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Lessons from Jamaica

Ignite Team member Mary Desbrusais reflects on her visit, with the group from our Diocese, to the Missionaries of the Poor in Kingston, Jamaica.

Anna “Will you be my friend?” She put her hand around my shoulder.

Me     “Yes.” I hugged her.

Anna “When we die, we can go to heaven together.”

Me     “Yes, of course”

Anna “And there will be no more pain?” She looked up to the sky.

Me     “Yes, no more pain.” And she smiled and we walked in the garden together.


During my time in Jamaica with the Missionaries of the Poor, I worked at several care centres for the deformed, the poor, the mute, the disabled, the abandoned and the sick. We put lotion on their arms and legs. We fed them for as long as it took. We gave them water. But even more importantly, we spent time with them, sang to them, teased them, danced with them, told them stories – or just hugged them for as long as they wanted. The important thing was to show them that they were loveable, and to love them relentlessly. It was just a matter of figuring out what made them happy and doing that over and over and over again until they smiled or fell asleep or calmed down a little – no matter what age they were. Anything to alleviate the pain. Anything to show them their dignity as children of God.


They taught me a lot, as you can imagine. There was an elderly lady in one of the centres who told me that she “did domestic”. She said, (in her gorgeous Jamaican accent) ‘You gotta cook good. Then you feel good inside. When you cook good, your husband and your friends feel good! Then they come back. If you keep things tidy and clean, everybody comes back!” She also said ‘Yes, man!’ all the time, just like Bob Marley. Wouldn’t it be great if all we had to do to keep our friends and husband happy was feed them something half interesting and clean up a bit?! I think we really do over-think things sometimes.


In the same care centre, I visited a lady who was sitting on her bed only half dressed, bone-thin and rocking back and forth with her arms across her chest. I asked her if she wanted anything, but she shook her head. I wasn’t sure if she was able to speak or nod, so I asked again. Then she said, “I have everything I need. I have Jesus and he gives me everything I need. I’m alright…thank you.” I was totally dumbfounded. This lady had nothing and Jesus had given her everything.


I noticed that those who could speak, spoke about God often. Jesus really is the centre of their days. They all pray together, say the rosary together, listen to the gospel and to sermons from the brothers together. They also look out for each other, showing the volunteers who needs help the most. They are in tremendous physical pain and discomfort, but they really know what they’re about. They really love one another. They just wanted to have another good day, and they wanted you to share it with them. They were so determined to be happy, and they were astoundingly good at it!!


For more information about the Missionaries of the Poor visit: https://missionariesofthepoor.org/about-mop/

Find out what Mary’s fellow Ignite Team member, Jess, got up to in January in her blog about visiting Panama for World Youth Day.