Br Ben is a Marist Seminarian who came to Ranong on his pastoral experience placement while studying to be a Marist Priest in Rome. Marist Asia Foundation enjoys welcoming young Marists for their mission experience each year for 3 months. Below is Br Ben’s volunteer reflection.
Before going out for a pastoral experience I always try to balance between getting to know something about the ministry so I know what to expect and at the same time not to have too many expectations as that can negatively affect the experience.
I knew that Ranong was a mission run my Marists on the Thai- Myanmar border that started around 10 years ago and that there had been many Marists and volunteers from all over the world who had worked and are still working there.
I knew that they looked after the needs of AIDS patients and that they had a school where they taught the Migrant children.
But this was only the beginning.
I knew that teaching in a foreign country would have its challenges. Thailand had different education standards, curriculum and different pedagogies. But I soon realised that the main challenge is language.
Teaching English to those who don’t speak it on a regular basis is a challenge as it demands a lot of patience, both from the teachers and the students. At times it was frustrating for me and the students, they wanted to learn and couldn’t and I wanted to teach but couldn’t.
However, at the same time there were some “moments to remember” It was normally when the student or I made a mistake and the class had a giggle. It was normally me and this really strengthened our relationship as we were slowly letting out guard down and letting the other see us for who we really are.
This allowed me to develop my relationship with the students outside the classroom as well. Playing volleyball with the students, talking to them in the hallways,, waving to them around the school and around Ranong helped to get rid of shyness and encourage them to speak freely both inside and outside the classroom .
Working with the health team had its own set of challenges. Each patient had a different story of how they ended up in Ranong.
Some were more heart wrenching than others but they all were victims of social and political injustice and had no means of changing their circumstances without outside help.
This is where the Marist Asia Foundation Health team comes in and assists the patients with a variety of issues based on their needs.
Some needed to get their documents in order before they could be helped by the local health system, while others needed extra health checks, not covered by the system. Others just needed a translator to communicate with the medical staff.
A Marist finds strength in his relationship with God and his community. Ranong would have to be the youngest Marist community that I lived in to date.
With a superior under 50 and all the other members under 50 as well it was a joyful and energetic community. This was strengthened by the community meditation prayer and mass every day.
I’m grateful for my time in Ranong and for all that I learnt during my short stay. I had many experiences I will never forget and each of them will help a different aspect of my formation as a Marist.
I will continue to pray for all those at the Marist Asia Foundation and pray that I see you soon.