A Mission Experience Trip to Jamaica was sponsored from May 24 through June 1, 2009, by the Divine Word College Vocation Office. Four women and two men, led by Vocation Director Fr. Joseph Chau, SVD, ministered to the poor in southeast Jamaica. The volunteers helped build houses, worked with children and visited the sick, elderly and homebound. Here is a reflective essay from the volunteer group about their mission experience.
Our volunteer group initially met in Chicago to get to know each other and build camaraderie. We enjoyed a wonderful ordination Mass followed by a tour of the city, including a drive along the Lake Shore Drive and a visit to Navy Pier. As we wondered what was in store for us, our anticipation and enthusiasm were fueled for the trip ahead.
From the start, we felt the loving presence of God. With a 60% chance of rain predicted for every day of the week, what did we end up with? Light showers on Monday and beautiful sunshine the rest of the week. Good weather enabled us to finish more work than we had planned—completing one house on Monday and then starting and finishing our own house project from Tuesday through Thursday. Early on, Brother Bernie Spitzley, SVD, taught us the most beautiful yet simple song entitled “God is Good.” This seemed to sum up every second of our stay in Jamaica. God is good. Everywhere we turned, in everything we did, it was as if we were gazing right into God’s beautiful face. “God is Good” quickly became our theme song, echoing constantly in our minds, wherever we were and in whatever we were doing. God is so, so good.
Of course we had a lot of fun on this trip. We swam at the beautiful Golden Shores, ate great new foods and shared wonderful fellowship. Yet nothing tops the joy we found in serving the Jamaican people. How beautiful to visit the sick and bedridden, offering our companionship and encouragement and helping to bring smiles to their faces. How inspired we felt by their deep faith and joy despite their difficult circumstances. The first person we visited was Mr. Stuart. Paralyzed and blind, he has been confined to his bed for over sixteen years. Yet his spirit is free and he is happy and at peace. What was most moving about this visit was that, when asked what song he would like to sing with us, he chose “Life Rolls On” – an optimistic song that moved us deeply. A few days later, we visited Mrs. Bea, who is also bedridden and in great pain. Rather than complain, all she talked about was how good Jesus is to her, how she runs to Him and how He always takes care of her by sending her ample help in her old age. She, too, picked an upbeat, happy song to sing with us. Her joyful example made us rethink what is really most important in our lives.
We also experienced great satisfaction in the happiness of the two people for whom we built houses, especially Roxi. All the digging, hauling, blisters, ant bites and sunburn were well worth it, and in some way, even enjoyable. We finished Roxi’s foundation in record time—two days—and put her house together in about five hours on Thursday. As we gathered at the front door, presenting Roxi with house keys and gifts, we felt fulfilled. Food for the Poor had blessed one more person, and we had played a major part in the event.
Wednesday evening, we drove to Port Morant to meet with the children’s Emmaus Bible Group. We were invigorated by their energy and faith. They led us in a few songs and then we taught them some more. Fr. Joseph and his bag of magic was a special surprise as he amazed both the children and adults alike. The looks of awe and astonishment on the children’s faces were priceless! Then we broke into groups, with Brother Bernie keeping the little ones entertained while the six of us engaged the rest with a simple Bible lesson. We helped them to construct “wordless books.” They received colored paper to put their books together. Each page was a different color, and each color stood for different bible stories. We encouraged them to draw whatever they wanted on each page to remind them of its meaning. It was beautiful to see each child’s pride in his or her book, and how they had such a strong grasp on everything we told them. When it came time to leave, they didn’t want us to go, and we would have happily spent many more hours with them.
The gratitude we feel in our hearts for the overwhelming flood of graces showered on us over the week is indescribable. No mission trip could have been more real, more eventful or more inspiring. To use the Jamaican flag as an analogy, we missionaries are striving to expand from the center, overcome the black of sin with the green of life in Christ, reach out to more and more people and so restore Heaven on earth. We are honored to have played a part in this, at least in one remote corner of the world. God is good; we thank Him from the bottom of our hearts.