Montego Bay, Jamaica
A team of South Dakota business people on a mission trip to Jamaica have moved to their second service site on the Caribbean Island, but not before making some meaningful connections at a deaf school that had been hosting them.
If members of the South Dakota service team hadn't made a memorable new friend during the first couple days of their mission trip, they probably have now.
"After I washed his feet and put the shoes on him today, the kid gave me a hug. And it was really cool," Paul Ten Haken said.
That's a kid Paul Ten Haken had a difficult time trying to connect with during the trip until the Dispatch Project team distributed dozens of new shoes to students at a deaf school near Montego Bay.
The process started with foot washing before volunteers personally placed new socks and shoes on the kids and school staff's feet.
"It felt comfortable, them actually washing my feet. I felt like a king sitting in a chair and having my feet washed," 14-year-old Owayne Downer said.
And it felt good for the volunteers, too; many of them sharing stories of ways the kids had touched them. Denise Blomberg had washed feet during a shoe distribution before but she still called this a very memorable experience.
"It never gets old. It's always different; you always learn from one to the next. You work with incredible people and you go away changed," Blomberg said.
Seeing the grateful reaction from kids is part of what volunteers say leads to that change. The deep connection an act like feet washing can create is another.
"Now it's very evident to see the impact that this work is having," Ten Haken said.
Whether it be on the kids, school staff or the ones who had to pack up and say goodbye to their new friends Tuesday, to move on to another location where the same process is bound to earn them some more.