E-Update: Tiling Gravesites in Jamaica

By Intern Pastor Caroline Keenan

(posted 2/21/2019)
Hello everyone! I’m Caroline Keenan, your Intern Pastor here at St. Andrew’s. I went on a Mission Jamaica trip for the first time one week ago. Below is one of the most moving experiences I had while there, and one of the reasons I know that St. Andrew’s continues to go, year after year.

It was a beautiful evening in Jamaica and Jeff Peterson, Mission Jamaica Director, was going over the work that was to be done that week. As he was going over what I can only assume to be fairly standard job assignments in Jamaica, one in particular grabbed my attention: tiling grave sites at the Clifton Boys Home. The Spirit stirred, and I knew where I would go.

We began our work on the second day, and I was blessed to be joined in the holy work with Pastors Bonnie Wilcox of First Lutheran Church in Columbia Heights and St. Andrew’s own Pastor Jenny Sung. Our crew leaders were two Jamaicans: Joe and Ms. Mack. Joe told us how to do it, but Ms. Mack, who is in charge of Clifton Boys Home, knew exactly how she wanted it to be done. These were her charges, and she would see them taken care of, properly, at this time and in this space, as she does in life.

We were also joined by two of the Clifton boys: Jamal and DeMarias, and it was so right, so fitting, that they be there, as we toiled to provide a fitting grave stone for their brothers, Bradley and Andre.

At the end of the day we gathered together to commission that holy space. We recited Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer. We Christians, we are a resurrection people. But we do not get there without stopping by way of the cross. We are both. Death and life. Both sacred, both holy, each a step toward the other.

But though both are sacred and both are holy, both are often wrought with fear and trembling, tears and sorrow. And so we must walk those ways together. We cannot go alone. We lean on each other. Perhaps that day Jamal and DeMarias were able to lean on the adults, Jamaican and American, who they saw would care for them in both life and beyond. But perhaps tomorrow I will need to lean on them. We cannot say what life will bring. It is that song, “Lean on Me” that the boys, Bonnie, Jenny, and I sang together while working with the tiles.

And lean on each other we must. For the glory of the Lord is present in both life and in death, but I believe it is when we are leaning on each other that we truly bask in that glory the most. So lean on dear friends, and give thanks to the One who is always there to carry the load. Amen.