For a week early in March, 25 Northpoint Christian School students and six adults ventured away from their homes and got a taste of what life is like in the mission field, reaching out to serve people in poverty-stricken Jamaica.
The 22 seniors and three juniors are with the International Biblical Studies class at the Southaven school and what they brought back with them was as significant to their lives as the message of love they left with the people of St. Ann, Jamaica.
“It was really a humbling experience,” said McKinley Baker. “I had been to Costa Rica the year before but I had never seen the level of poverty that I saw in Jamaica. I started thinking about what I had to give to the kids and I realized I could give them a relationship with Jesus Christ and that’s all they really need.”
“When I got to Jamaica I was able to see it was God’s plan for us to be there,” added Logan Smith. “The experience that I had I wouldn’t trade for anything. I wasn’t expecting to fellowship and meet so many people. I was expecting to build a house and maybe say ‘hey’ to a couple of kids, but it was so much more than that.”
Head of School Jim Ferguson, who was among the adults on the trip to Jamaica, said the mission for the group had two components.
“Part of our mission was to build two homes that are 10x14 with no electricity and no water,” Ferguson said. “It’s just a room. We also provided a twin-size bed for that room and we provided them two weeks of food with a food basket. All during that time we were loving on kids, playing games and building relationships. So, we were building two homes and building relationships.”
Shawn Clayton, another member of the team, said what they were replacing for homes amounted to “buildings” most Americans may not allow on their property. But spreading a message of salvation and building relationships was the main goal for the trip.
“We had jobs to get done and objectives that we planned to do, but the number one objective was building relationships,” Clayton said. “Our number one goal was to build relationships while meeting some very huge needs for those families.”
Many of the tools and other basics to do the work had to be brought with the group, Ferguson said. The trip was done in conjunction with IsleGO Missions, which does mission work in the Bahamas, Cuba, Costa Rica, Brazil, Haiti, and elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Ferguson said the group did more than just work hammers and nails, however.
“Two afternoons were designated as Backyard Bible Club activities, where we shared Bible stories, we did crafts and we had a music group,” Ferguson said. “We had a big Giveaway Day, so we took a bunch of Northpoint T-shirts, expandable shoes, school supplies, balls and lots of things that are really prized possessions for them.”
Clayton said it was memorable to watch the families at the end of the week take possession of their new homes.
“It’s hard to explain the feelings that you have when you pass the set of keys to someone that is moving out of something that we would be reluctant to even keep on our property for anything, much less for someone to be living in,” said Clayton. “The level of gratitude and appreciation that we experienced has probably been one of the most rewarding things that I’ve been able to do.”
Ferguson observed how the students also were positively reacting to what they saw and did.
“Even after the first day, it was amazing to hear our students talk about how humbling, how grateful they were for the life that they had here in America and realize how privileged they are,” Ferguson said. “To see how our students’ hearts were softened, see how they loved unconditionally and hear them talk about life change and how their lives were going to be different as a result of being on this trip, I knew we would be the ones who came back different and would be the most impacted by the trip.”
As Baker said, “I’ve become grateful for the things I have because often times I overlook that I’m able to go to a Christian school and have a home, food and water to eat and drink every day.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.