Leechburg church group goes to Jamaica on a mission of faith
As the Alle-Kiski Valley braces for another week of snow, members of the Leechburg First United Methodist Church are breaking out their summer clothes.
Eight parishioners are leaving on Sunday for a week-long mission trip to the impoverished Jamaican village of Harmons.
They'll join 35 missionaries from across America to build houses, harvest crops and volunteer in local hospitals.
For Rev. Jerrad Peterman, who coordinated the trip for his Leechburg congregation, it's the second mission trip to Harmons in three years.
Peterman first visited the mountain village in southcentral Jamaica as a pastor at a Waynesburg Methodist church. After transferring to Leechburg First United Methodist Church in summer 2012, he began working to bring the experience to his new congregation.
“It really is a life-changing thing that I wanted people here to experience,” he said. “People there don't have any of the resources we have, but all the more joy.
“For them, it's all about building relationships, and there's a lot to be learned from that.”
The people of Harmons are among the world's poorest and most isolated.
With a 75 percent unemployment rate, most families can't afford to send their children to school past the seventh grade.
The homes there are often poorly built and packed with multiple families. And with its remote mountain valley location, villagers rarely have contact with the outside world beyond the missionaries that come to help.
Mission trips to Harmons are done through Won by One to Jamaica, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that bolsters economic, educational and physical development in the village. Since its 1989 inception, Won by One has sponsored about 300 children's educations and built more than 700 homes in Harmons, according to founder Henry Shaffer of DuBois.
Each year, the organization houses between 750 and 2,000 missionaries in a complex that employs up to 70 villagers while it's in use.
The missionaries that stay there work dozens of hours in Won by One's four greenhouses it built to provide the villagers with a food supply throughout the year.
“When my family and I started doing work in Third World countries, we decided to stay in one community and try to help them build it up,” Shaffer said. “It's been a good thing. It seems to have as much a positive impact on the volunteers as it does the Jamaicans.”
The missionaries from Leechburg next week are scheduled to build two 12-by-15 houses, tend the greenhouses and volunteer in a local hospital. Peterman said the group — comprised of four adults and four juveniles — will host ministry nights for the Jamaicans.
Pat West, 72, and her 12-year-old granddaughter, Julia Cominos, are among the eight members of the Main Street church going on the mission. It's a first for both.
“It's something I've always wanted to do,” West said. “I'm excited to see what's in store for us and feel blessed for the opportunity.”
Like all church groups that travel to Harmons, Leechburg First United Methodist Church was responsible for funding its own trip.
They footed their $12,000 bill through fundraisers and personal donations.
“We're very grateful to have this support from our congregation,” Peterman said. “This is such a powerful trip because it shows the power of people coming from different places to have positive impacts on each other's lives.”
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Valley reaches out to brighten East Deer cancer patient’s holiday
- New Kensington-Arnold confronts ‘frightening’ budget situation
- Generous Leechburg boy receives Christmas surprise from secret Santa
- Harmar to consider offer to drill under township land
- Hays ‘eagle cams’ reinstalled for 2015 nesting season
- Arnold Stop-n-Go robbed
- Safety of shipping oil by rail addressed in appropriations bill
- Valley High School teacher’s aide charged with having sex with student
- Bed and breakfast proposed at former Liperote Mansion in South Buffalo Township
- Shooting victim identified by New Kensington police as man hit in summer
- Man shot in New Kensington