The following is a guest post from Father Ed Dougherty, M.M., from The Christophers’ Board of Directors:
In a recent post to The Christophers’ Leadership in Mercy online storytelling platform, Jim Collins recalls having a moment of doubt when he first worked with the Missionaries of the Poor in Kingston, Jamaica. He writes, “At the end of the day, I shared with one of my friends that this was not for me.” He had just spent the day bathing men who were dying, some of whom were suffering from AIDS.
Jim recalls, “Almost every sense I had was overwhelmed. Between the sight of the dying men, the smell, the sounds of the men when in pain as we gently tried to move them.”
Jim’s friend encouraged him to persevere, and a brother in the order challenged him to fully immerse himself in the life of a missionary. Jim writes, “My life in the USA is hectic, with a corporate and demanding job, three hours of commuting a day and commitments at home and community.” But then he started to let go of the expectations of that life and immersed himself in the prayer and service of the missionaries, and, he says, his “paradigm shifted.”
Jim describes it as a gradual softening of his heart where he let go of his busy life to do things he never would have imagined doing. And in that process he came to a profound realization. He writes, “I no longer saw a sick and dying man that I was going to bathe, I saw Christ.”
The Missionaries of the Poor were founded by Father Richard Ho Lung, called the Mother Teresa of the Caribbean and known for the award-winning Caribbean style Christian music he produces with friends, an endeavor that helps to fund the mission. Their order works with the poorest of the poor, people with no one to care for them, people who are, as Jim writes, “sometimes found literally abandoned in the gutters of Kingston.”
In a sermon Jim heard at Mass in Jamaica, he recalls the priest saying, “Sometimes Jesus disrupts us.” Then later the priest added, “If you allow Jesus to disrupt you, what makes you a little nervous no longer does.”
Jim has returned to work with the Missionaries of the Poor since that first visit, and his most recent trip inspired his short but powerful account of his experiences. He tells of a moment at the end of a week of service when a brother told him that a man he had cared for earlier in the week had passed on. The brother looked Jim in the eye and said, “When you go home to Jesus yourself, he will tell you, when I was hungry and sick, you fed Me.”
What a blessing it is to hear these words. What a blessing to know that it is worth the struggle to challenge oneself to see Christ in others. It took Jim patience and detachment from the things of this world and regular engagement in the spiritual regiments of the brothers, who rise at 5:30 a.m. every day for Mass, prayer, and Eucharistic adoration.
Father Ho Lung teaches his missionaries that the Kingdom of God can be found with the poor. Jim’s story about his work with the missionaries demonstrates how perseverance and self-discipline can wipe away every doubt and bring that Kingdom alive in our hearts and in all we do for others.
Jim closes his beautiful account with these words of wisdom: “If Jesus disrupts you, do not be afraid. He will mold you, and shape you and bring you closer to him.”