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  • Emilie Novotna

Mission of love

Reflection of a Volunteer

"Don't go there to save anybody, don't go there to change anybody. Remember, you go there to love them!" That was a simple description of volunteering service that I heard more than ten years ago. It changed my life. My name is Emilie Novotna, and I come from a small town in the Czech Republic, Central Europe.

I have been dreaming of joining the Salesian mission for a long time, and the calling became a reality in March 2021. My arrival to Papua New Guinea preceded a year of extensive preparation, during which our dedicated Salesian team did their best to teach us to expect the unexpected. Honestly, as an ignorant medical student, I knew next to nothing about this breathtaking Oceania gem.

My mission of love takes place in Don Bosco Technical School in Gabutu, Port Moresby. I have the privilege to pray, eat and share my joys and troubles with my beloved Salesian community. I spend my school days as a nurse and biology teacher. The Lord is very good to me- we have over 1000 students, so there is little time to miss home. If I ever get tired of the campus, I pack the first aid kit and venture behind the gates to assist people in our parish.

Our boys are my joy. As much as I take pleasure in the medical and teaching practice, I perceive it simply as my way to encounter and get closer to each soul that crosses its path with mine. Papua New Guinea is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited. From its coral-filled azure seas to the wild mountainous jungles; there is so much life! However, none of its wonders can surpass the sheer beauty I see when my sons and brothers open their hearts.

During my months in Gabutu, I've come to realize so many differences between our cultures. It's not an exaggeration that the first contact felt like landing on an alien planet. I was running around with the camera, taking pictures of every single flower and tree. As a toddler first discovering the world around her, I fail a lot while getting acquainted with my new reality.

All the more I feel grateful for the support and understanding that I have received from my fellow teachers, parishioners, and students. I was shocked when I saw people swimming in their clothes for the first time or blowing their noses into their T-shirts. Of course, they must have been equally surprised to see me swimming in a bikini. However, it's more of the invisible worldview and mindset that creates a true challenge and even more precious opportunity. I very much admire this nation for being able to come together, despite speaking over 800 languages.

Sometimes it is not easy to open and keep searching for understanding among your own, let alone when your backgrounds vary as much. We live in a world where it's so easy to get stuck in one's social bubble. It is comfortable to surround ourselves with likeness and easily unfriend and unfollow everybody who shows and sings of disagreement. As frustrating as all the differences can be, I believe that embracing them is the only way for real growth, enrichment, and deepening of faith. My volunteering experience has been the best school of rejoicing in our diversities.

Now my time in the mission is slowly coming to an end. I booked the tickets home, hoping to celebrate Christmas with my family. I encourage all young people not to be afraid to set on their own mission of love, which continues beyond borders of countries, cultures, gender, or religion. It does not matter what your education is. We all have the ultimate freedom of choice to see and love God in one another.

I pray my days in Papua New Guinea bring me closer to my heavenly Father. I cannot fully express the fundamental impact of my Papuan experience on my life. I can only quote and wholeheartedly agree with St. Paul when saying: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)

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