My Jamaica mission experience: Learning how to love as Christ loves
LINCOLNTON — Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to go to Jamaica for seven days on a mission trip with 24 other Catholic missionaries from St. Dorothy Church in Lincolnton and Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury. This was not only my first time going to Jamaica, but also my first time participating in any mission to the Third World. Prior to going, I was honestly unsure not only what to expect, but how the mission would impact me.
When we arrived in Jamaica and I saw all the suffering that was present, I had a burning question that yearned for an answer: "If God is good and He doesn't delight in suffering, why did God make these people, knowing that they would suffer?"
Having the privilege of working alongside the Missionaries of the Poor, I worked firsthand with people with HIV/AIDS, mental retardation, physical deformities and the elderly. Most had been rejected by their families and society in general. As I fed a crippled woman, clipped the toenails of a blind man, changed the diaper of a mentally retarded infant or simply talked with the residents, I came to the startling realization that they all bore the same eyes: eyes full of love, joy, compassion and need. The eyes of Christ.
I never would have thought that the rejected, destitute members of society would have so much to teach. We were strangers, yet they welcomed us with a powerful embrace. They didn't even own the clothes on their backs, yet not once did they complain. They were withering away as time crawled on, yet they constantly rejoiced in the Lord. Their faith was deeply rooted, their love abundant, their joy incalculable.
It wasn't long before I realized that it wasn't the poor I was serving, but rather the rich, for the Kingdom of Heaven was already in their grasp. Their home with Christ was already reserved; the promise of eternal life was theirs.
It was evident that it was Christ Himself we were serving – not the Christ many claim to know, but the needy Christ, the abandoned Christ, the forgotten Christ, the hated Christ.
By the end of our mission, the question of "why did God create these people?" had been answered: to teach us how to love as Christ loves.
— Michael Suarez is a member of St. Dorothy Church in Lincolnton.
Pictured: More than two dozen parishioners of Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury and St. Dorothy Church in Lincolnton recently returned from a mission trip to Jamaica. (Photo provided by
Father Matthew Buettner)