Dec 10, 2020
In The Hands of the Master Baker
My faith-journey as a missionary is like the art of baking
I’ve been working in the parish of Christ the King in Ba, Fiji. Near where I live is St Theresa’s Primary School which has a statue of St Therese of the Child Jesus. Every time I leave home I glance at the statue’s quote: “Doing ordinary things extraordinarily” keeps ringing in my ears as a reminder for me to put love into everything I do.
Every day is full of surprises. Who am I going to meet? What am I going to do? Things unfolded for me slowly until I discovered the focus of my ministry. I was asked to help in the Faith Formation Commission, preparing children for their Confirmation and First Communion. Once a week I visit the two communities of Votua and Nawaqarua. I visit Votua in the morning and Nawaqarua in the afternoon to facilitate the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) group and the First Communicants. The travel to these communities is dry, dusty and hot. This is nothing compared to the joy of sharing the Gospel and experiencing the kindness of the people I meet.
Whenever I have free time I visit the Women’s Development Training Center, which teaches baking, sewing, weaving, recycling, flower arrangement and handicrafts. I joined the group during their baking lesson where I mingled with some Indo-Fijians. Most of them are Muslim, Hindu and Methodist. I enjoyed my baking lesson with the ladies, and after several weeks together we have built a unique bond of friendship. One of the Muslim women I met was Arishna who has two daughters and lives in a house along the coast. During Eid Al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice), she invited me to her house to celebrate with her family. Eid Al-Adha is an Islamic holiday which commemorates the time when prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) obeyed the will of Allah to sacrifice his son. Part of the celebration is to slaughter a cow and share the meat with the families and friends.
I was touched by the warm welcome. The family offered me some of their traditional dishes and even taught me how to cook them. It was a joy to visit such a wonderful family and share life, faith and stories which are the foundation of a genuine friendship.
When I came to Fiji, I didn’t know anything about baking. It is part of the everyday life of most women in the village since baked goods are part of their daily meals. Whenever there is an important celebration, bread or cake is always present.
I learned that baking is an art and you have to follow the proper procedures and use the right measurements in order to get the bread to taste right. There are also different styles and techniques that allow the bread to be more soft, fluffy, tasty and attractive. In baking you need to be patient. You have to give enough time for the dough to rise. You also need presence of mind, focus and organization in order to avoid mistakes, especially when it comes to mixing the ingredients, measurements and kneading. Putting your whole heart into it will give you a great sense of joy and fulfilment.
My faith-journey as a missionary is like the art of baking. I have been given all the necessary ingredients. All I need to do is bake. It is just up to me how I will mix those ingredients together...
Now, I can join the ladies in the village when they do their baking. I can also teach them the different styles and techniques I have learned. This is my way to reach out to them and motivate them to learn new ways of doing things they are used to doing and enhance their skills.
With the help of the Women’s Center, we organized a flower arrangement outreach program in Nawaqarua community. This is to help the women develop new skills and could also be a source of income in the future.
All the ingredients come together like my faith journey
My faith-journey as a missionary is like the art of baking. I have been given all the necessary ingredients. All I need to do is bake. It is just up to me how I will mix those ingredients together. I learned to be patient with myself, with the things I do, and with the people I work with. And most importantly I learned to be grateful to God for the simple things and to be happy journeying with His people. My experience has taught me the value of doing ordinary things extraordinarily while trusting God, the Master Baker.
Columban lay missionary Evangeline “Jinky” Ucol lives and works in Fiji