision because at that time, we were enjoying a privileged life. We had a car dealership business that was fairly successful. We were content. But the call was insistent.
We are glad we answered the call. From a motley crew of a few couples in Toronto and Vancouver, Canada now has 14,000 active members of Couples for Christ and its Family Ministries. After 15 years, Irma and I are not the only missionaries serving in Canada. There are more than a dozen of us serving fulltime in seven cities across Canada. Our work has taken us even to the United States where, to date, there are 15,000 renewed families with strong relationships built with the Lord and the Church.
Our work extended as far south as Africa and Latin America. My wife and I went on missions to Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Sierra Leon and Benin and in Bermuda. Mission work could be dangerous too. In some areas in Africa, ambushes and robbery are common. We could hear gunshots at night and we heard of stories of armed men entering parish rectories to rob and kill. Then there was the risk of getting malaria and cholera. But we went in faith and in confidence that our God is a faithful and loving God. The fruits of the work are awesome. Our faith adventures in Africa yielded many faithful CFC members.
As chairman now of the CFC community, I see first hand the fruits of the community’s evangelization work. We have gone to many places and seen how our fulltime missionaries are sacrificing the comforts of home in order to bring God’s message to farflung areas — to China, India, the Middle East. In those areas, our leaders are simple folks, ordinary lay couples bringing the love of God and neighbor to the world. We are amazed at how God is using the Filipino diaspora to evangelize the world.
Working as a fulltime missionary requires sacrifices in living a simple life. When we were in Canada, we had a small allowance that my wife augmented with a regular job. But it is said that God equips those He sends and so, even with our meager income, we were able to send our two daughters to university in Canada. Today Jacque and Krissy (both married now) serve in community also. Krissy and Jose serve in CFC Toronto as head of Youth for Christ while Jacque and PJ are active in missionary work with ANCOP (Answering the Cry of the Poor), CFC’s work with the poor in Northern California.
It has been a wonderful journey for me and my family. In choosing to trust the Lord and submit to His will, we have become contributors to the many jigsaw pieces that belong to a bigger picture — that of entire families renewing the face of the earth and bringing glad tidings to the poor within a global arena.
(Ricky Cuenca is the Chairman of Couples for Christ.)