This month I went to Jamaica with the Methodist Medical Mission team from Kansas and Nebraska on my very first missions trip out of the country. I heard about their adventures over a year ago when my daughter Amanda returned from her first trip where she’d done all she could do to help. Teams just like ours head out every 3 months or so to provide free medical services in Falmouth.
I brought along a new point-and-shoot Sony camera, so I could get good and close without being too obtrusive. Our team consisted of doctors, nurses, a physical therapist, a psychologist and lots of people with big hearts ready to work. Many had been several times on these trips to serve; one couple had even been 21 times. Jamaica is like a second home to them.
Heading out, we flew with boxes filled with used medical equipment like crutches, wheelchairs and canes. I love lists, so I started creating a list of What I Wish I’d Brought (talc, sleeveless shirts, sports bras).
I arrived on Wednesday, Nov. 8. It was 40 degrees in Kansas when I left and in the mid-80s when we arrived Jamaica. From the first day to the last, my hair was in a sweaty ponytail.
The language is English with a touch of Patois which is filled with ½ English words. If I just got people to slow down when they spoke, I could usually figure out what was being said. Every stranger in the street was welcomed with a greeting by our team. If the Mission worker had been there before, they were often greeting by name like old friends. The Jamaicans knew we were from the Mission and strangers would stop and ask if there were specialists like Dentists or Eye Doctors with us because they had a specific need.
I learned that to attend school, children must have a uniform. Several families will share a uniform to give their children a chance to attend. I was told that sometimes a child will only get to attend once a week due to uniform sharing.
A little girl ran past me with a fish floating in a plastic pail. “Is it show and tell today?” I asked. “No, that’s her lunch” was the response.
I was able to follow nurses on home visits for those unable to get to the clinic. They were always so grateful to have these visits. Sometimes two or three visits were required to get all that was needed to the home-bound.
It was during these walks that I got to fill my senses with the beauty and hardship that makes Jamaica.
We visited a girls’ home and I said Jamaica was beautiful. This girl looked at me and said that her best friend had been killed; that people die in Jamaica. I told her that people die in Kansas too. We connected through suffering, then played basketball. You can guess who won. But I didn't lose after all. I might just have gained a special pen pal in Jamaica through our brief time together.
The fruit was amazing: pineapple, papaya, guava, oranges, watermelon. The music was often all-night long. One of the street vendors would sing hymns late into the night as a lullaby. I gave her a couple of dollars to thank her. Someone commented that they thought Shirley was singing with more gusto than usual that day.
On the weekend, we visited the beaches. The turquoise water was warm and there were lots of pretty shells to be discovered.
I love the sound of the ocean.
After a weekend of fun in the sand, we returned to several days of hard work. The word was out on the street and people came from all over to receive medical care.
We return with a lighter load than we brought because everyone ends up giving most of their clothes away as they are leaving.
Here's a list of what I brought back from Jamaica:
1. Over 1,000 wonderful photos
2. Some trinkets, shells and sand
3. An awe of how much giving a kind heart can do
4. An appreciation of how blessed we are in the USA
5. A desire to return again
As they say in Jamaica...
There are no problems here 'mon
A huge shout out to the caring medical and non-medical personnel who handled so many situations. You are amazing!