On July 5th, 2011, fourteen senior high youth and four adult leaders from Mountain View Mennonite church (in the Southern District of Virginia Conference) left the mountains of Virginia, for the mountains of St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. We were going to do a work project at the Top Hill community, where Rodney and Lindsey Nice were serving as missionaries with Virginia Mennonite Missions. Rodney and Lindsey had built strong ties with the community, and had a vision to provide a playground for the children. There is a playground at Maranatha School for the Deaf, but it is for students, and the community children weren’t able to use it.
Our youth group accomplished the project in four long days, along with building three thatch huts that would be used for reading camps, and a few other projects around the community.
While this project was worthy of a trip down and fulfilling, it was just icing on the cake. Rodney and Lindsey, prior to serving in Jamaica, had been the youth leaders at our church. They had strong relationships with this youth group, and the youth desired to participate in their ministry in Jamaica.
What neither we as leaders and planners nor the youth anticipated was the rich fellowship with the deaf community of Top Hill. There were many local Jamaicans who helped during the day, and some of them were deaf. Once the work day was over, they would return with the team to the community center where we stayed, eat dinner with us, and hang around afterwards. The youth would play card games, fellowship, communicate, and learn sign language from them.
By the end of the week, not only did most of the team know the sign alphabet and could communicate some, but they had built friendships with their Jamaican brothers and sisters.
Over the coming years, I anticipate that these experiences will be the most valuable “things” that they brought back from Jamaica.