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 1 of a three-part series.
Reflection 1: The Slums and the City Dump
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
Psalm 139:8-10 (NKJV)
“We are going to see where God has decided to live,” says Ferdinand (Ferdy) Mahfood. “This is a spiritual pilgrimage.”
Most of our little group of 21 pilgrims had just met Ferdy for the first time. He summons us into a circle in the Miami International Airport and prays that our time with Food For The Poor in Kingston, Jamaica, will bear fruit for the Kingdom.
Before day ends, we have our first face-to-face encounters with some of the world’s poorest – and God’s dearest – children. At Riverton City, some 5,000 live mostly in tiny huts made of cardboard, tin, plastic, and wood scraps. It is adjacent to Kingston’s garbage dump. A putrid stench invades our bus even before it bumps to a stop in the loose litter. Nearby, Riverton City residents wait by the road for the next garbage truck. When it dumps its load of refuse, people compete with cows, pigs, and vultures for food. They retrieve food, clothing, and other treasures they might barter or sell for a few cents.
At Ferdy’s request, a group of Riverton City women gather in a dusty walkway beside their shanties and sing for us:
Real, real, Jesus is real to me.
Oh, yes, He gives me the victory.
So many people doubt Him,
I can’t live without Him,
That is why I love Him so,
He’s so real to me.
In the midst of extreme deprivation, they understand, perhaps better than I, that wherever God’s children are, God is there. We meet Derrick, whose tiny hovel is remarkably well kept. Someone asks, “How do you live?”
“By the grace of God,” he replies. “There is nothing else.”
Not far away, along one side of Riverton City, stands a short row of neat new houses – yellow, blue, pink, turquoise, and green. The small houses were constructed by Food For The Poor and offer startling contrast to the otherwise squalid environment. We are told that Derrick will soon have a new home. As we drive away, we rejoice for Derrick.
And we weep. For we have looked into the eyes of the others, the thousands who still wait – wait for someone to rescue them, wait for you and me to hear God’s call to care for our needy brothers and sisters.
My life is changed – I trust forever and for God’s glory.