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Local group 'jumps' to Jamaica for mission trip

Ten members of United Methodist Church spent 10 days in Jamaica's highlands, returning home with much more than their golden tans.

Organized through JUMP (Jamaica United Mission Partnership) and led by Greg and Marcia Potvin, the mission trip team had several reasons for journeying to Jamaica.

Although many cited acquiring a new life experience as their primary motivation, family proved to be a big factor, too.

"My brother asked me if I would go with him," Carly Mollberg, who attends MSUM, said of her brother John, a DLHS sophomore. She added that her cousins, DLHS junior Joe and Katie, who attends the U of M, were taking the trek, too.

"It was one of the last years my sister and I could (go) together," added UMD attendee Tori Jordan. Her sister Libby is a senior at DLHS.

Add in Anna Potvin, who teaches and coaches in Pine City, and Jake Hoganson, a DLHS junior, and the group was ready to spring into service.

"We went to serve, to learn and to become closer to God," Marcia said. "And we did all those things."

Their learning began upon arrival, with plenty to grow accustomed to.

"Everything is late," John said of Jamaica's relaxed timing. "We had chicken for dinner every night."

Additionally, running water was scarce, bugs were rampant and temperatures were high.

"We learned to live with what we had," Hoganson said.

The team spent much of its time in schools, noting similarities and differences between cultures. They played games, enjoyed morning devotions and sat in on classes, sometimes assisting with lessons.

"We were always greeted with a warm welcome from both the students and the teachers," Carly said.

Libby noted that her favorite part was "seeing how happy the kids were even though they had so little."

"It was just really inspiring," Katie added, mentioning that most Americans aren't as happy as the Jamaicans she met.

The group also helped put a roof on another school's computer lab, an intensive two days of labor.

John explained that they hauled buckets of wet concrete to the roof and then passed them down to repeat the process.

"That was a lot of really hard work," Libby said, "but it was fun."

"It was good to get the job done that we came there to do," Hoganson added.

But their time in Jamaica wasn't all work.

"We did some touristy things, too," Libby said, naming Discovery Bay and Dunn's River Falls as sights they saw.

"We got to climb up the falls as a team," she said, adding with a laugh, "it was the best shower we got while we were there."

The team also visited a local youth group, which, though awkward at first, turned into an exciting but relaxing evening of games, prayers and songs.

"Besides all the work and being with the children at the schools, I'm pretty sure our favorite part was youth night," Joe said.

Their most meaningful experience, however, happened at Widow's Might, an orphanage for handicapped kids, where they sang songs, fed the children lunch and simply spent time bonding.

Katie noted that at one point she turned around and saw her brother feeding a little girl on his lap, looking at her "with love in his eyes."

"It was really touching," she said. "Most of us shed a few tears that day."

"I think we all grew up a little bit," Joe added.

The team also led a church service, set to begin at 11, which didn't start until nearly 50 minutes later since no one but the group actually arrived on schedule.

Everyone read a passage or prayer and Marcia gave the message, focusing on the power of their hands to help others through God.

"I think the service was really meaningful because it told about why we were there," Tori said.

After returning home -- and enjoying showers -- the group remained enthusiastic about their trip and its life-altering impact.

"I will always remember my family in Jamaica," Anna said, seeming to sum up the sentiments of the entire group.

What began as a chance to spend time with family became an experience that broadened the group's definition of who that family included, making Jamaica and its inhabitants seem little more than a jump away.