(The Southeast Outlook - May 25th, 2017)
High school students who went on a mission trip to Jamaica April 2-8 brought what happened in Jamaica home to Louisville. That’s what should happen after short-term mission trips. Lessons learned in other countries translate into life at home.
Southeast Christian Church staff members Cambron Rich and Jenna Bream and Southeast member Emily Meade led a team of 10 students. Every day was packed.
On their first full day in Jamaica, students fasted and prayed with the Life in Abundance team already working there. For hours, the group prayed for South Sudan, where believers are suffering, for outreach around the world and individual requests. They also worshiped, sang and prayed out loud all at once.
“At first, our students were whispering, but as we all got more comfortable, we got bolder,” Bream said. “After two hours, it was deafening in there as everyone prayed together.” The team debrief at the end of the day told a story of lasting impact.
“That was the first time most of our students ever fasted and prayed that long,” Rich said. “But by the end of the day they felt we should commit one day a week to praying for our city, our schools, for the heroin epidemic, kids who are in foster care and more. That is an experience that didn’t stay in Jamaica, but a discipline they took home.”
David Foster, who works with Life in Abundance, talked with students about their comfort zone. “Don’t leave your comfort zone,” he advised. “Stretch it to fit in new things. Let your new comfort zone grow bigger.” Students prepared devotions for an elementary school and visited Jamaican families in their homes where they sang and shared words of encouragement.
One day, they went to a high school where Kyle Hume, 18, gave the message to a crowd of students. “We had a lot of joking and fun, but we also got to witness each other growing in our faith and confidence in Christ,” Hume said. “I was asked to do a devotional for a high school close to where we were doing most of our work. What I expected to be a crowd of under 100 ended up being over 1,000. It was moments like that when I knew God was showing me something about myself.”
In a day of street evangelism, students learned how to open conversations with strangers. “We are good at talking about our favorite sports teams, movies and bands,” Rich said. “We share about the things we’re passionate about all the time. But we are not intentional about relational evangelism, making friends and asking key questions. It takes courage. We found that getting in the paths of others and listening to their story opens doors to share our own stories about Jesus. That’s the heart of evangelism.”
Natalie Sprowles, 16, said before going out for street evangelism, Rich told them to look for a “person of peace” who would open opportunities for Kingdom work. “I noticed a teenage girl sitting alone, waving to her friends,” Sprowles said, “Suddenly I felt God lay it on my heart to talk to her. Her name was Somoi, and she was the person of peace. Somoi opened the doors for us to talk to her friends. We talked about anything from pet goats to Jesus! I haven’t been able to stop thinking about these kids.”
Students found that Jamaican youth may live in communities that look different, but they have much in common.
“Much like our students, Jamaican students have friends, parents and teachers. They play sports, work jobs, watch movies, go on dates and have insecurities. They’re just trying to figure out who they are,” Rich said. That night at debrief, the group talked about what it means to be intentional in their schools and family. One of the highlights of the trip was spending a day at the Manning Boys Home, which is home to 70 boys who are wards of the state. Southeast students played dodgeball and soccer, sat with boys in small groups and led Bible studies.
That night, every single student told stories about memorable conversations. Students now use what they learned in Jamaica in their schools, small groups and at home.