Serving on the National Board of Gospel Rescue Mission, I recently had the opportunity to attend our annual fall Board meeting. This one was held in Jamaica. Sure it sounds exotic, but for the most part the days were spent in meetings, including the first day of 7 AM to 9 PM. The reason the meeting was held in Jamaica is that several years ago our national office, along with the support of several US Missions, helped open 2 shelters in Jamaica, one in Montego Bay and the other in Kingston.
The most enjoyable part of the meeting was a tour of the medical & food/meal drop in center and the shelter in Montego Bay. The drop in center is located in an impovereshed area of downtown. The shelter (Refuge of Hope) is located a mile away up a hill.
Of a 3 million population, an estimated 100,000 Jamaicans are homeless. In addition, many of their citizens live in homes of tin, cardboard or crumbling mortar. The shelter was actually started by the government about 5 years ago in a very run down shack of a building. However, the government soon realized that they did not have the expertise to operate homeless shelters. That’s when the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions stepped up to the plate to assist.
Unlike the United States, the Jamaican government supports the Mission, including financially. And they do so with no restrictions placed on the Mission as to sharing faith, praying, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. In fact, the government donated the properties to the Mission and continues to assist with utilities and providing funds for several staff positions.
Over the past 2 years, Rescue Missions from the US helped to remodel the buildings and purchased furniture. The shelter is actually several railroad type box car metal buildings (like we have for storage units in the US). Screened in windows are all they have for ventilation and with the hot and humid weather, the units seem more like saunas. Several board members from various Missions at the board meeting pledged support to purchase fans and air conditioning for the buildings. Our Tucson Mission Board of Directors also voted to send $1,000 to help them purchase ceiling fans for the dorm areas.
The Mission in Kingston (which I wasn’t able to visit) is located in the most dangerous area of Kingston. Unlike Montego Bay, Kingston is the big urban city frought with crime, drugs and violence. People actually drive around in this area of Kingston in pick up trucks with men with rifles and guns standing in the bed of the truck. Maybe it’s good I didn’t go…certainly safer.
Gospel Rescue Missions are located throughout the United States and in Canada. So these Missions in Jamaica are our first ones outside of the North American Continent.
Needless to say, the need for homeless services and drug recovery programs in Jamaica is substantial. Although these Missions are only able to work with hundreds of men, women and children each month out of the 100,000 homeless, at least it is a start. The Gospel is given out every day along with tangible help, hope and love. That is what Rescue Missions are all about and these Missions in Jamaica certainly encapsulate that calling.
Please pray for these Missions and if you’d like to help in some way, you can contact our national office at www.agrm.org