THE EDITOR, Sir:
Recently, the Logos Hope left two groups of missionaries in its intensive training programme at two locations near Montego Bay with no food, no water, no money, no change of clothes, and no cell phones. These two groups, consisting of four team members, all from different countries, had to make their way 50km to 100km away from the ship without a good map and just a final destination where they had to reach. They had to return to the ship four days later. One team headed to the hills of Petersville in Westmoreland and the other to Ocho Rios.
When I heard about this, I was shocked and I questioned the leader of this training programme about the wisdom of such actions. He responded that they had done this in other countries for the past 46 years and they would be fine. I tried to seem less anxious, but my thoughts lingered on the two American missionaries who were murdered last year, not far from where one group trekked. I had a sleepless night.
The day they were supposed to get back to the ship, I waited for their arrival, along with their leader. The first group got back with a number of residents from Petersville with them. They all had smiles on their faces, and the pastor of the church, who housed them, told me parts of their story with the joy of giving on his face. They had gained a huge new family.
The next group did not make it back on time. Two hours later, and still they did not return. I could see that the leader was concerned. Then, after 7 p.m., the four burst through the door to lots of smiles and hugs. They were behind schedule because they attended a late church service and were taken out to lunch, and then were given funds to make their way back on a bus. Plus, they got so much food, they wanted to share it with folks in need before returning to the ship. They were blessed and wanted to be a blessing.
I was amazed by how many stories they had: a homeless man trying to find them clean water to drink; women on the beach giving them money and promising to pray for them; rides given to them without compensation; bus trips being paid for by a concerned man who sacrificed for their needs; funds taken up so that a van could be rented to take them back safely by the families who helped them; comfortable and safe places to stay and lots of Jamaican food to eat. One missionary joked that he may have gained weight over the four days. They marvelled at the generosity of the Jamaicans they encountered, and I, in turn, have renewed faith in my people and more hope for my country.