Spring break doesn't have to be all about blowing off steam. For nine Wingate University students, it's a chance to learn about real service as they take care of orphans and other residents of the Missionaries of the Poor monastery in Kingston, Jamaica.
Next week, nine Wingate University students will spend their spring break on a different kind of mission trip. In Kingston, Jamaica, they will be volunteering with Missionaries of the Poor.
The spring break trip, which will run from March 8 to March 13, is unique in that it contains no leisure or sightseeing component. The Wingate students, and the five adults accompanying them, will engage in no-frills volunteer work, sleeping in cots or on the floor, waking up shortly after 5 a.m., and spending each day helping homeless adults and orphans, many of them disabled, with everyday tasks. “You may be changing bedpans and helping handicapped children get dressed,” says Dane Jordan, minister to students.
“This will be an intense week,” says senior Kirby Goodin, missions and service coordinator for the Office of Student Ministries.
Student Ministries got connected to Missionaries of the Poor through Cameron Jackson, assistant vice president for auxiliary services and a member of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Lancaster, S.C. The Missionaries of the Poor monastery is affiliated with Our Lady of Grace and with Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Monroe.
Missionaries of the Poor is a relatively new order of the Catholic Church, founded in 1981 by Father Ho Lung, a former college professor who had a spiritual awakening in the 1970s. He founded the order as Brothers of the Poor in Kingston, Jamaica, where he grew up a poor native born to immigrant parents.
Lung founded the order to care for the neediest and most destitute citizens of Jamaica – those, as Jordan says, “nobody else wants to take care of.” The organization has more than 550 brothers serving in nine missions around the world.
The Monroe monastery was the first Missionaries of the Poor mission established in the United States. The organization operates a food pantry in Monroe, where Wingate students volunteer once a month.
“The founder of this order, somebody referred to him as the male Mother Teresa,” Jordan says. “Their work is to work with the poorest of the poor and the people with the most need.”
The trip dovetails nicely with Wingate’s motto of “Faith, Knowledge, Service.”
“I do like that we’re not going to go down there and play,” Goodin says. “I know sometimes, they don’t mean to, but groups go somewhere and it’s more about the cultural experience and ‘What can I get out of this?’”
Goodin’s interest in serving others was sparked as a Wingate University freshman in 2015, when she and others from Student Ministries helped clean up houses in Sumter, S.C., after torrential rains flooded the town. She says she hopes the Jamaica mission trip has a similar effect on other students.
“Wingate is where I found my passion for service,” she says. “I would hope that this trip would give someone else an opportunity to get that same spark and realize that we’re in this little bubble. There’s something out there bigger than this. I personally think we have this bigger purpose, to serve others, and I want other students to have an opportunity to say the same thing.”
“I think it is a good way to help kids understand that there’s a whole different side to Christianity that you didn’t know about,” Jordan says.
Watch this video for a primer on Missionaries of the Poor.
Learn more about Wingate’s Office of Student Ministries.
March 6, 2019