You Are Neither Useless nor Insignificant
The following article is compiled from a missionary blog administered by Fr. Domenico Rodighiero, O.M.I. in Thailand.
“When I meet a poor person who smiles, I open my heart because I feel that life is stronger than pain, resignation or a sense of defeat.” These are the words of Fr. June Ongart Khaese, O.M.I.
Father June has a preference to help the poor and always manages to establish with them a relationship of trust and respect. The poor and disadvantaged people he serves see in him a brother, one of the family who takes care of them.
Father June’s ministry is large. He is the Pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Petchabun, Thailand. But his commitment goes well beyond the parish boundaries. His interest is for the poor, for the weakest and the “periphery,” as Pope Francis calls it.
“For me, poverty and discomfort is a great lesson,” said Fr. June. “I always wonder how a handicapped, poor, abandoned person can be happy. And then I sit next to them, I listen to them, and I discover their world, a world of suffering certainly, but also a world of struggle against hopelessness and despair that makes them strong and able to win the battle over depression. The smile I see on their lips tells me that life is stronger than pain, that life makes sense even when the evidence seems to deny it. Their stories are a great lesson for me. I see God at work in their pain.”
Father June works all day. He often comes home late at night and usually goes out after dinner because someone calls asking for help. His life has no rules except the rules of the poor. He says this makes his life full of surprises.
Father June is a member of the Pakayo tribe of Northern Thailand. Usually he doesn’t speak much, but when the conversation is about the poor he comes alive. He wants action right away, because the poor have been abandoned far too long.
“When I meet the poor, the handicapped, maybe HIV-positive children, I tell myself it is not right, it’s not their fault. I tell myself that they have done nothing wrong to deserve not being able to walk, to have to live with a disease that they did not look for and I feel like I have to do something,” said Fr. June.
“But then I am reassured because I see that my attention, my care for them changes them. When I see a smile on their lips, when I perceive a new hope being born in their lives, when I realize that they themselves begin to help those who are like them, then I realize that love really does miracles, and I learn that not only they, but each one of us, needs love, attention and recognition. I have received this love, and because of this I feel that my life has a meaning. What I want to do is to give love so that even the lives of those who are desperate might regain dignity and meaning.”
Father June tells of his experiences with enthusiasm and conviction. It is precisely the little events that give substance to what is already deeply rooted in his heart.
“One day I had prepared the funeral of an abandoned woman whom I had heard about and whom I had gone to visit, because I thought she would die at any moment. Seeing that someone was taking care of her, seeing that her life was not so insignificant and useless, she began to recover. The illness left her and now she has her own little house and she smiles again. This woman is for me a ‘living’ example of how attention to others works miracles and I believe that my missionary duty is precisely this: to tell the poor that God loves them and thinks of them and that they are neither useless nor insignificant.”