'The Messiah' opens
Missionaries of the Poor continues good work
Father Ho Lung and Friends is staging its yearly play. Nothing new, but throughout the year when the priest's production is not the highlight of the theatrical world, much is happening.
We walk up to a large, rust-coloured door and after it is opened, we are greeted by a man, small in frame, wearing a dress (cassock). He is happy to see us. He is happy because it means the work he is doing will come to light and he may get some help.
Father Cipriani is upbeat as he ushers us into one of the vans owned by Missionaries of the Poor, and we are whisked away to one of the seven centres the organisation has in Jamaica. There are also centres in Haiti, Uganda, Kenya, Indonesia, Philippines and the Unites States of America.
The driver is Father Allen, he is quieter, much quieter, and seems more serious. He is to be ordained soon but sings a ballad more worthy on the lips of Sunday school students. "Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had Father Abraham, I am one of them ... ," Father Allen almost mumbles.
Then it's down to business. We drive through similar rust-coloured gates and Father Cipriani welcomes us to the compound that holds Bethlehem and Lord's houses, two of the centres he had told us about earlier.
Once inside, we are hugged by twin boys, who have Down's syndrome. Everybody in Bethlehem House suffers from some affliction, either Down's or severe autism. They are children, many of whom have been abandoned. One of the twins, Ramone, clung to me (Paul-André) for dear life and followed wherever I went.
Another girl tugs at my hair (Davina). She doesn't understand that it hurts. The sight of her tugging on my hair as the scene tugs on my heart does more than they will ever understand.
The importance of Father Ho Lung's plays begin to sit heavy on us like a big grey cloud, ominous and terrifying.
HAVE TO SUCCEED
The plays have to succeed, notwithstanding the good music and well-written scripts we have come to expect, is the fact, as we were later told by Father Ho Lung, that the plays take care of expenses at Missionaries of the Poor in Jamaica for a year.
Father Ho Long informs us that they do not take money from the Government, but rely solely on donations and voluntary work.
"We do it as a gift to the country and to the Lord," he tells us.
Before our conversation with Father Ho Lung, we notice much.
Ramone, for instance, uses no words, but his need for love and attention screams louder than a banshee on steroids.
Then we notice the elderly at Lord's House. Many of them have been there before they could be called old.
They have many ailments too, but we meet them during a sermon being conducted by Brother Hayden Augustine (one of the founding brothers of Missionaries of the Poor). They are poor, they are sick, but they are happy.
There are even some who cannot walk the few feet from their rooms to the worship area. They lie or sit in their beds and sing along with those outside.
Me Know Say Me Blessed is the hymn that they sing just before their lunch hour. At that time, in that place, I (Davina) sing the words with new meaning, joining with the others and revelling in the fact that in spite of all things, we are indeed blessed. It is touching, to say the least.
Again, we see why the plays must continue and why sold-out venues mean so much more than validation of a job well done.
The Messiah, which will be begin this Thursday and then continue for two weekends, is the life support of the Missionaries Of the Poor.
But, there is a message outside of the need to sustain themselves as well.
Father Ho Lung tells us that at the centre of the Brothers' motivation, is the need to emulate The Messiah.
"The Messiah is really about Christ, who is the model of the Brothers. So, as he said, 'I have come to preach good news', we do the same. As he was very concerned about blind, deaf, mute and the outcast of the society, so are we," he says.
He informs us that this year, the play will be using video mapping technology to form the backdrop of the various scenes. Father Ho Lung is excited about this as it adds to the show and this will be the first time the technology will be used in Jamaica.
In the year of Jamaica's 50th anniversary, Father Ho Long has persuaded me (Davina) to come out to the event. This will be a first for me, having never got around to attending.
This year is equally important to Father Ho Lung and Friends as the organisation is celebrating 44 years as a musical group.
We sit and listen to every word that he says. He speaks so quietly at times, we wonder, quite erroneously, if he is praying.
He tells us that he doesn't know music, even though he has written over 600 songs.
"I am not a technical musician, I can't read or play instruments, but being in the Caribbean I have heard so much melody. I think because of my love of Christ, the music takes a natural course through me," he says.
The material used in Jesus 2000 which was staged 12 years ago, will be revamped and raised to a new level.
Genres such as ska, mento, reggae, jazz and dancehall will be incorporated in the staging of The Messiah.
With an average of 50,000 persons turning out for the events each year, it is no wonder that they have had to take their show on the road, making stops in Germany, England, Canada and the United States.
From his posture and demeanour, Father Ho Lung is passionate about his work.
"I like is to get people to think about meaningful theatre and meaningful music. I want them to think about what life is about, rather than just entertainment," he says to us.
The next day Father Ho Lung calls me (Davina), I am to be a volunteer at one of the centres.