By Truong T. Le, SVD
Thailand District, Australia Province
No one said that community living—living in a community with other religious priests and brothers—is easy. There are times when we don’t get along, and perhaps there will be times where we’re at each other’s throat. Yet, there also are times when we come together in peace and for the good of the kingdom and people of God.
The Divine Word community in Thailand brings together men from different countries, backgrounds and cultures. We come from the mountains of Papua New Guinea, the East Coast of the United States, the deserts of Australia, the islands of Indonesia and the rice fields of Vietnam. We are rich in diversity.
Each of us brings his own microcosm, encapsulating a worldview and system of values. We indeed are different from each other, but this does not mean division—for we can always find unity in diversity. At our deepest sense of self, we do have one thing in common: we are sinners.
As broken as we are with our weaknesses and shortcomings, God has called us from all walks of life to be at this place, NongBuaLamPhu, which invariably has become our home. We work and live together, holding onto that common thread.
It is only in sinners that God’s grace is experienced to the fullest. A wise person once told me that the difference between a saint and a sinner is that “the saint knows in his heart that he is a sinner.” The person who knows he or she is a sinner knows the meaning of grace, and lives and thrives from that focal point. Essentially, Jesus spoke to sinners saying, “To anyone who has, more will be given” (Mt 13:12). We know love because love was given graciously, and now we are called to live it out.
No two individuals are alike –even remotely alike—considering the different context in which each one is formed. Each of us walks a different path of life, even for those who are from the same country of origin.
One or two of us in the Divine Word community in Thailand could not answer a simple question, “Where are you from?” because Thailand is the third or fourth country which we call “home.” At times, I struggle to consider myself American, Vietnamese, Vietnamese-American or American-Vietnamese. And now Thai is thrown into the mix. It’s all a big conglomeration, but it’s who I am!
It is difficult to characterize Divine Word Missionaries because as individuals we can be defined in many different ways. Perhaps, it is not about us at all. It is not about the individual thread. It is not about who we are as individuals or where we came from or what we gave up by coming to this place, but rather, it is about God and how God works to bring together multiple threads of differing colors to weave something of good use.
St. Paul captured it well: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:28) We are Divine Word Missionaries because we are graced sinners, simple people working for that very purpose, the mission of Christ.
Frater Truong Thong Le SVD, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte before joining the Society of the Divine Word. In 2012, he professed religious vows and began studying at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago. Currently, Truong is fulfilling his Cross-Cultural Training Program in Bangkok, Thailand, before returning to CTU to complete his studies.