When the Eastern missions team left for Montego Bay, Jamaica in December, they expected to help with hurricane relief efforts, according to trip advisor Doug Trimble. Instead, they encountered life-changing experiences.
The trip, lasting from December 11-19, included Trimble, ten Eastern students and Joan Litvin, another adult from the area.
The trip was organized by Andy Horvath, and the Short-Term Evangelical Missions in partnership with a local Jamaican church called Fresh Bread Ministries International.
The team’s ministry included doing physical labor and putting together a program to be performed for various churches and schools, according to senior Laura Fafoutis.
The personal ministry however, stood out most for Fafoutis.”I felt we could reach people better that way, rather than just saying ‘Oh, here’s a song for you,'” she said.
A memorable place for several team members was the West Haven Children’s Home for physically and mentally disabled children.”There were always kids running up to the van, holding their hands out, waiting to be received and loved,” said junior Nepheterie Easley. In some cases, friendships were formed immediately.
“As soon as I got out of the bus, this little boy came over and held out his hands,” Trimble said. “He just wanted to be held. I couldn’t put him down.” Trimble said he believes the team’s ministry to the children imitated Jesus’ ministry.
“Just hugging them, playing with them, I felt that’s what Jesus wanted us to do,” he said, using as his example Jesus laying hands on the children.Another memorable place for team members was the Granville Girls’ Home of Safety for troubled and abused girls aged 8 to 18 years, according to team leader senior Julie Reger.
“We connected on a very intimate level with all the girls there,” Reger said. “We’ll always remember them.”
It was also there that the team encountered one of their toughest challenges, the inability to relieve the suffering present, according to Reger.
“We couldn’t physically change anything,” she said. “Even the home wasn’t safe. Some of the older girls would abuse the younger girls and steal their stuff.”
However, the team learned to stay strong in their faith even in the midst of the suffering, according to Reger.
“A lot of times our faith was questioned [by other people],” Reger said. “We just had to stand by our faith, even if we couldn’t fix anything.”
For some members, the trip also served as a lesson in servanthood.
“I had to define what a mission trip is,” Easley said. “Did I come here with expectations or ready to do anything?”
Reger agreed the trip taught her servanthood.
“What needs to be done, you do,” she said. “We knew we were there to serve them.”
Despite the challenges, the team made a difference, including at Granville, just by spending time with the people, Easley said.
“They just needed love, and I was there and I was willing, and I was available to give it to them,” she said.
Fafoutis also said the trip made an impact in Jamaica.
“I really saw Jesus working in people,” she said.