Blessings in a Backpack

Hi Everyone! Thanks again for reading our reflections and stories from Jamaica. It was such a great week to spend serving the Lord. We would now like to give you an opportunity to serve with us. Our house church is getting involved with a ministry called Blessings in a Backpack and we need your help!

Blessings in a Backpack is a 501 C (3) non-profit organization (all donations tax deductible) that is currently feeding nearly 62,000 children in 437 schools in 42 U.S. states and three countries – Canada, Columbia, and Haiti. They partner with America to ensure impoverished elementary school children are fed on the weekends throughout the school year.

You may ask….How does it work?….How can I help?

After funds raised…

  • Blessings provides backpacks (free of charge)
  • Blessings sends grocery Gift Card weekly
  • Program coordinator buys food from grocer
  • Our volunteers pack backpacks (typically on Wednesday/Thursday)
  • Teachers hand out backpacks to children on Fridays
  • Children eat the food over the weekend
  • Children return the empty backpacks on Monday

What does it cost?

  • $100/school year for one child
  • Minimum 50 children per school (minimum $5,000 per school year)
  • We have a 3 year commitment to the school
  • How is that possible??
    • Blessings in a Backpack has created various menus of non-perishable food items that will feed a child over the weekend for $2.10 per week.
  • 100% of your donation goes to feed the children.

What’s in the Backpacks?

  • Non-perishable, easy to prepare, kid friendly food
  • Three of the four essential food groups
  • Including (but not limited to) granola bars, raisins, apple sauce, crackers, mac/cheese, soups, etc.

Who are we Helping?

  • Xenia Summit Academy Middle school
  • 135 children eligible to receive backpack (must be on free/reduced lunch program)

What’s the Impact?

  • Better test scores
  • Improved reading skills
  • Positive behavior
  • Improved health
  • Increased attendance

How can I help?

  • Support a child
  • Prayer
  • Spread the word
  • Help fundraise

We have about 25 students supported at this point and support for 50 students to start the ministry for next school year. Our goal is to support all 135 students in need with backpacks

Please join us to help support a child,..any donation amount is one step closer! Also please pray for this ministry, and spread the word.

If you are able to help sponsor a child so we can get this program started in Xenia, please go to and specify “Summit Academy – Xenia” in the comments box.

And PLEASE share this post on your facebook wall, tweet it, email it to your mom, and print it out and share it with your neighbor. Together we can make a difference!

Thanks for serving with us!

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

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Jamaica Part 6: Reflection-Caitlin

Hey everyone…here is the last reflection from our team.  This time here is Caitlin!

Caitlin @ clinic!
Caitlin @ clinic!

From Caitlin…”Jamaica Medical Mission International was my first experience on a medical mission trip.  I have to say that it was an extremely positive experience, and I am grateful for the opportunity to go.   I was excited when I learned about the opportunity back at the beginning of this residency since my previous medical mission trip I was supposed to attend was canceled, so this trip was a blessing to be incorporated into my residency.  I was not quite sure what to expect going into the trip and leading up to departure things were getting very busy with residency and it was hard to step away from the hustle and bustle of life and work, however I am glad that I did.

The biggest observation that I have from the week was the Jamaican culture and way of life, and how peaceful and blessed they feel.  It is amazing to me that these people live with the limited resources they have and still feel genuinely happy and blessed.   Many of the places we visited the living conditions were not as poor as I was expecting, which was a pleasant surprise.   Working with the people brought me joy and reminded me how truly wrapped up in business and minute details I get living in the culture of America.  It is so wonderful that these people trust and love God whole heartedly, and I am finding myself reminded of how little I trust God in comparison.  I am always worrying about how things will turn out and I spend much of my time and energy trying to figure out my life on my own rather than trusting my life with God, and this is a simple thing we are taught very young as Christians yet it remains one of the hardest things to do.

Caitlin Counseling on Meds
Caitlin Counseling on Meds


God has definitely been working in my heart through this trip and I am reminded to step away from the need for control of my own future and to learn to trust in God because he has a plan for me and he has never failed me yet.  I am reminded how powerful prayer as I watch and participate in large group prayers.  It is a nice reminder that God hears his people.  The thing I need to change most in my life is to remember that there is joy in this life, that I need to live my life for God and not live my life worrying about my future, and that I can so many things through so many different people.

I felt truly blessed to work with the people that I did this week.  It was encouraging to see that there are health care professionals who are passionate for God.  So often it seems as though general health care professionals are removed from God.  Working with these people, I was encouraged that there are still health care professionals that desire to share the Lord with the people they touch.  Although they were able to do so much more freely on this mission trip, it was obvious that these people really are a light shining for their patients.  Health care professionals can make such an impact in a person’s life because people trust their health to them, so it is so beneficial to be an example of God’s love and help provide spiritual healing as well as physical healing.

Great week of serving!
Great week of serving!

I find myself in the recent days of the trip thinking about the people of Jamaica and their way of life, and praying for them as well.  It was nice to touch their lives in a small way, knowing that the medications we provided may not have had a huge impact on their overall health, but the compassion we brought and the education we provided could have made a big difference.  I think the experience was more beneficial more me than for the people we traveled to help.  My goal is to try to live more like that people of Jamaica, feeling truly blessed in everyday and in every situation.  I want to focus on the joy in life and spreading that joy towards others.  It is hard to fight the feeling of discouragement and worry in life and work, but it is encouraging to know that I have the Lord by my side to lean on to overcome these things.”

Amen!  Thanks for reading our posts from Jamaica…look forward to sharing our summer travels with you in a few months….God Bless!

YS Falls-PhotoCredit Sonja Crozier
YS Falls-Photo Credit Sonja Crozier

Jamaica Part 5: Maintenance Team

Hey everyone, Dustin here and I wanted to share a little bit about my experience in Jamaica as it was quite different from the medical and dental teams.

Last year towards the end of the trip, we talked about having a building project of some kind that I (and other non-medical people) could work on during the week. Turns out that Vinus (our project leader) wanted me to lead that team this year.

While I consider myself pretty handy, I felt that it would be quite difficult for me to lead a team on a project in a foreign country, especially since I would have to find a way to get all the tools there from the United States and I knew there wouldn’t be a Lowe’s right around the corner to pick up the supplies that I forgot about.

We decided before we left for Jamaica that we would bring some small tools and do whatever misc tasks we could find around the camp.

The maintenance team was composed of three people; myself, Matt who is a website developer from San Diego and Randy from Texas. The first two days we split up and we helped the teams set up the tents for the clinics as well as moved furniture around the clinics so the doctors could work efficiently. There wasn’t much for us to do, so we just helped where we could. I also was named as the unofficial photographer, so I spent my idle time taking pictures of people serving the Jamaicans.

I was the only brave soul who volunteered to drive during the trip and I drove all around the country. I got very good at dodging potholes and navigating around St. Elizabeth. It was a little bit of a challenge remembering how to drive on the left side of the road, but it came back to me quickly.

Locals moving the “lawn mowers”

My main task each day was to go and get hot lunches for the medical teams. This normally consisted of Jamaican Patties, which are essentially deep fried hot pockets. To get these juicy patties, I would have to drive into Santa Cruz (usually 45 minutes from the clinics), pick them up and scamper back to the medical teams. I would normally drop the food off at the closest location, stay for a few minutes and head to the other clinic site so our medical teams could enjoy a warm(ish) lunch.

Stack of cash to purchase lunch
Stack of cash to purchase lunch

After the lunch run was over, the maintenance team and I would head back to Ocean View Bible Camp. If it was convenient, we would try to stop at the dental clinics on the way home to see them in action and take a few pictures.

On Tuesday evening, we heard of this great opportunity to help out one of the local Jamaicans. Marteeka is a single mom that lives right down the street from the camp and she was starting her own little general store. The problem was that no one knew she had this shop.

Our Mission: Build a sign to showcase her store.

Using recycled pieces of wood and paint that we found, we were able to construct a sign for her.

Randy carrying the board to the neighbors to get it cut
Randy carrying the board to the neighbors to get it cut

The only thing we had to buy was a bag of cement to secure the sign posts in the ground.

We spent the mornings on Thursday and Friday building and painting the sign.

Matt applying the first coat of white paint
Matt applying the first coat of white paint

We were successfully able to put the sign in the ground on Friday, right before the rain came. Luckily we had used the correct paint as the letters on the sign didn’t run after painted with rain.



My other responsibility was to help Dr. Willett (one of the dentists) make popcorn for everyone. Dinner was usually on the small side, so we would make popcorn in the evenings for everyone to enjoy.

Dr. Willet making popcorn.
Dr. Willet making popcorn.

This year the trip was much different than last year, but I’m so thankful that I went. I had the opportunity to serve the team by bringing them food / running errands and I got to experience the joy that the Jamaicans have for life and the blessings they have. I can’t think of a better way to spend a week to help me focus on the most important thing in our lives, our relationship with Jesus.

Jamaica Part 4: Reflections-Emily

Meet Emily…..She is one of the pharmacy residents I have had the pleasure to work with this year!  All three of the residents that do their Ambulatory Care Rotation with me were able to come this year, which was a huge blessing!

Me and Emily
Me and Emily

Here is some of Emily’s reflection from the week…

“Although I did my best to prepare for the mission trip before we left, I do not believe any amount of time could have fully prepared me for the experience. I knew the Jamaicans would be less fortunate than I, with fewer luxuries and amenities, but what I could not have prepared for was the attitude and outlook of most of the Jamaican people. Some live without electricity and running water, but when approached, they speak of how blessed they are to be living and breathing for another day. Each clinic was organized a little differently from the last, but all of them were filled with grateful Jamaicans who were happy to have the opportunity to see a doctor.

When I feel a little ill, I make a quick phone call to my physician, make an appointment, and move on with my routine. These patients often do not have the opportunity to see a physician due to the remote area and dangerous roads. As the patients sang together to start the beginning of the clinic day, raising their hands in praise to the Lord, I felt myself holding back tears as I realized how completely unthankful I am for all that I have. I find myself complaining about the smallest of problems, even when the Lord has blessed me with so much. I will never forget the positive attitude of each and every one of the patients I served.

Just a glimpse into our Jamaican Pharmacy!
Just a glimpse into our Jamaican Pharmacy!

My walk with the Lord was strengthened greatly during my week in St. Elizabeth. When confronted with a problem in life, I often call my fiancée or my mother to discuss my problems and ask for advice, as opposed to taking my problem or concern to the Lord in prayer. Because I was without cell phone service for an entire seven days, I had a lot of time to spend in prayer and reflection. On the first night, I felt very overwhelmed by the experience, feeling that there were too many patients and not enough time to make a real difference. I did not know if I could ever make a real difference, as I’m only one person. My heart broke for all of the Jamaicans we saw that day, so many without regular healthcare.

Emily counseling a patient on medication.
Emily counseling a patient on medication.

Although I spent time counseling patients, I had very little time to just sit and talk to them and show them that I care. I also did not have the opportunity to pray with any of my patients. I felt discouraged and helpless. On the first evening, I migrated to the upper porch with my Bible and my journal, where I prayed for a long time and asked God to help me through the week and watch over the many patients we had seen that day. I knew I couldn’t do it alone, and I’ll likely never see the patients I talked to again. As I read my Bible following prayer, I felt myself being drawn to the Psalms, where the Lord gave me a set of verses I’ll cherish for the rest of my life:

“The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.” –Psalm 34:17-20

After reading these verses, I felt a wonderful peace pass over me, and I was reminded the Lord would never leave me nor forsake me. My faith grew daily, and I felt myself singing hymns on the bus to myself, renewed in knowing the Lord was with me always.

I had the opportunity as well to work with many wonderful people and make new friends. An unfortunate part of my personality involves an excessive amount of worry and stress, oftentimes over things that have not happened. It was a great blessing to me to work with others who feel less stress over the little things, mostly because they have given their problems over to the Lord. Knowing that He is in charge of all things brings me a great comfort. I will forever be thankful for those who demonstrated a great unwavering faith in the Lord.

Before my trip, I felt I had a great faith, and I still feel that I do. However, I have much room to grow, and this mission trip was the beginning of a great period of growth for me. I hope to continue to grow in my faith, especially in learning to give things up to God.”

Pharmacy Residents & Me. From the left, Caitlin, Me, Emily, and Krystal.
Pharmacy Residents & Me. From the left, Caitlin, Me, Emily, and Krystal.


Jamaica Part 3: Reflections-Kassandra

I can’t believe we’ve been home from Jamaica over a month now!  Sorry for the delay in posts but I still want to share some of the reflections from students/residents.  First up is from Kassandra, she is a first year pharmacy student in our professional program at Cedarville.
Introducing Kassandra & friend!
Introducing Kassandra & friend!
“I’ve always had an interest in missions, especially international because I love to travel. When the opportunity came up to do a medical missions trip over spring break in Jamaica, I couldn’t pass it up. At first I was really nervous about raising the funds and worried that my skills would be insufficient. However, as I began praying about the trip, funds were coming in and I began to gain a sense of peace about the trip. When the day finally arrived for us to board the plane to Jamaica, I was nervous and excited because I knew God was about to challenge me in new ways. Our first weekend there, I feel in love with the beautiful landscape and saw more shades of green than I’d ever seen in my life! When we arrived at the camp on Sunday, I was excited to see our team beginning to come together as a whole and playing games and laughing together.
As Monday morning came around, I felt a bit uneasy as I had no idea what to expect as our bus pulled up to the first clinic site. It was like jumping head first into water, before I knew it I was reading patient charts and filling med bags. Soon I got to counsel my first patient, and it was a strange phenomenon to have a patient look to me as an “expert” on her medications. I got to help counsel two beautiful, little boys, and show their mother how to properly use a medication dropper to dose her child’s meds. As the week went on, I gained confidence in my skills of communicating with patients, and my favorite was after getting a bunch of “yes ma’m” as I was explaining the directions, and then asking them to tell me how to take the medication I would get a “huh?” I finally got comfortable enough where I was also able to start praying with some of the patients.
Kassandra counseling a patient on how to take her medicine.
Kassandra counseling a patient on how to take her medicine.
I was so encouraged by their faith and how happy they all seemed to be with so much less than what we have. One of my favorite songs we would sing with the patients was “I am blessed” and it would almost bring me to tears that these women and children living in poverty seemed to understand more than I did that what really makes you blessed is so much more than material things.
One of the encounters that sticks out to me the most from the trip is the opportunity I had to share my faith with one of the younger helper girls on the trip. She was from Colorado and still in high school. She was into the party scene and had no plans for her life. I got to share with her some of my experiences and how God has really had an impact in my life. I encouraged her in pursuing Christ and college, and by the end of the week she had a new interest in pharmacy school and was already considering another missions trip with her church!
Sometimes you don’t know who you are going to make an impact on, but you need to have an open mind and be consistent in the way you are living out your faith. If I had only been focusing on sharing Christ with the Jamaicans, I would’ve completely missed the chance to witness to my own team members!  This trip definitely taught me to fully rely on God from everything to my skills in the pharmacy to the way I effectively communicated with the patients. I recently heard a saying that “God doesn’t choose the equipped, He equips the chosen.” I definitely feel that God gave me the skills I needed that week and that He will continue to guide and direct my future, as long as I continue to let Him. I hope to go back on another medical missions trip to Jamaica and hopefully other countries too!”
Thanks to Kassandra for sharing this on our blog…whenever I think about being blessed I can hear the women singing that song in my head too.
Sunrises like this remind me of God's BEAUTIFUL plan for our day if we give it over to Him!
Sunrises like this remind me of God’s BEAUTIFUL plan for our day if we give it over to Him!
Jamaican Chorus…
I am blessed. I am blessed.
Every day that I live, I am blessed.
When I wake up in the morning
Till I lay my head to rest,
I am blessed. I am blessed.
When I wake up in the morning
Till I lay my head to rest,
I am blessed. I am blessed…