FORT MILL --
Relationships take work, especially long-distance ones. For 53 local people who share a love for the people of Guys Hill, a town of nearly 3,200 people at the foot of Jamaicas Blue Mountains, all that effort is about to pay off.
A 53-member mission team of local teens and adults, including a medical team of 12, will travel to Guys Hill, Saint Mary, Jamaica, July 29 to Aug. 4.
In an ongoing partnership with three Jamaican churches Mount Nebo, Wheelers Mount and Richmond Hill the team plans to teach Vacation Bible School and adult Bible studies and minister through prayer walking and revival services. They will spend one day in Montego Bay repairing an orphanage and visiting the children who live there.
The medical teams attention is expected to be in high demand.
Veteran volunteer Stephanie Barfield recalls that last year, one woman walked five miles on crutches to visit the team because the closest medical facility to her home is a 90-minute drive by car.
Medical team member Johnnie Waataja a physicians assistant in neurology at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, who spent 12 years in family practice described her plans for the trip.
Twelve volunteer doctors, nurses and medical assistants will spend eight hours daily treating minor conditions, such as skin and UTI infections, performing preventative screenings and dispensing vitamin supplements, over-the-counter medications and baby care supplies.
The team will diagnose more serious conditions and help coordinate follow-up care and transportation to a local clinic and hospital.
It just felt right. This year God put it on our hearts to come. I feel like I need to do more than be paid for the talent God has given us, Waataja said.
She and her daughter Alli, a rising freshman at Nation Ford High School, will travel with the team for the first time this year.
The Guys Hill project originated as a five-year partnership between the Womens Missionary Union and the Jamaican Baptist Womens Federation to teach women leaders of Jamaica how to teach Bible school.
Barfield explains that, although the team started going to a different location each year, the members developed such a rapport with the churches of Guys Hill that they were invited back.
Some people wonder why you would put that much money into the same location, Barfield said. We are developing a relationship. You experience God on a different level outside your comfort zone.
Volunteers kept the relationship alive at the end of the five-year program, and the project is now in its eighth year. Although First Baptist Church of Fort Mill sponsors the project, at least 12 area churches are represented on this years team.
Raising the funds
The team has been holding car washes, yard sales and Parents Nights Out to raise the $1,100 each team member needs to cover travel costs.
On a recent Saturday evening, more than 90 children and 20 volunteers attended a Parents Night Out fundraiser hosted by team members and friends at the Anne Springs Close Recreation Complex.
Kids were treated to movies, freshly popped popcorn, stories and games. Parachutes billowed and Hula-Hoops whirled during play time in the gym. Brightly colored craft tables beckoned with plates full of sequins and cups of glue.
Meanwhile, parents like Clint and Shannon Lawrence, who celebrated with dinner at Fish Market in Baxter, treated themselves to a few hours of grown-up time.
Seven families are still working to raise money for the trip, with fundraising events including a multifamily yard sale, bake sale and lemonade stand on Saturday at Jacks House of Flowers on Spratt Street in Fort Mill.
The mission team is also accepting monetary donations as well as medical supplies, nutritional supplements, baby diapers, wipes and craft items. Donations marked Jamaica Mission Team will be received at Fort Mill First Baptist Church.