“And what makes you so special”, asked his friend. “I am a double O agent”, replied James. “This gives me the power to blow up anything, including that statue of Don Bosco”. “I don’t believe you”, challenged his friend. “Okay” said James, “I’ll prove it by blowing up the statue”.
I am pleased to report that the above conversation, which took place at the Salesian House in Chertsey, did not result in the destruction of the statue of St John Bosco! The exchange was part of an improvised drama in a spirit-filled and challenging training day led by James (Trewby not Bond), Father Martin Poulsom and Kat (a returned volunteer).
The day started at 10:00 on a Sunday morning. I was one of five trainees. The other trainees included my wife (Nicki), my son (Dominic), Edward and Jonjo. Whilst none of my family are due to go abroad for some months, both Edward and Jonjo will be at Manzini in Swaziland by the time you read this article. It was exciting to be involved in the training with them as they exuded a sense of imminent adventure.
As a more mature trainee (some might even say “old”), I was very positive about the idea of being involved in the training. Believing in the motto “You are never too old to learn”, I approached the day with enthusiasm. I am pleased to say that the day more than met my expectations.
First to the important part – the food! We were all treated like royalty by our hosts. The chef excelled and, when we sat down to lunch, we enjoyed a lovely meal. Thank you to the chef, Mena, and to all the Salesians at Chertsey for looking after us so well. One of James’ pieces of advice was “get to know the chef wherever you go”. I can see that this is excellent advice.
I don’t want to say too much about the training itself – part of the pleasure of the day was in the innovative way the training was structured. There was a well-balanced combination of spiritual input, thought provoking comments and fun. Father Martin provided the spiritual input – and he was really inspirational. James and Kat kept us on our toes, encouraging us to challenge things we take for granted, such as the way we stereotype nations and people. It was really interesting to learn how the people we are likely to be working with on the mission see us.
For me, the key message of the day was that we are all part of one human family surrounded by God’s love. If we accept this, then we cannot simply ignore our sisters and brothers in need. We have a shared responsibility to love and help. Some people who volunteer for BOVA are fired up to do this because of their religious beliefs; others are fired up by their compassion. What they day showed was that, whatever the motivation, helping through BOVA is a really good way to make a difference. Moreover, BOVA encourages its volunteers to see their involvement in helping the less fortunate as ‘a for life and not just for Christmas’ commitment.
So thank you James and the team for all their hard work. Now, where did I put the explosives?