As part of his Renewal, Frank Bird took time to visit the Marist Mission in Ranong on the Myanmar / Thailand border. This work is an outreach of the Marists in the Philippines, which Frank describes as an “eye-opening and heart-changing experience.”
Marists are called to be with the most forgotten and abandoned and I recognise in this little forgotten corner of the world, a great ‘Marist’ project and work is being done. Visiting HIV AIDS patients and sitting on the floor talking to a guy who would most probably be dead if the MMR Health project had not found him. Visiting Burmese families without work and being forced out of their very poor housing is a shock to the system I have never experienced so immediately before. Seeing the joy of young disadvantaged children learning and growing and happy to be in a safe place has a deep sense of the MMR Education Centre making a real difference against the odds. The totally committed and passionate staff and volunteers who work for little and give so much. The witness to prayer and hospitality and standing by the most marginalized that the Marist Community show has been an experience that I would like to imitate back home or wherever I’m sent in the world. Its been great and I’m very thankful.
I’m going to miss going to the local Market where pigs heads sit on the counter, eels wriggle around in the water in the plastic buckets beside the counter, dried fish hang in the air like clothes on a clothes-line, fish and fish and more fish, and there is interesting new vegetables and smells that get up your nose that you have never smelt before! Wow. Sensation overload! It meant a couple of times having to retreat to a nice little coffee place that had air conditioning just to keep an equilibrium!
One of the great experiences was to go to the Refugee Camps on the Thai/ Burma Border. The Marist Mission Centre Australia sponsor over 100 young people in 4 Hostels and help with a school in 3 Refugee Camps. Their stories and the drama of their life with the social unrest in Burma has moved me deeply. On leaving the students, all want to have a photo taken and they then say: ‘don’t forget me!’. It was also great connecting with other Volunteers who come to serve and help the Mission, like the 6 Irish Students and other MMR staff in the ‘English Language Camp’ for 2 days. As a native English speaker, one is made to feel almost like a movie star! We had lots of games and songs and attempts at helping kids learn English… and in the breaks the kids were all coming up to collect signatures and ask what is your favourite food etc! Oh to be famous!!!
I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to visit and be part of the The Marist Mission Ranong (MMR) community during the month of June while on a 6 month Renewal Programme. I’m so lucky as a Marist Priest, after being on the road 15 years since taking Vows, and 10 years as a Marist Priest, we get the opportunity to have some time to be renewed and energised for the new challenges and adventures of the future. It has been an eye opening and heart changing experience.
Thanks for the glimpse into the great work and commitment to the Marist Mission in Asia. I’ll never forget it!
– Fr Frank Bird