The Patna mission will always be a fond memory to me as it was ‘a bunch‘ of first times in my life. It was the first time I was to go on mission, my first visit to North India and the first time I would be giving a teaching. Not to mention that the teaching was in Hindi, a language that I did not know. We left Bangalore for a 46 hour journey to Patna.
There was a family of four in our compartment; a couple and their two boys. The younger one was about two and a half years old and the elder boy was about seven years old. The older boy had some complications during delivery and hence he was partially paralyzed. But, though they were Hindu Brahmins they looked after the elder son with great love and care. This was a real eye opener for me as neither of the parents was well educated nor were they Christians. This experience reinforced my belief that God is love.
The next day we found out that the youth camp was delayed by a day. This was good news for me as I was still struggling with my session and it gave me more time to work out the kinks in my session. As soon as we arrived in Patna, we were grandly welcomed and were taken to the retreat center where we settled for the next few days. We were up bright and early next morning and were off to attend mass at Kurji Parish, which was about half a kilometer away from the Retreat Centre, the Priest was more than welcoming and gave us a background on the youth of his Parish.
Once we finished our breakfast we started the mocks. I was petrified as I was beginning to draw a blank and even though I had written the whole talk down I could not remember the words that were to be spoken. Once I was done with my mock which I finished in record time as I was nervous. The only positive feedback that they we were able to give me was that though I stumble and stuttered I still tried my best. But, they couldn’t understand anything that I was trying to convey. It was time for lunch and once we finished they continued with the mocks. At this time I was asked to spend some time with one of the Pastoral Worker to help me go over my talk. He went through the whole talk with me and gave me a lot of pointers. By this time I had already gone over the talk four times and each time I had received conflicting advice. For example, I was advised to just read out the talk and another person advised me not to just read it. I was also in charge of orientation and the opening prayer. One of the youth was able to sit with me and narrated the orientation to me as I wrote it down and an sister translated the opening prayer for me.
I had to play the guitar to songs I didn’t know, so we went through all the songs that were to be played. I was still very troubled about my session and expressed the same to the sister who was helping me with my session from the very beginning. She just said, “Am I asking you to prepare it again? I know how much you have tried. If you have tried your best leave the rest to God and don’t worry about anything.” I remembered the singles formator of South Bangalore Chapter asking me to write down the talk once again. Since there was nothing left for me to do, I sat and wrote down the talk again including the points I got. The most important part of the day was the multiple times we had intercession for the youth camp. The service team went for mass to the Kurji Parish and we had a time of team worship after it. We went back to the Retreat Centre and quickly had our breakfast. Later, I was prayed over. We were waiting for the youth from 9am and with all my doubts and worries no one had showed up yet. As we waited, it was calm and peaceful. Meanwhile we started practicing the songs. Slowly the youth started trickling in, by 11am we had a few of them gathered. We started with the teaching of action songs.
During the first talk I realized that the youth could speak English and my talk would not be a complete disaster. This made it easy for me to connect with them. Once they were done with their group discussions, it was time for my session. I asked one of the Titos to pray over me again. As I went for my session a sudden confidence and calmness came over me. I asked them to sit down on the carpeted floor and I started off my session. My plan was to place the sheets of paper on the floor and read out my session. But, every time I tried to do so I got stuck, so I abandoned the idea and used the sheets only to read out the Bible verses.
As I gave the talk I started to have a conversation with the youth and as I continued they were eager to read out the verses and answer all my questions. I began to realize that they were not used to reading the Bible and they were not taught many things. There was continuous interceding while I was giving the talk. By the end of my session I was able to reiterate my points and I remembered the message I got during Praise and Worship that we had on the train,
“I will pour out my Grace on you, but you have to accept it with humility.”
I was able to give my talk only with the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. We continued with the rest of the sessions and went back to the Retreat Centre. I was not aware of many of the things I had said and it began to dawn on me that I was not only able to include all the advice that was imparted to me, but also clarify all the doubts I had about my session. All I could do was Praise God. The next day the session on Praise and Worship was given and the youth who were so restless the previous day, stood in silence and participated wholeheartedly.
I had to leave the camp midway with a heavy heart as I planned my travel according to the earlier dates. I was to return by flight and had forgotten to carry an original government issued ID card. Again as I was worried my sister told me not to worry as she said, “If God has brought you here, I am sure that He can get you back home as well“. Once she said this I remembered how I used to sit at the Blessed Sacrament and pray to God to give me more faith. This mission was the answer to my prayers. One of the Titos drove me to the airport and as he dropped me off he told me not to worry. I walked up to the security and handed over my phone which had the ticket displayed and the color photocopy of my driver’s license. I got in without any hassle and as I went for the security check, something told me to cross over to the next queue and as I did so there was a huge commotion behind me. Again God was there by my side. This was one of the best experiences of my life and I am looking forward to the next time I am called to serve.