Reef-lined beaches, lush rainforests and reggae music are visions that often come to mind when one thinks of Jamaica. Youth group leaders from Mt. Olive Baptist Church recently gained a different perspective of this island.
Mt. Olive Baptist Church Youth Pastor C.J. Smith asked his church’s 7 youth group leaders to take the next step in their faith, and in missions, through the planning of an international mission trip. The young leaders prayed, researched, and prayed some more. Smith said the group felt led to a mission site. That’s how it came to be that 7 students and 4 adults arrived at the Christian Fellowship Church in the mountainous region of Catadupa, St. James, Jamaica, twenty miles from Montego Bay. The mission team planned the trip through Experience Mission, who arranged the partnership with the church in Catadupa. The trip took place June 24-30
The landscape of the region is beautiful, but the group also experienced the excessive poverty of the area. Lack of access to running water meant the group bathed, along with the native people, in natural springs. For survival, the inhabitants of this area are dependent primarily on native fruits and vegetables. Smith’s group worked alongside locals on construction projects and interacted with children through a daily Kids Club program.
A typical day at the mission site included rising early for breakfast, leading Kids Club activities (Bible study and crafts) followed by lunch, then joining in a work site project, bathing in the spring, evening devotions, and finally, bedtime. One of the construction projects included mixing cement and hauling it to the site of a church expansion project. The group also participated in road repair. On the last day, the group hauled sand up the mountain to reinforce one of the town’s water supplies. The work was hard, but necessary. Smith stated that the locals “treated us like they’ve known us forever; accents didn’t matter, skin color didn’t matter. We were all part of God’s family and that’s what mattered.”
Senior youth group leaders Andrew Coble and Josh McGee were 2 of the 7 students involved in the mission. Coble remarked on the kindness of the people there. He said they were quick to put others first. “He recalls a child climbing a coconut tree just to get the visitors coconuts. When asked how the trip changed him, Coble stated, “This trip made me realize how much people are missing by just sitting in the four walls of a church building. It’s great, but it’s not all God called us to do.”
McGee had a memorable experience when he was given the opportunity to speak during a church service. He said, “I felt as if I were having a one on one conversation with God…the Holy Spirit gave me the words to speak.” McGee said the mission trip has changed his perspective on people. He no longer views others with preconceived notions of what they’re like on the inside. “I’ve learned to look past stereotypes.” McGee says, “I’m so excited to be home so I can share God’s love just like I did in Jamaica.” Smith agreed that all members came away changed and humbled by their experiences.