Loving Others in Jamaica
By Zachary Smith
Two Sundays before the annual mission trip to Jamaica run by the Divine Word College vocations office, the Gospel reading was from John 15, stating, “This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” I did not think I would be able to experience such self-sacrifice, but as we arrived in Morant Bay, I was soon proven wrong.
|Andy and Myhanh Tran
Roger and Margaret Douglas
The trip began when I left the busy Detroit airport for Chicago, where I would meet my
fellow travelers for orientation. My flight arrived about thirty minutes late, and my luggage was sent to the wrong carousel, so my mood was not the best. That soon changed as six smiling faces greeted me as I loaded onto the van from the airport to Techny, where we would stay for the night. We all got to know each other through the perilous driving through Chicago highways, followed by orientation, Mass and dinner at a local restaurant. Filled with anticipation, we all knew that this was going to be a unique experience.
After a minor “hiccup” connecting flights in Miami, we arrived in Kingston, where Br. Bernie Spitzley, SVD, or as he is locally known, the House Father, drove us to where we would stay. The adventure began immediately as we learned the definition of “defensive driving” on the hour and a half ride from Kingston to Morant Bay. We arrived safely to the compound with enough time to see the ending of a parish concert. Our Lady of the Assumption is one of three local churches the SVDs run, and the parishioners are full of talent. With new energy from the concert, we were debriefed by Br. Bernie as to what the week’s activities would be—building two houses and a foundation, painting a container that will serve as storage, sanding and varnishing doors in Port Morant, and various cultural activities. As long as we stayed flexible, everything would work out well.
We drove into the neighborhood where we would build our houses, called Bamboo River. Immediately, we were able to see the crudely built homes made of various materials and scrap metal. None has indoor plumbing and few have electricity or an outhouse. Many residents flocked near water pipes scattered in the area for showers and drinking water. Most of the homes serve as places to sleep and nothing more, so many people were walking about as we started on the foundation. As we began our work, several children came to help us. They were probably the best part of the trip as they were always full of energy, curiosity and laughter. They helped us come to the realization that happiness is not based on our material wealth, but just making the best of what we have.
I also really enjoyed the Bible Sharing classes we had in various communities. Each group warmed up with songs and dancing, my favorite spoke of how all of us with Christ make community. Fr. Yohanes Lunga Bally, SVD, Br. Bernie and Seminarian Peter Chen, SVD, helped us as we joined the children in sharing the Scriptures.
One of my favorite things about the trip was the food prepared by the housekeeper, Mrs. Arlene. It gave us a taste of Jamaican culture, and kept us strong when we worked in the sweltering heat. I also appreciated the efficiency of the Food for the Poor crew who we helped to build both houses in less than eight hours.
Overall, this trip helped me realize all the little things I take for granted and I gained a greater appreciation for carpentry, bricklaying, and painting. I believe that by showing love for others and sacrificing our time and lifestyles to help them has made us all better people. It has really motivated me to continue sharing the gifts that God has given me with others and helped me deepen my understanding of my own vocation.