Adult Jamaica Mission Trip

posted Apr 29, 2016, 5:25 PM by Sue Fried   [ updated Apr 29, 2016, 5:35 PM ]
by Neal Meyer

On a Friday, late in January, eleven Minnesotans left the snow and cold behind for ten days of mission work in Jamaica. Our team consisted of four people from Peace UMC, including Pastor Gary, and seven from Asbury UMC in Duluth, including Pastor Cindy Rasmussen. Other than Pastor Gary, none of us had ever been in Jamaica, or at least not in rural Jamaica where we spent most of our time

So, where is Jamaica and what is it like? Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea. It is located about 90 miles south of Cuba. The island is about 146 miles long and at its maximum about 51 miles wide. The area is slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut. The island is mountainous, so the famous Jamaican Bobsled team has some good slopes to work with. We actually rode past their training area. Of course, the weather is fabulous.

Our mission project took ten days, which covered two weekends. We left on Friday and arrived in Montego Bay. The flight was non-stop and took nearly 5 hours. From there we took a bus to Brown’s Town which was in the mountains. We stayed overnight at the manse. Okay, what is a manse? It is the house of a minister and is typically large. We found this to be true and as you will see, we became very familiar with the manse during the course of our stay. Our hosts were Pastor Earl and his wife June.

The next day, Saturday, we had breakfast (more on the food later) and then took a bus to Ocho Rios. This is a Spanish name meaning eight rivers. For a time, Spain controlled the island and it was called Santiago. The British later assumed control and named the island Jamaica. The influences of the British are seen in the language, the school system, the form of government and of course, driving on the left side of the road. Ocho Rios is a primary tourist destination and it includes the famous Dunn River Falls, which we walked up. You read that right. For dinner we dined at a local place called “Scotchies.” We then returned to Brown’s Town and went back to the manse to await the next day.

Sunday morning, we had breakfast, and then went to the local church for services. In addition to the service a health care professional, a visiting nurse, was there to talk about the Zika virus. In the evening we went to a concert at a church in Duncan, which is in another town but along the north coast. The concert was given by a youth choir, called “Youth Quake.” Typical ages of the group seemed to be in the twenties. The music and the choir’s movement with the music was spectacular. We returned to the manse to await the start of our project.

Monday morning, we were greeted by a double rainbow. As the manse sits on top of a mountain and has a wonderful view of the valley below, the vista was perfectly framed by the rainbow. Then the rain stopped, the sun came out and it was time to begin our work. We actually had two projects, one was to plant avocados and the other was to paint the manse. Remember, the manse is big, very big, with three stories. We did have some help, a local Jamaican named Dwight, took responsibility for the trim in the really high places. Regards planting the avocados, they were planted on a slope of maybe 30% or so. The ground was limestone. Fortunately, we again had some local help, a local Jamaican named Tucker, who with a pick axe, dug many holes in the limestone in which we placed the plants. Through the week, we must have planted 250 or more avocado plants. Sure hope they survive. While we took it to the wire, by the end of the week we were able to complete both projects.

Through the week our daily routine was as follows, have breakfast, plant avocados or paint, have lunch, plant avocados or paint, have supper, hold a team meeting, play games or read, then go to bed and rest for tomorrow. At various times through the day, we were able to take some walks, sometimes for considerable distance, through the neighborhood. This was fun as we were able to interact with some of the local people. Brown’s Town is an education center for the area and we saw many students, all with uniforms, going and returning from school. York Castle High School is at the base of the mountain where the manse is located. The school and property and owned by the United Methodist Church but the teachers are provided by the government.

Regards the team meeting, we always had some devotional activity, discussed the day’s activities, planned for the next day and did some serious, but well-focused exercises. One of the team members from Duluth was a physical therapist. She selected and led the exercises which proved to be very helpful.

On Wednesday, the routine varied in the afternoon as we went into the local market at Brown’s Town. This was quite interesting. Think of it as a big farmer’s market. Our driver, Sheldon, purchased some local fruit which he gave to each of us. I thought it a bit sour, but that’s ok since I sometimes bite into lime slices.

Someone coined the name “Miracle Team” for our group. Well, maybe that is why, on our last work day, we exceeded expectations with our final project. We installed a retractable clothes line. This replaced the wires that were permanently hung between side walls of a very nice porch. As we painted the inside of the porch (a beautiful job I might add) the clothes line could be retracted and the porch used for sitting.

Saturday morning, we departed to Montego Bay. We stayed at the El Greco hotel, had dinner at Margaritaville, and walked the “Hip Strip.” On Sunday, we had a service on the Doctor’s Cave Beach, swam and checked out the shops. And remember, this was February 7th, “Super Bowl Sunday” and I didn’t give it a second thought! We soon boarded the plane and departed into the sunset.

As parting remarks, we must say that the meals at the manse were superb. They were done in Jamaican style and really added to experience. We were impressed by the friendliness of the local Jamaicans. We got to know the team from Duluth and they have invited us to a reunion later this year where they plan to prepare some food “Jamaican Style.” We are thankful for Pastor Cindy’s leadership particularly during the team meetings and Sunday service. We must also be thankful for Gary’s leadership. He has led many trips to Jamaica and it really shows. Our group was so pleased, we bought him a cowboy hat!