It’s more than just a little blue house.
Since the early 1980s, IsleGO Missions has been partnering with churches like Illuminate Community Church to bring shelter to impoverished families in Jamaica. More than 220 homes have been built -- many close in proximity to each other -- creating de facto neighborhoods of little blue houses. One of these neighborhoods is in Seville Heights, Jamaica, a community built on steep mountain slopes with gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean. It was here Illuminate’s team of 31 people, ranging from ages 13 to 64, were called by God to provide shelter for three families in just four days.
One week before construction was to begin, Alicia Miller of Trelawny Parish was found in tears, outside of her friend’s home in Seville Heights. Alicia, a 34-year-old single mom of five, had been abused by her common law boyfriend. She had nowhere to go. Two of her children, Lorenzo, 12, and Mickelia, 11, were sleeping outside on the ground, underneath a tree. Although three families had been selected for home construction, Alicia was immediately bumped to the top of the list. Her family needed shelter immediately, but, more importantly, they also needed hope. The family needed to feel loved. It was readily apparent both to IsleGO and Illuminate that God had placed Alicia in our paths.
“When you’re in this environment, you never know who God may bring across your path because you have something to offer that they need,” Jason Fritz said.
Both of Alicia’s parents passed away more than 15 years ago. Her five children are split up between three locations as she can’t afford to put them all through school on her own. She would like to be a security guard, but doesn’t have the means to attend the mandatory classes or a place to keep the uniform dry. Her difficulty landing a job isn’t uncommon: The unemployment rate in Seville Heights is around 90 percent.
“A mom like Alicia probably hasn’t slept through the night in years because they are worried for their children,” IsleGO Executive Director Dusty Cooper said.
With little else to rely on, the community bands together. Neighbors consistently help provide for each other whenever they can. An open-door policy is more necessary reality than political term. These beautiful people lack financial resources but are rich in natural resources and love for their neighbor.
Illuminate felt this love immediately upon arrival to Seville Heights. At the work site for Alicia’s future home, we met Patricia Laraque – affectionately nicknamed “Girl” by the locals -- a past recipient of a little blue house by Isle Go. The surrounding neighbors came pouring into the work site each day. A blue crab fisherman named Lance. Local foremen Uncle, Million, Mr. Cool and Gregory. Dozens of happy children. The infectious energy by this community reinvigorated our souls and unleashed the inherent love we have for our neighbor.
“They [Jamaicans] see everyone as friends,” Jonny Lutz said. “You walk through the village and you’re the most popular guy in town. It’s so cool how we can see each other as brothers and sisters.”
Alicia immediately took to our group from Illuminate, helping us with the painting, daily cleaning and construction of her future home. Alicia noted she felt more love from our church than her extended family. Without question, God was moving not just in our hearts, but hers as well.
“I have more faith in God,” Alicia said. “I know I can’t go a day without Jesus in my life. Without him, I wouldn’t have a family. I wouldn’t have met you. I would have nothing. Although I don’t have a lot, I have Jesus.”
The homes provided by local churches like Illuminate and IsleGO serve a practical purpose, but also can be a conduit to life-changing behavior. Patricia is, in a sense, the village patriarch, ensuring children are fed and families have what they need. She credits the construction of her little blue house as the reason for her dedication to the community.
“I wasn’t the type of person who relied on or prayed to God, believe me,” Patricia said. “But now I want to give back like so much has been given to me. I want to be involved in the church and spend my day reading my Bible.”
Over the next four days, Alicia’s family would be the next to have their lives completely changed. In a teary-eyed ceremony dedicating the house, Alicia thanked God and the team He sent for providing the resources to build her home. Dusty compared the giving of the house to Christ’s death on the cross for us.
“You didn’t pay for it and no one can take it away from you,” Dusty said. “This house is yours, Alicia.”
Most likely, all of us have had a conversation or deep thoughts about the continued existence of miracles. Some question why we don’t see them in everyday life like we did during Jesus’ life on Earth. While less transparent, I believe Alicia’s connection with Illuminate Community Church is nothing short of a miracle. It’s a matter of the writer’s opinion, but I cannot fathom Alicia had much hope her life was about to be exponentially improved when she was sitting on that tree stump, beaten and without a place to go. Much less can I envision Alicia thinking she would encounter a team of 31 people from faraway Arizona who would be the hands and feet of Christ and leave her with a shelter from the rain, with doors that lock and a dry place to store her children’s schoolbooks.
And even if you were to make the argument Alicia saw the little blue houses in Seville Heights and thought, “Maybe this could be me,” I would suggest the continued access to resources for IsleGO Missions over three decades, the relationships they hold with local Jamaicans who take care of the homes and families while they are away, and the scientific improbability that none of the 220 homes built have been lost to a hurricane or inclement weather is further evidence of a modern day miracle.
Alicia told us she plans to cut down a cedar tree and sell the wood to pay for classes needed to become a security guard. With a safe place to store her uniform, she will now be eligible to pursue an occupation and will be able to give back to others.
In short, God did what he said he would do. He provided. It was a blessing to see his provision at work. If you’ve ever considered joining Illuminate on a mission trip or even have the desire to pursue an avenue for real change, I would encourage you to heed God’s call.
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6: 31-34
- Written by Caleb Barron