In February 2023, a dedicated, mission-focused group of 20 volunteers from the Ontario Division spent two weeks in Kingston, Jamaica, helping to renovate and repair The Salvation Army’s Evangeline Residence for women and School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Mission Jamaica 2023, which comprised a team of officers, Salvationists and supporters, provided hope to some of the Caribbean island’s most vulnerable.

Volunteers from the Ont. Div install energy-efficient windows at Evangeline Residence
Volunteers from the Ont. Div install energy-efficient
windows at Evangeline Residence

New roofing, energy-efficient windows and upgraded water and plumbing systems were installed at Evangeline Residence. Located on two floors in the Jamaica Eastern Division’s headquarters, Evangeline Residence provides safe accommodation and individualized support for up to 28 women.

At the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, mission partners installed a new walkway, fascia, siding and railings, and gave support columns a fresh coat of paint. Established in 1927, the school is the only one in Jamaica providing education and a home for blind and visually impaired students aged five to 18.

Working Together

Joel Turley, a senior soldier at South Muskoka Ministries in Bracebridge, Ont., brought his skills as a building contractor and project manager to Mission Jamaica 2023. Even after 25 Salvation Army mission trips, the experience still leaves him with a sense of achievement, knowing that he created a better life for those who are struggling.

“I enjoy the unique experience of working with a group of people who are all there to accomplish a single task,” he says. “I have been blessed to make many lifelong friends in this process. It is very rewarding to see a project develop, often to the amazement of the local people and even the mission participants.

“I attend a Salvation Army church that has maintained its community service and has encouraged and supported me as well. I believe that the biblical account of the Good Samaritan is more than just a story but is a model for our service.”

Mission Jamaica 2023 volunteer Major Michelle Mercer, divisional secretary for women’s ministries, Ontario Division, said the improvements were deeply appreciated by students, residents and administrators.

“This was an opportunity to learn about other cultures and how The Salvation Army operates internationally, and to come alongside and work in partnership with another ministry unit,” she says. “The interaction we had with the students was so impactful. The students were so happy and joyful and there was an undercurrent of hope.”

John Tillsley has been on 25 mission trips, starting with Belize in 1994. He’s a retired police officer, a part-time Salvation Army employee and a member of Northridge Community Church in Aurora, Ont. He joined the team to make a difference in the lives of residents.

“It’s not what I bring to them; it’s what they bring to me,” he says. “It’s the incredible sense of joy and a real reliance on Jesus Christ and their faith relationship that keeps them strong and encouraged under difficult conditions.”

He plans on continuing to bring his skills as a contractor to future Salvation Army mission trips for as long as he is able, an experience that he says recentres his worldview to appreciate that not everyone is as fortunate as we are in Canada.

For Lieutenant Brandon Keeping, community ministries officer at South Muskoka Ministries, this was his first mission trip to Jamaica.

“It was hugely rewarding to see the life that the students have with their friends at the school and the fun that they have together. Seeing the obvious love that the instructors and teachers have for students was very touching,” Lieutenant Keeping says. “I have colleagues that I can support, love and pray for all over the world. They are living a calling and a sacrifice that can only be fulfilled through the power of Jesus in your life.”

Compassion and Commitment

Commissioner Devon Haughton, territorial commander in the Caribbean Territory, along with Lt-Colonels Morris and Wanda Vincent, chief secretary and territorial secretary for women’s ministries, and Majors Nana and Marlene Boakye-Agyemang, leaders of the Jamaica Eastern Division, visited the teams at Evangeline Residence and the School for the Blind to applaud the team for their dedication, compassion and commitment to mission.

A new roof for the residence, which provides safe accommodation and individualized support for up to 28 women
A new roof for the residence, which provides safe accommodation and individualized support for up to 28 women

As a result of the work, Major Nana Boakye-Agyemang says the young women and students will now have the benefit of clean, secure rooms and an improved water system.

“The division has been empowered to pursue our mission objective to provide affordable accommodation in a safe, Christian environment for young women at the Evangeline Residence,” Major Boakye-Agyemang says.

With the building improvements complete, the Jamaica Eastern Division is now able to focus entirely on advancing its ministry goals of bettering the lives of women and children. Major Boakye-Agyemang says the Christlike spirit of the mission team members has left an enduring mark on hearts and minds in the division.

“They reflected true Christian virtues of love, patience and joy even in the face of hard work under difficult situations,” says Major Boakye-Agyemang. “You have blessed us beyond the physical repairs; you touched our hearts, and we are most grateful for what we can say was a very successful mission trip.”

Mission Jamaica 2023 team members were privileged to join in worship with both the Kingston Central Corps and Allman Town Corps on Sundays to share the love of Jesus Christ.

Chris McGregor is a marketing and communications co-ordinator in The Salvation Army’s Ontario Division.

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