Year 2002 Essay Contest

First Place

Meg Kokx
West Catholic High School
Grand Rapids, Michigan

When you think about Jamaica you tend to think of long white sandy beaches, picture perfect sunsets, and luxurious resorts. That was, to say the least, my impression of what my parents' "mission trip" was going to consist of. It was easy to joke with my siblings that this was by far one of the lamest excuses yet to "get away from the kids." Little did I know my parents were in for a big awakening, and I too was about to get a taste of God's mysterious ways through their stories.

This was my parent's first experience in a foreign country and I could feel their anxiety about leaving the security of the United States and going to a country whose laws were so different than ours. As they started collecting medical supplies, our kitchen was transformed into a conveyor belt of sorting and packaging everything for its long journey ahead.

My parents left with the other doctors and nurses for Jamaica one chilly spring morning. I didn©&Mac246;t think much of what dangers they could encounter until the day after they came home and the stories started to be told. Even though my parents' bodies looked exhausted, their eyes were alive with a new mysterious light.

That night, as we sat down for dinner, my dad commented on how he had so often taken meals like this for granted. He said you don't realize how thankful you really are for something until you have to do without it. He then shared with my brothers, sister and me some stories including one about a little boy who had come in for his first check-up. For this little boy -- and for most of the other children in the village -- this would be the first and probably last time to see a doctor. My dad recalls this particular boy being thrilled to get his vaccination. After the shot was given, my dad put a Band-Aid on the spot the needle had pricked; the boy looked at my father like he was his new best friend. This was the first time this little boy was ever given a "present," and in the days to follow, my dad would see him playing outside the clinic and taking very good care of the little bandage that was over his left arm. To this little boy that Band-Aid was all he needed to reaffirm the fact that he was loved.

After dinner, as we were all cleaning up the kitchen, my mom came forward with some stories of her own. She was in charge of assessing a person's need to see the doctor. This job proved to be very difficult as nearly all the people of the village needed immediate care. The line was out the clinic door and down the main village road for blocks. Each person patiently waited his/her turn and would return home when it got too dark out. The next morning these same people would wait, never complaining and never giving up hope that they might be seen today. My mom recalled one woman who, after her third day of waiting in line, graciously gave up her spot for a wounded child. It turns out the woman had had migraines for months and could hardly see her head hurt so bad. All my parents could offer her were a couple of packages of Tylenol which could barely get her through a week without pain. The woman was so grateful for the medication she broke down in tears. She literally sobbed at my mom©&Mac246;s feet. When the woman explained that she couldn©&Mac246;t pay, my mom told her that she didn't have to and that it was a service they were doing for the people here. The woman was so grateful to my mom for all her understanding that she braided my mom©&Mac246;s hair for free later that afternoon.

My parents said that having to leave the people that hadn't been seen by the doctor yet was one of the hardest days of their lives. I could see the spiritual change my parents went through in every action they made from that moment on. They said that it really is true that God works in mysterious ways. Both of my parents believe that God sent them to help the poor and sick of Jamaica, but they also believe that the sick and poor of Jamaica helped to change their lives too. They were given back so much more than they ever gave the people of this village -- the experience of God's love and beauty in others.

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