By Chris Meehan and Sean Connolly
A violent crisis disrupted life in Kingston, Jamaica, last week as local gangs and government forces clashed. The fighting began after police launched a manhunt for Christopher Coke, a gang leader wanted on gun and drug trafficking charges in the United States. Seventy civilians are reported dead amid rumors of aggressive police tactics and a trail of corruption that allegedly leads to the country’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding, according to multiple news reports. The government declared a state of emergency and has restricted some civil liberties.
The day the conflict boiled over, Sunday, May 23, members of the Kingston branch came unwittingly close to the fighting. Branch members delivering meals to residents near the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood encountered barricades and saw black smoke rising from a burning police station.
“We knew there was a risk of trouble when we set out to deliver food, but we saw other cars driving into the area, so we decided to go ahead,” explains Joseph Mutidjo, a member of the feeding team. “Demand for food was heavier than usual because other feeding groups stayed away.
“Later that day a gun battle took place on the same street we had been on. The Lord definitely protected our feeding team.”
The team handed out 320 meals that Sunday.
As the violence spread, schools closed and many businesses shut their doors. The branch canceled men’s and women’s group meetings and members did their best to stay home. Locksley Robinson nearly drove into a gunfight on his way home from work, but police stopped him and sent him another way.
All branch members are safe and unharmed.
The fighting has subsided this week, though the state of emergency remains in force and Christopher Coke is still on the run.
“It’s a tragic situation,” says head branch leader Vince Keaveny, “the worst I’ve ever seen.”
“We tried to keep a low profile last week,” adds Joseph. “Rumors were flying everywhere, and the situation was fluid and confusing. Please pray for us, and pray that we can figure out how to continue delivering food to the people who need it.”
Editor’s Note: Kingston branch member Sam Davis submitted this first person account of the effort to feed Kingston's homeless on Sunday, May 23.
Feeding His Lambs in the Lion’s Den
By Sam Davis
Despite the rising tension and concerns for the safety of our teams, we decided that our feeding ministry must go on. We did not realize that God had already set in motion a plan that would not only grant safe passage for his servants but would deliver more meals than we had ever delivered to the homeless and poor.
The first sign that this was going to be an extraordinary day came when we met to prepare our food. When the pots we’d used to cook the food were empty, we had packaged a record 320 meals! (We normally distribute 250 meals.)
We held hands in a circle and prayed that God would provide a special cloak of security for us and that he would lead us to the 320 brothers and sisters most in need. We worried that many of the homeless would not be in their usual spots and that there would be meals left over. Nevertheless, we set out on Kingston’s emptier-than-usual streets in search of the hungry.
In downtown Kingston we were happy to see familiar faces emerge to greet our vehicle. The homeless formed a line, said grace and collected their meals against the backdrop of black smoke from a building set on fire less than two miles away.
“We haven’t seen the others [from other feeding programs],” one lamented as he requested a second meal to have later in the evening. Suddenly, the purpose of the additional meals became clear. With the civil unrest, there was no guarantee of when and where the next meal would come from. Many received a second meal until they all were gone!
Soon after we left, the government declared a state of public emergency and sealed off the downtown area. From television we learned that there were gunfights that day on the very streets on which we stood handing out meals.
That day reminded us that if we are willing and obedient our God is faithful and we need not fear any ill. We now eagerly look forward to our next feeding program!
Anne Brewer says:
June 3rd, 2010 at 10:47 PM
Wow! Such courage! God bless Kingston.
Francis Mutidjo says:
June 4th, 2010 at 7:21 AM
As a parent, I worried when I heard that Joe and the Kingston branch will do the feeding program in the midst of war. But then, I'd been there in 2001, in a similar-but-smaller scale war, when 21 civilians died. We learn again, that in doing God's work we have to rid ourselves from fear and just do it, believing in His protection. Go Kingston, go. God bless you all!
Pat Walsh says:
June 4th, 2010 at 7:37 AM
Thank you brothers and sisters for feeding our poor in the name of Christ. May the Lord cover you with his protection as you continue this work of mercy. Blessings, Pat
Susan Busk says:
June 4th, 2010 at 8:29 AM
Praise God for the faithfulness of our Kingston brothers and sisters. Praise God for His faithfulness in protecting our brothers and sisters.
God bless you all and all of Kingston,
Geoff & Sue Kelleher says:
June 4th, 2010 at 8:33 AM
Joseph, We pray for all of you in Kingston who bravely go out trusting in the Lord's protection to provide food for the hungry and homeless. Geoff & Sue Kelleher
Cyndi Smith says:
June 4th, 2010 at 9:45 AM
Brothers and Sisters in Jamaica,
I am so grateful the POP has this newsletter (sent thru email) to let others in the POP know of you extreme need. I am praying for you:
Father, thank you for your marvelous plan that goes far beyond what we can even imagine. In the midst of the Valley of Death, you have provided food for those in need while you protected your servants who made and delivered it. We praise you for who you are! We exalt your name which is Lord of Lords! As we watch with eyes wide open, we anticipate you will continue to manifest yourself as you provide for those in need and as you protect your servants who call upon your name!! Come Lord Jesus, and use us for your purposes. We are yours. Bless the People of Praise as we seek to live life with you in the midst of chaos and destructive forces -- may many be drawn to you and be set free as they yield themselves to you. We love you, Lord! Amen
Marjorie Stanley says:
June 4th, 2010 at 9:57 AM
Keep up the good work and may God surround you all with his guardian angels...Marge
Bridget Lyew-Sang says:
June 4th, 2010 at 12:59 PM
May the Lord continue to grant the funding for you to continue the good work of feeding the hungry. May he protect you all as you do his work. God bless each of you.
Rita Kottkamp says:
June 4th, 2010 at 1:53 PM
Amen and Amen to Cyndi's prayer! Glory!
God bless you all for continuing to serve the hungry. I am moved so by this witness. Such courage and humility you have. God is with you in a powerful way. He has much love and tenderness for each of you. Thank you, in Jesus' name.
Alleluia! Our God reigns!
Olive Satchell says:
June 4th, 2010 at 4:08 PM
My brothers and sisters in Kingston rock! I wish I was there to be a part of the programme. I know that the people who were fed were tremendously grateful, especially since there was such disturbance and they couldn't move about as they normally would. May you be blessed more and more so that you can continue to build God's Kingdom.
Linda Coney says:
June 4th, 2010 at 5:09 PM
Dear brothers and sisters in Jamaica,
The words we sing came to mind as I read your story: "Glorify your Son in us. Glorify us Father. Glorify us in your Son, and in your Son be glorified. Be glorified."
Thank you for glorifying Jesus and being glorified in him! Our prayers and the love of God unite us as one family.
June 4th, 2010 at 6:56 PM
You did the Lord's work and the Lord protected his children. My love and prayers are with you, my brothers and sisters. God bless all of you, His good and faithful servants.
Kim Doffing says:
June 4th, 2010 at 9:03 PM
Praise be to our God! When he says go, we go! When he says stay and pray, we stay! Thank You faithful brothers and sisters for responding by serving 320 meals. This story is not everyday, it is Thank You Lord, Amazing!
Tom Shriver says:
June 5th, 2010 at 11:55 AM
I thank God He protected you all! I will begin to pray daily for the safety of our members, their families, & friends in the Jamaica branch. You are doing a necessary work for the Lord & I am convinced that others will join you as a result of your courage and determination to build His kingdom in the midst of the violence. God Bless all of my brothers & sisters.
Karen Heintzelman says:
August 11th, 2010 at 10:40 AM
I love you Kingston brothers & sisters! Some of you stayed at our house once. Count on my prayers & love. Wish I could give you a big hug! Hope to see you again & may God bless all that you are doing for Him! Love,Karen Heintzelman
Leave a Response