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A Breath of Fresh Air


Editor’s Note: Missioner Janice Smullen shares her reflections on mission and culture after a recent visit to Savanna La Mar, Jamaica, to visit fellow FMS missioners Patrick and Brandon.

After numerous times of re-scheduling dates, I finally got to travel west and visit with FMS missioners Patrick and Brandon!  It is a four hour bus ride from Kingston to Savanna La Mar and the scenery was beautiful.  We drove up and over and down some mountain areas, past sugar cane fields, and through various sized towns.  

I felt excited about finally being able to see what “The Boys’” Sav La Mar ministry looked like. They had visited Kingston a couple of times and enjoyed the bookstores and the food availability here, but I was looking forward to some fresh country air.

I think of Pat and Brandon as my missioner mentors.  They made an effort to welcome me to Jamaica  and continued to listen to my reactions and complaints through my initial adjustments.  They honestly shared their accomplishments and frustrations and offered LOTS of encouragement.

Now I could actually see the garden that they had nurtured and the porch from where they skyped, and (apologies to the vegetarians) eat some of their homegrown, fresh chicken.  

I heard a man at the gate calling for “Brother Patrick” and watched Pat’s reaction. I met the patients at the infirmary who look forward to Brandon’s visits and the supplies that he brings and the opportunity to ask him to pray with them.

We traveled to the Chancery office in Montego Bay so I got to see the administrative side of the school voucher program that is so important to many of The Boys’ student friends. We spent an afternoon at the beach in Negril (it rained) and ate dinner with some of their Franciscan friends.

It was very encouraging to me to share the variety of the experiences of the missioner life that we are living right now.  We all seem to be ready to take each day as it comes, with its opportunity or disappointment.

Prayer times together serve as a cohesive guide to our journey. Contact and service with older religious leaders give us inspiration.

We all seem to go through times of honeymoon and humdrum as we negotiate service commitments.  All of these are often met with a shared idea of amazement.  “How, did I get here?”  “Wow, it’s really working!”  “Will I ever have an experience like this again?”

I am awed to view each of us as a link in the long history of dedicated missioners. Patrick and Brandon’s mission time overseas will soon be finished, mine is only  six months young, and new missioners are being trained in DC.

My time with The Boys invigorated me to return to Kingston with fresh thoughts.  

With every trip that I make downtown, I see the discrepancy between powerful government buildings and powerless people in food lines.  Yet, on this trip, I saw government offices scattered in various towns providing services to these outlying areas; all income levels of people buying or selling; housing examples indicative of all different income levels.

The trash that I see everywhere in Kingston is disheartening but driving through Negril, or Montego Bay, or the small mountain towns, I saw well-maintained areas that people were enjoying.  Now, back in Kingston, I was better able to connect the pride and smiles and songs and voices that I see every day here with the wider Jamaican culture.

Reflection Question: Who or what keeps you centered during times of transition or adjustment?

Janice has been granted the fruits of a family vocation and many community volunteer experiences during the past 40 years. Each experience has helped to build her faith in God's unending and unconditional love. She has been a CCD teacher, doula, ESL instructor, retreat facilitator, and mentor to refugee families. Now, Janice is grateful for the freedom and health and the opportunity to continue service and growth overseas. She lived most recently in Greensboro, NC, and loves to garden, sew, read, hike, and do yoga. Janice has been in Kingston, Jamaica since March 2016.