A group of Sylvan Lake missionaries fled the frigid Central Alberta weather for the soaring temperatures of the Caribbean in February.
Eleven members of Lighthouse Fellowship Church of the Nazarene made the eight-day trip to Trinidad and Tobago, where, upon their arrival, they were greeted by a blast of heat and humidity.
But instead of heading for the beach, members of the group quickly got to work on a roofing project at Caribbean Nazarene College in Upper Santa Cruz.
“It was not a vacation, but we did get to see a little bit of the country,” said Leah Rawlings, who helped organize the mission trip.
It was undertaken by the church in conjunction with Work and Witness, a Church of the Nazarene organization that orchestrates mission trips around the world.
Members of the Sylvan Lake group managed to meet their goal of completing the roofing project at the college, but also helped with a number of other humanitarian initiatives around campus.
Assistance was offered wherever it was needed, explained missionary Naomi Hilman.
“We ended up doing a few other things once we got there,” she said. “We ended up painting a new addition they were putting on that they were going to be moving into very shortly after we left. We helped with the electrical on the new addition, too.”
All but one of the buildings on the college’s campus were built through Work and Witness, and were funded by donors.
Through bottle drives and other fundraisers held by the church, Sylvan Lake residents helped to raise and exceed the $5,000 needed for materials for the roofing project.
“We had to do this in a very short amount of time, trying to figure out what are we going to do, but the community of Sylvan Lake was fabulous,” said Rawlings. “People were just so awesome about donating and contributing, and just being willing to help out.”
Working on the project, however, wasn’t without its challenges.
Intense heat and the steep terrain surrounding the college made work difficult for the group, but three other volunteers from Barbados helped to ease the burden.
Fifteen-year-old Samantha Hann appreciated being able to meet and work alongside area locals.
“I thought the most rewarding part was building a relationship with the people down there,” she said. “I found that was really awesome.”
Despite spending a large part of the trip working, members of the group also managed to find time to explore the country, and visited a number of its sites including Pitch Lake and Maracas Bay.
They also indulged in bake and shark – a local shark meat-based delicacy.
“The idea is they don’t want you to work every single minute, they want you to experience a little bit of the culture and get a feel for the country,” said Hilman. “We’d get our project done, and we saw a little bit of the countryside too, so it was a nice balance.”
Also travelling were Pastor Barry Sigurdson, Ruth Ann Sigurdson, Elijah Sigurdson, Jolene Gruntman, Kyle Gruntman, Jackie Hann, John Scheffelmair and Lorna Gibson.
Hilman took on another project while in Trinidad and Tobago, by agreeing to, in the future, provide a number of quilts to a geriatric centre the group visited.
Over the next several months, she hopes to have as many quilts made as possible, and will send them to Trinidad and Tobago in January.
Those interesting in contributing quilts or fabric to the project are asked to call Hilman at 403-887-5058.