– Ruth is a friend of Nuala and Andrew Moraes from Wellington, New Zealand.
A couple of weeks ago I returned to Wellington after visiting Andrew, Nuala and Felicity in Ranong. As this is their second trip to Ranong, and is scheduled to last a couple of years, I thought Muhammad had better not wait for the mountain, so I hopped on a plane to Bangkok, and a bus to Ranong.
I stayed for two weeks, and on my last day, Nuala asked me what I would take home from Ranong. I thought about it a lot on the plane back, and apart from a new-found love for tom yum soup and severely mozzie bitten legs, these are my main memories and impressions:
Nuala quoted Father John in saying that the work of the mission is to “be”, and the “doing” – the teaching and working – is secondary. So the act of participating in the MMR community is the mission itself. (I hope there is a “comments” function on this website so people can correct me if I’m wrong – disclaimer: these are my personal impressions only!)
The community also substitutes as a family and a connection to home. As well as working together and usually living in the same building, community members socialise together, babysit each other’s children, and generally lend support. I realised how important this is in a place that is so different from New Zealand, so far away from home, and where the work is so tough.
I had a strong impression of how practical and down-to-earth the MMR folk are. The work is so important, and the health programme in particular I thought was harrowing and distressing. But everyone just got on and did it without fuss or spectacle. Sister Margaret came to the door one morning with the news that one of the HIV-positive patients had fallen and injured his head, and needed to be taken to hospital. Andrew was so calm! He said we’d be along in a few minutes, finished putting Felicity down (or some similar baby-related activity), and off we went. I was panicking. Well, I would have been if Andrew wasn’t so in control.
The standard of living in the alleyway that we picked up the patient from was also shocking and depressing, but I think I was the only one who was shocked. Andrew and Margaret were obviously used to it all and just did what needed to be done. Pretty impressive.
One of the best things about being in Ranong was having conversations with people about things that are bigger than our individual lives. I especially spent lots of time talking with Andrew about the world at large, what’s wrong with it, and how it could be better. I actually found this pretty exhausting because frequently my most profound thoughts are centred on why other people are such incompetent motorists, what’s for dinner, and whether the Desperate Housewives script-writers will ever get rid of that annoying voiceover at the end of each episode. So it was refreshing to be reminded of the bigger things in life.
The bigger things in life are a part of every day living in Ranong. People are hungry, sick, uneducated, and many of them do not have the luxury of political security, i.e. citizenship or permanent residence in Thailand.
I remembered that I can be part of the bigger story just by thinking, reading, praying, discussing… and I don’t need to be in Thailand to do it – it’s just easier to get distracted here in Wellington than it is in places like Ranong, where the need is so obvious.
I think I’ve been distracted for a long time and I’m grateful to have been reminded of the real world, and that I want to be part of it.
Finally, I met Felicity, who is the most beautiful child on this earth. I’m sorry to tell you all, but the photos are rubbish. Felicity in real life is just exquisite, and unless you get yourselves to Ranong to see her, you are seriously missing out (although I expect she will be a beautiful toddler too). It is yet to be seen if she will inherit her mother’s lovely locks, but she certainly got Nuala’s sweetness and serenity.