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Leaving Comfort Behind
Atlanta missionaries share experiences serving the poor in the Philippines

Paloma Carroll
Pinecrest student Paloma Carroll with her new friends

Manila, Philippines -- Missionaries from the Atlanta area realized what it means to leave their “comfort zone” on a recent trip to the Philippines.

On March 29, 2012, ten missionaries and Fr. Dominic Pham LC flew from Atlanta to Manila for a Holy Week mission trip to the impoverished commercial area called the Divisoria.

Fr. Dominic, who is originally from Vietnam and now serves as chaplain at Pinecrest Academy in Cumming, Georgia, organized the trip with the help of local Regnum Christi members and the Legion of Christ priests in Manila.

During the trip, the missionaries volunteered at an orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity, and a hospice where the sisters serve, the Hospicio de San Jose. They also visited two “shantytowns,” one of which is near
Missionaries in Philippines
Missionaries from Atlanta and Fr. Dominic Pham LC join Legionaries in Manila in the Divisoria
Pinecrest’s “sister school” Mano Amiga.

Paloma Carroll, a junior at Pinecrest, admits that she was nervous before the trip. Then she remembered advice that a friend gave her.

“He told me that there would come a time on the mission when I would realize that it wasn’t all going to be fun and easy and that I would be faced with a very important decision,” said Paloma. “I would have to decide whether I was just going to count down the days until I got home and try my best to ‘survive,’ or I could choose to take advantage of every single moment Christ gave me to give of myself and grow deeper in my love for Him.”

Fr. Dominic encouraged the missionaries to be “really open to what they will see and do” on the mission, knowing that the experience of real poverty can be overwhelming, but also eye-opening and enriching.

“My greatest joy is to see the students overwhelmed by
A little Philapino
this experience, to be shocked out of their comfort zone,” he says. “It´s beautiful to witness!”

Some striking images he remembers are of blind beggars being guided by their loved ones, of the Sisters of Charity lovingly caring for children abandoned by their parents, and of a family who wanted to serve their own lunch to the missionaries.

Paloma agrees with Fr. Dominic that the experience of missions was one of coming out of her comfort zone.

“At first I was so careful to not touch anything,” she said. “However, I realized very quickly that I wasn’t looking up from the ground to really observe all of the people around me. So right then is when I decided to ‘get dirty’ and ‘get simple.’ And the only way I knew how to do that was by sitting on the floor with the children, talking to the adults on a very personal level, and kissing everyone!”

All of the missionaries brought back many lessons from their experiences.

“The main thing that struck me was how happy all the people were - even the very poor,” says Miles Stevens from New Orleans. “Their trust in God is admirable. This has really gotten me to think of how blessed I truly am.”

Paloma remembers how she met at least one person per day who taught her something. She recalls one mother named Raquel who complimented her “on what a great person she thought I was, but as we spent more time together I began to feel smaller and smaller in comparison to her.  She was a hard working woman of such incredible faith!  I realized that no matter how I have been raised or what I may own, I am no better than any of people I encountered.  In fact, they are probably much better people than I am and much closer to heaven!”

These experiences left the Atlanta missionaries with a lot to ponder as they returned home, for now; Fr. Dominic hopes to return to the Philippines each year!

Paloma said, “I will not leave this mission behind.  We must all realize that we have a mission at home to love others, even when it means sacrificing and stepping out of our comfort zones, because through this love we can set the whole world on fire for God!”







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Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.

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