During the last week in July of 2010, I attended a church led mission trip with WonbyOne to a rural town in Jamaica called Harmons. I went with fifty high school students and adult leaders from two local churches. Our goal was to build two homes for two families living in extreme poverty, as well as provide additional help in the nearby infirmary, greenhouses, and small store.
Harmons is described a village, but it is really a cluster of dilapidated houses that can only be reached through curving roads up through the mountains of Jamaica. The bus ride from the Montego Bay airport was terrifying, both because Jamaicans drive on the left side of the road, and because their two lane roads are smaller than most of the one lane roads in America. The farther inland you go, the worse the conditions of the roads, homes, and people get.
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The work was harder than most of us suburban kids had ever experienced. Very few of us had any previous experience of constructing houses, and the hired Jamaican workers enjoyed showing us their skills and easily completing tasks in half the time that it took the American volunteers to do them. My favorite part of the construction was called the Maul Haul. It involved shoveling a rock called maul into burlap bags and then transporting these bags, mostly at an intense uphill incline, through an assembly line of people. By the end of the day, you have dust all over your body, in your mouth, on your clothes, and you’re exhausted, but it’s all worth it when the last bag is dumped out at its destination.
For me, the hardest part was visiting a place called the infirmary. It was a place where, in the saddest cases, people had been dropped off there to be forgotten about and ignored by society. It included mostly physically and mentally handicapped people. The smell is the first thing you notice when you get off the bus, and then when we turned the corner we saw that their version of showers was the nurses stripping their patients and hosing them off outside. It was so unlike anything I would ever see in America and it took a while for me to become comfortable enough to venture out and talk to people on my own. I bonded especially with a man who was blind and mentally handicapped. He loved when I read him Psalms, and he enjoyed repeating every word I said. It was such an incredible experience to see this man, who used to be a pastor, still worshipping God even though other basic tasks, like having a conversation, were lost to him.
The trip was a completely life-changing experience. It helped me to realize just how amazing life is, how lucky I am to have a solid support system of family and friends, and how having God in your life can make living in extreme poverty satisfying. I made fantastic friends, both from my church and in Jamaica. This trip was inspiring in so many ways, especially spiritually, and I had such an amazing time that I am going back this year during the first week of August. I hope that this trip will be just as eye-opening and fun as the last.
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