Carroll High grad Elyse Borchers takes a selfie with Jamaican children last month on a mission trip she took for spring break.
Carroll High grad Elyse Borchers takes a selfie with Jamaican children last month on a mission trip she took for spring break.
May 14, 2014



No worries, mon. The cliche phrase that elicits images of Jamaica is known for a reason, agree Carroll High School graduates Brittany Holdsworth, Lisa Daringer and Elyse Borchers - it truly is a way of life for the residents of the small island country in the Caribbean. The three women just completed their freshman years at the University of Northern Iowa, which included a "life-changing" spring break trip to Kingston, Jamaica, where they volunteered at the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf.

They left behind cellphones, laptops, homework and social media.

And they discovered how easily they could find God in their lives - if they looked.

This crash course in the spiritual came from the nearly 75 deaf students - ranging in age from 4 to 22 years old - attending school at the center.

Deafness is often viewed as a curse in Jamaican culture, Daringer explained. Among the country's more than 10,000 deaf citizens, the unemployment rate is between 70 and 80 percent.

But most of those 10,000 individuals are not born deaf, said Borchers - rather, the nation's poor health-care system results in the loss of hearing for many children who contract ear infections.

Some of the students are orphans - dumped at the school by parents who didn't know how to raise a child who could not hear. Others still live at home but have only rudimentary ways to communicate with parents and siblings who do not learn to sign.

But the students don't worry about their disability.

"There is so much joy surrounding these kids with so little," Holdsworth said. "There is so much trust in Him."

This trust is seen again through the operations of the school - it receives no government funding, relying entirely on child sponsorships and visiting church groups to maintain its mission.

It shines from the faces of those selling bananas or bracelets along the road, trusting God to provide, said Holdsworth.

It is even displayed in the culture's concept of time - people don't rush from place to place, but meander slowly - they'll get there when they get there, described Daringer.

This seemingly Jamaican philosophy is in many ways a Christian philosophy, the women said. Do not worry, be happy, love one another - simple commands they hope to live out in their hectic daily lives back in the United States.

A self-described "worrier," Daringer cited Matthew 6:34 as her favorite verse - "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" - though she never truly felt she experienced this peace in God's presence as clearly as during her week in Jamaica. She hopes to carry His love into her daily life by being more patient with herself and her peers - as the deaf students were with the Americans who did not know how to sign, she said.

Holdsworth hopes to make a conscious effort to recognize joy in life and to mend relationships, referencing 1 John 4:12 - "No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us."

"When you were there - every kid saw God because they loved," she said. " If they could love us, I sure as heck should be able to love people in my own house and own community."

Borchers has already seen God at work in small moments that she didn't notice before returning from Jamaica.

They expected to make a physical difference in Kingston - painting the school and working on the campus, Borchers said. But they quickly realized that the value of the trip would be in the relationships - whether talking to a peer, or simply playing tic tac toe with a student - as Holdsworth did repeatedly with a boy named Cleveland.

"He was not only deaf, but had a mental disability," she said. "He wasn't the most interactive, but he was so happy - there was so much gratitude."

The trip cost about $1,600 each, funded primarily through donations from friends, family and home churches in Carroll. Holdsworth, daughter of Dave and Val Holdsworth, is studying communications and public relations. Borchers, daughter of Tom and Kelly Borchers, is studying social science education. Daringer, daughter of Byron and Kim Daringer is studying communicative disorders and speech pathology.

The cost to sponsor a child at the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf is $32 per month, or $400 per year. For more information, contact one of the women at daringel@uni.edu; holdswob@uni.edu; or borchere@uni.edu.