After a gap of two years, I made my comeback to the Lord’s vineyard in February this year as a full-time missionary. Many people around me still laugh about how the Lord led me in a very amusing way by either shutting down the companies I worked for, or employers would lose their business deals or not give the salary on time etc. It was all for God to freely have His way in me.
Ever since I got back, the one program I looked forward to attending was the Full-timers Recollection because it not only sets us on fire for Jesus by giving us spiritual nourishment but also ample time to get acquainted with other serving full-time. On 30th May 2019 forty of us, both couples and singles working in different parts of the country, arrived with their families at Shanthi Kiran Pastoral Institute at Bajjodi for a two-day recollection. It was led by Tito Elvis Coutinho, our interim Country Servant, in the absence of Tito A V Jose who is on the path to recovery.
At first, I was astonished to see full-timers of varied age groups. I saw people as young as me (well, I think I am one!) to people who have five to six grandchildren! It seemed to be a perfect choice – what better way than to serve the Lord in retirement days? Since quite a few of us arrived a day early due to different train schedules, we were called for a time of Praise and Worship and impromptu sharing of testimonies. It was wonderful to hear each one witnessed how the Lord is faithful and continues to have His hand upon our lives as full-time missionaries.
The two days were about Christian Finances and Teacher’s training. The first session was conducted by Tito Elvis who shed light upon how to handle our finances as good stewards of the Lord. He touched on various aspects, especially urging us to be faithful givers of tithe even when it becomes challenging. He encouraged us to not focus on the 10% that we give but on the 90% that God gives us to enjoy. He said, “Everything comes from the Lord and He has to be the first priority in our lives. When we don’t tithe or reduce it in difficult situations, we are not trusting that God will take care of our needs. This attitude needs to be changed because God can meet our needs and He always does.”
The next session was led by Tita Maclean Coutino, who spoke on Christian Life and Wealth. She stressed how we need to work for God and need not be greedy for money. She encouraged each one of us to share and be generous with all that God has given us, like increasing our tithes, almsgiving, etc.
Tita Lavisha Castelino gave the next session on ‘Budgeting’. This session caught our attention quickly and was liked by all. As full-timers, we get a stipend and often struggle to run the house as most of it gets spent soon. It’s even more challenging for those with big families. This session highlighted the different plans made available by the government and how we could start saving with as meagre an amount as hundred rupees a month, and not just for ourselves and our medical expenses, but also for our children and their future expenses, all the way up to our retirement. She also shared a budget plan and we got our copies to take home so that we spend prudently in the future by making careful estimates of our stipend. The budgeting was so cool that we could also save up for a yearly vacation. Now you know why we loved it!
After a quick break, we came back for another interesting session by Tito Prajwal Pinto. He trained us on How to give meaningful talks, bracing us with guidelines and techniques to be a better speaker or a teacher. He gave us an assignment where we had to pick our favourite Bible verse and give a teaching on it the next day. Although we gasped when we heard this, it gave us a chance to come out of our cocoons and be courageous for the Lord. After dinner, we prayed the Rosary followed by a panel discussion where we could raise concerns about the problems faced in our respective mission areas, and the leaders tried their best to give solutions.
An American author once said,
‘Worship rolls out the red carpet for the presence of the Lord’.
On day two the CFCI Youth – Mangalore helped us to roll out a magnificent red carpet for Our Lord through an intense time of Praise and Worship. As we were soaked in worship we experienced that God was present with us in His full power and might. It was preceded by five-minute teaching by Tito Prajwal and he gave us immediate feedback with suggestions.
While we thought that now a new speaker would come on the stage, we got a huge surprise! The CFCI Mangalore community had arranged a surprise day-out for us. We were given about twenty minutes to get ready but guess what? We were ready in fifteen…such was our joy! They took us to a park, a fancy planetarium and the Infant Jesus Church. The CFCI Singles and Youth of Mangalore brought cartons of food which had been carefully packed for us. We didn’t have to spend at all as everything was taken care of. As we were served we relished some amazing snacks and our used plates were taken by them with smiles on their faces. They didn’t stop at this – there were a lot of games with music (yes, they carried speakers!)… thus making it a memorable experience for us. The CFCI Youth had won our hearts that day as they served joyfully and selflessly without expecting anything in return and they were just about 17-20 years of age! How many of us would do that? Yet, they did, knowing that their true reward is in the Lord.
We can’t help but be grateful for all the love and care showered on us these two days. Meeting these adorable youth and witnessing the Mangalore community not only increased mine but every missionary’s love for God. As someone put it at the end of the program – the CFCI Mangalore community has truly set a standard.
God bless you, Mangalore!