We’ve had some great stories over the last 18months. The story to the right about the feeding program is just a part of our 6-year involvement with the Special Needs Program at Lysson’s Primary School. What began as a simple project to purchase supplies and technology turned into a partnership involving much more. In 2010, we performed major repairs on the facility, and this year we were able to help start the soup kitchen and make a way for a young lady to begin studying at the school.
It seems that God has us seeing more and more of “the least of these.” In the summer of 2012, a college student working with us discovered a child with tremendous needs (see story to follow). We also met Mr. Lynch, a victim
of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction, whose story is also highlighted in this newsletter. In God’s wondrous ways, earlier this year these two individuals’ lives became entwined, and both received a blessing!
The Christmas meal and celebration we sponsor every year was a big success. Many poor children, elderly, and nursing home patients were blessed.
This summer, we funded a two week Vacation Bible School for up to 98 children and youth. Not only did they have crafts, songs, stories, and movies, but lunch was also provided for the kids all ten days of the program.
What does this year hold? God brought another special child into our path with great needs, and we are also seeing some serious problems in
community schools that need our attention. But we are always confident! Jehovah-Jireh (God will provide).
Choices – we have them every day, but ours are usually much simpler. Imagine that you have 4 children, one of which has special needs. And you are incredibly poor. You have only enough money to buy food for your family or to pay for the transportation, uniform, and supplies necessary for sending some, but not all, of your children to school. What do you do? Do you put what little you have toward filling their empty stomachs now or toward filling their minds so that they might have a chance of not knowing hunger in their future? And if you do decide to send some to school, whom do you choose? The special child will never excel, will never be productive, and will likely reach the end of her schooling by age 12. But is she any less important, of any less worth than your other three?
These are difficult choices, but some that must be made by many living in Jamaica. Economic times are very bad there. As a result, many parents are forced to decide between breakfast and lunch money for their children or transportation to and from school.
Ms. Pauline Nunes is the loving director of the 4 class, 60 student unit of the Special Education Program at Lysson’s Primary School. At the end of last school year, the standardized test results revealed the worst scores they have ever had. Believing that the children’s poor performance was most likely due to the fact that many of them were coming to school hungry, Ms. Nunes asked if Isaiahsixeight would help feed breakfast twice per week to the 60 students currently under her care and 15 others she felt were in need.
For us, this was not a difficult choice to make. Before buying the food, we had to purchase a new propane stove, dishes, spoons, storage containers, and cooking utensils. Ms. Claudette Fitzgerald, a good Christian friend of Ms. Nunes, was selected to be the cook. We worked with her to obtain the food, and the program was begun on October 14th! The menu for that day? Cornmeal porridge and cheese sandwiches. As you can tell from the photo, the children were delighted with their meal. Some who were obviously very hungry ate two huge bowls of porridge and two sandwiches!
But the blessing doesn’t stop with the food. Having the gas stove will also make it possible for the teachers to teach some life skills to many of the
children in the program.
During our trip of June 2012, I paid my usual visit to Ms. Rita. Only this time, a college student named Bradley Kidd with a heart burning for Jamaica was with me. It was the late afternoon of our last day on the trip. Nothing was unusual, but Bradley walked away from Ms. Rita and disappeared behind the house. Eventually, I went looking for him, and I heard him say, “Doc (my name in Jamaica), come here.” I found Bradley talking to Michelle (pictured to the left). How many times had I been to this house and not known that there was someone living in the back room? But that wasn’t all. We discovered that Michelle had a malnourished baby with hydrocephaly (excess fluid in the brain).Mother and child, Sosheba “Mushie”, lived in an 8’ x 10’ room with a bed, one light bulb, and an outdoor bamboo cooking hut.
To say that Michelle has had a tough time would be an understatement. When she was pregnant with Mushie, an ultrasound detected that Mushie had hydrocephaly and most likely would have brain damage. The baby’s father insisted that Michelle have an abortion and refused to have anything to do
with Michelle and the baby. To make matters worse, Michelle’s mom saw the child as evil and insisted that Michelle put her in a home for severely handicapped children. Michelle refused, and with that lost any support she might have received from her mother. It probably will not surprise you to learn that Michelle is a Christian and is an active member of a respected Pentecostal church in the area.
In their “house”, Mushie and Michelle slept in the same full-sized bed. There were no mosquito nets, no fans, and no rails on the bed. Mushie would cry when mosquitoes bit her. She thrashed about when she was hot. Michelle could not leave her alone, even for a minute, because she would fall off the bed. To make matters worse, Mushie was malnourished, could not chew, and had little muscle tone. If things could get any worse, they did. Ms. Rita’s son had plans to move her into his home and had told Michelle that she and the baby would have to find somewhere else to live. And we were hearing about this with only a few more hours on the island!
We immediately went to meet with Audrey and her daughter Tamaula (our hands and feet when we are not there). I rummaged through our house, got a mosquito net, a blender (Mushie could not chew), some peanut butter, milk, and other food for Audrey to take to Michelle the next morning. I also asked Audrey to buy eggs since Mushie needed protein and made arrangements for protein supplements and pediatric vitamins to be purchased – not expecting the former to be found. And then we left Jamaica.
Three days later, I boarded a plane and headed back down with two blenders, a lot of protein supplements, vitamins, peanut butter, and other foods to deliver to Michelle and her baby. I also took the first toys she’d ever had and a fan to keep her cool. That November, I was able to check on them again, right after Hurricane Sandy made a direct hit on that area.
We were trying to find a place to build a home for this special mother and daughter, but had no luck until January 2013, when we had a mission team from Birmingham-Southern College there. God made a way and not only provided us a location but also a new foundation already in place! In 3 days, we built a house for Michelle and Mushie.
On a visit in May, we learned that Michelle had not only painted the house but that she had also added on a kitchen, dug a toilet, poured a concrete slab over the toilet pit, and planted a garden of tomatoes, peppers, and squash.
We asked Audrey and Tamaula to purchase a baby bed so that the child would not fall out of bed. They were also able to buy a toy mobile for Mushie to have above her bed.
When we were back in Jamaica only a few weeks ago, Mushie had gained a lot of strength and was trying to sit up by herself. She seemed to recognize me and was quick to laugh and smile as I tickled her and bounced her on the bed.
It is obvious that God brought us into the lives of Michelle and Mushie. It is truly a blessing to see how this mom has improved her life so much with just a little help from us. God, however, does not seem to be finished with this story. You see, a few weeks ago we were introduced to a mother and daughter living just a few blocks away from our mission house. Claudine is a 23 year old young lady with a 3 year old daughter named Keysha. Keysha had inadequate oxygen to her brain during birth. Despite medicine, she has several seizures every day and has severe mental retardation.
We had a counseling/encouragement session with Claudine, Keysha, and the baby’s father (pictured right). We gave her a blender, protein powder, peanut butter, and two mosquito nets. We asked Audrey to get a baby bed as well. Most importantly, the next day we took Claudine and Keysha down to meet Michelle and Mushie. Michelle is 15 years older, much more mature, and stronger in her faith. Our hope is that Michelle can be a friend, a mentor, and a counselor and help Claudine grow both in her faith and as a mother of special needs child. Please be in prayer for Claudine. She truly needs it.
I first saw him about 300 yards away. Then he saw us and began running. When Ricardo got close, he had a beaming wide smile and he came to hug me. He was dressed in a new clean well pressed khaki uniform, new black shoes, and he had a new navy backpack. Ricardo was on his way from primary school to his home. We have known Ricardo from birth, having helped him and many others in the shanty town known as Seaside. Ricardo just entered the first grade in September. He is one of the 25 children we helped clothe for school this year. In addition to providing money for the khakis, blouses, and girl’s dresses, we had carried in many suitcases of shoes and school supplies.
He did not need to thank us, the smile and the hug were enough.
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.