Life as a Divine Word Missionary became real for two DWC students last summer. Taking part in a new program sparked by their initiative, Sergio Rangel, 21, and Peter Do, 19, spent three months living and working with SVDs in Korea and Thailand.
The idea took shape in the spring of 2010, during their freshman year. Sergio wanted to experience the cultures of Korea and Thailand, an idea that also appealed to Peter. With the help of Dr. Jackson Zimmerman, chair of the Cross Cultural Studies Program, and Fr. Ken Anich, SVD, Coordinator of Overseas Programs, an academic course developed. Dr. Zimmerman revamped a previous overseas-study program to encompass a greater cultural and missionary experience, and Fr. Ken arranged with SVDs to accommodate their stays.
|Peter (lower left, in blue t-shirt) and Sergio help a group of religious sisters prepare food for the homeless in Seoul, South Korea
|Sergio and Peter visited the Demilitarized Zone. In the Conference Center that straddles the 38th Parallel, the soldier is in South Korea and Peter Do is in North Korea.
|Peter (l) and Sergio(r. with peace sign) pose with Bro. Ron Fratzke, SVD, and a group of the students they taught in Thailand.
After a 10-hour flight on May 20, Sergio and Peter landed in Seoul, South Korea, where they were met
by Regional Superior Fr. Dennis Callan, SVD. For the next six weeks, they were immersed in missionary life as well as the local customs and lifestyle. "Koreans are very proud of their culture," Peter said. ''They keep a lot of their traditions and they really respect older people."
The two joined SVDs as they ministered to migrants from the Philippines, Vietnam and elsewhere and they helped religious sisters feed the homeless.
They also experienced the divisiveness of the Korean War. They traveled to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a strip of land that buffers the 38th Parallel--the precise line of latitude that separates North and South Korea--and visited the Conference Room where negotiations took place. "Half the room is South Korean territory and half the room is North Korean," Peter said. "It was very tense."
Though the division of Korea occurred 60 years ago, it remains a sensitive issue. "Today's generation still feels the same pain that their parents felt" Sergio said. ''They wish that the peninsula could reunite,"
On July 1, they flew to Bangkok, where they spent a couple days enjoying Thailand's capital city with Fr. Thanakorn Laohabutr, who studied at DWC last year, and two current students, Thinh Ngo and Dung Nguyen.
Then Sergio and Peter joined Fr. Anthony Due Le, SVD, on a medical mission for several days outside Bangkok, where they ministered to orphans and the needy and ventured into mountain villages. Returning to Bangkok, Peter joined Fr. Anthony in his work with immigrants. Then they boarded a bus for an eight-hour ride to Nang Bua Lamphu to meet Bro. Ron Fratzke, SVD, and Bro. Damien Lunders, SVD. For the next few weeks, they taught classes to school children. "That was my first teaching experience," Peter said. "I got to teach math and science in English. That was really cool."
Two days a week, they spent time with youth afflicted with AIDS and HIV--sharing a meal and playing games, sometimes well into the evening.
''We'd get home around 10 pm," Sergio said. "That was the time we could watch TV."
After an emotional farewell, Sergio and Peter left to spend a few days on the beach in southern Thailand. On August 13 they boarded a plane to Los Angeles. A week later, they were hack at DWC. Their three-month immersion appears to have strengthened their resolve to become Divine Word Missionaries.
"It’s helped me see things more clearly and I saw some really good role models," Peter said. "I learned that every religious has their own talents and their own skills."
"It was definitely affirming of my vocation," Sergio said. "Everything we are learning here and what people talk about here--all of that came to life.