In mid-July 2022, 33 multigenerational volunteers traveled to St. Mary’s Parish, Jamaica to work, serve and provide hope to the community of Galina. Rev. Sondra Ladd, Senior Minister at First Christian Stillwater was the team leader of this trip. Over the years, she has led more than 20 teams to support this mission where bonds and relationships have been formed.

Participants for the July trip ranged in age from nine to 83. Several of the young adults were college students, college graduates or students taking a year off from studies.

Disciples volunteers were from FCC Stillwater, FCC Chandler and Central Christian Church, Enid as well as individuals from Oklahoma City, Edmond, Austin and Indiana.

ODF grants provided funding support for this year’s mission work as well as trips prior to the pandemic.

The mission trip, organized through ACE (American-Caribbean Experience), is a Christ-based outreach ministry dedicated to transforming the community in the parish of St. Mary through education, healthcare, enterprise and discipleship. The ministry relies on volunteers from all over the world to come and share hands-on talents and spiritual gifts to empower the people of St. Mary, Jamaica.

“We faced challenges together; worked really hard and bonded deeply into a community of faith outside the walls of a building,” said Rev. Ladd.

ACE acquired a large parcel of land in Galina as a means to serve the community through increased job opportunities. The local hotel is the community’s largest employer. However, once the land is cleared and ready, Galina will be a tourist stop for connecting cruise ships allowing for increased jobs and revenue. Plans for the grounds include a chocolate shop to be staffed by single moms who have learned the trade, purchased the equipment and make chocolate from a cocoa grove on the land. There will also be a farm, historic ruins tour and hiking trails.

Due to the pandemic and COVID restrictions, minimal work has been accomplished in Galina over the past two years. The ACE staff is currently at six full-time employees, down from a pre-pandemic staff of 30-40. The Oklahoma team spent the week working construction, farming, making home visits and hosting 200 children at VBS.

“The last day we took the kids on a field trip (150+) to the ruins for a hike,” reported Rev. Ladd. “There are not words to describe the success of the day. Our team bonded, worked together, studied scripture, prayed and experienced the miraculous every day.”