The seed to help out in developing countries was planted by Sr. Gilbert, a Sister of St. Joseph of the Apparition when I was attending school at about 6 years of age. When I was 14 my late Dad asked me what I would like to do after my ‘O’ levels the following year. I answered ‘doctor’. He never pointed out I had no sciences. At my time the medicine course was every 2 years and in the standing year I crammed Physics, Chemistry and Biology for ‘O’ level besides matriculation exam in Philosophy and Maltese as was required for the degree of Medicine and Surgery. I graduated MD in October 1973 and after spending 2 years as house-officer at St. Luke’s Hospital Malta went on my first Mission with concern Ireland to Ethiopia. It was during a civil war and had to change places of work from Adignat and Makelle up North to Nazareth south of Addis Abeba. One of the first lessons was the relative use of money. While up North I was given pocket money like other volunteers. I saved this money for 6 months to buy some souvenirs from Addis Abeba. When I was ordered out and arrived in Addis I found that Government had changed currency and my savings were useless.
Uganda where I spent a year in Kampala at a Franciscan mission hospital was another Country at Civil war unfortunately. I was practically 12 hours daily in operating theatre dealing with war wounds and emergency obstetrics. The patients were poor mostly and I noticed the children were in rags. So when the Sisters received a container full of beautiful girls’ dresses from Anotnia I was looking forward to seeing them worn. When 2 weeks passed and nothing happened I asked the Sisters why and the answer was “We cannot give them out as some would kill the girl for the dress”. So they were negotiating to have the dresses sold and buying material for the little girls. This was a big lesson for me to pray about when, hour, where to give things and donations in all circumstances. If I am really passionately in love with Jesus I have to consult Him every moment of my life and His Spirit will always guide me in the best way to love Him in others.
While in Honduras, Central America whenever I had time outside hospital I accompanied a Peruvian Sister on her prison visits. I came to know the prisoners wished to have a guitar. I asked around, found an ex-prisoner who made one for 40 Lempiras (20.00USD). When I went to deliver it I was surprised that the head prisoner offered me 12 Lempiras they had collected towards it instead of keeping mum about it. This honest gesture emphasized my need never to judge anymore. Later a patient gave me 40 Lempiras for her surgery as a ‘thank you’ gift. Wherever I have been I found people are 70% good. We have to work on the 30%. God made us in His Image. We are His adopted children. He is always there to help us when we fall and rejoices when we are back in His loving embrace.
In 1985 I was cofounder of voluntary Lay Missionaries group under Pontifical Missions here in Malta. We help by talks and preparations for a mission experience besides financial help. I find it is important that lay missionaries have a close relationship with Jesus, are reasonably good in their trade or profession, can entertain themselves and ask them to leave something of what they know behind after a period of at least one year in the developing country. My mission experience in Malta and overseas has been and is a preparation for my final test when I pray Jesus will tell me that I sorted Him out well when I saw Him hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger, sick and in prison.
2 Quotations I live by: “Niente domando, niente rifuto” St. John XXIII and “Be kind, kind, kind and you will soon be saints.”