Editor’s note: Missioner Cindy Mizes shares insights into a new ministry she has started in Kingston, Jamaica.
I never imagined what it could be like walking in Jesus’ feet until I started walking along the city streets and narrow back alleys of Kingston, Jamaica handing out food and water to people living on the streets.
That’s how I first met Tony.
You see, Tim (my fellow missioner) and I started a ministry where we bake bread or make sandwiches and walk along the streets of Kingston handing them out to men and women living on the streets. During one of our “bread walks,” we came across a man digging through a trash bin for food. As I called out to him, he looked at me with his bright cheerful eyes radiating from his dark unblemished face. My initial perception of this “mad man” (as he is commonly referred to by the locals) was immediately discarded. He didn’t talk, but he could hear and understand us. He accepted our small bread offering, smiled as if to say, “thank you,” then proceeded in his perpetual walk. I know Tony’s name because one day, when I was on a bread walk, he softly told me his name. And even though we’ve seen him many times since then, he’s never spoken another word since. Instead he speaks through his silent smiles and bright eyes. I think he prefers that.
As we navigate by foot through the chaotic city streets and back alleys lined with trash and smells of rotting food and urine baking in the scorching heat, I begin to have a true sense of the harsh reality of poverty and homelessness. Seeing this level of poverty makes me grateful for the life God has blessed me with. My willingness to detach from material possessions and live a life of simplicity doesn’t come anywhere near to the involuntary poverty that people living on the streets experience every day.
Michael is another person who lives and begs on the streets. He is only about 28 years old, but with his handsome looks, he could be a rising star in the “cinema.” He was chased out from his usual begging spot, but I ran into him recently on one of my walks. After giving him a bag of crackers and water, we just chatted for a while. It’s sometimes hard to walk away because I’m never sure if I will see him again.
Seeing people who are in the grips of poverty while on these walks is heartbreaking. But each walk brings me to a greater depth of faith and trust in God. I can’t see through the eyes of the people I encounter, but I can hear their stories, witness their pain and share a smile or even a bit of laughter with them. It’s my faith in God that keeps me walking.
And I pray that the men and women whom I meet will find hope and a little bit of Christ’s peace and love between two slices of bread and a bottle of water.
And just maybe, by God’s grace, others who see this small act of kindness will not look at street people as a stigma or perceive homeless men as mentally ill, but rather realize the gravity of poverty and show a bit of Christ’s kindness and love themselves.
Reflection question: What are some things you can do to change the negative perceptions the people around you have?