Solidarity in action via mission trips

Stephanie Apostol talks with an orphan at Mass in Jamaica. Teens and families from Christ Our Light, Cherry Hill, made a service trip there in the summer.

We are called to encounter others that are different, others who struggle, others with a need. In those times, one will realize their own struggles, their own pain and their solidarity through Christ with others.

Last summer our teens and families from Christ Our Light journeyed to Jamaica to meet a people, culture and lifestyle that was different from our own. What we found has changed our hearts forever. Our group is now a big family that has felt the true struggles of others and will carry their stories forever.

This is the powerful and fulfilling experience that mission presents. Youth ministry gives us these unique Catholic leadership opportunities to impact change, challenge our stereotypes and be renewed in transformative love.

Through service immersion or Christian service, we are able to see why the Gospels are written specifically with blessings for those who are poor, for those who hunger not only for food but for opportunities, for jobs, for decent housing and for God. Service immersion calls us to find God’s truth which will challenge us to change systemic root causes which cripple society, which lead to hate and ultimately much suffering; service brings us to be solidarity with others.

Our group quickly learned about the charitable organization, Mustard Seed, its people and the needs. See some of our group reflections below:

The culture impacted me the most. Over the week, I fell in love with the culture and the people. It is such a loving, caring, and open culture that I feel restricted coming back to the States where you can’t talk to another person’s child without getting strange looks, or give someone a ride without being named a kidnapper. It has definitely impacted me and I will miss it the most.

— Elizabeth Bishop

My best memory is of the bonds that were formed … amongst our missionary team … with the children of Mustard Seed … with God. I see it in the many interactions, both spoken and unspoken … the exchange of smiles, hugs, and laughter … singing and dancing … the sharing of possessions and tasks … gift giving … prayer and reflection.

I am so grateful for the experience. I will never forget these moments!

— Stephanie Apostol

I left a part of my heart with each of the kids there. They taught me to open my heart and mind to all people and to understand that you can express love in more ways than just saying it. This trip allowed me to be more open, loving, and less judgmental. I will truly live my life differently, and I can’t wait to go back.

— Rebekah Colakot

The groups that we worked with had lives and circumstances drastically different from our own, but the similarities in the games we enjoyed playing, the songs we sang, and our faith showed me that in reality we were not as different as we perceived. I was able to get to know our team, show them a little bit more about myself and understand my faith and why community is such an important part of the human experience.

— Jennifer Ramirez

May we begin to see that our faith has to be lived. May we begin to understand that compassion and empathy are truthfully the only way to understand poverty, racism and structural sin. It is only through a lived understanding of Eucharist that we can definitively see Jesus’ ideology manifested. May we continue dialogue and works of justice to bring forth a just society.

Sherine Green is the youth director at the Catholic Community of Christ Our Light, Cherry Hill.