Jamaica – January 8, 2016

We started the day with a visit to the retirement primary school also in Reverend Harrison’s parish. We were impressed to see that this school has the highest primary school test scores in all of St Ann. Most impressive about this feat is that they do it with incredibly minimal resources. There are 174 students in the school and only 6 teachers. The entire school takes place in one small building of only 4 classrooms. To make sure the children are prepared for their 6th grade GSAT exam, the principal stays 2 hours after school with 5th & 6th graders and also works with them on Saturdays. While Saturday work is not mandatory, all of the students come each week for the extra work. Testing is in March, and results will be released in June. We will be rooting for all of Reverend Harrison’s schools to perform well… but would especially like to see our Eccleston students excel.

After our tour of retirement we headed back for a final day with the students we’ve grown to love at Eccleston.

Today we split up and helped in each of the individual classrooms. The students were eager to hear all about where we come from, to share with us places that they’d like to visit one day (many said Kansas:-)), and to offer more tidbits about their country & their culture. They were thrilled to hear that while they have many places around the world that they’d like to see… people in all of those places would also love the opportunity to see beautiful Jamaica.
For lunch, our flair for trying new things was put to it’s greatest test when a pot of chicken foot soup was brought to our room. The broth based soup included potatoes, dumplings, and whole chicken feet. We all tried it, but agreed that it wasn’t our favorite of the new foods we’d tried this week.
After lunch, we split up and went back into the classrooms. At 1:30pm everyone gathered in the middle of the classrooms for an all school surprise concert honoring our team and the work that we’ve done this week. The kids and teachers sang Bob Marley songs, recited a thank you poem, and gave us each a gift bag with Jamaica t-shirts, coffee mugs, flags, & key chains. It was so touching that none of us could keep from crying. Through tears, we each took a turn telling them the monumental impact they had had on us, how special each of them are, and how our prayers from here forward will include each of them and our wish that they will continue their education.

Once school was out, we said our good-byes to the students, took pictures, hugged tightly, and played in the yard one last time. It was probably God’s doing when our bus driver called Miss Wisdom to tell her that he would be 30 minutes later than expected… we FINALLY had time to plant our garden. We headed quickly to the plot of land behind the school that had been prepared for us. The kids helped us to get about 50 tomato plants planted in rows… our work here is finally done. At the end of the day, Naiema said to me, “Is it true that you have a list of all of our names & will always pray for us?”. You sweet girl, I thought, we don’t need a list… we will be praying for her and all of her peers for as long as there are prayers in our hearts and on our lips.

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