Maryknoll Father Shaun Crumb, whose home parish is Sacred Heart in Glenwood, was ordained in 2015 and is currently serving in China. He wrote the following article for the July/August 2017 issue of Maryknoll magazine. The article is reprinted here with permission. For more information about Maryknoll, visit MaryknollSociety.org.
Mission is an adventure with God into a new world. I am beginning my journey as a Maryknoll priest in China, where I am studying Chinese at a university and helping out in different parishes. A big part of our mission here is to support the local church through our presence.
Oftentimes I have to trust in God’s way because my way doesn’t always work in the Chinese culture, which is very different from my home culture. Being a Minnesotan, I like to be independent. I like my own space. In China the group is more important than the individual. Having my personal space is not likely, especially when I cram into an already full bus. Doing things alone is not the norm. People do things in groups, and family is extremely important.
The people are teaching me that having a good relationship with someone takes priority over individual needs.
Simply walking down the street in China is an adventure.
Many people are surprised to see a foreigner because, compared to the Chinese population, few foreigners live in China. Many cities have populations larger than the entire state of Minnesota has. At home, sometimes I wouldn’t meet anyone on the street, but in China people are everywhere. When I’m biking, I need to look 360 degrees around me so I don’t run into someone or get hit by a car coming at me.
The people are very curious when they see a foreigner. Strangers will come up to me and ask: “Where are you from?” “What are you doing here?” “How old are you?” “Are you married?” “How much money do you make?” The list goes on. In fact, some people want to take a picture with me and add me to their WeChat, which is the Chinese equivalent of Facebook.
The majority of people here have no idea what a priest is so I tell them I am a teacher. I am helping teach English classes at one of the seminaries and next year will be teaching English at a university. Jesus taught by example. I feel Jesus present in the people and in my interactions with them. When we learn about each other, we are sharing more than cultures and ideas; we are sharing in God’s love.
As a foreigner in China, I am limited in what I can do, but it’s a blessing because I must rely on the help of the people.
The first time I went into a train station here, I felt like a little boat getting tossed around by the sea of people coming in and out. I was bumping into everyone because I was not sure where to go. At the time, I knew only a few Chinese characters so finding the name of the city where I wanted to go was impossible. In this vast crowd, two college students came to my rescue.
Through a combination of Chinese and English we were able to communicate. They helped me buy a train ticket and pointed me in the direction of my train.
Christ walks with me on this mission adventure and provides people along the way who act as Christ by lending a hand. I’m amazed at how the Holy Spirit provides someone to help and allows us to communicate even though we may not speak the same language.
Going into the unknown can be frightening, but if we accept the invitation to mission and trust in God, God will lead us on an adventure beyond our imagination.