Paul Snider | Mandeville, Jamaica — Biology and English, 2016
Paul grew up in Mandeville, Jamaica and is currently a senior, studying Biology and English. As the son of American missionaries to Jamaica, he has grown up cross- culturally and is passionate about working with high school students with similar experiences. This summer Paul will return to Port Shepstone, South Africa, for eight weeks. His team will work with young people in local communities strongly affected by HIV and unemployment. For three weeks before the trip, he will work as one of three intern leaders, developing 11 college interns that will in turn lead the 80 high school participants in SA.
Blog Post One:
This summer I have been serving with a group called MK2MK on an eight week trip to Port Shepstone, South Africa. MK2MK invites high school-aged missionary kids (MKs) from all over the world to do a mission trip together. To facilitate the trip we train college-aged MKs who can mentor the high school students and work alongside them in our service opportunities. For me, this is my second summer in Port Shepstone and my third summer working with MK2MK. It’s also the beginning of my full-time job with MK2MK!
This summer my role has been to help train our 11 college interns and work with the rest of the staff team on planning and executing our projects on the ground. Our eight weeks in Port Shepstone is split into two separate summer trips since we have about 32 students for the first four weeks and a different set of 23 students for the last four weeks, while our leadership team stays the whole time. Our opportunities for serving all come through our local partner, a nearby church that has started a lot of programs to help with health, education, and spiritual life in the area. A couple of the things on our schedule are a week teaching in a primary school, a week doing kids programs at two different schools, a weekend helping afterschool and feeding programs in two rural areas, two weeks of teaching personal health and “life skills” in two different high schools, a lot of time interspersed through those weeks serving at hospice, and a special youth camp with a local youth group. That is a lot to cover so for now I’ll just talk about the first week!
Our first full week of ministry was spent teaching at a local primary school called Hlanganani. We’ve worked there on trips in the past and I actually got to lead a small group in a 5th grade classroom last summer. That small group remembered me this year and I got to spend some time with them in their 6th grade classroom which an intern and some students were leading. One of the sweetest moments happened when I got out of the car when the project directors and I arrived at the school early on the first day. Three little girls in the parking lot laid eyes on me and immediately started smiling and could hardly stand still. They had to hold back their excitement to ask, “Where’s Abi? Where’s Abi?” Abi came as a student on our team last year and is now working with us as a summer intern. We only spent a week with these kids last year but they remembered us until now! And beyond that, they remembered the lessons we taught last year and even asked us about them again.
We taught a Habitudes curriculum in eight classrooms of about 20 students each. The Habitudes are leadership principles based on memorable images that seek to change attitudes and develop positive habits. They help teach basic ideas while giving us opportunities to build relationships and get to know the stories of each kid. In each class we had about 3-4 students and 1-2 interns so that each team member could lead a small group of about 4-5 kids. Here’s a quote from one of our own students about teaching and also visiting some nearby homes after school:
“It was so much fun teaching at Hlanganani. The kids there were so fun and sweet. I’ve learned just as much, if not more, from them than they have learned from me. I’m so sad that it is over. I miss my kiddos already. Also it was so cool what happened during the second round of house visits. I spent maybe two minutes playing with these kids, but when we left they asked me to come back, so while my group went to another house I got to play with these precious children. It was so cool that what I thought was nothing, maybe a minute or two of playing, had made an impact on them.”
I’m really excited to see the rest of the summer play out as I continue to learn more about these other MKs, the South Africans that we get to meet, and even about myself!
Blog Post Two:
Quite a few years ago, Pastor Trevor of Norwegian Settlers Church asked his congregation a question. He asked them if God physically removed their entire church from the face of the earth, how long would it take the surrounding community to notice? The answer wasn’t good. Since the churchgoers mostly kept to themselves and didn’t do much with their neighbors, it probably would be quite a while before anyone even realized they were gone.
Out of that conversation came a conviction for reaching the local people around the church. And with that conviction people grew more willing to serve and give of themselves in many different ways. One of those ways was the Genesis Care Centre that they started right on the same property as the church. The Care Centre started as a hospice for people suffering from HIV/AIDS, giving them a place to be taken care of and comforted while in pain. This gives families dignity while they spend time with their loved ones for the last time. As a ministry, the nurses and other workers can encourage the patients and have chapel sessions every week with them. Read some of the reflections below from our students about their time working at the Care Centre!
“The most funny thing that has happened was when I was wheeling an older woman back into the woman’s ward at Genesis. There is a very steep hill you have to go down & she asked if we could go down quickly so we zoomed down and she raised her arms and whooped like she was on a roller coaster. It was the only time I heard her make a noise and it was so joyful.”
“This week I got to serve in the Genesis Care Centre. I was about to leave one day when a nurse approached me and said that a patient had just asked why he had to go on living. She said that she would really appreciate it if I spoke to him. I pulled my leader to come with me and we talked to him. His name is Steven and he has a very moving story. We talked for about 30 minutes, and then I asked to pray for him. He held out his hand and I took it and I prayed for him. I can’t wait to see him again soon and maybe read a book to him or just talk more.”
“This week my ministry team was at Genesis Care Centre. It was amazing to see how welcoming and kind the staff was (they said they love having MK2MK there), and we got to spend some time with patients through chapel services, handing out teddy bears, and talking one-on-one. We painted a container with a South African flag and worked together well as a team. I learned to take every opportunity, every chance to make a connection or talk to someone. You never know what impact it can have.”
Another program we have gotten to do is working with the local youth groups that the church operates. One is called Youth Alive and the other is called Youthworx. They meet in two different locations based on convenience for the nearby youth, and as a result they end up being divided by more than just geography. Youth Alive draws from the area directly around the church, which is in Marburg, and brings in students from several nearby townships. These students are black South Africans and for the most part belong to the Zulu people group. Their youth group is always loud, rambunctious, and very warm to visitors.
One of the coolest things we did with Youth Alive was go on an in-country mission trip for three days with them. This was a big chance for development and working alongside them to see a positive change in some communities just a few hours away from their own. For the mission trip, we stayed at a camp together and travelled each day to two different locations. One is an after-school community center called Khula and the other is a primary school called Sineke. At each site we hosted a kids program in the morning, and a youth program in the afternoon. For each, it was amazing to see the Youth Alive students own the ministry and build relationships with the kids they met, while we were doing the same. Now are team is looking in to supporting Youth Alive and helping them to go back to Khula and Sineke and continue to work with those neighborhoods. This way our impact could extend beyond our departure from South Africa.