I had heard about Romario before I met him. It was just over ten years ago, and our team had started a new Kids Club a few weeks before at a church near Romario’s community. Liz was overseeing the team, and when she got home one afternoon she told me the story of arriving to see a boy fuming with anger outside the church, seeing him pick up a rock, and then intercepting him on his way back towards the door. His intention was simple; to throw the rock at the leader who had disciplined him for his unacceptable behaviour. He was seven at the time.
Thankfully Liz had arrived at just the right time to intervene, to prise the rock out of his hand, and to listen to him and help him calm down. Romario had to miss a week of the new club, but after that he returned and has been a regular attendee over the years since, going through the Kids Club and then the two age groups of youth clubs. We have shared moments of grief with him when two of his brothers were killed in gang violence in separate incidents. All of our leaders have been frustrated by his disruptive behaviour at times, and there have been quite a few times when he was sent home from club … but we have kept loving him and kept reiterating the values of the club, so he always knew what was expected of him in order to attend. Gradually he has matured, started coming to church, and he now helps on the team for kids club.
I tell his story because of the photo below. It is Romario praying for a 71 year old lady in Majesty Gardens the week before last. This lady has a 92 year old mother who can no longer walk, as well as a 17 year old granddaughter who suffered from meningitis as a child, who also cannot walk. So they both live with her and she has the duty of looking after them both. Romario was part of the team that had delivered a food package to this lady’s house, and he was so touched by her situation that he asked to be the one who prayed for her. He has come a long way from that afternoon with the rock.
Over the last eight weeks, in partnership with The Jesus Way Jamaica and with the support of several local churches and Fusion supporters overseas, we have been able to do ten outreaches; giving out food packages to people in serious need during the Covid 19 crisis. We have gone in twos, and offered to pray for everyone who has received. Other children and young people have come to help pack the goods, and to come and be part of the prayer teams. One twelve year old prayed for someone for the first time, and a fourteen year old saw someone instantly healed through their prayers for the first time.
There are many encouraging stories, but what I have been most struck by is the way the team have kept serving and blessing others in their community in the face of significant challenges. Overseas donors have given when their income is being reduced and the future uncertain. Some of our local team have lost their jobs because of the crisis, so are struggling to care for their families, one has a sick child, one of the girls who was helping out is grieving because her brother was killed by the police last week, and another young man had two friends killed in the same week.
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6. In this letter, Paul was saying that all the things we take pride in and form our identity around (in his setting it was around race and religion) are just not important; what counts is that we believe in Christ, and express that faith through love. This verse sums up what I have seen over the past few weeks.