By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN; MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA Three generations of women recently returned from the Caribbean nation of Jamaica; not as part of a relaxing beach vacation, but as an opportunity to serve and share their skills and compassion with others.
Dawn Gillman of Dassel, her two daughters, Claire, 15; and Olivia, 13; and her mother, Brenda Rydberg, embarked on a short-term mission trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica, April 2-9 through Youth With A Mission.
Youth With A Mission, also known as YWAM (pronounced “WHY-wham”), “is a global movement of Christians from many cultures, age groups, and Christian traditions, dedicated to serving Jesus throughout the world,” according to its website.
Gillman and her daughters were first introduced to the mission in Jamaica when they heard a presentation at their church by full-time missionaries Paul and Michelle Barton of Hutchinson.
At the time, the Bartons were preparing to move to Montego Bay to serve with WYAM for five years. Dawn noted that Paul is a cabinet maker and will begin a skills training center to teach young Jamaicans woodworking.
During the presentation, the couple shared why they were called to the poverty-stricken island and the needs of the people there, which inevitably compelled the Gillmans to support the cause.
Despite the nation having the most churches per square mile, Christianity isn’t the dominant religion, Gillman explained, adding that many Jamaicans follow the Rastafarian movement.
In addition, more than 80 percent of babies are born out of wedlock, Gillman noted. “In a lot of situations, the fathers are absent,” she said.
Because adoption laws are rather stringent in Jamaica, there is a large number of orphans in orphanages.
While there, the four spent a lot of time at Robin’s Nest a Christian-led orphanage interacting and loving the children. This particular orphanage housed 30 children ages 1-14.
“The kids at the orphanage are the lucky ones they are being taken care of,” Brenda commented.
Claire and Olivia really enjoyed helping feed and play with the babies.
“It felt good to make them happy,” Claire commented.
Dawn, who uses essential oils for a variety of symptoms and conditions, provided some relief for children who were suffering from various illnesses.
While there, Brenda used her painting skills to varnish the wooden lockers the children used for their clothing.
“God can use whatever skill you have in the name of Jesus,” Brenda said, adding, “Isn’t it funny that I go that far to do some painting?”
Before they left for Jamaica, the community “poured in blessings” of donated items including Dassel Dental, which donated toothbrushes and toothpaste. Other community members donated diapers, baby wipes, clothing, crayons, and coloring books weighing up to 250 pounds.
Olivia made bracelets to give to the children, and brought suckers to hand out for treats.
Also during their mission trip, they visited the Hebron House for teenage moms and babies.
Here, the missionaries work with young moms, educating them and encouraging them to go back to school and helping them establish “a healthy relationship with God,” Dawn explained.
Also part of YWAM is Homes of Hope, a program similar to Habitat for Humanity.
For $5,500 USD, YWAM volunteers and local community members help build single-family homes for qualified individuals.
“The whole community comes out to support the build,” Dawn noted.
While in Jamaica, they had the opportunity to meet Mr. Gray, a single father of three, who was gifted a home.
They were told how Gray had previously been down-and-out, and was ready to end his life. Then, with the help of YWAM, he dedicated his life to God, and turned his life around.
Now, he is one of the most dedicated volunteers with YWAM.
“He is a living example,” Dawn said. “Now, he is giving back.”
Brenda said she was most impressed by the missionaries who leave the comforts of home and “have devoted their lives to serving the Jamaican people in the name of Jesus.”
She also encourages others to step out of their comfort zones and consider a short-term mission trip or support a mission of their choosing.
For Dawn, it was good “to have my kids see how fortunate we are how blessed we are,” she said, even just knowing they live in a safe community is a blessing.
With three adopted children from Florida, Dawn said she is also very grateful her family didn’t have had to go through such a complicated adoption process as Jamaica’s. She explained it can take up to seven years to finalize an adoption, and that the adopted parents must live in the country for three months prior to the adoption. She attributed the strict laws as the country’s way of preventing human trafficking.
For Olivia and Claire, it was hard for them to leave the children at the orphanage because they had become so attached.
Visiting the orphanage was one of the top reasons Claire wanted to go on the mission trip in the first place, she said.
Olivia found it sad that these children didn’t have a permanent home.
“I’m just so happy that I got to go,” she said. “I would rather go on a mission trip than go on vacation.”
To learn more on how to support or become involved with WYAM, click here.