Location: Kingston, Jamaica and Mandeville, Jamaica
Returning to Caribbean Christian Center For The Deaf (CCCD) and having the opportunity to lead the team was truly a transformative and growing process. It taught me so much and truly challenged me in a variety of ways. One of the toughest challenges however, was planning this trip with my co-leader.
The first task was to pick and secure our dates with the organization. After talking with them, we found out that our previous year dates were already taken and the only available time was during the semester. Disappointed but motivated, we looked for other options. During this time, we were waiting for applications for our team to start coming in. We had very low interest and began to wonder if we would end up canceling our trip. We soon found out that the due date for applications was extended and that we could split our trip between two campuses and keep the trip going. My co-leader and I met weekly and developed our team motto of “Go with the Flow,” which became quite relevant and caught on quickly.
As we began the process, our team of all girls now needed an advisor. After many interviews, emails and declines, our trip advisor became the same person that was advising my co-leader and I. From here on out, our team of all girls began to prepare and fundraise for our trip. Although donations came in slowly, passports were ordered, plans were made and weekly team dinners became the norm. In a flash, the end of the semester snuck up on us. Soon it was finals, move out, my sisters wedding, and our trip. After a long talk with myself, I still wasn’t convinced that I was returning to CCCD Kingston. One thing I did have to convince myself of however, was that the trip wasn’t going to be the same as last years, and this was a hard realization to accept.
Soon enough we were on the plane to Jamaica. Sitting on the plane, it still hadn’t quite hit me where I was going. As the plane landed, thoughts began to flood my brain of all the things we forgot to plan and arrange, one including our ride to the campus. Immediately I began to think of how I was not fit or deserving of this position in leadership. Soon after, we heard a quick beep and our missionary partner pulled right up in the gray-blue van. This and the clear sky, palm trees and colorful signs made me realize that I had returned, and that through God, I have been called back to this beautiful place. During the bus ride to the first campus, I couldn’t contain my excitement to see the same beautiful kids, workers and house moms again. As we all tumbled out of the van, I saw a few familiar spaces and faces and I began to tear up. I couldn’t wait to hear how the coffee shop “Deaf Can” was doing and to start signing again. There was so much to catch up on. There weren’t many students there and we did not have much time with them either, since it was their holiday and many of the kids had gone home. Although immediately, a card game of spoons and heads up became the routine nightly game.
As the trip went on, there were many struggles, individually and as a team, that transformed us and grew in us a new heart and mind to missions. Before arriving we had heavily prepared for “helping without hurting,” but experiencing it during our trip and realizing that building and keeping relationships with these amazing people and organizations is another and maybe even better (in my opinion) way of doing missions trips. Our first week of our trip focused on this, the idea of relationships, investing, and continuing after the trip, rather than “doing work,” this became our mentality and belief throughout the rest of the trip.
After we said our goodbyes, we headed over to CCCD Knockpatrick, and got to meet some new faces. I truly believe that God had prepared our hearts and minds to use what we had just learned and experienced and put it to action at this new campus. We began to learn about the lives of the house mothers and teachers at their school and develop relationships with them. We quickly saw their hearts and their love for the students and their passion in the deaf community. There is nothing quite as beautiful to me than a community or organization that’s workers care and love so much on their students, that sign language becomes their language, and serving them becomes their passion. There is such an importance there, of learning their language and making an effort to be able to communicate and truly invest in relationships with them. Although I doubted my own ability to lead this trip, although there were many challenges, there was so much growth, and many memories and relationships built. I believe that there will always be a piece of my heart in Jamaica, and I know that I will always have a family there.
Often times, people view deafness as a disability, disabling deaf individuals from things that hearing people do, a community that is often overlooked. However, deafness is not a disability, but signing is another language. Caribbean Christian Center For The Deaf stands firm on “Deaf ears, Hearing hearts” and I found this true in my own experiences. There is nothing that they cannot do that a hearing person can. And this is CCCD’s mission, to show and teach their students that deaf can. They speak with their hands, and hear with their hearts, something I think this world could use more of. I will always carry in my heart, Deaf ears, Hearing hearts and that Deaf Can.