Society Matters | Volume 30 No. 2 | Winter 2020

7 Volume 30 No. 2 | Winter 2020 Kindness of people helps missionaries in Myanmar The SVD AUS Province’s newest mission in Myanmar is continuing to unfold, as the missionaries get to the know the people, the language and the place. The Divine Word Missionaries have been on the ground in Myanmar for almost two years now, following an invitation from Cardinal Charles Bo SDB to establish a Bible ministry in his Archdiocese of Yangon. Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Asia, with a population of 50 million people, so there are many challenges for the people. The missionaries assigned to Myanmar for the SVD are Fr Tuyen Nguyen, Fr Deva Sagayamphi and Fr Mariusz Kubista. Fr Mariusz says the Bible ministry is the team’s main focus and long-term goal, although difficulty in learning the language can make for slow progress. “It is obvious that knowledge of the language helps us to get to know the culture, human behaviour and habit. It is only when you know people, their way of thinking, that you can start to make real Bible ministry.” As a result, he is spending a lot of time learning the Burmese language. He is also engaged in administrative duties. “Another important thing is trying to make our congregation known in the Diocese,” he says. “We have set up a website and we are going to post regular information about our activities, our congregation, as well as some brief reflections.” Fr Mariusz says that although there are challenges, it is the time spent with the people that he loves the most about his new assignment. “Their openness and kindness makes me think of nothing else but being with them,” he says. “The language, the culture is not easy, and we really have to apply ourselves to not get lost in all of this, but the people’s openness and kindness is something we can really learn from them.” Fr Tuyen says he arrived in Myanmar with lots of energy to work together with the other two SVD confreres in the small community. “After six months of learning the local language (Burmese), the parish priest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish gave us a chapel in the countryside where we could live and practice the language,” he says. For the time being, Fr Tuyen is living among the people, slowly learning the language, accompanying people with Sunday Masses and visiting them – Catholic and non- Catholic alike. “Despite all the difficulties, I feel happy,” he says. “I feel good being there because the people are simple, humble, cheerful, always with a smile on their face, and generous,” he says. “That attitude encourages me to move on.” Also serving in Myanmar is Fr Devasagayam Savariyappan who arrived in the country about six months ago. He works a few days a week as a guidance counsellor and spiritual director at St Joseph’s Catholic Major Seminary in Yangon City which is a national institute of Theology for seminarians from all over Myanmar. Fr Deva says apart from learning the difficult tonal language, it can be challenging to get into the mindset of the seminarians coming from different tribes and cultures. “All the same, it is interesting to come to know their way of life and learn from them,” he says. “What I love is the affection and the cooperation of the people in our surroundings. Though many of them cannot speak or understand English, they are always ready and willing to help us in whatever way they can.” Many of the people are also keen to learn English and Fr Deva provides some English lessons for local people. And, every Sunday, he leads a Bible sharing group with a group of 25 or 30 parishioners who come to the SVD house. “I also join in the weekly Bible classes on Saturdays organised by the Archdiocese of Yangon at the Bishop’s House. If they ask me to share the Word of God, I do so gladly,” he says.