Gratifying, eye opening, inspiring, beautiful, life changing, amazing, rewarding. These are just some of the adjectives the students used to describe our mission trip to Jamaica. Typically when one returns from a family vacation, honeymoon, or trip with a friend, people ask “How was it?!” As hard as we try, it is typically difficult to express clearly because only the people you experience the trip with really know how wonderful it was. Our Jamaica trip was a great example of this challenge. This trip was more than just a vacation, it had a purpose. A purpose to pour out God’s love by serving others in a selfless, humble, compassionate way. Considering the group entailed over 80 youth and leaders that by the end of the adventure, adjectives such as those mentioned above dominated the conversations, it was clear that finding that perfect definition of our mission trip would be difficult.
The day we all arrived home, students were already posting pictures and comments on Facebook. The one status that stood out to me, because it was so powerful, was written by one of our high school students Hannah Reis. I asked her permission to include this message in my blog because I couldn’t have captured the meaning of Mission Jamaica 2012 any better. She wrote:
“I have forever been changed by the Jamaican people. They have taught me that in all the bad times I have, I will still have something to smile about, and my situation is not worth any fuss or frustration. Next time somebody uses all the hot water, I’ll think about them having no running water at all. Next time I don’t have enough money to go out to eat with friends, I’ll think about them not having enough money to eat for the day. Next time I complain about the heat, I’ll think about them not having air conditioning to go home to. Even though some of them lack the money, resources, and technology we have, they have excessive amounts of love and acceptance, happiness and kindness, understanding and a deep desire to please, and through it all, they praise God for everything they do have, even if it is very little. Those are things we are missing and forget in our lives and I was taught through the Grace of God and the Jamaican people, how to bring them back into mine. I would like to thank the Jamaican people from the bottom of my heart for teaching me things about life I would not have been able to discover on my own.”
I think it is a fair statement to say that once you arrive home and are back to reality, it is then that you recognize the impact that has been made on yourself (by Jamaicans) and how that far outweighs the impact you may have left on others. We have heard it over and over how blessed we are to live where we do, own the things that we have, but there continue to be so many things to complain about. A powerful mission trip can absolutely put your small worries to rest in a second. This trip impacted many of us in different ways. For me, it was the TOMS Shoes we personally delivered.
This year, Hope Lutheran’s 6-9th grade confirmation classes raised enough money to purchase over 150 shoes, which is actually doubled because TOMS Shoes is a One for One movement. With every pair that is purchased, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. The 87 students and leaders packed the 150 pair of shoes into our suitcases to distribute them to the children of Jamaica. We delivered shoes to the Clifton Boys’ Home, the West Haven Children’s Home for the disabled and the Robin’s Nest Children’s home. It was such an inspiration to place a brand new pair of shoes on these children’s feet, knowing that some of them did not wear shoes prior to walking around outside, playing sports, or completing chores. The images in my mind of these children in their new shoes juggling a soccer ball, playing basketball, racing our students down the road, all the while wearing a beautiful smile on their face will forever be remembered.
It can take such a small sacrifice to make such a huge impact on someone else’s life. Yes, the shoes will not fit forever, but taking a step out of your world and putting God’s love into action will last a lifetime.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” - The Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS Shoes, Blake Mycoskie’s favorite quote by Gandhi.