The following blog post was experienced and written by my oldest son, Quinton, about his trip to Jamaica this past summer.
I was asked to describe my trip in 3 words: Eye-opening, Growth & Irie (fantastic in Patois).
This summer (when I was still 16), I had the opportunity to participate in the pioneering trip abroad with the Leaders In Training (LIT) program at Ontario Pioneer Camp. LIT is a one-month leadership program where teens learn how to be a leader at and outside the camp. Their goal is to create/ grow extraordinary kingdom leaders and servant leadership. After the two weeks of lessons and Bible studies, there is a 2-week placement at either Boys, Girls, or Adventure Camp. This year, LIT did something different, they went abroad, through Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada, for a two-week placement on a mission trip in Jamaica.
The first week was spent in downtown Kingston (the capital.) I would like to preface my ‘journal,’ with the fact that we had some amazing hosts who led us through the thick and thin times while we were there. On Sunday we went to church. This was a cool experience because even though it was different from the typical Canadian church, it made me realize that God is not Canadian. We worship the same Heavenly Father yet in different ways and that is a good thing.
The next day we visited the National Children’s Home where we hung out and played soccer with the kids. We taught them the parable of the man who built his house on a rock as well as listened and learned the stories of their past and about their families. There was one girl who still has me smiling because she was such a bundle of joy, always walking around with a smile, despite all the things in her life she could be angry/sad at. She was always happy.
This day marked a day of trying new things as some of our team had Jamaican patties for the first time, (love me some patties!). On the topic of food… we stayed at a University where the cooks made us breakfast and dinner every day. We had traditional Jamaican meals like curry goat, saltfish and ackee, and jerk chicken. But my favourite part of the meal was the juice the cooks made every meal. Juice… what’s so special about that? She made the juice by hand from fruit! Beetroot is the best juice I have ever tasted!
On Tuesday, we spent time and prayed with the people in the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Center. The center helps people who have spinal injuries, most of these we learned were from gunshot wounds. It was informative listening to patient’s stories, and visiting with and praying with them. On Wednesday, we hosted a children’s rally at one of the local churches. There we taught the kids bible stories, camp songs, and games like a ninja and the most fun one to teach of all; hockey. We brought 30 mini sticks, some nets, and balls and for the first time, they played hockey. The children we met at the orphanage the day before came to the rally and it was awesome to spend time with our new friends.
Thursday was an interesting day in the sense that we saw two very different ‘faces’ of Jamaica.
In the morning we had one of our guides introduce us to a major problem the country is facing; child violence and murder. We learned stats we never thought imaginable. There have been 14,200 child murders of those 17 and younger in the last 9 years.
After lunch, we left for downtown Kingston to visit the Children’s Monument which was erected to memorialize these children. This memorial turned stats into names and ages, some of these labeled ‘Unknown’ and ‘age 0.’ It was eye-opening, to say the least.
We were able to get some exploring downtown in the markets afterward, which included seeing the Bob Marley Museum. Our hosts reminded us, “Jamaica is also the fun stuff,” which is much agreed upon. Our last day in Kingston was spent touring all the town had to offer. We started by driving up a part of the Blue Mountain Range to get to the Admiral Mountain Great House. The house was built for British Admiral Nelson in the 1700s! On top of this mountain, we had an irie view of the city and harbour!
We also visited the Devon House which is where we had some amazing ice cream!
After a long 3-hour drive in a hot and sweaty bus, we arrived at the camp. This week was too incredible to describe, but I will try to share some of my favourite moments. We had sessions full of wise teachings and the theme for the week was John 15, talking about The Vine. We had workshops like Choir, Drama, Dance, Arts and Crafts, and the one I was helping in, Sounds and Rhythms!
My favourite day was when our team led Canada Day! We taught them what we do at camps up in the great white north. We taught them camp songs like; “The Great Big Moose,” “Pizza Man” and some popular worship songs. We also taught them sports which they had never played before which included Handball, Ultimate Frisbee, and everyone’s favourite… Hockey (Mini Sticks)! I met some amazing youth at this camp, and some of them were heavily involved in the school’s Christian club/fellowships (which inspired me to start a club at my school back home).
This was an experience I will never forget; the places we visited, the people we met, and the culture we experienced.
Now to explain my first sentence: Eye-Opening. I learned so much about Jamaica that I would have never had without this trip, so much about being a camp counsellor in a way that would never have been possible, and learned more about my walk with God. Growth: This trip tested me in so many ways and was very rewarding. From a bit of culture shock and homesickness, along with other crazy things, I had the chance to grow as a leader, as a Christian, and as a person. And last but certainly not least; Irie. Patois is sort of like the unofficial official language of Jamaica. Being a mix of mostly English slang with French and Spanish. It means FANTASTIC!
I love Jamaica and all that it has to offer. I love all the relationships we were able to make. I love all the fun we were able to have with our Canadian and Jamaican teams. I love that I got to experience something outside of my North American Christian life. If you have an opportunity to join a mission’s team in the future – this 16-year-old highly recommends it.