Almost 200 years ago, Methodist missionaries established churches in Jamaica.
A local missions team recently traveled to Jamaica to host Vacation Bible School and do needed repairs to Crawle Methodist Church in Duncans.
From July 5-13, a Volunteers in Mission team from Tahlequah First United Methodist Church shared a love for Christ with children and their families through games, music, and Bible studies.
They also repaired the kitchen, windows and doors of the facility.
Participants included James and Jane Bond, Dudley and Sara Brown, Sarah and Keith Dunlap and sons Noah and Jesse, Billie Walker, Suze Heinrichs of St. Louis, and Greta Heru from Memphis. The trip was organized by Linda Davies Alegria, who is serving with the Peace Corps.
“I wanted to see Linda in her workplace,” Sara Brown said. “We’ve been friends since she was my co-worker at NSU.”
They collected things to take for the children, said Brown. “NSU donated 60 jump ropes, beach balls, lip glosses and 20 Frisbees and NSU T-shirts.”
The T-shirts were given to volunteers in Jamaica who pitched in. The travelers also took soccer balls and children’s books, as well as toiletries, soaps, pencils and bandages. Billie Walker crocheted hats to be given away.
The two Dunlap teens enjoyed playing soccer with the area youth, and one Jamaican young man was proud to have a soccer ball at the end of the week, said Brown.
Sara Dunlap and Eric Moran, a Jamaican team member and volunteer, respectively, led music every day.
“Everyone loved the music and would sing at the top of their lungs,” Brown said. “One night, we had a musical evening for surrounding churches, and [members of] four churches came.”
The children of area churches were attending the VBS each day and the musical evening gave everyone a chance to get together.
Jane bond enjoyed seeing the children have a good time.
“They were quiet at first, then the more they got to know us, they loosened up,” Bond said.
One of the best experiences of the trip was taking individual photos of the children, then giving a photo to each child.
“Those photos tell the kids, ‘you’re important and we care about you and want to take your picture,’” said Bond.
Seeing the world in a different way
Mission trips allow people to see the world in a different way, James Bond said.
“For the children, it’s also valuable to share their point of view, to have a person be interested in them,” Jane Bond said. “It’s important to have money to fix the windows and buy supplies. But as Sara pointed out, it means so much for them to be doing hair and having a person to care enough to be there for them.”
The group took funds to buy supplies for church repairs, and hired local workers. They took $1,000 for church repairs and left about $500 for additional projects.
While the inside of the church was receiving some much-needed TLC, the outside grounds also got attention.
“One day we all picked up trash outside, we filled nine huge trash bags,” said Dudley Brown. “We got the kids more interested in making the environment a more respectful place.”
Getting to know the people of the community was one of the joys of the trip.
“The people at the church were very kind,” Brown said. “One lady had a beautiful farm and invited us out for a traditional Jamaican lunch.”
Fruit was in abundance, including star fruit, papaya, guava and passion fruit.
“It was so good,” Dudley Brown said. “The area reminded me of the foliage in Zambia when we were there.”
Traditional food a delight for visitors
Another time the group was treated to a traditional meal of jerk chicken and rice, which was served in containers, so each child got a meal in a box, Brown said. The last day they had a cake and ice cream treat.
The trip was the Brown’s seventh mission experience since they’ve lived in Oklahoma.
“It’s a wonderful way to make a small difference and also learn so much about the people you work with and appreciate their culture,” said Sara. “
It especially makes the boys appreciate the things they have, and to understand that not all people have the same resources and opportunities, and they can share that with their peers.”
Dudley Brown was surprised to see how many single family homes there were and how so many men were unable to find work.
“So many of the men and women live separately,” he said.
“I’ve traveled all over the world but I hadn’t been to the Caribbean Islands, so I wanted to see friends and make new ones. It’s broadening for anyone who goes on a mission trip and also for those who are recipients; it broadens their world outlook.”
Almost 200 years ago, Methodist missionaries established churches in Jamaica.
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