Editor’s Note: Missioner Brandon Newland reflects on the past summer in Jamaica and the various activities that he arranged for the kids.

The summertime is a wonderful time for students to rejoice and enjoy their freedom from school and homework, but to adults it can be a time to build patience and bonds with the kids. My fellow missioner Pat and I also have responsibility for our kids and ensuring that our relationships with them grow.

Our challenge this summer was to help the children think civilly and give back to their community, so we planned a few activities that hopefully would be fun, challenging, and educational at the same time.

Our first trip was to the infirmary where the kids who visited last summer could reconnect with their pen pals and enjoy the evening.

The change from last year was great. Last year, the kids had been shy, anxious, and standoffish with the patients, but this time they were outgoing, happy, and their usual talkative selves. The elderly women sat together outside as they all sang hymns, clapped, and even danced a little. It was amazing to see the growth and maturity that had occurred in the kids in just one short year.

Next, we planned to have one of the Japanese volunteers come and teach the kids about recycling and how to turn garbage into usable items.

One of the volunteers, Tae Ose, works for an organization much like the Peace Corps in the US and her mission is to work with the 4-H clubs around Sav. She has much knowledge about the environment and somehow was able to teach about 20 rowdy kids how to make handbags out of old newspapers.

The kids with the bags they made

The kids with the bags they made

The children were very attentive (which is unusual for them) and learned very fast. Soon they all sported their own stylish handbag and were proudly raising their bags over their heads to show their craftsmanship.

Expanding on the love of nature, we decided to take a small group down to a nearby beach that is often riddled with garbage and clean it up. Again, the kids surprised me with their enthusiasm and often pointed out how much fuller their garbage bag was in comparison to mine.

Cleaning up the beach

Cleaning up the beach

The saying “many hands makes light work” could not have been more true. Within an hour we had the beach all cleaned up and looking brand new. Even some of the locals joined us in the cleaning.

To commend them for their good work, we gave the kids a real beach day in Negril at the end of the summer and we spent the day swimming, eating, and relaxing.

Fun with the kids at the beach

Fun with the kids at the beach

I have been looking back over our time here, and this summer will be a great memory, not only for the fact that the kids are growing and becoming intelligent and caring adults, but that I have made so many unexpected little friends who I am sure will be with me in one way or another throughout my life. They are truly a great blessing!

Reflection Question: What relationships have been sources of blessings in your life?