A month ago I shared the prospect of packing up my life here in Chicago and exploring an idea that has been sitting in the back of my mind for nearly two decades: volunteering with missionaries to serve the poor in rural Jamaica. I gave the backstory on this latest development two posts ago. If you missed it, check it out. I have received great feedback about it and I believe you will enjoy it.
This move is becoming more of a possibility with each passing day, though the first steps were shaky and the outcome seemed far from certain. Beyond the address to which I mailed my small donations, I had no contact information; no email, phone, or web site. I did some basic internet searching and discovered various dioceses here in the US supporting missionary work in Jamaica, but there was no single diocese or church acting as a sort of clearinghouse or coordinator. They were all over the place.
Instead of randomly calling various churches, I spent more time researching the myriad programs serving the poor there and tried to make a connection back to the nuns I met at Mass eight years ago. I found an email address on what looked like a nearly-defunct web site and sent a message explaining my desire to explore volunteer options further. I put the chances of a reply at 60-40 against. Shortly thereafter, and much to my surprise, I received a response from a Sr. Patti, a nun in Altoona, Pennsylvania. We have been in touch the last few weeks. She has been asking me questions to better understand what I am looking to do and, based on what she knows about volunteering and mission work in Jamaica, what the best fit for me is (assuming there is one). Sr. Patti seems to think I would be best suited for a group of missionary priests responsible for a high school, an orphanage, and small clinic in a very rural corner of the island. She often refers to the priests as a Mission Society, but I am not sure what that means. She is connecting me with one of the priests there as a next step, so I assume I will find out. More to come.
In the meantime, I am hedging my bets in case the Jamaica idea fizzles out. Since January 2005 I have been involved with the MankKind Project, an organization dedicated to empowering men to explore and develop more positive and healthier aspects of masculinity. I have found the experience very fulfilling as it has challenged some of my long-held beliefs of what being a grown man looks like, increased my capacity for emotional awareness, and strengthened my desire to live life with more intention. I would not go so far as to say that my current adventure is because of what I have picked up after having spent this time with MKP Chicago, but I would be lying if I said it did not play a part.
Like many non-profits, MKP Chicago is struggling. It needs help with fund raising, enrollment, marketing, community involvement, financial stability, etc. I have proposed to its leadership that I could seek grant funding and create a position within the group to take on these tasks. Lo and behold, someone in the community has come up with a plan for everything I proposed - and more. His employer specializes in non-profit advancement, and the knowledge he brings to the table is incredible. He and I met, exchanged ideas, and continue to explore the best way to merge our plans and resources.
And I have no idea - or very little idea - where this is all headed. If the idea of volunteering in Jamaica falls through, I do not know that I could begin immediately with the MKP Chicago idea. The grant funding I am investigating would not be available for another year. However, if volunteering abroad falls into place, I could explore it and evaluate a year from now if I should continue or head back to Chicago and put any available grant money to use on my idea.
This feels like a lot of movement in a small amount of time. And while I trust that the parts beyond my control will work out the way the are supposed to, I still have to hold up my end of the bargain and do the work. Although I do not feel any closer to "the answer." That seems to become incrementally clearer in the still moments like I wrote about earlier. That is always the much more difficult part for me. Not being alone, but rather being still. The combination of movement and stillness It is yielding some interesting possibilities. Hopefully everything will fall smoothly into place and this plan - if it can be called that - will come together once again.