Need of central Jamaican village contrasts with coastal affluence
Three Little Falls Community High School students from three different area congregations joined parents, grandparents and a small group of people from Wisconsin to participate in a week-long mission trip to central Jamaica earlier in March.
Sophomore Abby Segler and freshmen Makyla Klever and Mitchel “Mitch” McGee worked in the school at Spring Village, teaching reading and running a soccer program. They also worked on a clinic construction project.
Bonnie Jo Nagel, Mitch’s grandmother, Abby’s mom, Lisa Segler and Makyla’s parents, Adam and Heather Klever, were part of the mission group.
“We all come from different church backgrounds in the community, but join together to serve God and the needs of the world,” said Heather.
Mitch lives in Randall and is a member of Randall Presbyterian Church, while Bonnie belongs to Grace Covenant in Little Falls. Abby and Lisa are also members of Grace Covenant. The Klevers belong to Faith Lutheran in Little Falls.
The seed for this mission trip was planted in Mitch during an African children’s choir concert at Grace Covenant. While looking at the displays that night, Abby shared her mission experiences with Mitch and challenged him to go on a mission trip. Abby had gone on a prior mission trip to Jamaica.
“My dad said, ‘No way they’re taking you out of the country,’” Abby said, “so he went with. Then, when my mom met us at the airport when we got home, before I said ‘I love you’ or ‘I miss you’ I told her that she and I were going to go on a trip together. I didn’t know when that would be, but God made it very evident this year.”
The Klever family has gone on a mission trip before, and Adam has gone alone once.
Morrison County mission trips to Jamaica began in about 1985 with Dick and Lois Hokanson of Little Falls.
“I had the goal to establish a mission ministry that took into consideration time, money and the language,” Lois said. “These trips are affordable and everyone speaks English. Short-term trips were not available back then. Little did I know the effect this would have on the lives of the 500 people who have gone.”
The Hokansons have served in Jamaica 28 times.
“About 10 years ago we learned about Project Increase and we’ve been under their auspices ever since,” said Lois. “It’s not about just one event; so many of the participants continue in their calling. They have already stepped out of their comfort zone and realized how much more God has for them and wants to do through them. They have released their comfort and control.”
The group landed at Montego Bay and boarded a bus for the four-hour ride to Spring Village. The ride first took them past the affluent tourist areas along the northern coast of Jamaica before turning inland, a stark contrast with their destination.
There were some unexpected personal benefits from the trip.
“I went there to learn about their country and customs but I learned so much about myself too,” Bonnie said.
“At first I thought I would just do my share,” said Mitch, “but it was more meaningful than I anticipated; they are thankful for so little.”
“Despite our hard work (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.), when the work is done with a serving heart it doesn’t feel like work,” Adam said. “We so seldom have that mindset about our jobs here in America.”
The team left watches, phones, jewelry and all electronic devices at home in the United States.
“I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do — I left it open,” Abby said. “The best thing turned out to be the kids, jumping rope with them and just sitting and listening to them.”
“I had lots of conversation with Tamara, a married woman with children,” Heather said. “We were two different women from two different cultures and our ‘stuff’ is so very different — but our hearts were the same.”
“The most unique thing about the team was that members were from more than one church and more than one community,” Heather said.
“I was most impressed with the teenagers,” Bonnie said. “They didn’t get down during layovers; they carried us through.”
“We were blessed,” Mitch said. “There was not one argument. Everyone worked as a team.”
“You know God’s working when you put 18 people in a foreign environment without a major issue,” said Abby.
The group took most of their own food for the week, since the village is small and would not have enough for that many people.
Each person agreed to take only one carry-on bag for personal gear. But the 100 pounds of checked baggage that each plane passenger is allotted held donations from home. The team members left most of their clothing and bedsheets in Jamaica, along with their suitcases.
“They have so little; I have so much,” Heather said.
“It was an eye-opener,” said Mitch.
A new activity for mission teams is setting up a garage sale in the village.
“It’s a major breakthrough for missions to run garage sales with items brought along, rather than just handing things out,” said Lois. “This one raised more than $1,200, which was enough to purchase the windows for the clinic being built. The villagers know they did this, rather than just taking a handout.”
Each person is enthusiastically looking forward to returning to Jamaica in due time.
For more information, visit www.projectincrease.org or call the Hokansons at (320) 632-3284.