As more and more short term mission teams began to minister in St. Mary Parish, it became apparent there were children who were not attending school. They were on the streets or hanging around their homes. With unemployment at a very high level and reliable and affordable transportation to distant schools a very real impediment, many families simply could not afford to send their children to school every day. The need for assistance became clear, and the Jamaica Student Support Program (JSSP) began in 1990 as a part of CSI Ministries’ outreach in the Highgate area.
The JSSP continues to be funded by many helping hands. Supporters are able to sponsor a primary, high school, or college student and assist with the funding needed to assure the student’s attendance each day. A supporter’s financial assistance helps a student with things such as taxi fare, lunch money, books, fees and uniforms. Equally important, when a supporter writes letters of encouragement to their student, a new bond forms and new worlds are opened up to the supporter and to the student. It is a wonderful gift for the student just knowing that someone is interested in them and encouraging them to realize their God-given abilities.
If you could help change the opportunities for someone’s life, would you be willing? In 1990, a CSI Ministries team member did just that. She agreed to support a young man living at the Swift Purscell Boys Home who wanted to go to trade school. Little did that team member know that she was birthing a powerful new initiative, the Jamaica Student Support Program, that is still thriving today.
The very first students who were offered opportunities for financial and mentoring support were from the Boys Home or from Lyndale Girls Home in Highgate. Gradually, teachers or guidance counselors began to approach CSI asking for certain outstanding students to be supported, and the program began to grow. When team members experienced the great need for many students to have assistance, they began to step forward to help. Assisting students to be able to go to school regularly was a true gift to children and families impacting their employment prospects and helping to break a cycle of poverty that passes through generations. In turn, students would come to the mission house one time per month to report on their progress, turn in receipts, and talk with the missionaries on site.
Through the years there have been some wonderful success stories that have inspired even more people to help change the opportunities for a student’s life. Some students have been supported from an early age to completion of college. We know that there are people who have become diesel mechanics, welders, technicians, teachers, and attorneys. We know that the assistance they received, along with their own strong efforts, got them to where they are now. The intention of the JSSP is to help more students grow and thrive in their lives and be able to realize their full potential.
Sometimes it is just easier to look the other way when so many needs are before us. We might ask ourselves What difference can one person make? Should I spend my time and my money on just one person’s life? When we look at scripture, we see a myriad of examples where Jesus touched thousands of people and then touched just one. He knew the importance of serving just one was as important as serving a large crowd. For example, the book of Luke is full of stories where Jesus healed or counseled just one individual. Luke’s Gospel emphasizes Jesus’ compassion and the care with which Jesus treated people. Too often we rush through our days, barely touching anyone’s life. Is that how Jesus would want us to live?
Not one of us can compare with the compassions of Jesus. But what we CAN do is realize His Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) in a very personal way by recognizing and then acting upon His direction for us in our lives. When Jesus said, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations” His intention was for us to ACT. When we deliberately choose to make a difference in someone’s life, we are literally accepting God’s guidance and fulfilling His commandment.
When we show compassion to others by way of supporting them in their endeavors, we are giving hope. We may never know all of the ways a person is impacted by our financial and emotional support; nor do we fully understand how WE will be impacted. But what we do know is that Jesus would want us to share our resources for the betterment of another. Aren’t we glad Jesus didn’t look the other way when it came down to us?
God has given each of us different gifts, and it is clear in scripture that He expects us to use them well. In Romans 12: 6-8 He speaks to each one of us and encourages us to realize our potential. Hear this: “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
Your gift of time, interest, and money matter not only to the student who is supported but also matter to God. We are God’s representatives on this Earth and He has given us an independent will so we can choose to follow His ways or follow the ways of the world. If we choose His path and use the gifts He has given each of us, what we do matters to the Kingdom. There is no better task than to be one who helps build God’s Kingdom, for this time and for all times to come.