In 2000, American Family Radio partnered with Food For The Poor to raise $250,000 to build 2,000 homes for the poor in the slums of Kingston, Jamaica. AFA Journal editor Randall Murphree reflects on his visit to observe FFTP’s ministry in Kingston. This is Part 3 of a three-part series. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Reflection 3: Help Those Who Are Weak
If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
Isaiah 58:10 (NKJV)
We drive through streets one would not want to walk alone, abandoned buildings and poverty on every side. At our destination, the bus driver honks the horn, gates open, and we roll to a stop in a small churchyard. Pastor David Spence welcomes us to North Street United Church in western Kingston, an area best known for its violence, crime, and high unemployment.
Inside the church sanctuary, we sit on simple wood pews as pastor David enters the pulpit to lead us in worship. Behind him, a stunning backdrop soars heavenward – organ pipes and a choir loft fashioned with exquisitely carved wood appointments. Quite a contrast to the neighborhood just outside the doors.
The first hymn reminds us:
Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord.
Find rest in Him always, and feed on His word.
Make friend of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing, His blessing to seek.
The pastor’s brief homily is to the point, urging only one thing – “Be faithful to God’s call on your life.” Then he leads us down Luke Lane, an alley running beside the church and the setting for much of what North Street United is doing to “help those who are weak.” A bakery sells it products to help pay for the operation of the church’s multi-purpose center. A wood shop gives employment to men building furniture. The church offers medical care, day care, and parenting classes to the community. Many of the church’s outreach ministries occupy renovated warehouses on Luke Lane.
Behind the door in one converted warehouse, we discover a colorful mini-neighborhood of six small homes built by Food For The Poor. Pride of ownership is evident in the neat cottages and carefully tended flowerbeds fronting the walkway.
Tarjie, a shy teenager, visits with us on her front porch, and the pastor asks her to show us the medals she won recently in track and field competition in Florida. Like most athletes, Tarjie dreams of the Olympics. And Tarjie knows about dreams, for her family once dreamed of having a decent home. Thanks to the Body of Christ, through North Street United Church and Food For The Poor, that dream came true.
We cross the street and are led up a steep stairway to walk through a second-floor tenement. With every step, we expect someone to crash through the rotten floor. Families still live in this dark building with its dangerous floors and leaky roof. They endure. And they dream of a safe, clean home.
And they wait. Wait for the people of God to bring light to their darkness, to “help those who are weak.”