By Richard Ho Lung
LAST WEEK Saturday night, the sewer main broke at the corner of George's Lane and Beeston Street just behind Sacred Heart Monastery. The sewage was flooding the streets making life unbearable for our neighbours and ourselves in the ghetto.
There were dogs roaming the street and licking the bilge water, and pigs wallowing in the mess of garbage. Behind our monastery, there is an open land where garbage is dumped - rusted tins, plastic bags, torn paper and carton boxes, harbouring endless flies and cockroaches.
We called the government authorities. No response, it was a weekend. They don't work on a weekend. Led by Brother Roche, who is in charge of our office, four other brothers got out pickaxes, began digging the sewerage pipes. Brother Max supervised the job.
Continuously, they worked on the sewerage for almost 48 hours. The kids of the ghetto, barefooted and idle, gathered around the brothers, curious at first, then participating.
The stench was awful. I was worried about everybody getting sick. They simply said "Don't worry, Father. God will take care. We can't have the sewerage running through the streets and back of our house."
Soon adults gathered around, men and women of the ghetto. The brothers got tools and some brought their own.
We brought some food, bread and soup, biscuits and sweets. We continued to work through night and day. Some began to sing songs and pray. Brother Max installed new pipes and brought in some cement and sand and covered the hole, lest people or cars fall into it.
SPIRIT OF HUMBLE SERVICE
The brothers are not priests, they are brothers among themselves and brothers of the poor. Our religious brothers form community among themselves and with the poorest of people. They are not afraid of work, no matter how menial. They are simple, and they have a powerful spirit, the spirit of God, the spirit of humble service.
They are the ones who go daily to our homeless and destitute Jamaicans, close to 600 of our forgotten poor. They mop, they clean, they bathe the poor, they feed them, clothe them, shower them, give them medicines, and bury them when they die. They are religious brothers to all our poor brothers and sisters who have no brothers or sisters, no mother or father, no job, no house, no relatives, no friends. Everyone calls them 'Brother'. It is religious work not social work, in service of the poorest of people in Jamaica. They get no money, no material reward, and live a life of total self-sacrifice in service of Christ, and the forgotten ones in our world.
Maybe to your surprise and mine, some people hate us even within Christendom. We insist this is the work of Christ, and it issues from the power of the word and works of the Messiah.
GIFT TO OUR ISLAND
This is all done free, without any subvention from the government. It is our gift to Christ and our island. Our government is very disposed to us, but it is a struggling economy and we just want to help and to honour the Lord.
This is done in the name of Jamaica and the Lord among the poorest of people also in Indonesia, Haiti, India, Uganda, Kenya, Philippines, and even in the United States of America. Our brothers give and do not receive any earthly reward.
We live a life of we, not me. We know that selfishness, self-assertion, selfish desires, the will to fulfill oneself, the hunger for money, position, power, popularity and status are all useless in the eyes of God. It is sand upon which we cannot build a nation.
The Messiah has spoken. "I have come to preach good news to the poor." The rich must serve but not with the crumbs of the masters' table, but in a spirit of self-sacrifice giving until it hurts. Then they, too, will be blessed.
Jamaica, remember our brothers are here to teach the spirit of humility, the spirit of service, the spirit of unity with the poor, by our example and everyday living. It's what the Lord did, it's what we want to do - by the eloquence of deeds not words. As a people and nation, we must always consider 'we' before 'me'.
Father Richard Ho Lung is founder of Missionaries of the Poor. Send comments to email@example.com