Journey with Christ to the Poor of Jamaica
By Leslie Wagner, member of Jerusalem, Schuylkill Haven,
and the Leadership Development Ministry Team
With these words,
printed on the title page of our agenda, our group of pilgrims from
Jerusalem realized the long-planned trip was really
happening. From June 20-24, 2005, we would be on a pilgrimage to the
poor in Jamaica.
Our final meeting
at the church was an exciting one. We were given name tags, travel
instructions (meet at the church at 3:30 a.m.)
and the agenda.
A group of five adults and eight teens, we posed for a photo in our
mission t-shirts and were off.
A pilgrimage is “a long journey or search, especially one of exalted
purpose or moral significance.” Our trip was, indeed, a pilgrimage.
While we had scheduled a work project for one of our days, the journey
itself was more a pilgrimage than a mission trip. We may have lifted
the spirits of the dejected or forgotten temporarily, but those whose
lives were changed were not the visited, but the visitors. We were
seeking a better understanding of third-world poverty; to become more
about the state of the world and to find our place in it (from the
small corner we currently occupy).
Our Jamaican trip was arranged through Food for the Poor (FFP), a Christian
charitable organization headquartered in Florida. Food for the Poor is the fifth-largest international charity in the USA. A multi-denominational
relief and development organization, its primary service areas are
America, Central America and the Caribbean Islands. For 21 years
FFP has ministered to the poor of Jamaica. It partners with more
churches, schools, orphanages and service organizations throughout
the island to help meet the needs of “the poorest of the poor.”
We traveled throughout much of the city of Kingston on a bus with
Sylvester, our FFP guide, and experienced first-hand the desperate
of Jamaica — where the weather is hot, the people warm, and the
children beautiful (with soft brown eyes and amazingly long, curly
eyelashes). This was not the Jamaica of cruise ships and resorts. This
was the REAL
We were kept very busy from 7:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. as Sylvester
shepherded us from site to site. We toured private and government-run
girls and boys group homes, homeless shelters, group homes for the
handicapped, the mentally ill and the elderly, a fishing village,
a school, the FFP
central warehouse and offices, and newly developing communities, bound
together by mud and cardboard.
At each place we were given a tour and overview of their mission
by the staff and then had time to interact with the residents/patients/community
members. It was these moments that had the most impact; sometimes
us tearful and frustrated, sometimes breathless and awe-struck by
the resilience and beauty of the human spirit.
As brothers and sisters of Jerusalem, we are forever bound together
by this shared experience. We all have our own stories to tell about
journey and would gladly share them with any group that is interested.
We come prepared with PowerPoint presentation, lots of amazing photos
and memories of a country bowed down by need, but lifted up by spirit
and a strong sense of national pride. (“So how do you like my country?” was
a frequent refrain.)
If you would like a presentation about our trip, contact the Jerusalem
church office at (570) 385-2657.
The pilgrims: Pastor Daniel Bell and daughter, Christiana; youth
leader Sandy Seitzinger and daughter, Cali; Leroy Coleman and children,
and Meredith; Jairia and Alison Tobash; Noelle Augustine; Leslie
Wagner; Lauryn Shay; Jane Arcalay