Break for Change: The joy of building relationships in Jamaica

3 weeks ago Triangle 0

Written by: Samantha Burgess, editor in chief

The BFC Jamaica team pictured with an older Jamaican man.

No one is ever fully prepared to enter into a new culture and do mission work. But, for Madison Owens and Heidi Smith, going on a mission trip to Jamaica taught them what it means to love others in Christ and to be thankful for everything they have.

The Break For Change Jamaica team stayed on the island of St. Elizabeth for nine days. They worked with Follow the Source, an adjunct of Source of Light, whose vision is to “reach the people of the world through Christ-centered and time-tested materials, which will result in evangelism, discipleship and church planting.”

The group started with discipling to the elderly in what was called an “infirmary home.” 

“These weren’t like your typical American nursing homes,” said senior Madison Owens. “The men and women were separated and all they had was a room with sparse beds lining the walls.”

They visited with the elderly and gave them companionship, something the residents rarely experience inside of the home. They also held a luncheon for the elderly shut-ins, talking with them and having fun.

“They were so happy we were there just spending time with them,” said senior Heidi Smith. “The whole trip was very rewarding because it made me feel like I really made a difference in the lives of some of the people there.”

The group then visited babies in the newborn intensive care unit who had been abandoned by their mothers. Most of the babies are abandoned either because the parents can’t afford to or don’t want to care for a child. This was one of the most heartbreaking experiences for Owens.

“I would almost compare their cribs to cages,” said Owens. “They would be alone for most of the day and had no one to show them love.”

During their visit to Jamaica, the team had to learn to live without the comforts of home.

“They have no air conditioning and no hot water, but they never made complaints,” said Smith. “It was challenging living like the Jamaicans live, but I am so grateful for the eye opening experience.”

Owens echoed similar sentiments.  “Some of the things I consider an issue here in the States they would be grateful to worry about,” said Owens. “So, I think this trip really showed me that you can find joy in any situation.”

The Jamaica team visiting with students.

While in Jamaica, the group also went out into various schools, performing skits and playing games with the children in the evening. 

One of the children, Machai, (who has down syndrome) was the only special needs child in the school system. Typically, special needs children in Jamaica don’t get a chance to receive an education. But, Machai was an exception.

Machai had a desk in the back of the class. His teachers, who had no special needs training, rotated who would teach him each week.

Owens explained that after they performed a skit for the class, they were able to go out with them onto the playground.

Owens sitting with Machai.

“I hung out with Machai and we really connected. He was so excited to have someone to play with and eagerly pulled me across the playground,” said Owens. “It was hard to get in the van and leave because he begged me not to go.”

At the start of the trip, Owens was anxious to work with children as she hadn’t done well with that aspect of ministry in the past. But, being able to connect with Machai and some of the other children allowed her to see that she has the potential to serve in any aspect of ministry.

“Mission work isn’t always about doing hard labor,” said Owens. “Ultimately it’s about creating relationships with people and being able to plant the seeds of the Gospel.”

Smith added that, as Christians, we are called to serve others and show them the love of Christ. She encourages other students to go on a missions trips so that they can share that love with another culture and gain a new perspective on life.

Samantha Burgess is a senior communication major with an emphasis in digital media and is editor in chief for the Triangle. Her interests in writing include profiles and feature articles. Burgess can often be found curled up with a good book, writing, listening to music or watching Netflix.