“He has lifted up the lowly.” This is the theme that was in my heart last week when I went with a small missionary group to Jamaica. Usually people think of Jamaica as being a place to visit the beach. However, the Mustard Seed Communities is changing the view of Jamaica one mission trip at a time.
Mustard Seed Communities started only 40 years ago and already has 13 homes in Jamaica which helps about 400 disabled people as well as provides opportunities for pregnant teens and those with AIDS. In a place where less than 2% of the country is Catholic MSC is centered on the Eucharist and brings dignity to those who are abandoned by society and by their families. Not only does MSC give opportunities to these little children, but they also give jobs to 400 staff members and bring in the support of first world countries, both financially and with working hands, organizing mission groups to come in each week to help in their homes.
In my time spent in Jamaica I learned very quickly that what makes Jamaica beautiful is not the beaches or the mountains, but rather the disabled and the staff members of Mustard Seed Communities. Not only did I fall in love with those beautiful children, but I also saw how much the staff truly loves them as their own children.
A man that I met on my first day there was a beautiful example to me of true charity. He was getting the residents ready for the day and taking them to Morning Prayer in the chapel. The next time I saw him that day he was doing cement work for one of the buildings. That same night I met him again as the children were getting ready for bed. This time he was speaking in sign language with one of the girls and giving the kids their medicine before they went to bed. When I asked what his job was they told me “he’s just the maintenance man”. I learned later that he lives just down the road and is there almost all the time. This is a man who truly loves God’s little ones.
The director of the MSC home “Gift of Hope” showed us around and explained how they try to be agriculturally self-sustaining for the health and nutrition of the children. She also showed us how they are working with the residents to help them to reach their potentials. Often in these types of facilities you see the staff caring for basic necessities, but rarely do you see them helping the disabled to fulfil their potential. For example, I saw a boy whose legs were completely deformed, pushing the lawn mower. MSC is a place where each of His children is given their dignity and where there is great rejoicing at each accomplishment.
Every few weeks many groups from the US, Canada and other first world countries come to Jamaica to do mission trips. In this way, they are taken out of their comfortable world and shown how to care for the poor. I went on this trip with two men who own their own companies and are used to ordering others to do work. But on this trip they worked and they had to let go of their control. It was beautiful to see them surrender and stoop down to pick up the little ones.
In my very short time in Jamaica, I learned that Mustard Seed Communities is truly a gift to the Church and to the people of Jamaica, living and working for the Kingdom of God.
Please pray for the Catholic Church in Jamaica and please pray for the continued fruits of the work of the Mustard Seed Communities.
In Jesus and Mary,
Sr. Mary Consolation of the Afflicted