Each year since 2002, the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City has sent down a team of volunteers to Mustard Seed Communities Hogar Belen home for abandoned and disabled children for a week of construction, interaction with the children, lots of hard work and lots of fun. This week is the culmination of nearly six months of fundraising, both individually and as part of a team. St. Paul's is one of several parishes to make the week-long trip. These team trips are their sole source of income. Every dollar that is donated to the orphanage. All contributions are tax deductible.
HISTORY OF MUSTARD SEED GUILD
Back in 2002, there was a little blurb in the St. Paul's Bulletin looking for volunteers to go on a mission trip to the Hogar Belen Orphanage for Abandoned and Disabled Children in Managua, Nicaragua. About 12 of us responded, not really knowing what to expect. AFTER we said we wanted to go, we learned that each of us had to raise $1,500 by asking for contributions. Even if we could afford to write a check for that amount, Fr. Gregory Ramkinson (the founder of Mustard Seed years ago with the first home in Kingston, Jamaica) insisted that we go through the experience of having to ask for the money so we could better empathize with the staff and the children we were about to visit. It was daunting and humbling.
The generosity of people we contacted was absolutely astounding. To say the week we spent with the children was unforgettable is a shocking understatement. And it's amazing what we accomplish in a week. In that week, we were surrounded by the living God in the faces of these incredible children, these abandoned and disabled children, many of them severely incapacitated mentally and physically by a combination of birth injuries, abuse and early malnutrition. These were the faces that showed us how to be fully present in the moment of love.
Word got around, interest grew, and a new team headed down in 2003. In 2004, one of the Trip Team leaders, Matt Peterson, thought to find ways to involve the rest of the community year-round and create opportunities for many more to share the Mustard Seed experience other than one week mission trip once a year. And thus, Mustard Seed Guild, an official ministry of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, was born.
Our Work: The first time a mission team was sent to Nicaragua, we finished the chapel, the physical therapy room, the outside play area, and a brick wall to enclose the space. Each year, there is a building and/or repair assignment. The past few years, we have been onsite at the new location in Diriamba helping to construct buildings and spaces.
HISTORY OF MUSTARD SEED COMMUNITIES
In 1978, Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon started Mustard Seed Communities (MSC) in response to a disturbing trend on the streets of Jamaica: the abandonment of handicapped children on the sidewalks, empty lots, even trash cans by families so marginalized and impoverished they could not afford another mouth to feed. Father Gregory came across some unused land, gathered some friends and financial support, and the first of 10 homes in the Kingston area began. Additional homes followed in Zimbabwe and the Dominican Republic. Fr. Gregory is the embodiment Mustard Seed’s message: If you have faith the size of a Mustard Seed, anything is possible.
Torrential rain and mudslides in Nicaragua caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 buried entire villages and left approximately 800,000 homeless, and disabled children abandoned. Father Gregory Father Gregory once again answered the call to build a Mustard Seed Home.
Mustard Seed Nicaragua is the most recent addition to Mustard Seed Communities.