The drive to Ranau from Kota Kinabalu took our mission team three hours across undulating terrain and misshapen gravel tracks. It was uncomfortable at best. I wondered how my fellow missionaries managed to endure this arduous journey. After all, we city dwellers are creatures of comfort. Surely, some would have thought that they could benefit with freshly paved roads lined with warm-white street lights. Well, I did. This line of thought was abruptly cut short by the spectacular view of Mount Kinabalu. It had crept up unto us. Almost by instinct, my fellow missionaries whipped out their phones hoping to capture this magnificent beauty. As quickly as it had revealed its face, the clouds veiled the mountain side in a thick cloud cover. The mountain had hidden its face.
The mountain is a mysterious place. To some, it is a challenge to be conquered. To others, a place of refuge away from the noise of city life. It is a geological artefact to be consumed by hordes of visitors, and consequently a site of value extraction and money making. To the romantic, it is a place of ecological fawning. To Singaporeans, a project for further improvements. Indeed the mountain can be many things. It beckons and calls out, as though a mother to her child.
To St Francis of Assisi, the caves and mountains were places of intimate encounter with his Lord. These sanctuaries invoked a profound sense of yearning for St Francis. Francis ached to know who the Lord is, and who he himself is, and who the Lord is to him. Yet above all, it is the Lord who desires to avail himself to love and draw all unto himself. It is the Lord who first humbled himself by taking the form of an infant, and having died in love for us, and continues to be made vulnerable in that little piece of fragile host offered through unworthy hands. He is the Lord of all Encounters!
“We are here because God is here”. In everything we do, I pray not to forget that it is the Lord that we wait upon. We are here not by the virtue of our goodness, but because of the sweet desire of our Lord for us.
I see the mountain as an allegory to life. In the heart of all encounters lay a deeper appreciation of our human dignity. God loves us totally and completely. He also loves us in a particular, almost made-to-order manner. It is the Lord who desires to avail himself to love and draw all unto himself. I take this disposition onto my mission while waiting patiently for the Lord. To me, that translates to being open to changes and surprises. It tells me to lay back and be carried by the waves when my instinct is to swim towards shore. I may not get to build that house we envisioned, but that is fine. The distribution of humanitarian supplies may be chaotic, but that too, is perfectly fine. I am not suggesting that we do not do our utmost. On the contrary, it is necessary. However, we must not lose sight of the dearest of all treasures.
As our dearest friend would say, in a simple yet profound way, “We are here because God is here”. In everything we do, I pray not to forget that it is the Lord that we wait upon. We are here not by the virtue of our goodness, but because of the sweet desire of our Lord for us. He is, truly, the Lord of all Encounters!
Friar Justin Lim, OFM, Fr Nicholas Stephen and missioners from Singapore
During our sharing, we came to recognise the hand of the Holy Spirit working in an unexpected and surprising manner. We do not dictate when or how we encounter the Lord; we can only wait patiently in anticipation for him. In this ministry of presence, we learn to be present and available to the Presence.
The clouds have lifted its veil over Mount Kinabalu. The splendour of creation reflects the face of her creator. Oh Lord, you are beauty and you are all our sweetness. Great and wonderful Lord, God Almighty and Merciful Saviour. How we long to see your face.
Come, taste and see that the Lord is good.