A changed life.
A church attendance problem.
A video projector.
A VBS leader.
A vacation in Fort Lauderdale.
After visiting and attending multiple churches on Sunday in Jamaica, there was one constant – few if any males between age 12 and 70. The churches are dominated by females.
How could we reach the men of Jamaica? Where could you find men? They are usually hanging around bars, playing cards, playing dominoes and smoking ganga (local term for marijuana).
Should we try to get them to church or bring church to them? We chose the latter. In 2008, we purchased a video projector, an outdoor portable movie screen and decide to take Christian movies to the streets – specifically targeting bars and gambling establishments. Did it work?
Well, we noticed that if the “Jesus Film” was showing, people watched, they stopped gambling and they get quiet. Sometimes, we would have over 150 people stand outside and watch a movie. Many if not most were men. Did it work? That was a question we would ask ourselves many times.
Move forward to the summer of 2015. Amy Luther and her family travel to Jamaica on one of our mission trips. Amy, two of her children and a couple of other missioners conduct Vacation Bible Schools in 5 locations – four of them in very remote rural locations – like Old Pera, Barking Lodge, Airy Castle, and Johnson Mountain. These were hugely successful!
Now to November 2015. Amy, her husband, Mark and her parents go to Fort Lauderdale Florida for a vacation at a resort. Her story:
“All of the staff at the resort had name tags with their first name and where they were originally from. At check out, a young man had Jamaica on his name tag. His name was Desmond. I asked him where he was from. He said “eastern, Jamaica”. I said, “wow. I recently went there on a mission trip”. He said “great, but you would never know this place. It is in the middle of no-where”. He finally said the nearest community was called “Barking Lodge”. I told him I actually conducted a vacation bible school at a church in Barking Lodge. I then asked him how he got to the US? He said about 6 years ago he was near Port Morant and there was a group playing Christian movies in the streets. He got to talking to “an outspoken elderly white haired man” who told him he had options and choices he could make with his life. His mother was a prostitute and he was dealing in some drugs at the time. He said about a week later, he decided to travel to Kingston and stay with and uncle and get a job and try to go to school. He did and went to a hospitality school and two years ago came to the US to take this job. He is 20 years old. At the end of our conversation, he said he forgot to ask me what group I had traveled with to Jamaica. As I begin to say “Isaiah 6:8”, he says “that old man was with Isaiah 6:8”. He came around the counter and hugged me and said “thank you for going and thank God for that old white-haired man for sending me to Kingston”. He said that verse stuck in his head and is why he moved to Kingston.”
God demands that we sow the seed. He causes it to grow and the harvest is His, but it is nice to know that some seed bore fruit!
Update – last week, we spent two days while in Jamaica getting the street movies back into operation.
For over 18 years, we have been providing Christmas for the poor and forgotten in Southeastern Jamaica. This year is no different. This year, we are targeting 3 major groups and one small group:
1st group - Again, the indigent nursing home, known as The Infirmary will be our largest and most expensive group. There are 77 residents. Cost $25 each. These people get gift bags. A typical bag for women includes: house dresses, regular dresses, slippers, lotion, Vaseline, combs, perfume, soap dishes, snack cookies, wash cloths, and adult diapers. For men, it is similar but they get shorts, shirts, and underwear as their clothing items.
2nd group - The elderly and home bound sick - – Usually about 25 of these people. Cost $30 each. In the past, they got a box of food that contained: 2lb. rice, 2lb. flour, 2lb. sugar, 2lb. cornmeal, sardines, canned mackerel, powdered milk, noodles, tea, saltfish, 2 bags of crackers, vegetable oil, roll of toilet paper, bath soap, laundry detergent, matches, and salt. For many, this food will last over a month.
3rd group - Special Needs School – 60 students to be served. Cost - $10 each. They would get a coloring book, crayons, a small toy and served ice cream and cake. Most of these children are not only somewhat neglected by the government, but are also neglected at home. The presents they receive as a result of this giving will probably be the only one they get.
Lastly - Stokes Hall children – Hortense, the children minister and preschool teacher hosts 40 children. For $10 each, she has a Christmas party serving sandwiches, drinks, and ice cream. Each child receives coloring books, crayons, and a small toy. Stokes Hall is a very poor community. For most, this will be their only gift.
Please consider helping us with this project. You may donate via PayPal or send us a check.
Thank you for your Consideration!
We are beginning to make plans for 2016 Trips. So, if you are interested in traveling to Jamaica to help us, please read on, watch the News Blog on this website accessible here, and following our Twitter account and FaceBook page.
Here are our planned trips (all are tentative):
February 13-20, 2016 Mission to Jamaica
The plans - to be an organizational, planning, and development trip. We plan to visit all our ministry areas - to include Basic Schools (preschools), Churches, Special Needs School, the indigent nursing home, and a few families and special children we help.
Team members needed:
March 26 - April 2, 2016 Mission to Jamaica
This trip is very tentative at this time. This is the Spring Break week for most public schools in the Birmingham, AL area. This is the peak time for travel to Jamaica. The airlines are usually crowded, tickets are hard to obtain, they are more expensive and the hotel availability is a problem. We are working on this and will update when we can be assured of hotel availability.
July 9-16, 2016 Mission to Jamaica
Schools in Jamaica do not dismiss for the summer until the first few days of July. So, we cannot do Vacation Bible Schools easily until this all ends.
Please email us if you have specific questions!
Here am I, Send Me!
July 2015 Trip Highlights
The Isaiahsixeight team which traveled to southeastern Jamaica in July returned with many new friends and too many stories to recount. The group tackled various projects to include renovations to the basic school, bathrooms, and bus stop in Johnson Mountain to Vacation Bible Schools in Old Pera, Port Morant, and Barking Lodge. A total of five VBS sessions were conducted over the course of four days for over 200 Jamaican adults and children! The group was also able to visit the Infirmary in Port Morant and spend time with the residents there as well as attending the local church service for Pastor Courtney Spence in Rowlandsfield. We've included just a few photos to highlight what God accomplished through the team in 2015. You can view more photos on the new IS68 Facebook group page: www.facebook.com/IsaiahsixeightJamaica. Also see the new IS68 webpage: http://www.is68jamaica.org/
One of the residents of the Infirmary in Port Morant who greeted us with a smile and followed our group as we made rounds and met with many of the residents there.
A resident of the Infirmary in Port Morant, Nathan Frazier received a gift from IS68. He could be heard playing his new harmonica in the halls and singing during our visit there. Terry Fry, Mark Luther, Amy Luther, and Wes Savage are also pictured.
Mrs. Audrey hosted the team for dinner at her home one night during the week. Tamaula is pictured along with Thomas, Claire, Hannah, and Michael.
Vacation Bible School at Port Morant Methodist. With one of the biggest crowds, there were well over 50 children and adults in attendance. Many of them remembered one or more of the songs from last year! Hannah Luther is pictured with several children.
Just a couple of the unforgettable kids we met during VBS. They loved to color and participate during arts and crafts time! This photo was taken at Old Pera.
The work crew helped renovate the basic school in Johnson Mountain. With the help of several IS68 Jamaica friends, the project was completed ahead of schedule. Mark Luther and Alan Christian are pictured along with Jamaican friends, Keith Rhoden and Michael Brown.
This is the bus stop at Johnson Mountain during the reconstruction process. Alan Christian, Ewuan Brown, and Keith Rhoden are in the photo.
The team visited the community of Seaside one afternoon. These are a few of the children which attended the VBS in Port Morant along with Amy Luther, the VBS leader for the week.
We are excited to announce you can now 'Like' us on Facebook or 'Follow' us on Twitter!
Isaiahsixeight also has a new website. View it at: http://www.is68jamaica.org/.
Will you consider joining us in 2016? We ask you to prayerfully consider supporting IS68 with your prayers, taking a trip with a team in 2016, or a financial gift to help fund one of the many important ministries highlighted below:
- Feeding program at local basic schools
- Child sponsorship program providing food and clothing
- 2015 Christmas program serving 250+ children and elderly adults
-Supplies for needed renovations to local churches and schools
Please support us as you shop on Amazon. It is easy and costs you nothing, but greatly benefits Isaiahsixeight and it programs. Go here for more details: http://www.is68jamaica.org/amazon-smile.html
Contact Donnie Cantley for more info at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been praying a long time that God would send more and younger laborers to help us with this mission. This summer, Pastor Wes Savage, led a team down with us. Even before Wes got back home from the trip, he had already created us a FaceBook page. Soon thereafter, he created us a Twitter presence as well.
That motivated me to revamp our web page. God had revamped our mission over the years and I think it is much more meaningful and relational; however, with that comes a continual drain of our resources unlike our prior pattern of periodic projects.
Amy Luther also went on that trip and was amazing in her organization and how she was not only prepared for the intense week she was there, but left the different communities with resources so they could do their on VBS's in the future. Also, Wes again came through in making a connection with Amy to help us with our Christmas giving campaign.
My prayers now are for child education leaders to travel with us to assess the needs in the Basic Schools, the churches, and the Special Needs School and help us address those needs.
Please pray that we follow God's path for this mission!
How Many People can Ruffy Get in his 11 passenger Van?
Devin Brown, known locally as Ruffy, has been our taxi driver for approximately 7 years. Before that, we rented a bus with driver or we rented a van or car and drove ourselves (never again!). Not only is renting a taxi driver and his vehicle for a day cheaper than a car rental, it is safer and you get his brother and helper as escorts. These guys are sad when we leave and can’t wait until we come back. They love to be with us.
Many times, they will say – “you guys are different from the other Christians here. You guys help people.” They get into the helping spirit as well – many times working alongside of us with no expectations of pay. Other times, we will hire them. Always, they get to hang out with us, eat some of the food we eat (they love my sandwiches and red-neck caviar). They go to church with us, go to show Christian movies with us, are frequently put “on the spot” at churches and asked to speak. Frequently, we tailor our devotions and church talks for their ears.
They are a major part of our mission field. We have seen them change for the better over the years, but their “culture” and as Paul would say – their “world” or “flesh” is deeply embedded. Other than us, there are extremely few examples of Christian men for them.
So, now that you know something of these guys, what about the capacity of their vans?
We are always amazed at how many students are crammed into the taxis, vans, cars, and buses going to and from school. Ruffy has told us before that he could get as many as 30 in his van, but the police were cracking down on that.
So, we decided to do a Vacation Bible School in a community called Wheelerfield – where we built a church about 3 years ago. The church is a church plant from another church we are associated with and has also spawned a preacher who is now leading yet another church (more about him later). Well, Wheelerfield is a small rural village with few people, but it has a large field, two adjacent structures we can use and is central to 3 other communities where we work. So, we decided this was the place for a large Vacation Bible School and we would bus the children in from the other 3 communities.
So, we contracted with Ruffy, another van, and still a smaller 3rd van to go pick up teachers, adults, and children for the VBS. Well, it was very chaotic, but we had over 200 children in VBS, over 50 adults in an adult Bible study we had not planned, and about another 25 adults helping shepherd children as well as our team of 14.
Were we worried about the police? Well, I had hired the local police chief to provide security for us, because this was a nighttime VBS. So, no one was monitoring the capacity of the vans.
How many? Fifty (50) – in each of two eleven (11) passenger vans. The 7 passenger van could only manage 39 people. And they came back and they loved every minute of VBS.
In 2014, we have lost two of our most dedicated pioneers in this mission to Jamaica - Jack Mullins and Tom Hunt. We humans tend to give ourselves more credit for our works and ideas than we should. Ecclesiastes 1:9 “… there is nothing new under the sun”. Our omniscient God not only knew the idea, He gave it us and probably had given it to others before us as well. For this reason, only He should get the Glory.
However, we as humans, despite our failings, do have those in our lives who inspire, lead, and set great examples. Jack and Tom were two such men.
Jack led me on my first mission trip to Jamaica. Tom, while not a leader, was on that trip as well. That would be Jack's last trip (winter of 1996), but he constantly encouraged us who continued to travel there. Tom would lead another church group down, then accompany us on several other trips to Jamaica. Tom continued wanting to go beyond the time his health would permit.
What kind of legacies did these guys leave? Well, I don't think they were thinking in those terms, but their passing caused me to look back and see where that trip Jack led has taken this mission. I can only tell the story as I know it. I, Donnie Cantley, will recount what I remember:
Jack and Tom will be missed, but their legacy is passed on to us. Read the 3rd verse of the hymn "Faith of Our Fathers" by Frederick William Faber written in 1849. Its message still rings true for us!
Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto thee;
And through the truth that comes from God
Mankind shall then indeed be free.
Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!
No Child Left Behind
Approximately 18 months ago, I was contacted by Ms. Nunes, the Head Teacher at the Special Needs School. After asking about her students, she told me how poorly they had performed on their year-end testing compared to previous year. Then I asked if she had an explanation – the answer – “you can’t learn on an empty stomach”. Many of the children were coming to school hungry or not coming at all since they had no money for lunch or transportation. Also, many Jamaicans do not go to school on Friday. If you have insufficient money for the week, who wouldn’t pick Friday to be the day to stay away?
So, this is how and why we started a feeding program at the Special Needs School. We purchased a gas stove, some pots, pans, bowls, table wear, utensils, food, and helped hire a cook. So, on two mornings a week, 75 students get a Hot, very nourishing breakfast.
At first, we started the breakfast on Tuesdays and Thursday, but Ms. Nunes made a wise decision to move it to Monday and Friday. Monday to get the kids there on the first day of the week and Friday to make sure they come to school on Friday.
Results – much better attendance, teaching was easier and they did much better on their testing. The feeding program continues. Maybe
this is why Jesus fed the multitudes.
Special Child, Special Blessings
I have written much about Mushie and her mom, Michelle. I also try to take every mission team to meet them and hear their story. Usually, there are tears shed – by Michelle, by team members, and by me. Michelle, because she knows how God loves her and how blessed she is as well and how God has used us to bless her. We feel blessed just by hearing her express her love for Mushie, seeing how thankful and full of hope she is living in what to many of us is an impossible situation.
You see, Mushie was born with hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”) and as a result, has severe cerebral palsy. The diagnosis was made before she was born. The father insisted on an abortion, but Michelle refused. The father abandoned them. Then Michelle’s parents disowned her because she would not put Mushie in a facility for the severely handicapped.
When we first met them, they were living in a very small one room of a shack. No screens, no mosquito net, no fan, and only one light bulb. Mushie was malnourished, had floppy legs and arms, she could not chew (her mom chewed her food), and she cried when mosquitoes would bite her. To make things worse, they were about to be evicted and had no place to go. Immediately, we obtained mosquito nets, vitamins, a blender, eggs, and other items for them. Less than a week later, I returned with a fan, a better blender, more vitamins, and protein powder. We set up a system to also help get eggs and peanut butter to them. Lastly, we purchased a baby bed for Mushie so she would no longer roll out of bed.
By a miracle, God provided us with a ready-made foundation two lots down from where they lived and we built them a house (story told in last Newsletter).
In early 2014, Mushie had some severe seizures and was placed in the hospital for a few days. She could not leave until we sent money for medications. Then, we had a team there in June. Michelle had a garden, chickens, and eggs. She blended the fruits and vegetables to feed Mushie, but she could not preserve them. So, our team went to the local small town and purchased them a refrigerator. In July, another team was there visiting and in the interim, Mushie had been sick and was prescribe an antibiotic that had to be refrigerated. Now, they had a refrigerator! Michelle made everyone from the team come into her tiny house and see what was in the refrigerator. She had eggs, carrots, greens, juice, fruit, tomatoes, and onions – all the things that were spoiling on her before. She was so proud and grateful!
They have been doing well, until the Chikungunya virus struck (see separate article). Both of them got sick – high fever, headaches, muscle and joint pains, etc. Mushie had it very bad and would cry every time she moved her muscles or joints. I received a call, because she was getting dehydrated and her mom had no money to buy juice. Again, we sent a small amount of money to her. She bought juice and Pampers.
Speaking of money, they have very little. Because of Mushie’s condition, the government does give them some money. It works out to about $15 US every other month. So, they survive on less than $0.50 per day – yet, they feel blessed and inspire every one of our team members who meet them.
Please pray for Michelle and Mushie and pray that we too can be as thankful for our blessings.
Chikungunya (Chik V.)is a mosquito borne viral disease. The word is a tribal African word that means "to bind up". That is probably due to the fact that some of the patients get muscle pain and arthritis. The Chikungunya virus has caused disease in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Africa, France, Italy, and the US. It made a big appearance in St. Martens, the Caribbean Island in November of 2013. I took notice of it then because there was evidence it would spread through the Caribbean.
When we went to Jamaica with a small team in March of this year, it was still in the southern Caribbean. In early June and then early July, I was watching it much more closely and it was infecting a lot of people in Puerto Rico and was starting to infect the population in the Dominican Republic. Reports are that approximately 500,000 people in the Dominican Republic were infected. Luckily for our teams, but unluckily for the Jamaicans, the virus did not start affecting Jamaica until August. That coincided with the rainy season, more mosquitoes, and the start of school. In September and October, it was ravaging Eastern Jamaica, where we do our work. Reports are that at least 50% of the people in that area got the virus and absenteeism in schools was greater than 50%.
As people recovered and developed immunity, there was less transmission of the disease in our area; however, the disease apparently has not peaked yet in other parts of Jamaica. This infection caused us to cancel a small trip in October this year.
Please pray for Pastor Campbell in Stokes Hall. His Chik V infection left him almost debilitated with arthritic pain. He is a very active farmer in his 80’s. As with most pastors in Jamaica, their pastoring duty will have its reward in the next life, but little in this one. Most get no income from their churches and must have another job to sustain their families.
Please note - we will closely track the disease on the island. Most of our mission teams travel in the dry season and there are fewer mosquitoes. So, acquiring mosquito borne viral illness would be less likely. Hopefully, by the time we approach Spring, the disease will have run its course on the island. For now, we are waiting and considering a trip with two of us soon. In the meantime, we will monitor the disease.
Seminary in a Cane Field
Courtney is a rarity in Jamaica. He is a really neat guy about 30 years old. He had little formal education, but is very intelligent and creative. He even built a motorbike from old parts, plastic bottles, a plastic chair, and even used Vise-Grips as a kick starter lever. The things unique about him? Well, he is married, he goes to church, and he is called to preach.
We first met Courtney when we decided to build a church building for a new plant church in the middle of a cane field community called Wheelerfield. Courtney, his wife, and his two children came to help us with the construction. When we went back to visit the church, he would occasionally speak at the church. He wanted to be an evangelist. On several occasions, we would go out with him to show some Christian movies and then he would preach. Later, after the death of a minister at a church in a neighboring community, he was called to come preach at that church. Since then, that church denomination has ordained him.
Courtney told me that in 2007, he was in a serious accident. In the hospital, he was in a lot of pain and was about to lose the leg. He prayed to God and accepted Christ. He then taught himself to read by reading the Bible. He was so on fire for God, that he started evangelizing in the hospital. He is a great example of what God can do and an example to Jamaican men.
Immediately, the question came to us – how can we work with Courtney to help grow the Kingdom? Get him a better Bible, some study aids, help get our movie system into his hands, help him and his family financially so he can do more Kingdom work?
Well, I had heard of this program from Birmingham Theological Seminary (BTS) in conjunction with Third Millennium Ministries whereby one can gain a free Certificate in Christian Ministry online. All the video lectures and readings are all online and free. But, Courtney does not have Internet service. We took an iPhone 5 with data plan to his home – no signal. We took a cellular broadband modem that works great in Jamaica, but his remote area has no service. So, what to do?
After meeting with the President of BTS, he gave us the entire course of study on a USB thumb drive. Courtney has no computer or device to accept it. So, on our next trip, we are taking him a used iPad 3, a cordless WiFi router with USB port, and all the seminary data on the USB thumb drive.
So, Courtney will be able to undertake some seminary training in the cane field where he lives. Our main concerns are his ability to read (which is not great) and his time to study.
So, please be in prayer about Courtney, his spiritual growth, and how we can help him become even more effective spreading the Gospel.
The Least of These - by Mitchell Morris
All Across the Western World
sung by Caedmon’s Call
All across the western world
second hand, second skin
the rain comes through where the roof is thin
all across the western world
All across the ocean wide
with brothers, neighbors at our door
our banks are full but our souls are poor
all across the western world
So melt your wings like wax to fire
let yourself fall out of time
from ashes we rise
The broken down are on the mend
blessed are those who have no voice
you’re only free when you have no choice
all across the western world
All across the open sky
in my career of broken wings
redemptive ends from tragic means
all across the western world
The song above is one of my favorites. I usually listen to it on the flights to and from Jamaica and have also used it in at least one of our Isaiahsixeight videos. Probably for most Caedmon’s Call fans, it is just another song telling the woes of the world’s poor – second hand stuff, second class skin, broken houses, and broken lives. For me, it is the song of Mr. Lynch.
During many of our trips to Jamaica, we heard of Mr. Lynch. He was a frequent visitor to one of the soup kitchens we support, and people told of how hard working he was, how everyone loved him, and how he would donate charcoal to the soup kitchen. So we decided to pay him a visit. Words cannot adequately describe and pictures cannot fully capture what we found. Mr. Lynch had been employed by the Firestone Tire Factory until its closing in the early 90s, and was then hit by a car while on a motorcycle and left unable to work a regular job. Since that time, Mr. Lynch has scraped out a living by painting signs for businesses and “burning coal,” which is making charcoal to sell. You can see him displaying his sign work and bags of charcoal in the first photo above. You can also see that his house was beyond repair. His bed was a log (lower right photo above), the little gray pad his cushion, and the newspapers his covers. To make matters more urgent, he was squatting on the land and had been ordered off. It is rare that Isaiahsixeight will help a man with housing. Most of them are able to eke out a living and many have abandoned the women who bore their children. We try to focus our efforts on helping the helpless, so therefore end up offering most of our assistance to women with children. But Mr. Lynch was going to be an exception to our rule.
We promised Mr. Lynch that we would help him build a little house during one of our future trips if he could find land. Then Hurricane Sandy hit, leaving his house falling and most of the roof gone. Having nowhere else to go, Mr. Lynch propped his house up with a stick, threw on a tarp, and continued living in his home (see photo above). Mr. Lynch was still holding out hope that a parcel of land would come available when we returned to Jamaica in January of this year to build a home for Michelle and Mushie. Mr. Lynch joined us in our labor, and in June, God decided it was his turn. He obtained permission to build on some land of his relatives, we set some poles in the ground, and the following month a youth group from Riverchase United Methodist came and built him a house. In addition to his new home, he got a bed frame, a full-size mattress, and family member neighbors who now help feed him.
Still, Mr. Lynch wants to work. His friends and his charcoal business are about 6 miles away near his old home. He has a bad knee and no transportation, which means that he was forced to walk…at least until a few weeks ago. This October we were able to purchase a new 10 speed bicycle for Mr. Lynch. And he says that he has been reading the Bible that we gave him, because he can see how God has blessed his life!
Special Needs School
Sometime later, we got to see Tyeisha, a special needs child who lives near our mission house, get transferred into the unit. The last time we saw Tyeisha, she could not stop hugging us, and we are told that she still looks for us and asks for us almost daily.
The young girl in the lower right hand corner of the photo above is another thread in the tapestry. We do not know her, but God does. Her mother refused to send her to a Special Education School at first, but then she was expelled from her regular education primary school. Her mother went to the Special Education School to see if there was a possibility of her enrolling her daughter there, but the principal said that there was no room. Audrey, our Jamaican associate, called the principal, who then discussed it with another principal. They recalled that Audrey worked with Isaiahsixeight, and because of what we had done for the school, they decided to accept this child into the Special needs Unit. But for that, this child would not be in school!
Other threads? Well, there is Michelle’s daughter Sosheba “Mushie”, who was highlighted in another story. She has made great strides since God first put her in our path, but we can only hope that one day she will be capable of entering the Special Needs Unit. And most recently, there is little Keysha, the 3-year old with cerebral palsy. What could be more difficult than having a child with special needs? Having a child with special needs in a third world country. Truly these are the least of “the least of these.” Please pray for them and for us as we try to minister to them.
Vacation Bible School
Isaiahsixeight is becoming better known in the area. In February, a mission team from Missouri led by Bobbie and Hank Langer, former long-term missionaries to Jamaica, used our rented house there in Jamaica. Technically they are not a part of Isaiahsixeight. However, as they traveled around to many communities, people introduced them as Isaiahsixeight. They were so pleased to find that Isaiahsixeight had such a good name in the area, so they did not correct the Jamaicans. We now welcome the Missouri team as the Missouri branch of Isaiahsixeight.
Since our last newsletter, we have made 4 trips to Jamaica. Rather than talk about the trips, we will highlight the ministries we are conducting:
This was our largest and best Christmas program ever. We want to thank everyone for such generous support. 254 people were served as follows:
- 180 people were fed a hot meal, cake, and ice cream at the church.
- 150 of the 180 above were children who were given gifts
- the remaining 30 were adults who also received a bag of groceries. The bags contained: 4lb of rice, 4lb of sugar, 4 lb of flour, 2 lb of cornmeal, a can of mackerel, a can of sardines, salt fish, crackers, vegetable oil, cocoa, toilet paper, bath soap, laundry soap, matches, Lasco soy food drink powder, and salt. This is enough food for about two weeks.
- Another 35 who were sick and elderly had a bag of groceries delivered to them also.
- 24 men at the indigent nursing home received gift bags containing underwear, towels, skin lotion, olive oil for skin, soap, soap dish, comb, a washcloth, and oil for their hair.
- 15 women at the indigent nursing home received gift bags containing a house dress, towels, skin lotion, powder, olive oil for skin, soap, soap dish, comb, a washcloth, and oil for their hair.
Since our last newsletter, we can report that we have two new basic school buildings in operation. The first was in Spring Bank. This project was difficult because we could not count on community support.
Then there is Johnson Mountain, another mountain community.We had planned to build a basic school there last summer, but because of the social unrest in Jamaica, we had to cancel that trip. It was, however, the main target of our mission team in January of this year. This was a wonderful project in almost every respect. It was greatly needed, it was in a poor rural area, the teacher had been praying and asking for help for years, the community came out to support us and the we were much appreciated.
A look at the photos of the school can give you some appreciation of the situation. While the condition of the old school was not the worst we have encountered, it was quite bad. It was built with scrap wood and tin. It was dark inside; and the desks were probably over 50 years old. Many were rotten. The chairs were broken. The adjacent toilet building was built with sticks instead of cut lumber. The hinges on the doors were pieces of old car tires.
Our team poured concrete footings for an extension of the school, demolished the old school, added a small porch, steps and rails, built a new toilet building, and built a new bus stop for children waiting for buses and taxis. In addition, through an arrangement with another mission organization operating in Jamaica, we were able to buy children's chairs and get some legs for tables. The Missouri team provided labor to build new tables for the classroom. We also donated them some educational electronic games, books, balls, chalk, etc.
One of our mission leaders who was not there for the building project, but who had visited both Spring Bank and Johnson Mountain on previous trips and was amazed at the change in the teachers. When we had met them on previous occasions, they seemed depressed and without much joy. After moving into their new schools, they were radiant, joyful and smiling all the time. The Johnson Mountain School only had 22 students in January, but had grown to 29 by March.
In March, we visited Market Road Basic School - probably the closest one to our rented house. We had heard many years ago that they were having difficulty due to a church - school dispute as well as some politics associated with the school. We were advised to steer clear of it until things had sorted out. Well, that time finally came. We were asked to visit because they needed as piece of plywood and could not afford to buy one. On our visit, we found a very depressing place. They had occupied a non-completed addition on the back of a church. Some materials had been donated and a few of the parents had done some work there. They needed a door to separate their bathrooms from their classroom. Also, they had pieces of tin over the window openings and had flexed the tin up to allow for ventilation. However, one opening was larger than a piece of tin, so they had rain coming in. In March, we went there and built a partition and door to separate the bathroom from the classroom and solved the rain problem as well. As depressing as that may seem, it gets worse. The school's lease on this space ran out in August 2010. They have no place to go, no property, and certainly no money. We are praying that God will show us a solution for these 32 children.School support:
We continue to take educational materials to the area. Audrey, our Jamaican liaison, works in a basic school and is part of a cluster of at least 8 other basic schools. She also has a relationship with the teacher at the Special Needs School. Every time we take supplies there, she distributes them among these schools. For years, we have seen great needs in these schools - financial, building, resources, materials, teacher training, etc. In the past our mission teams have been mostly composed of men - none of whom are trained in education of children. We knew how to build schools, but other than bringing them a few supplies, we did little to help with the education of these children. We have been praying for and trying to recruit people who have teaching skills, a heart for children, and the ability to help in these areas. We think someone who traveled with us in January can help supply these needs and is eager to get very involved. Please be in prayer that this person will continue to be used by God for these children in Jamaica.
Several years ago we had a photo of a little boy who appeared to have protein malnutrition. We started to investigate further and found that many children go to school hungry and may only have water or a Kool-Aid like drink with a very small bag of cheese curls for lunch. As we began to investigate this, we learned of a government program back by USAID and the World Food Bank that for a very small amount of money has provided some nutritious foods to the children in schools. After research, we contacted those government agencies in Jamaica. On a recent trip, we met with several of the sponsoring boards of these basic schools. Then we went back to the government only to find that because of funding problems in Jamaica, that they would not allow these basic schools to rejoin the program. So, we do not have an answer for this problem. Please be in prayer that God will show us a way.
Future school projects:
We have recently visited the Winchester community. It has a primary school (grades 1-6) in what is essentially a large one room school building. The school is very old and has some structural problems, but we were very impressed with the staff and the discipline we saw at the school. They asked us to consider helping them build a basic school since there is no basic school in the area. This means that many of the children do not have a preschool option prior to 1st grade.
Adjacent to the primary school is an old abandoned house that once was the principal's house. The roof is rotten, caving in, and is not the home of bats (the flying kind) and old desks. We are contemplating replacing the roof and making minor repairs to make it function as a basic school and a computer lab for the primary school.
As usual, we see one problem and there is another disturbing one as well. The toilets for the primary school are on a hill side and are just large outhouses. The pits beneath them are deep and dark. The seats are made out of plywood and have very large openings. As one could imagine, the very small children are afraid to use them. So, frequently they do not. They will go to the backroom in a corner of the school or in the floor of the outhouse to avoid these deep scary toilets. So, as we renovate the house, we will also try to install modern flush toilets and make it a more modern and less frightening place for the young children.
Our last several mission teams have visited the following basic schools: Johnson Mountain, Spring Bank, Stokes Hall, Chapel Hill, and Market Road. We also visited Winchester Primary School and the Lysson's Special Needs School. In some, we had a music team perform and sing with the children. In others we played with the children, helped them with their work, and delivered vitamins, educational electronic games/toy computers, a laptop computer, balls, school supplies, books, etc.
Churches and Bible Schools
In March, we had a youth team with musicians and a children's pastor. So, we conducted Bible schools for children. This was a little difficult because while it was Spring Break here at home, it was not in Jamaica. So, the children where in schools. So, we conducted them as late afternoon/evening programs. On Monday and Tuesday, we had Bible school from 4 PM until 7 PM in Stokes Hall at the Jamaica Evangelistic Association Church. We had over 100 people there both nights. We had singing, skits, crafts, play time, and a small sandwich and drink for all participants. We repeated this on Thursday and Friday nights at the Port Morant Methodist Church. Also, on Saturday afternoon, we had a version of Bible school with a movie at the Port Morant Methodist Church as well. We had more than 100 children at the Port Morant functions.
Prior to the Bible school on Saturday, the team participated with the Port Morant Methodist soup kitchen to prepare and deliver lunch to some of the sick and the elderly in the area.
While the team was showing the movie on Saturday, a two of us went to visit a church in the Wheelerfield community. Wheelerfield is a very poor area where the predominate employment is manual cutting of sugar cane. A cane cutter usually works in a team of two with one cutting sugar cane and the other stacking it. Because the cane is burned prior to harvesting, it is covered with ashes and soot. They begin cutting about 5 AM in the morning and finish about 4 PM working in full sun with temperatures into the mid 90's. A good pair can cut and stack 10 tons per day, with each one making only $16.35 USD per day. If they are lucky, they may work 3 days per week. Also, gasoline, building materials and most food items are more expensive there than here.
We went to this community because in one of the meetings with a school board member, I was asked by a chairman of the board to visit her church as see if we could help them with a building. It is a long story, but to make it short, we went just to be nice and expecting to politely say we would not build the church. As we talked with the pastor, we learned that she was a nurse at the sugar factory (almost all pastors earn their living doing something other than being a pastor) and was a member of the Stokes Hall branch of the Jamaica Evangelistic Association Church. We have a long track record with that church. This lady started a mission to the children in the Wheelerfield area many years ago, which eventually grew into the largest church in the area, but they have no building and are meeting in a multiuse community center. Well, while we are there, some children came to the pastor and asked if she had brought any food. Then they were walking with our children's minister (from Alabama) and one of the little girls asked her: "Miss, do you have any F. O. O. D. (spelling it out)?"
This visit truly troubled us. Even Audrey, our Jamaican liaison, was concerned that there were some significant hunger issues there. She has pledged to research it further and visit again as well as take some food there. As an organization, we have been trying to get out of the church building business, but this one is serving a very needy community, started as a mission, and it would seem that the pastor has probably been involved in helping feed the children. Will we be building this church? Probably if God will provide the money. So, expect this as a future team building project.
Approximately one year ago, we visited the Morant Bay Infirmary which is the indigent nursing home in the area. As you can imagine with the poverty in the area and a dysfunctional government, this place is really in need. When we first went there, their washing machine was out and they were having to so their laundry by hand in sinks. Even some of the residents were having to wash their own clothes by hand. Flies covered the soiled linen. We purchased a commercial washing machine for the facility. On subsequent trips, we noticed how crowded the facility was. Patients have no privacy and no place to store personal belonging. There only chairs for the residents are on the veranda; in the wards, they only have their beds. The residents have no tables for food and must eat on a plate sitting in their lap. The evening meals are very sparse as well. We were encourage to see that the Chase Foundation (Jamaica's foundation that distributes the income from their national lottery) had decided to build them a large new dormitory with smaller rooms and hopefully more privacy. It was completed last Fall. When examining our photos from a trip last summer, we noticed something missing - pillows. Only about 25% of residents had pillows. So, we had our agents there to purchase pillows, but they were not distributed because they wanted to save them for the new unit (not our plans). So, on our January trip, we had our work team distribute the pillows to the residents.
Of course, we expected to see the new dormitory operational. It was completed in the Fall, however, it was not being used. Even in March, it sat empty. After inquiring the reason, we learned they had no money to install a septic system for the unit. We have our agents there in Jamaica studying this to find out what it would cost to get a septic system installed. We may need to involve ourselves with this. This is typical in Jamaica. There is something also ironic. One day we may see this unit functioning with a large sign on it that states it was built by lottery money. Of course it might be made usable by God's money, but that plaque may be on a septic system and underground.
Our youth team in March visited the nursing home and played music with some of the residents joining us in singing. We had a treat when one blind lady started singing one of their spirituals we did not know. Three other women joined her. It was quite emotional. When we were singing, one of our team members took a necklace they had made in the Bible Schools and placed it around the neck of one of the lady residents. Our Jamaican taxi driver, Devin, got emotional and gave his necklace and another cross necklace to some of the residents. I asked him about where he got the cross necklace. He said, with a tear in his eye, that Brenda from the Missouri mission team had left him a whole box of them to give out when the time was right. He said: "I think the time is right." I told him to drive home and get them and come back. He did and a cross was placed around the neck of every resident at the home. It was truly a special God time!
Lastly, we will talk about the Seaside community. It is certainly not last in our hearts but rather an ongoing area of mission for us. For years, we have been building homes in the shanty town near the ocean and we have helped the children there with clothes, shoes, Christmas, and school supplies amongst other things. In the past, we have sent some young ladies from there to church camps in the summer. Some of these ladies have grown up and now are assisting with Bible schools, basic schools, and are working on advanced degrees. There are many children in this area. We have helped several mothers gain skills and materials to provide for their families as well. The children know immediately when we are on the island. Most of them walk past our house every morning on their way to the primary school. On our last trip, we were making lunch for approximately 20 of them each morning. They would start coming to our door at 7:30 AM. We also left a lot of peanut butter and other food so our landlord (Ms. Patsy) can continue to feed them. We also brought clothes and shoes again for them. Of course we always make several trips to Seaside to see the children and play with them. They also were many of the children who attend the Port Morant Methodist Bible school, so we see them a lot.
Computer Lab in Port Morant
Because of the poverty of the area, computers and the Internet are not readily available. Probably less than 5% of the homes have computers. The high school has a computer lab, but it is about 12 miles away. The only business in the area with a computer is the hardware store. None of the churches have computers, printers, copy machines, or fax machines. If you wanted to use the Internet, a computer, or a printer, you had to go to the library - but it was closed about a year ago. The nearest place to go is in Morant Bay - about 10 miles away, and the cost of a taxi prevents people from getting there. Private transportation is very uncommon in this part of Jamaica. Last summer, we learned that a government agency had made some computers available to a couple of community groups and they were attempting to build a community computer lab. We even visited it last Fall, but it was not complete. We would estimate they have approximately $40-50,000 USD worth of Dell computers, flat screens, desks, chairs, networking equipment, etc. Then as usual in Jamaica, there were unforeseen delays. Among them was a rent they could not afford. The lab just opened in January but is in danger of closing because they are 7 months behind on rent and cannot even pay the current rent. Many board members have abandoned it, etc. A group of very humble sincere board members approached us to see if we could help.
Could we be involved? After listening to the board members, praying about it, and discussing it with our board, we believe the answer has to be "Yes." We have recognized that the poverty is only getting worse. They are falling more and more behind educationally and education is one way out of poverty. The high school students now have to do Internet research but cannot afford to travel to the Internet cafes. The churches need to print flyers, bulletins, notices. The businesses have like needs. There are programs to help the students who did not pass all the subjects in their graduation exams. There are also plans to start programs for children like computer classes. We have made a proposal to the local board controlling this. It will require them to renegotiate their lease, allow us full access to their books and board seats, and let us try to teach them better business skills. We will give them money in the short term, but much of it will be in terms of vouchers for computer use that we can distribute to the very poor and to the churches. In addition, we proposed a diminishing money match to match their fundraising and their revenues from operation.
On our last mission trip, we had a mature Christian church leader, who after a few days told me she could not believe what all we were involved with, how wide our reach was, and how many people we touched. She was totally amazed. Later in the week, she said we were trying to do too much and that we needed a focus - such as basic schools. Then I asked, "Well what do we give up? Hungry children? Hungry elderly? Those in the nursing home? The special needs school? Building schools and churches? Supplying clothing, shoes, Christmas, etc? Those needing housing? She said "No - you can't give any of it up." That is our dilemma. That is where our mission is. I believe that is where God would have us.
In Matthew 9:35-38 I think we also get the answer: Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Please pray that we get the workers and the financial resources that we may show His compassion and help with His harvest.
Isaiahsixeight, Inc. and IS68 Jamaica, Ltd.
Donnie Cantley. By the Grace of God, I have been allowed to lead this mission since 1996.