Reviews of Books/Essays

Adventure, Pilgrimage, Vacation

"This is an adventure!" Jacob, my 8-year old son remarks. He is sitting with his mom, at the front seat of a tow truck, The tow truck driver is generous to offer them a seat. We are on our way back to Kaohsiung. Carmen and I are back inside our car, while it is securely fastened to the back of this tow truck. Three hours of riding on a tow truck, and all Jacob could say is "Fun! fun!" Carmen is sitting on the driver seat pretending to drive our old 2000 Nissan Cefiro. It just died, gasped its last breath, and breathed out hot air indicating a dried up carburetor and a broken engine. No more driving this old missionary car. Carmen looks happy holding the steering wheel. She feels like she really is driving, since the car is moving on Highway No. 3. Just don't remind her that our car is riding on the back of this tow truck. I am glad the children are taking this predicament with enthusiasm and treating it as a time of adventure.

The only downside to this dilemma is that the break down of our car came while we were on our way to a Holy Light seminary retreat. We were all looking forward to this vacation. It would have been our first time to go to a seminary retreat and vacation as a whole family. Last year, we could not go because the children were sick. The year before . . . oh well, I could not remember why we did not go that time.

We decided as a family to go without a car, at least this whole year. We will be using public transportation for everything. We are blessed that Kaohsiung city's MRT and bus transportation system are excellent. It will be a challenge. I will definitely miss our car. I did not know one could get emotionally attached to a physical object like a car. But, it is another time of letting go, another opportunity to downsize and to live a simpler life.

This week, I have been reading Henri Nouwen's The Way of the Heart. This is my fourth time to read this wonderful book. It explores the many lessons of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and the way Christian pilgrimage is applied to modern times. Nouwen's main tenet is that it is in pilgrimage that a Christian appreciates solitude and experiences compassion to its fullest extent. I feel like I am in some kind of pilgrimage. Not only because I am here in Taiwan, a beautiful country different from what I am familiar with. Not only because I am away from our families in the Philippines and the USA. But mainly because I sense God's call for me to let go of my tendency to take control of my life. Just like this Nissan Cefiro car is going away, I need to let go of this desire, this convenience, of structuring this missionary life and ministry here in Taiwan. I should stop searching for certainty and leave my trust in God alone. Even if things do not go as planned, I need to say to my God: "This is an adventure with You, my Lord!" Only then can a vacation become a pilgrimage, and my spiritual pilgrimage a time of retreat with God alone.