Mission trip changes lives locally and abroad

by Sydney Mahrer

Sydney Mahrer from Wahpeton hands keys to a house for a family in Jamaica. Sydney and 18 others built the home as part of their mission to Jamaica from June 3–7. (submitted photo)

There are no words to describe the kind of life some of the people in Jamaica live. Even though they have little, they still find joy and are some of the kindest people I have ever met.

June 4 was our first actual day in Jamaica. First, we went to a homeless shelter. We were supposed to serve breakfast for them, but there was a miscommunication, and they had already eaten. Instead, we visited with people and heard their stories. It was incredible because some of them had been there practically their whole lives. That experience really showed me that I should be thankful for everything I have and to not take it for granted.

Next, we visited a school funded by our parish, St. John’s, Wahpeton. The kids were in elementary school. It was so great to see their faces light up when we walked into their school. We played games and played on their playground with them. The kids were so sweet, and you could tell how truly grateful they were for the school.

Last, we went to a home for children with disabilities. It was so eye-opening to see that although they had daily physical challenges, they still were smiling and giggling.

The next day we built a house for a family. Their kids are ages 5, 3, and 1. I painted the outside of their house along with five other people. The family was there the whole day watching us work. It was remarkable to watch them because I could tell they had hope for their future. One of the best parts of that day was when I had the opportunity to hand the keys to them. The dad could not stop crying out of joy.

During our last full day in Jamaica, we went to another school. This was one of my most favorite parts of the trip. We played games, had a celebration, and played outside with the kids. They loved us and especially loved my hair. They thought it was so soft! It was nice to visit with them and hear about their lives.

After that, we visited a family who will be receiving a house in the near future. This woman was 41 years old and had a 3-year-old daughter and four other kids. She was very much in need of a new home and told us she had been living in her current “house” her whole life. She said that she worried a lot because there were rats that would come in, and whenever it rained, it would get the beds soaking wet. I am hoping and praying that she will get her house soon.

The last place we went to was a children’s home. It was very sad hearing about all the horrible things these children went through. We brought them new soccer balls and other gifts which they were very thankful for. They loved talking to us and showing us all their talents.

Overall, this was the best experience I have ever had. I now see the world differently.

Sydney Mahrer is a parishioner of St. John’s Church in Wahpeton.