Diary of a Ghetto Priest | I belong to Jamaica
It’s been three or four weeks since I have been away from Jamaica. Last time I wrote, I told you I belonged to Christ. It’s not contradicting that I say I belong to Christ as well as Jamaica.
It was Jamaica that gave me Christ. My parents were Buddhists when they came to Jamaica from China, a newly married couple. In Jamaica I met Jesus in Sarah and Nora, always full of love for my mother and for us children. These Jamaican women calmly, lovingly, humbly bathed us kids in pans of water, washed our clothes, helped to cook and care for our family, a powerful but silent and Christ-like presence that we enjoyed through difficult and challenging times of poverty and estrangement. My parents were not able to speak English.
Those ladies - Sarah and Nora – were mothers and Jamaica for us, protectors with a deep strong spiritual presence. In them, we found the depths of Christ as they sang and hummed revivals for us like ‘Stay on the righteous side’ and, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’. There was also the Psalms epitomised by number 23:
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
This psalm has carried me through the days of great darkness and brought joy to my soul throughout all 80 years of my life. Thus even today, Missionaries of the Poor is known as a scripture-based community, and it is the word of God that I try to configure in my life to please Him in service of the poorest of our people.
COMMITMENT TO JA
Because of my Christian faith, I am committed to Jamaica from my youth into this late period of my life.
Everything I do, I do in the name of Christ and at the same time I do it in the name of Jamaica. There is no discrepancy between the two. The more Jamaican I am, the more Christian I am, the more Christian I am the more Jamaican I am.
The songs for worship, the plays I wrote, and the productions I present move with the soul of Christ and Jamaica at the same time. I am truly in love with Christ and Jamaica. My great regret is that I have not done enough for either Christ or Jamaica. Moreover, I am so imperfect, I a sinner.
There was one period of my life when I was away from Jamaica in the United States. I was in Massachusetts. I was kindly received by Jesuits, to be formed in the Ignatian way of life. I was only 18 years old. Although they were poor, they released me. I had a deep and penetrating period of prayer, fellowship and studies with the Jesuits. They gave me everything. In no other period of life had I learned so much and gained so much. Up to this day I am forever grateful for the training, the learning, the fellowship and prayer that were given to me. I could not do what I do today but for Jesuits. My life as a life in Jesus Christ was also intensified.
I wanted to be true; living and seeing and working as Christ did when I came back to Jamaica – especially with the poor. There were so many poor. I found meaning beyond studies and teaching in the ghettoes and dealing the injustices, the prisoners, and the poor houses, such as the Eventide.
Christ was in the poor, Christ was there in Jamaica, weeping and suffering. I had to give myself to my fellow Jamaicans, and after that my eyes were opened to the poor all over the world.
Now I am in Asia, in the Philippines. I did the best for Jamaica but not nearly enough. At 80 years. I am still not satisfied. I want to spread the name of Jesus and his kingdom and Jamaica, my country which is so poetic.
Father Richard Ho Lung is a Roman Catholic priest and founder of Missionaries of the Poor.