Editor’s note: Missioner Cindy Mizes reflects on some experiences from her months on mission in Jamaica which have moved her, given her hope, and called her to share God’s mercy.
In the short time I have been in Jamaica, I’ve come to love this country and to contemplate its bleeding wounds which run deep and wide. Jamaica is a country suffering under crime and violence in the inner cities, gang hostility in the ghettos, and antisocial behavior by residents throughout all sectors. As an foreigner, I am deeply disturbed and dismayed by this hurting country. But as a Franciscan Missioner, the violence which I have witness strikes at the core of my spiritual being, and I find myself hurting and bleeding alongside my fellow Jamaicans.
Since arriving here, I have visited inner-city ghettos, met with several of their community leaders, and walked down the same alleys where ‘bosses’ were assassinated and innocent residents ruthlessly executed. Poverty is very apparent in the city as well as in rural areas of the country, and some who suffer from its effects often engage in or encounter vengeful acts and violent crimes. Untreated mental illness is another major contributing factor to the violence and hostility surrounding this country.
But recently, when I visited the Lord’s Place Women’s Home for mentally and physically challenged women run by the Missionaries of the Poor, I saw glimmers of hope. I was struck by the genuine kindness of Deborah, a young resident who took me by the hand and gave me a personal tour of the facility she calls home. Doris, another resident of Lord’s Place, filled me with joy as she tried to braid my hair and make me laugh by making funny faces. Earlier that same day, I was overwhelmed with love when Daniel, a young resident of Bethlehem’s Children Home, swung his arms around my neck and jumped into my arms, longing to just be held. These are the moments that I cherish in my mission with those who are experiencing poverty and hardship.
But I long to share with everyone the good news that God is merciful and he knows our suffering, wants to heal our wounds, and shares his love and peace with all. On Mercy Sunday, I joined with about 100 other local faithful followers and marched through the back alleys of Kingston pronouncing God’s mercy.
Paul tells the Romans that we should rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, to be humble in all things, wise in our own opinion, and if possible, to live peacefully with all. And, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him to drink; for in so doing, you will heap coals of fire on his head.” (Rom 12:17-20)
God gives us the fortitude to overcome evil with good if we have the courage to minister to all of His children. He has given me the strength to live confidently in a battered, bruised, and bleeding country that hungers for the peace he promises. I have come to love this country and all its people, and I feel blessed to share in their trials, tribulations, joys, and sufferings through the ministry of presence.
I pray that I may grow in peace in order to share it with those who need it the most, for it is when goodness and love fills our hearts that we can be open to receiving Christ’s mercy and forgiveness into our lives.
A recent article in the daily Kingston newspaper calls for urgent national action in finding an effective solution to “stop the bloodletting in Jamaica.” Sharing in that solidarity through prayer and peace is my best means of action.
Reflection Question: Who is hurting or in need of God’s mercy around you? How can you share peace and friendship with them?