Through the support of ELCA Missionary Sponsorship, which sponsors nearly 240 ELCA missionaries serving in almost 50 countries, David and Mary Kuck have been working and teaching in Jamaica for 21 years.
Though David says that it was never really their intent to go to Jamaica specifically, they’ve certainly enjoyed their time there, and this past summer they were able to witness some true transformation in the lives of their students.
The college where they teach, the United Theological College of the West Indies, is supported by six denominations and offers a number of degrees in ministerial studies and theology. It wasn’t until recently that the school offered a Clinical Pastoral Education program, an important part of the path to ordination that teaches those entering ministry how to work with people in crisis.
“The Clinical Pastoral Education program is a program that all seminary students in the U.S. usually do, but we have not been able to have it here for a number of reasons, many of them financial,” says David.
But through their ecumenical partnerships, David and Mary were excited to see the program begin at the school, and, David shares, demand was high despite a cultural climate that isn’t always so comfortable with introspection.
“Psychological issues haven’t been addressed in Jamaica until recently,” says Mary. “Any kind of visiting a psychiatrist or psychologist was loaded with stigma.”
So it was a moving experience when a group of seven men graduated from the program this past August and opened up about their lives at the ceremony.
“The class was all men,” says Mary. “Often men in Jamaica have issues because fathers often aren’t present in the home, so men grow up without male role models frequently,” she shares, adding, “several of them talked about how they had thought that they had these issues behind them and realized that they didn’t.”
Through the process of self-examination, Mary says, the men had learned to support each other and to confront their own feelings. They had freed themselves of their “personal baggage,” and testified to their personal transformations.
“For men to deal with their issues together as men is just awesome. It doesn’t happen very much in Jamaica,” Mary says. “And then to have them be willing to talk about it before an audience and say, ‘I learned that it was all right to cry,’ that was just powerful for us all.”