On May 16, 2005, the Huntington University women's basketball team took off for their latest mission trip, an eight-day stay in Highgate, Jamaica. As can be imagined, it was a tremendous growing and bonding time for the team and will be something they will remember for the rest of their lives. "As with every mission’s experience, you go thinking you are going to bless the people you meet, when in actuality, it is you that receives the blessing," said Culler. "This trip was another case in point."
On their first morning in Jamaica, the women began work on the foundation of the 10’ x 14’ house they were going to build for a local 84-year-old woman named Evelyn Baxter, also known by her “pet name” as Cooley Gal. Several team members got to try their hand at using an auger to drill holes for the support beams, while others took control of the power saw, shovels and cement. By lunchtime, the foundation had been squared and set ready for the next day’s activity.
That afternoon, the team headed to Marymount High School, an all-girls school, to teach basketball to a seventh grade physical education class. "The students weren’t sure what to expect, but as the class period progressed, they threw themselves into the basketball drills with so much enthusiasm you couldn’t help but smile," Culler said. The class spent time at four different stations where they were taught fundamentals of ball handling, passing, shooting and defense.
The team returned to Marymount the next morning for the school’s assembly time and provided devotions for the student body. They chose to do a skit about rumors and how quickly a web of lies can be spun if rumors are spread about someone. Following the skit, junior Janna Knisely spoke to the students using Psalm 15 as a reference and challenged them to be careful what they say about others and to be someone who will stop a rumor rather than add to it. "All of us have been hurt by rumors at some point in our lives, so it is a subject we all can relate to," Culler noted. "I thought the team did an awesome job of sharing an important message with the students and was one example of how the women 'stretched themselves' on the trip." Following devotions, the team headed back outside for another physical education class, this time an eighth grade group.
The rest of the week the women focused their attention on building the house. On Wednesday afternoon, the floor was put in, the back wall was assembled and mounted, and the back door was installed. Thursday brought the addition of the remaining three walls, the rafters, and the front door. By noon on Friday, the zinc roof had been added, steps to both doors were in place, and the window slats had been installed. After a picnic lunch and a 20-minute downpour, the women applied the finishing touches to the house with a coat of paint. “The team’s work ethic and desire to do a good job were especially visible in the building project,” said Culler. “Each day we would take the supplies we thought we would need for 6-7 hours of work, and each day the team would finish the job in about half that time. Building a house is obviously not something we get an opportunity to do very often, so it was an exciting challenge that everyone wanted to be involved in. Whether it was swinging a hammer, getting drinks for others, holding a ladder, hanging on a warped board to force a tighter fit, or carrying supplies, they were always looking for ways to help and accomplished a lot in the process.”
But there was more than building going on at the worksite during the week. With each passing day, more and more children seemed to follow the sound of the hammers through the dense vegetation to find the team. “It was an added bonus to be able to spend time with the children,” Culler stated. “It didn’t take long to get attached to them.” The team shared bubbles, coloring books, candy, songs, and themselves with the many visitors and in turn were treated to Jamaican dances and games, big smiles, lots of giggles, and memories that will last a lifetime.
On Saturday morning, the women went back to the worksite one last time to dedicate the house and turn over the keys to Cooley Gal. Senior Jamie Grogg chose Psalm 127:1a, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain,” as a source for her comments. The team also gave Cooley Gal a few house-warming gifts, including a Bible marked with several of the team’s favorite verses, a small plastic table and two chairs, a two-burner stove top, a new mattress, and some groceries. “Cooley Gal said she could not find words to express her thanks for the gift of a new home and how blessed she was, but I think each one of us left that dedication ceremony also searching for words to describe how blessed we felt to have given it to her,” stated Culler. “We take so many material things for granted here in the States, and at that moment, I think we each realized how much.”
Photos of House Construction
Basketball & Devotions At Marymount High School
The Jamaican Children
Hanging Out and Seeing the Sights