Jesus’s Gift: The Poor
In May I accompanied 15 members of the McNeese Newman Club on a mission trip to Kingston, Jamaica, where we stayed with the Missionaries of the Poor. One day as a few of us gathered around to lead praise and worship with the residents, one of the brothers of the Missionaries of the Poor said something to the residents that completely altered the way I viewed service:
“Our friends are here feeding you and giving you something to drink, but when we enter heaven you will be the ones feeding them and giving them something to drink.”
Hearing the brother say these words opened my eyes to the reality of Jesus’ gift to us: the poor. As I look back on my time in Jamaica, I am able to understand Jesus was dwelling in every person we encountered because only Jesus himself would be capable of such a humble act: serving those who give their life to serve him.
Each day as I entered the gates of the different centers we visited, I was greeted with smiling faces eager to share a simple touch or loving smile. As the days went on, I began to look at it as though I was entering the gates of heaven, but the thing about this heaven is that it wasn’t the pearly white gates I always pictured, and the sound of trumpets where nowhere to be heard. Instead the gates were covered with chipped paint, and the sound of residents singing out of tune Christmas carols (during the Easter season) found its way to my ears. It was in that moment I realized Jesus had me right where he wanted me, and he had something to reveal to me. In order to reach heaven in its perfect sense, we must first find ourselves in the trenches, encountering the souls that allow us to intimately encounter Jesus. “You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me,” John 12:8.
Encountering these souls didn’t come with subtlety, instead it came in waves of emotion along with immense guidance from the Holy Spirit. On one particular day as I was applying lotion to the residents, I received a special request from one of the women: to lotion her feet. I found myself taken back by the request to perform such an intimate act, but the moment I began to question why Jesus placed me in this situation, I was reminded of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet.
Swallowing my pride, I began to apply lotion to the woman’s feet. Partaking in this act of service lead me to a deeper understanding of the love Jesus had for his disciples and allowed me to see the Gospel fully alive for the rest of our time in Jamaica. Feeding residents lunch suddenly began to feel like the feeding of the 5,000 and having meaningful conversations with the residents sparked thoughts of Jesus talking to his disciples. The image of our friends from Kingston standing at the shores of eternity, pointing to us and saying, “Them! They’re the ones who fed us when we were hungry and gave us a drink when we were thirsty,” found itself in my mind; a constant reminder of whatever we do to the least of our brothers and sister, we do to Jesus.
Leaving our brothers and sisters behind in Jamaica was no easy task but having the promise that we will see them again one day in heaven, in their glorified bodies, free of any wounds or ailments, gives us all great peace. The reality is that our mission trip simply started in Jamaica; it does not end there.
Where do I begin?
Material poverty might not be as prevalent back at home as it is in Jamaica, but the same spiritual poverty is present. Jesus asks each one of us to take this spiritual poverty head-on by living out The Great Commission: making disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19). No one deserves to be unaware of the joy that is to be found in living a life worthy of the gospel.
An easy place to start encountering this spiritual poverty is on the college campus. People walk around campus everyday feeling lonely and like they’re not enough. College is a time of chaos and confusion, and it comes at a heavy cost. This is where we have the opportunity to encounter these souls and show them the person of Jesus Christ and the beauty that is found in living a life worthy of the Gospel.
By simply living lives lead by the Holy Spirit and pursing holiness, we have the power to make just as much of an impact as we did in Jamaica. While Jesus hand-picked every one of us to go on mission in Jamaica, He also has picked you to go on mission in your everyday life. Where will you start?
“Our God will bind us forever, our community with the Blessed Mother. Abide in God’s love that we may be one in love.” -Farewell Song, Brother Marco Candelario.