I’m Dan Hanson, a retired 66-year-old self-proclaimed reluctant traveler. Several times following my wife Jill’s retirement she has dropped a “bomb” in my lap like, “Hey, we are going to __________ (Thailand, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Iceland, Ireland–fill in the blank). Initially I would drag my feet, but following the trip I’m always glad to have gone. So imagine her surprise when I tossed out the idea of Mission Jamaica; she was all in!
In January our plans hit a “road block” as Jill was in a serious skiing accident. I became her caretaker and driver and I figured our trip was off. Jill insisted that I go without her as she had others to tend to her needs so, Jamaica mon, here I come!
Sunday morning, our first official task was to stop by Westhaven, an orphanage, to pick up some participants and get them ready to take to church. Jeff Peterson, the Mission Jamaica man in charge, said “This might get you out of your comfort zone.” This was a gross understatement! After entering one of the cottages I stood, frozen for two minutes, taking in the surroundings. And I was not the only one. Then, miraculously, everyone pitched in and we went off to church; a Pentecostal service. No nodding off during this one! At the end of the day I had mixed emotions: should I be uplifted by the church service or saddened by what I saw at Westhaven?
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I participated in J’Abode, the “house building” project. More accurately, it was a shed. Lots of manual labor involved here as we had to haul sand, rock, and water to mix concrete to fill in foundation blocks, using two shovels and seven buckets. Then it was hauling dirt to fill in the interior of the foundation, again with two shovels and seven buckets. The luckier crew members got to paint siding 🙂
At the end of the second day the floor was almost up to the proper level (we ran out of fill–more coming the next morning), walls up and mostly sided, and the roof was on. We were set up for “an early final day’s finish”. Wednesday proceeded nicely with more fill, more siding, more painting, doors, windows, and trim. But as always, things take longer to complete than anticipated. We needed to mix concrete for the floor (again with the two shovels and seven buckets) and haul it into place. Oops! We ran out of sand to mix with the concrete. What happened next was truly a “Yeah, God” moment. A small search party set out in search of sand and found an overturned tree; it had to be hauled back in those versatile buckets.
Concrete complete and curing, it was time to turn over the keys to the new home owner. I was definitely not prepared for the emotions of the moment–not just the home owner but also for me (and I assume the rest of the crew as well). And as for our early finish, well it just didn’t happen. We barely made it back in time for evening devotions.
The remainder of the trip was “more normal” in terms of a Caribbean vacation; good food, sun, resort activities, and an adult beverage or two. I met, or in some cases got to know better, some amazing people both from Zion and other churches, and I looked forward to interacting with them at mealtimes and devotions. I went into Mission Jamaica with no expectations other than to keep my eyes and heart open. I felt I made a small contribution to the project but received so much more in return. I will give serious consideration to going again, and if Jill can ski more safely down the black diamond, bring her along as well.