Be honest. Would you rather spend your next vacation on a beach in Jamaica sipping Caribbean drinks, reading a good book, and enjoying sumptuous meals at a resort hotel, or staying in the slums of Kingston with no air conditioning or hot water? While there, you’ll be bathing, feeding, and caring for the poorest of the poor who have been rejected among their own radical poverty, most of whom are physically deformed, blind, deaf, or mute and living in substandard conditions.
No question, the former. That is, until you learn what you can experience and receive from the latter. Peace. Incredible peace. Joy. Indescribable joy. Love. Amazing love. Christ. The very face of Christ.
When you arrive in Kingston, the transformation begins immediately. Hearts are opened wide as you witness and experience the love of God through the Brothers of the Missionaries of the Poor (MOP) and the hundreds of men, women and children they care for. Their residents are not the homeless and marginalized of Jamaica, but the poorest of the poor. Many are physically deformed and mentally challenged. They are what Jesus refers to in Matthew 25 as the “least of my brothers.”
The founder of the Missionaries of the Poor, Father Ho Lung emphasizes: “You activate the love of Christ in your heart by doing. Serving the poor lights up the Christ in your heart.” His words ring true. The experience is indescribable. I recently returned from my second MOP vacation, more at peace and relaxed than had I spent a month at a 5-star resort on Maui.
Opening your mind with the love of Christ in your heart to those in need allows you to ignore the heat, humidity, and appearances. Instead of disgust, you see and feel a sense of deep personal appreciation, a direct spiritual connection with your brothers and sisters in Christ who, by your presence, return more love than you can ever imagine.
When working with the Missionaries of the Poor, whether it is in one of the five Jamaican centers or a center in the Philippines, Uganda, India, Indonesia or Haiti, visitors leave their daily worries, anxieties, and stress behind. Daily strife is replaced with works of love, fellowship, and prayer–an average of 3 ½ hours of prayer throughout the day. The result is intense peace, profound joy, and restful sleep.
The principal differences between Father Ho Lung’s Missionaries and Mother Teresa’s Missionaries lay in community and evangelization. Father Ho Lung’s vision is for the residents at the centers to form a community, a family, of which the Brothers are a seamless part. In his communities, we witness interaction of young and old, the physically fit and the physically disabled; in such a way that each learns to love and help his neighbors. Further, while Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity shied away from open evangelization of the poor whom they serve, largely due to the fact that it might be seen as insensitive or even provocative, the Missionaries of the Poor are unabashed in the evangelical dimension of their apostolate.
MOP was introduced to the Diocese of Orange in 2004 when Deacon Al Scaduto and his wife Linda visited the Missionaries of the Poor in Kingston. That trip changed their lives and became the catalyst for Al to enter the deaconate. What began 13 years ago has led our Vicar General, Fr. Steve Sallot, Fr. Brendan Manson, Fr. Eugene Lee, Fr. Loc Tran, and a host of other priests, deacons, and nearly 100 intentional disciples from our diocese to become true missionaries and work with these, the poorest of the poor.
The Missionaries of the Poor was founded in 1981 had has received both papal and episcopal approval for their work and constitutions. Today, the order has over 550 brothers serving in nine missions around the world.
Hank Evers is director of development and communications for the Orange Catholic Foundation.