Tuesday, Februsary 1, 2011 – 5:33pm – In the front room @ the Marian Home mission house in Castries, St. Lucia
As you can see from the location I listed, we’ve officially named the first floor of the convent “The Marian Home Mission House”, named after the nursing home right next door. It just seemed appropriate because the Marian Home itself is going to be one of our constant ministries throughout our time here. It’s also good because if a local friend/contact wants to visit us, the name “Marian Home” is very well known. It’s also good for when people send us stuff in the mail, they can use an official name. But I digress.
So earlier today, one of our local co-workers in the vineyard, Peter Fevrier, arranged for a bus to pick us all up and bring us to the Chancery. The Chancery, for those who do not know, is the central office for the Archdiocese of Castries, where the Archbishop and other diocesan officials have their offices. Peter works with the Family & Life secretariat and as per the Archbishop’s request, was assigned to work with us and get us involved in his ministry. At the Chancery, we met everyone in the various offices and made some good contacts. Of particular interest for me was meeting Sister Velona. She is in charge of youth ministry for the Archdiocese. We discussed World Youth Day and a few other particular things of interest. Mainly though, we (me, Mark, and Lora) discussed with her what we do as FMC missionaries (evangelism is our focus) and how we wanted to work into whatever ministries were already existing in the diocese. She seemed very pleased with this. According to her, even though St. Lucia is a mission territory, the difference is that ministries are very organized. Also St. Lucia is very small (14 miles x 26 miles).
All these things are reasons why working into what’s already going on is a good thing. We don’t wanna step on anybody’s toes. We don’t wanna re-invent the wheel. We don’t wanna come in, and give the impression that we American missionaries are the wisest in all the earth and we have come to save you. Yes, we are here to bring people into a close relationship with Jesus, but we have just as much to learn from them, if not more so to learn from them, than they from us. We also want to work ourselves out of a job, by empowering the local laypeople and Catholic community to take charge and be more active. We also don’t want to start anything that is heavily dependent on us, because as soon as that happens, and as soon as we finish our time here (whenever that may be), whatever is dependent on us will flop. At the end of our time visiting with the various people in the Chancery, we attended 12:30 Mass before going back home. It was quite a simple Mass, held in a simple office building type of room, but for some reason was quite moving. I think it had alot to do with the quiet and meditative atmosphere. It also had alot to do with the amazing homily. The priest made lots of good points, but he spoke simply and straightforward.
So when we got back, and after we ate lunch, me and Mark decided to walk into town. Earlier at the Chancery, I expressed interest in the post cards they had because I wanted to send one to my mom for a little birthday present (about all I could really afford). I’m also considering sending post cards from St. Lucia for my thank you notes. Mark graciously (and unbeknownst to me until Mass time) bought three of them for me. I addressed them (sent one to Mom, one to my nieces, and one to my parents’ trophy shop to all my former co-workers), wrote on them, and then proceeded to the post office. It was closed, so we’ll have to go back tomorrow. As we were out and about going to other stores looking for a few small things, a homeless guy I had met the previous week came up to me. I’m glad he remembered me and that I bought him a little snack, mainly because it meant that someone remembered me for something good I did. He was a little “skittish”, which was not abnormal for a street person, especially since he, like many other street people around here, struggle with drug addiction.
So, as we begin to talk, he seems very impatient for me to help him. Tries to get money several times, and I told him no, but that I’d buy the food for him. Then, I told him that we’d have to wait for Mark, who was inside one of the office supply stores. This is what started to set him off, and make him real fidgety and louder. He tried to get me to go buy a big ole thing of Chinese food, which i didn’t, because it’s alot more expensive than a snack from the store. And as a missionary, I have to budget my alms money or else I’ll not only run out of that, but I’ll run out of money for food and bills. anyhoo, so on the way to the grocery store, which was only a 30 second walk from where we were, he tried again to get money instead of food, and expensive food instead of a little snack. Every denial added to his fidgety-ness and caused him to ramble on in Creole (good thing I don’t understand it, who knows what he was sayin’).
Once we got to the supermarket, he kept trying to up the ante on what i would buy, and again each denial got him more key-ed up than before. To top it all off, the locals inside and outside of the store were laughin’ and talkin’ about the whole idea. So, i finally walk into the store, with a sigh of flustration on my face (flustration = flustered + frustration), and the cashier kinda chuckles. I pick up a little bag of chips and i thought homeboy was gonna start kickin and wailin like a little baby. Right or wrong as this may be, I was dumbfounded by this. I mean, if you’re desperate, and need some food or drink, how can you possibly be picky. The cashier said he wouldn’t eat it, and when I asked why, said something about his teeth being bad (maybe from drug use). Ouch, that hurt. Minus one for me. So, i ask her for the cheapest bread, which was a $2.00EC (divide that by 2.5 for the U.S. dollar amount), and she got me a fruity carbonated beverage for an extra $1.50EC.
All in all, i didn’t spend much money at all. But, one thing Mark inspired me to do was instead of just giving somebody something, ask them to pray with me first. If they really need the help, then they’ll pray with me. So, I prayed with the guy, gave him the snack, and we all parted ways. I noticed the reaction of the locals to the whole situation, which included one guy at an electronics store we were at squirting some hand sanitizer in my hand after I shook hands with the homeless guy, maybe because he thought the guy had AIDS or whatever. The other locals laughed and chattered. I myself, as a new “local” got frustrated and a little concerned too. I was frustrated with his skittish-ness and his pushy-ness. And as imperfect as everybody’s reaction to this guy was, they were somewhat justified. Maybe they were legitimately concerned that he was a druggie and that helping him was enabling him. Maybe they were concerned that he would get violent.
There could be a million other reasons why me and the various people reacted the way we did or thought what we thought. But, the reason I helped the guy is because I’ve been helped many times before, even when I didn’t “deserve” it. I helped him because druggie or not, food and water are necessities for everyone. I also helped him because I wanted to put my faith into practice by helping someone in a very real and material way, and by praying for them and with them. After all, our focus as missionaries is to evangelize and bring people closer to Jesus. I also wanted to try and be a concrete example to those who witnessed the whole episode, as to what I felt was the right thing to do. I still feel guilty though about where my heart is. My legitimate concerns and caution still go way off into self-righteousness, selfishness, and false concern. My heart is hardened by the uncomfort level and difficulty of that type of situation. No matter who the person is, how “bad” they are, or how much they “don’t deserve it”, they are all children of God just as much as we are, and God loves them just as much as us. I could go on and on.
My solution will be a simple one though. Continue to buy a small bit of sustenance to help these types of people, and make sure I pray with them.Maybe limit myself to doing this two or three times MAX per trip into town. For, if I give them material goods, but don’t bring them closer to Jesus, then all is for nought. Or, I also considered buying a big pack of bottled water, and some small soft bread type of snacks, and making little bags to carry with me everytime I go in town. That way is someone asks me for help, I can pray with them and give them some food and water. Once I run out of bags for that particular journey into town, I can honestly say that I’m not able to help, aside from prayer. It just feels like these are the best ways to help, and at the same time make sure that I’m a good steward with the support my benefactors give to me. Any thoughts or comments you have would be appreciated.
Lord, help me to help those who need help, and to discern with wisdom the best way to do so.
Much love and God Bless!
“Well, the right thing to do is to keep the supreme Law of scripture: you will love your neighbour as yourself; but as soon as you make class distinctions, you are committing sin and under condemnation for breaking the Law.”
” How does it help, my brothers, when someone who has never done a single good act claims to have faith? Will that faith bring salvation? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty,’ without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? In the same way faith, if good deeds do not go with it, is quite dead. But someone may say: So you have faith and I have good deeds? Show me this faith of yours without deeds, then! It is by my deeds that I will show you my faith.”