Two of our brothers, Joseph Uy from the Philippines and Chava Martinez from Mexico, are returning to their home countries after having spent two years in the International Formation House. We wanted to hear their impressions before they left. Martin Steinbereithner interviewed them.
Chava where are you from?
Im from Monterrey, Mexico. It’s a big city, with about 5 million people, in the northern part of the country.. I have been living there for almost all of my life and I have been raised in the Jésed community (a community which is part of the Sword of the Spirit).
Why do you sometimes call it “the ranch”?
It’s not really a ranch, but because Mexico use to be very centralized country, with Mexico City as a very large capital, everything else they used to call “a ranch”, sort of like “the back country”. But now that Monterrey is growing a lot, with industry and business) it’s “The Big Ranch”.
And Joseph, how about you?
I was born and raised in Metro Manila. I’m a “community kid’, that is I grew up in the local Sword of the Spirit community. And I´m the youngest of 9. But I am my mom’s favorite.
of course she has 8 other favorites…
Haha I know, but I still claim that spot.
So what were your expectations coming here?
My expectation was just to do whatever was needed. I was very happy to hear
that there would be a lot of opportunity to move away from the busyness of
outreach life. I heard we would have a lot of time of prayer, away from the hustle
and bustle I used to know in Manila.
What about you, Chava?
Yes, we kind of know that when a brother moves to Michigan, he sort of “disappears from the world” because he is pretty disconnected (including from social media). That was kind of my expectation: having to disconnect from the world in order to connect much more with the Lord. Another one was growing in my understanding of what a consecrated life means. A solitude experience, knowing that we are not going to be very involved in outreach.
what did you eventually end up doing, how where your expectations fulfilled or not?
As for solitude, I did experience that. Working on maintenance of the Brotherhood Center, which means working outside in the woods a lot. I also had much more time for prayer and study. But the aspect of my expectation which was not fulfilled was the outreach part, since I ended up being very involved in UCO Ann Arbor and in organizing men’s events for UCO and the brotherhood.
how about you Joseph, what did you end up doing?
I started raking leaves! And the following month “picking up sticks”. So yes I worked in the maintenance of our property, I learned how to use big machines and I have installed new toilets! But I also served in the Development Office of the brotherhood and on brotherhood finances.
And what were your high points of this year?
For me it was the experience of God at different points, in part because we had a lot of time for prayer. I learned to return to the Lord regularly throughout the day. Especially during our discernment time, in the course of the Ignatian Exercise, you were on your own in a room, praying for an hour each day.
you were not locked up in your room, right?
Haha no, they didn’t lock my room. But I learned a lot about being by my own, with my own thoughts, and meeting the Lord there.
How about you Chava?
I had this answer prepared already because I know that my parents are going to ask me that question. My main highlight was finding the love of God in my life, that’s it. All of the other experiences take second place. Comprehending that God loves me in a very profound and deep way and that I really want to love and glorify him in a better way each day, that was deep. That was my highpoint and I’m still trying to understand what that looks like.
That´s beautiful! Were there any challenges in these two years?
Chava: Absolutely! Monterrey is a very fast-running city, full of busyness and noise. It’s a big industrial city, so coming here and changing pace was really a challenge. Back home, I used to have a very packed schedule with lots of meetings, and here my schedule is very empty. That was challenging! The other change involved not using social media. But that change of pace, being less connected and not running around all the time was good, for it enabled you to encounter God.
Joseph: There were several challenges for me. One was the physical one: the cold of winter, and even the jetlag took me weeks to adjust. The other one was cultural: in my first year I was the only Filipino in the house, so the that year was very challenging. Understanding Western humor was not easy.
And what are you taking home, apart from winter clothes?
I would say I have learned different ways of doing things. I learned to negotiate cultural differences. That gives me confidence to try different things and take risks which are unthinkable back in Asian culture.
how about you, Chava?
I was thinking of three things: The first and most important was the one I already mentioned about the love of God. The second one was learning a new set of skills I didn´t have before. Especially working with Mike Kramer (the Brotherhood Property Manager) on maintenance of the property, you learn a lot of things. Like plumbing, using a chain saw, or even driving a tractor. I also picked up new musical skills like playing new instruments, and I discovered new hobbies. The third one is relationships. Knowing the brothers in this region, knowing community members in the local Sword of the Spirit community and in the student outreach was great: I made a lot of new friends!
Now give us a thumb sketch of what are you going to be doing now that you return to your region.
Joseph: I will be very involved in finances as the bookkeeper, and I think I will be serving in the university outreach in Manila.
Chava: For me I will be leading the office of our fundraising organization which supports all of our programs and outreaches. And I’m hoping to be somehow involved in mission as well.