This past week I had the opportunity to participate in the second Dispatch Project, a week-long service project in conjunction with Samaritan's Feet. Our group of 14 business professionals washed feet, distributed shoes, and showed God's love to deaf children in three locations throughout Jamaica. Going into the trip I wasn't sure what to expect. I had participated in several service projects before but none within a developing country or with the deaf. What kind of conditions would we be living in? Would I be able to communicate? How would the children respond to a group of people who were so very different from them?
My journey to Jamaica started one morning in the Click Rain office when Paul offered our staff the opportunity to participate with all expenses and time off paid by the company. The one requirement: show up with the heart of a servant. Five months later my bags were packed and I was en route to Montego Bay, Jamaica with a planeful of shoes.
When most people think of Jamaica they envision a tropical vacation paradise, and in many ways it is; tourism is a large part of the Jamaican economy. Beyond the cruise ships, sandy beaches, and emerald water is a country that faces many challenges. Unemployment hovers around 15% with a GDP per capita of roughly $5,500. As we taxied from the airport to our first destination we saw firsthand the crumbling shacks, unpaved roads, and local residents standing idly on the side of the road. Within the deaf community, it is even more challenging to find a job and support a family.
Our first stop was the Montego Bay campus of the Carribean christian Centre for the Deaf (CCCD). CCCD's mission is to provide educational and vocational training along with the gospel of Jesus Christ to the deaf. The Montego Bay campus is beautiful and well-secured (wall, guard, and four dogs). The view was spectacular!
We were quickly introduced to the students on campus. The children vary in age from about 5-20; some have been attending the school for many years. CCCD requires each family to pay a small fee for their child's attendance; the rest is made up from charitable contributions and sponsorships.
After spending our initial day attending church, hanging out with the kids, and recovering from our day of travel we prepared for our initial shoe distribution.
We brought a lot of shoes along with us--2 45-lb checked bags per person! Thankfully, we had the Usain Bolt of Online Marketing with us. We sorted, counted, and stacked the shoes into piles in anticipation for the children's arrival.
Four stations were set up for washing feet. This was one of the most awesome and humbling parts of the shoe distribution--washing feet, just as Jesus washed his disciples' feet. With the help of interpreters we were able to communicate with and get to know each person whose feet we washed.
During of the remainder of the week we visited two additional deaf schools, as well as the Jamaica Deaf Village, meeting with the kids, distributing shoes, and sharing the love of God.
I entered this experience not knowing what to expect. I left being blessed beyond my expectations!
For more on our trip, take a look at the Project Dispatch Blog and view the videos that aired on KELO TV: