God has continued to bless our mission in eastern Jamaica. We had teams there for more than 3 weeks this summer and we were followed by a team from Virginia that was there for 10 days.
While the physical labor we do there is probably the least important thing we do there, we will cite our projects first to frame the other ways God is at work there.
For more photos, see the following link: http://picasaweb.google.com/Isaiahsixeight.org
Our first work team built a house in Prospect for a mother and 3 children. Their former house had thousands of holes in it and it leaked rain and air. The mother and children were frequently sick from the exposure.
This house was built in approximately 2 days.
After completion of the house in Prospect, the team moved to the Seaside community to do the promised work on Ms. McKenzie’s house (see previous blog including before photos). This required selective demolition of approximately ½ of her home and then rebuilding it and reinforcing the remaining portion. This gave Ms. McKenzie a safe, sound, and dry structure for her and her 6 year old grandson. There were also many children (too many) in the area and they were underfoot during much of the construction. We also had opportunities to play with them.
The first week team was also attended the graduation at Stokes Hall Basic School. We were all given seats of honor for the ceremony. Of course the children were beautiful.
We were invited to this because of the promise to build them a new basic school on our second week. The school they had was a single room that is about 10 feet square and in it, they had 20 students and a teacher. This concrete block structure was attached to a church and the entire structure was about to collapse. We felt that the structure was much too unsafe for the children.
Old Stokes Hall Basic School
A smaller group of our first week team installed a 7 station computer lab in the Port Morant Catholic Church where there had been a computer lab previously. They spent time working on the installation, securing the system, and teaching the teachers how to use it. This is the only computer lab in the area. Computer training is extremely lacking in this area.
The second week team had a construction element and a ministry element. The construction team went to Stokes Hall, where we found a very willing group of local men eager to help build the school. As a result, the school was erected in 2 days. Our work there allowed us to also engage the men in devotions. Most of these men were unchurched.
The second week team also had 3 young women who ministered to teenage girls in Port Morant. They had talks, sermons, socials, and crafts. Many of the talks and sermons were about living in the light, sexual purity, making good Christian decisions, etc. These teenage girls were very much impacted by the work of our young women.
Also, on two mornings, our young women went to Stokes Hall and had an impromptu Vacation Bible School with approximately 30 children.
At the beginning of the 3rd week, we went to a Jamaican wedding. In March, we had helped a couple rebuild their home that was destroyed previously by Hurricane Dean and they were living under a church (see previous blog).
This couple had been living together for close to 20 years and had 3 children. We strongly encouraged them to get married and our persistence paid off. It was very exciting for us to be invited as special guests.
Later that same afternoon, we were invited to participate in the dedication of the Stokes Hall Basic School that had been built the week before. This was yet another opportunity for us to be involved with the community.
The 3rd week team was primarily a team from First United Methodist Church of Alexander City, Alabama. Their goal was to conduct a Vacation Bible School in Duckenfield. Duckenfield is a very poor community on the eastern point of Jamaica. It is largely a sugar cane field with a sugar processing plant. The workers in the area mostly work in the cane fields or at the plant. The plant closes for long periods of time leaving the workers unemployed. Cane cutters there get $300 JD ($4.28 US) per ton for cane they cut by hand.
We talked to several people in Duckenfield and no one could remember there ever being a Vacation Bible School (VBS) in the community. As a matter of fact, many of the children who attended had never seen a white person. Here is a report from the leader of this VBS:
The Duckenfield VBS team shared the Miracles of Jesus with 58 beautiful Jamaicans each day. We had children from age 4 to 14 and even a baby or two! Mothers and grandmothers brought their children to sing and learn about the love Jesus shared by performing miracles for the people He encountered on His walk.
Each day of our VBS we did coloring sheets that portrayed the Bible Story and acted out the story while reading it to the children. The children then answered questions about the Bible passage from that day and the days before. We really felt the children were learning about the love of Jesus in a brand new way.
We also sang songs each day and the children especially loved the words and motions to the song “I’m Diggin’ Life”. This is a song about digging life while splashing in the living waters of Jesus Christ and soaking in the “Son”. We wish everyone could have experienced the children of Jamaica jumping and singing along to the motions our kids made up to the song.
Recreation each day consisted of relay races, Duck Duck Goose, and some Jamaican games the children taught us! We ended each day with a craft such as sand art or scratch art and then after “Diggin’ Life” at least three more times, the children went home singing!
Our team was truly blessed by our days at the Duckenfield VBS!
Also, during all 3 weeks, but more so in the last week, there was work on the pig project. We selected a family of hard working people who lost everything in Hurricane Dean. Last winter, we built them a house. Now, we have built them a concrete pig pen, purchased a pregnant pig, and had water run to the pig pen. The plans are to take some of the pigs from the litter after they are weaned, give some to others who want to start raising pigs, sell some to the market to raise money for more pig feed, sell some to support the family, and start the cycle again. This is comparable to the better known Heifer Project.
One really realizes how good we have it. We ran water to their home for use by the pigs. The man and woman living there say it is the first time in their entire lives that they have had running water (and this is not even running to their house).
Well, we accomplished a lot: built a home for 4; installed a computer lab for 7; did a major rebuild of a house for 2; built a basic school; built a pig pen, etc. However, these activities were not as great as the intangible things we built: relations with a family and community at a wedding, seeing God at work in the family where we had planted a seed; seeing a community come together with Christians to build a Christian Basic School; conducting a VBS in a poor neglected community; working with teen girls; having community members attend our devotions in our mission home; having community members to come visit at nights; working closely with a family to offer them hope that a pig will give them opportunities to feed themselves and send an adopted grandson to school; to see our taxi driver of many years come to learn how to serve others and take lead in work on the pig project; see both of our taxi drivers start feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit and movement toward Christ. Likewise, team members from the U.S. saw God at work and moving in their own lives.
God showed us a lot in Jamaica. He has opened our eyes to other mission opportunities and He is moving us to more direct relational ministry – more involvement with the communities, families, and people we touch.
We have tentative plans for a very small team to return in October or November, 2008, a team in winter 2099, one in spring of 2009 and one in the summer of 2009. We will also expand on our Jamaican Christmas Angel project and continue to support other ministries even when we are not there.
We appreciate you continuing prayers and financial support for this mission.
Hurricane Gustav and related news:
Gustav hit Jamaica as a very strong tropical storm, just under the wind speed of a Category 1 hurricane, but it brought flooding rains and was on the island for more than 12 hours. The eye passed directly over Duckenfield, Golden Grove, Stokes Hall, and Rollinsfield. Baba and Joyce - the couple who had their home destroyed by Hurricane Dean and who were living under the church lost the roof off the house we had just helped them rebuild in March. We helped them purchase more tin (zinc) and some lumber. The original framing was with round tree limbs he had cut. So, we hope that the timbers and hurricane straps will help prevent this from occurring again.
Also, the rains in the Blue Mountains came into the valleys and washed again some homes as well as the bridge at Harbourview (very near the airport). This cut St. Thomas and Portland off from Kingston and goods and supplies had to be trucked over the mountains to the north coast then via Portland to St. Thomas. For a while, there was a shortage of gasoline and food. We distributed some aid (food primarily) in the week following the storm. Because of a gasoline shortage, buses and taxis could not operate so schools were closed for over a week. A temporary bridge has been constructed relieving some of the shortages.
Also - Delroy's pig gave birth to a litter of 8. That is an appropriate number for the first litter in the Isaiahsixeight project.
Isaiahsixeight is a Christian mission organization which focuses on an extremely poor area of eastern Jamaica. Please visit our web site: www.isaiahsixeight.org.