Rene’ continues her story about the experience she had with special needs children in Jamaica. If you haven’t read the first part, find it here. You’ll definitely need to read it! Thank you Rene’ for sharing your encouraging story with us. May it spur each of us on to reach out to others.
It’s amazing the love and appreciation children have for each other and for the people who care for them, especially at Blessed Assurance where I went on a mission trip this part spring. They took care of each other. They played and sang and worshiped together. It was an Acts 2 community. They were thankful for being part of a family inside the gated area of Blessed Assurance where they were protected, cared for, and loved.
The time spent with the children was a blessing, but it was also emotionally hard because of their severe mental and physical challenges. It was a great distraction that we also participated in work projects which included digging a drainage ditch on the side of the property which would keep the school from flooding during the approaching rainy season. We scraped and painted the outside of the staff house, as well as painted the trim on the gazebo where the children gathered during the day. We helped with landscaping, and moved lots of rocks to build a rock wall at the entrance of the camp. Jamaica is mountainous and there are a lot of rocks!
When working with the maintenance guys, each day they’d inevitably have to put down their tools at some point and start chasing one or two of the children who helped them.
There were two boys who loved to run away from the caregivers every chance they could, and the maintenance guys just laughed and chased them until they were caught. Then they returned them to the gazebo and to the stern reprimands of the women in charge of their care. As one of the men returned to where we were picking up rocks, he told me “those boys, they just love to run and be free and I try to play with them a little bit each day. They know I’m gonna catch ‘em!” When I looked over to the gazebo and saw at least 25 wheelchairs for those 35 children, I was reminded that running free was definitely a special gift for these two “runners.”
We enjoyed a variety of food including fresh mango, star apples, and bananas picked straight from the trees. They raised chickens at the orphanage which provided fresh eggs for breakfast and one very loud and proud rooster wandered around the orphanage. Meat was scarce and often I couldn’t identify the bones floating in the bowl of “chicken” so I ate mostly beans and rice, cooked cabbage, and fruit for lunch and dinner. On the day we arrived, our missionary host told us at dinner to “please take what you need, but eat what you take.” As the days went by and we fed the children their meals, I saw more and more of the food we did not eat mixed with the children’s food. I realized then that I didn’t need as much “daily bread” as I had once thought and was shown how wasteful I am with food and water.
Being on an island, they bought water and stored it in large barrels on the roof of a couple buildings. Our showers were “military showers” which meant we turned the water on and waited for the trickle to get us wet. We used shampoo and soap then turned the water on again and hoped that the trickle would be enough to rinse. Drinking the water and making sure the children had water was much more important than showers even after a long day digging trenches! When we were there the temperatures ranged in the high 80’s and it was hard to stay hydrated even though that was considered mild for the area. None of the buildings had air conditioning and only some of the windows had screens to keep out the mosquitos. Everyone moves slower in Jamaica because it is too hot to move fast!
I looked forward to the reflection time each night led by Chelsea, one of the Elon students. Chelsea did a great job highlighting scriptures related to serving others and asked questions about the day that helped us understand our fears, motives, and joy in serving. Each of us admitted how challenging it was to communicate with the children in the orphanage, but we also agreed that it was such a blessing to be there with them. We were sad at the limitations of the children, but thankful they had a place to call home. We appreciated the opportunity to volunteer and were spiritually enriched by the moments we worshiped beside the children and their caregivers. We sang “Jesus loves the little children” to the beat of a drum and with tears in our eyes.
Our lives slowed down. Without all the distractions of electronics we remembered how to be still, color, blow bubbles, sing and play. Posted on the chapel wall were two signs: “Thank You, Lord“ and “He is here!“ Each day I felt the presence of Jesus while at the orphanage and I know He is watching over these precious children.
I always want to remember in my every-day live by the words on those signs: to thank the Lord and know He is here. Always.
“Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:13-14
Mustard Seed Communities have five other homes scattered throughout Jamaica for children and young adults in dire need.