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Relaxation Is Not Always What the Doctor Ordered


Editor’s Note: Missioner Brandon Newland shares how a particularly bad month in June gave him a deeper appreciation for his blessings as well as a greater awareness of the lasting effects of many people’s struggles in Jamaica.

Relaxation is not always what the doctor ordered.

Before June started, I felt pretty good about the upcoming month, but then June happened and it really wasn’t all that great.

Every year some students from Xavier University come down to work with some of the schools in Savanna-La-Mar. The students stay here, so I usually get sent to the mission house for two weeks. However, recently we found termites in the mission house and it has been under repair for weeks, so I got to go to Negril and stay at a small hotel for two weeks. Not too shabby, right?

With the beach only a few steps away, an air conditioned room, and slightly fewer responsibilities for the time being, I was pretty excited. Then life happened. I got a pretty serious cold from the air conditioning, Father Jim’s dog and my dog started fighting and when I went to split them up I was bitten, I contracted the Zika virus, and to top it off, literally all my electronics have died. My computer, my phone, and my music player all died within two weeks of each other.

So what to make of all this? Has a plague fallen on me or is it just a cosmic coincidence? Well, what I’ve learned from all this is that having less money really makes what would normally be an easy fix much more difficult. In the case of my computer, I simply can’t just rush off and have it repaired or buy a new one.

I still haven’t fixed it yet because it is very expensive and the parts aren’t readily available around here, so I must wait for the proper time when I will have all the resources I need to fix it. My music player is just dead and won’t be replaced and the phone is also dead so I will finally have to go buy the cheapest one I can find. As for the cold, the dog bite, and Zika, I just have to suffer through it.

For me, these are (hopefully) temporary annoyances and when I return to my life in the US and (hopefully) find a job, months like this will easily be forgotten. But for the people living around me, months like this can have very serious lasting effects.

With no safety nets, people walk a very thin line and when life bumps them a little, the effects can be great. When something breaks, nothing new is coming around the corner. If your phone dies, you go without a phone. If you get sick, you may not be able to pay for medicine or you might lose your job.

I have the support of the Franciscans making my run of bad luck a little less painful, but I must remind myself that the majority of people here have no such support, and whenever I can help I should. I pray the rest of the summer goes slightly better and I take these minor hardships and learn from them. But, most of all, I will just be grateful to feel normal again.

I should point out that good stuff happened in June as well. Three of our kids from King’s Valley graduated from primary school and are heading to really good high schools and I also met Emily (the Franciscan Mission Service programs director) and she was a wonderful human and great person to host.

Reflection Questions: When you’re going through an especially trying period in your life, who or what are your safety nets? How can you be that safety net for others?

Brandon Newland is very pleased to be joining FMS to help serve communities around the world. He taught English as a second language in Korea for many years before returning to school to pursue his dream of helping the marginalized and impoverished. He has recently received his master's in international studies with a focus on community development, and looks forward to learning more on his journey. Brandon currently serves in Savannah la Mar, Jamaica.