Traveling to Jamaica for spring break with a Palm Beach Atlantic University mission team was a homecoming of sorts for junior Shelly-Ann Bigby, who spent her childhood in the country’s Montego Bay area.
In addition to praying with people they met on the streets of Montego Bay, Bigby and her nine-member team visited a home for disabled children, an orphanage, a church and an infirmary during their week-long trip.
|Rio de Janeiro team members Ben Menendez (far left) and Tyler Ortiz (center) assist Brazilian youth with a renovation project.|
The students said that no matter their situation, the people they encountered demonstrated an abundance of faith. Looking back, Bigby said the experience taught her about God. “If you love God, you’ve got to love His people,” she said.
Sophomore Sarah Walsh, the team’s co-leader, said that although her teammates labored for long hours, they never felt exhausted. “We loved it,” she said. “Spiritually we were always charged.”
The Jamaica team was one of nine student teams serving on missions during spring break week earlier this month. In all, more than 90 PBA students traveled to such places as Bolivia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras and Jamaica.
Each team worked in partnership with a host organization. The Jamaica team worked with the Christian organization 2 All Nations.
In Honduras, students worked with the organization Children’s Impact Network, which is constructing an orphanage that will be known as the Honduras Life Center.
On Sunday morning, the team delivered bags of food to families, said Ryan Chelf, a freshman. “Each bag was filled with $33 worth of food to feed seven people for a month. That was less food than my family gets in a week. It hit home, and really opened my eyes,” Chelf said.
On Wednesday, the Honduras team led a vacation Bible school for children, then visited a children’s clinic, said sophomore Heidi Woodward. “Just through playing with the kids, I wanted to adopt them. I miss them so much already,” she said.
|PBA student Brooke Klinger embraces a child in Honduras.|
Team co-leader Olivia Luckey, a sophomore, said she believes the people she met gave her more than she was able to give to them.
“We need to share what God is doing in this country and the hope that they have for the future,” Luckey said.
She said she still can see the faces of dozens of children who were sick, some so malnourished that they were barely responsive, some so hungry their bellies were bloated and lumpy. "They were so unfortunate, yet they had so much joy. I went to teach and to love, and instead I was taught and loved."
Freshman Samantha Denker, another member of the Haiti team, said the trip taught her about obedience.
“God never calls you to do something and leaves you there” alone, she said. “He rewards obedience, and if He calls you to share with someone, you just do it.”
Sophomore John Dykert, who was a member of the Honduras team, expressed a feeling shared by many students upon their return. “I think on these short-term mission trips, we experience so much more change in ourselves than what we can do there,” he said.