Michelle May Pastor Velarde är en av årets fillipinska deltagare. I detta blogginlägg skriver hon om sin tid i sverige, i de två församlingarna – Råneå och Västra Rekarne. Hon skriver omsina känslor inför resan och under den första tiden, om vilka lärdomar hon fått med sig under sin tid här och om hur hon vuxit och utvecklats genom att hon gjort saker hon aldrig vågat göra förr. Hon beskriver den stora utmaningen i att vara långt från familjen som annars alltid finns nära och om sina iaktagelser från Svenska kyrkan som på många sätt är anorlunda från hennes hemkontext.
It is indeed an honor and privileged on my part to be selected as one of the participants for this youth exchange program between the Church of Sweden and the other churches in the world. There are so many experiences that I’ve encountered that will always be remembered and cherished as long as I live.
It was 2 months ago when I was preparing for my things to Sweden. I was so unsure about the things that might happen and the reason why I wanted to go, but honestly I was so excited for this big adventure in my life. I know this was normal for me because it was my very first time to be away from my loved ones and to live independently. Being independent is the first thing I’ve ever learned- to decide for myself and to take good care of myself. It was very unusual for me not to hear any words from my parents and my siblings – their pieces of advice, laughter’s, and yells.
During my first week, I felt home sick and initially I wanted to go home but I knew how impossible it was. I was quiet lonely and uncertain but this feelings of sadness passed as the day went by. I’m happy that I was able to overcome this feeling. The uncertainty about this new world turned out to be a big challenge for me. The challenge is to make this journey a fruitful one.
At this moment I am exploring, enjoying and cherishing the new things around me- the cold weather, the language, the people, the food, and the customs and traditions. I have tried several things that I was not used to before that make me even prouder of myself in a humble way. I have surpassed some of my fears and frights such as phobia with dogs and fright of heights.
For my first exposure in the congregation, I stayed in the North of Sweden specifically in the Diocese of Luleå, Parish of Råneå, together with my co participant from our country, Ate Debbie. It was a small town with approximately 9,000 populations. The climate was extremely different from what I am used to, but thanks to the warm clothes I had brought I survived. We had two supervisors, Rev. Lena Malm and Bodil Anderssons. They were very accommodating with our needs and I really had a great time with them.
I have met several people of different walks of life and it is such a wonderful opportunity for me knowing and learning from them. Most of my time here, I spend talking- telling about myself, my country and my church to all the places I visit. It is an overwhelming experienced to see that there are a lot of people who are interested to listen to my stories, sharing’s, ideas and opinions. I have learned to do the same way, to listen and to understand what they want to convey despite of the language barrier that we are encountering mostly when speaking to elders.
In this parish, I experienced living with 4 families. It was so cool to live with family with super workaholic mom and dad- a bit serious but with good outlook in life; a family wherein the parents are separated and the children needs to do things on their own; both parents are priest with very cute kids; and a family with easy going mom who’s loved by children and funny dad. At first, it was a bit frantic but I was so glad at the end because of the lessons I have learned and reflected from them. I learned to compare and contrast different family status. I noticed that it is important to know, understand and consider how an individual person is molded by his environment because in some ways it really means to the character or behavior of an individual .I learned that it is unjust to generalize everyone being good or bad because of a single incident that you might encountered with him but it should entail thorough understanding and learning before ending up to a certain conclusion about an individual’s identity. Therefore, we must not judge a person merely looking at his personal profile nor the family background but his whole being.
I’ve tried several adventures I never thought of doing in my life- ice skiing, tefat (sitting with a big UFO plate downhill), ice skating, snow mobile driving, swimming and afterwards rolling in the snow with my two-piece. These things were really crazy but I enjoyed it so much. I wasn’t really used to outdoor games specially this things in the snow and I’ve learned even before from my mother that when I was a child, I seldom play outside with kids but instead I choose to be inside the house. That’s why I understand myself every time I refused to do these games. Nevertheless, I tried it because I was challenged to do so, I don’t want to be kill joy and most of all this is the reason why I am here- to experience new things. I learned that it is not bad to try doing unusual things because as long as you will be happy, you know the limitations, you understand its risk and consequences then it’s nice to explore and bash.
In the church, I have noticed that few people were joining to celebrate the mass and mostly they were the older ones in the society. It was very sad to see this scenario- a big church but empty. This is really very alarming to the Church of Sweden because the church values that should be indoctrinated in the minds and hearts of every individual are left in the four corners of the church. But I have seen several good points about the mission of the church in Råneå, I noticed that the church staffs and workers are doing their utmost best to be connected with the society. They initiate weekly activities for all ages-from the newly born to the eldest and I really appreciate this very much. I even envied the society because they have this opportunity yet some are taking this for granted. I really had a great time with the babies, kids, teenagers, young adults, and the old ones in Råneå
For their custom, culture and tradition, over all it was fine up north. I needed to be sensitive to others feelings, follow and respect their beliefs so everything worked out fine.
My one month in Råneå was so praiseworthy, blissful and incomparable. The word thank you is not enough to show how grateful I am to the people who touched my life in some ways. I will just always pray for them, asked God to continue showering them with abundant blessings and keep them safe from any harm.