Last week, I took a group of high school juniors on a mission trip to the small town of Harmons, Jamaica. We spent a week building homes and relationships with the people of Harmons. While much of our time was spent mixing concrete, carrying dirt and playing dominoes, most of us will look back on one afternoon in particular as our most memorable experience.
On Wednesday afternoon we visited a local, state-run infirmary. The patients have been placed there because they can’t care for themselves due to a mental and/or physical disability. The sobering realization that they will spend the rest of their lives in that place was not lost on us. We walked in expecting to care and love on people that felt hopeless and abandoned.
But something strange happened...
What we found instead was a group of people bursting with love for the Lord and eager to praise him—some of them doing so while crawling on the floor or confined to a bed.
A group of patients gathered around an American with a guitar and sung praises to the Lord in broken English. We brought Bibles with us to read scripture to them, but when we opened them, we ended up reading along as they quoted scripture back to us.
I read along as a woman named Mary (pictured below) held one of her eyes open and quoted seven different Psalms to me. One of the leaders sat beside another woman who hadn’t been moved in four months and suffered from bed sores. Instead of complaining, she said she was so glad we were there because she loves to pray for others. She asked how she could pray for us.
After spending just a couple of hours with those believers, we rode home in silent contemplation of what just happened. It was a day we will never forget, and one that many of us are still processing.
How could those that are clearly the “least of these” be so joyful, grateful and full of praise?
How could people who have so many reasons to feel shortchanged by God be so filled with love for him?
Are they unaware... or are they more aware than many of us?