Learning from Each Jamaican

My name is Melissa (Missy) Peterson. I am the second child of six children born to Russ and Terry Peterson. I am a lifelong resident of Buffalo and member of the family of Zion, having been baptized on January 19, 1986. My roots at Zion can be traced to its founders and charter members. I know no other church home.

I graduated from St. Cloud State University with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Family Studies. My fulltime job is as Director at Kid’s Haven Childcare and Preschool. You will also see my face in the nursery at Zion on Sundays as I am currently on staff as the Nursery Coordinator. Lastly, I nanny for triplets (they just turned one year old) on a part-time basis. In my spare time (if there is any), I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, shopping, working out, and traveling.

My next traveling plans are actually in February with Zion and the Mission Jamaica team. I have been involved with Mission Jamaica since it was first offered at Zion. This will be my fourth time participating. My interest in Mission Jamaica started when it was first advertised as a ‘vacation with a purpose’ as well as somewhere to go that is sunny and warm in February. Then I heard it was also a tax write-off…how could I turn this down? I couldn’t.

Each time I leave Jamaica, I think maybe next year I will go on my own personal vacation. As this fourth year approached, as when the second and third did, I did not pass up the opportunity and I am so thankful I have chosen the experience each year. It is amazing to me how different each year is with the dynamics of the different people on our team. I have been fortunate to get to know many people in Zion’s groups, as well as the church group that comes from Tennessee. This year I am also looking forward to getting to know people from the Buffalo Presbyterian Church.

Mission Jamaica provides a way for us to love and serve our neighbor as Jesus taught us. The trip combines a service project with time for reflection and spiritual rest. It allows a person to experience an international mission field that is close to home yet far enough away to immerse into another culture for a week.

When I return home from Jamaica I am often asked, “What do you do there?” I have served at the medical clinic each year, where we serve anywhere from 35-150 people a day. It is fun for me to see returning clients. While we are all there to serve and give our care to each of those who come to us, it is amazing to me what I truly gain from each Jamaican. As I get to know them, I reflect and try to learn from their lifestyle. They always seem to be happy and have a smile on their faces. Time is not a priority Trust is embedded in everyone, with no judgment. There is a willingness from each Jamaican to be there for one another at any time.

An example of the Jamaican trust I encountered. As one day was winding down, another missionary and I were beginning to clean things up. One of the patients came over, handed us her 3-month-old baby boy and said, “I will be back in a little bit. I just have to go pick up my daughter down the road.” I thought, “This mom just left her precious baby with an American stranger! Is she going to come back? What am I going to do if she doesn’t?” After about 10 minutes, she came back and said, “Thank you, I appreciate it.”

As I reflected on that encounter, I thought, “I wish I could be more like that person, not judgmental, trustworthy of everyone, and then thankful.” In sharing this reflection with you, I whole-heartedy encourage everyone to consider this mission. I have received more blessings than I could imagine. Aside from the benefits of giving healthcare to people who need it, I have been given the opportunity to stretch myself, stretch my boundaries, and learn from each Jamaican.
It’s true…once you’ve served on Mission Jamaica it’s hard to stay away.