The vacation in Broga, Malaysia

Malaysia: The promise of “such a beautiful sky”

A vacation for young people from Southeast Asia in the hills of Kuala Lumpur. A chance to rediscover how life "can be really interesting".
Paola Ronconi

From an early age, they always followed their parents and breathed in the air of their meetings with friends. Rare, due to logistics and Covid, but intense, where life is always at stake. We are talking about the CL community from Southeast Asia: Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia. These are expatriate families from Italy like the Avallones (who live in Singapore) or the Berardis from Kuala Lumpur; others are people they have met there, in countries literally scattered across the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Last November, their children, now teenagers, participated in a vacation in Port Dickson, Malaysia. They were such beautiful days that they decided to organize a brief get-together at the end of the month just for the “young people”, high schoolers and some university students. Helped by some adults, who have discreetly accompanied them, they met in Broga, in the hills an hour from Kuala Lumpur.

Among them was Diva, a 16-year-old girl from Kupang, who has been living alone in a nuns' student residence on the island of Bali for a year and a half to attend high school. During the Port Dickson vacation, many aspects had struck her, but one moment in particular was decisive: listening to Chopin's Drop, which raised the theme of sadness. When we heard that "drop, that is, relentless longing, is our resource and not our curse," at that vacation, she began to sense that her life could become interesting. Just before she left for the youth vacation, she wrote a letter to his friends. Here are a few passages from it:

"Be yourself. But what is meant by ‘be yourself’? How do you know who you are when you are always changing to be accepted by people and to feel good? I feel empty; school is a nightmare; I am tired of surviving every day; why is it morning again? I wish the night was longer. Crying is routine, drowning in negativity; why do I feel this way? I do not want to feel this way; I am too dramatic; stop crying; I feel so lonely; I hate school.
Hi, I am Diva, and these are the things that resound in a 16-year-old's head, it is the way I am overthinking and worrying about everything.
In November I participated in the Port Dickson vacation in Malaysia. I met many kind people; I laugh a lot. I felt valued: it is strange that people say I play the guitar well, because for me it is nothing special, many friends play it better than me. (...) I felt accepted without having to make an effort; and I felt included without having to change myself. Before, whenever I met people, I would ask myself, ‘Should I talk this way or that way?’, ‘What should I ask?’, ‘What if they think I am exaggerating, that I am too loud?’ At the vacation, however, I became more myself. (...)
At the end of the vacation, Fr. Michiel saw from my face that I was not happy to go back to school, but he said, ‘Use your heart and verify everything. When we meet again, we can see how it went.’ He also said that there is a difference between living and surviving, and that God wants me to live life.

(...) Now I like school; every time I wake up, it no longer feels like a nightmare. ‘Okay, it is a new day; there must be something interesting today, otherwise the sky would not be so beautiful.’ Every day brings new hope and new excitement. Sure, sometimes I feel sad: I fail an exam and am upset about it. But feeling sad, happy or confused is a natural part of me as a human being. Having these feelings makes me feel alive. Verifying always allows me to see a problem from a different angle, not to worry too much, to take life calmly, to live in the moment and enjoy life.
During the vacation, Toni had asked me, ‘Why are you Catholic? Just because your parents are?’ If it is only because of that, what good is it to me? But for me being Catholic is wonderful: you have a Father, a Friend of the heart, and you know you will never be alone, He will always be with you, you have someone to cling to when everything gets difficult, you have a home in Him, you feel protected; you can do everything as long as you are with Him. Without God, nothing makes sense: the way the sun rises in the morning, the way human beings feel and think, the way stars shine, the way we cannot understand everything, the way we have desires that cannot be fulfilled, the way our eyes are limited, the way hearts beat or the way the solar system works. Believing in God makes everything make sense. Feel your heart, allow yourself to feel the emotions, recognize and verify the questions that arise.”

There were 21 of them at the Broga vacation. The title of the weekend was: ‘Has someone promised us something? So why are we waiting?’ "Why does a group of friends in Malaysia choose a phrase from Cesare Pavese?" wonders Fr. Michiel Peeters, who periodically visits some of the Asian communities from his chaplaincy in Tilburg, the Netherlands. He, too, was at the young people’s vacation. "They chose that phrase because it expresses something they feel is true. For me it is one of the most fascinating things about Christianity: it is universal, it is for people of all cultures." It was a simple few days of games, a trip to the mountains (in the pouring tropical rain), prayers, dialogues, a movie, and lots of singing. Michiel recounts further, "The shy Diva was the protagonist and reference point for others. Her seriousness and cheerfulness were contagious. I could see how Christ does not primarily use the big, the rich, the strong and the 'educated,' but the small, the thirsty, who feel their humanity with simplicity and thus can be grasped by Christ’s humanity." In those days, this girl’s questions became everyone’s questions: what it means to be yourself and to be accepted and loved as you are. "Without you, without these friends, I would probably lose myself," Diva wrote again after the vacation, "Now I understand how the movement helps people grow in God and teaches me to look at the world in another way."

Read also - Kayrós: Is this truly enough?

The weekend was a big surprise for the other adults, too because "the movement is alive in very unlikely people and places, like a 16-year-old girl alone on the island of Bali. Not because of our efforts, but because of our willingness to be alert and obey what the Lord makes alive."