I’m on a plane now, returning from a week in Jamaica. Those who don’t know me well have sent well-wishes for a wonderful vacation, but my feet never touched sand. Instead, they walked on uneven sidewalks at a school for the deaf and through the doorway of a church that serves as a preschool during the day and a save haven for all who enter. Perhaps one day I’ll enjoy a few days at a resort with an umbrella drink in my hand and my handsome husband by my side. As I fly over the ocean now, I think about the last time we did that – just sat on a beach and allowed the waves to wash peace over us. Those times are embossed on my heart as much as these times – and they are rest to me.
But this place – this place behind the beauty – is my heart’s home.
I remember in 2011, when I was asked if I would consider traveling to Jamaica to serve women and children on a first-ever all-women’s mission trip with Mission Discovery. I couldn’t comprehend at that time traveling to a tourist destination to pour my heart out – and couldn’t imagine what someone like me would actually contribute.
But the voice on the phone painted a picture. He named names, he shared stories, he spoke of an experience so personal that it came to life in vibrant colors. His love for Jamaica helped me fall in love.
The man on the phone was Maury Buchanan. And he has become one of my heroes in this journey of faith and caring for the discarded. Should God allow me to write a book someday, he will most certainly be in it.
He’s a soft-spoken man with a warm smile and a hug for everyone he meets. He had no intention of becoming a missionary. In fact, he thought a career in broadcasting was his calling. But something happened once he fell in love with Jesus. Sometime stirred in his heart that he couldn’t quite explain. He worked as a youth pastor and with the organization Youth For Christ, and traveled with his students to Central America where he saw life change happen for the kids and those they served. He sought the advice of a pastor when he found himself being pulled to care for those who could never repay him – to show love and grace by taking care of their most basic of needs.
The pastor asked him, “Do you believe in a Maury-sized dream or a God-sized dream?”
And Mission Discovery was founded – a ministry that combines and coordinates mission resources and US churches to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the world’s poor.
Maury first invited teams of teenagers to help build simple homes on the Mexican border. The families would participate in the work, and every new home would be filled with not only food and basics, but prayer and hope. Lives were transformed. He was transformed.
He then found Jamaica 21 years ago – and the ministry of Mission Discovery grew. Teams helped build schools and churches, offered medical care for those who wouldn’t ever afford a doctor, and offered the simplest yet most profound care for all they met – care found in hugs and laughter and tears and time.
Tears well in Maury’s eyes when he thinks about the more than 35,000 people who have since traveled with Mission Discovery to Guatemala, Honduras, Swaziland, Jamaica, Haiti, Mexico, the Bahamas, and some of the most impoverished areas of the United States. “I look around at the women on this one trip – 45 women from all over the country – and I think ‘God, look at how good You are. And to think that You’ve allowed me to be part of it all – me, Maury.’ When we started this 21 years ago, I never imagined us serving in so many places with so many people. This really is still a God-sized dream.”
The first all-women’s team traveled to Jamaica last fall, with Maury at our side. He quietly observed as we mixed concrete for a wheelchair ramp, painted cinder block classrooms, romped on the grass with kids, took photos for the Hold the Children program, and shared our stories of redemption with women. This year, his wife Ann joined him on our trip – and together they served, and talked with – and prayed for – every Jamaican ministry partner. There was more concrete to be mixed, more painting to be done, more stories to be gathered and told. And there were miracles to be experienced. Because miracles always seem to abound when people gather to serve.
Pastor Leroy of Victory Christian Fellowship Church, a brilliant yellow refuge of hope tucked away in the hills of the Barrett Hall community outside Montego Bay, warmly welcomes the teams who come to serve in his country. Because of the kindness of Mission Discovery, his own dreams have grown. “We were first a church – but now we are so much more. We have a preschool program for families so our children will have a better chance for success, and our church is now welcoming for those in wheelchairs. We now have a women’s conference to encourage and inspire our women to be courageous as they understand their worth in Jesus Christ. And now I want our church to offer life skills training to women to help them more. I believe that, with the help of ministries like Mission Discovery, we can make a way for our women to find good jobs and stand against abuse and oppression.”
Pastor Leroy, I believe it too. Because I too believe in God-sized dreams now, thanks to Maury Buchanan.
I would love for you to be part of our next Mission Discovery Women’s Team in Jamaica. Registration is open. Would you join me? You can learn more – and sign up – here.
And if you’d like to learn more about Mission Discovery, the places they serve, and the Hold the Children child sponsorship program, visit their website here!