Thanks to Beverly Lawyer Berry of Beaufort for sharing the story of her special mission.
Beverly is a native of Hilton Head Island and a supervisor in the dining room at Spring Island, where she has worked for 19 years. For the past 13 years, she also has worked with the home share program of the Coastal Empire Mental Health Center.
"I AM MY BROTHER'S KEEPER"
by Beverly Berry
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"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:17-18
An eye-opening view of poverty in Jamaica touched my heart and inspired me to start a mission of helping those less fortunate than I.
In 1999, I met two wonderful women from Jamaica, Pat and Audrey, who were working on Hilton Head Island as part of a temporary visa work program. We became good friends through sharing our life stories and experiences. They invited me to visit them in Jamaica. I gladly accepted the offer.
Arriving on the island was an amazing experience. At Customs, native Jamaicans dressed in beautiful, colorful attire welcomed us with singing and dancing. Like most other tourists, I was immediately entranced with the visual beauty of the island. But later during my visit, I saw more than what the average tourist gets to see in Jamaica. I saw real people and real needs.
My friends, Pat and Audrey, greeted me when I arrived, and we quickly determined how I would divide my stay between both of their homes. They and their families made me feel right at home and treated me like I was just another member of their families. After I settled in and rested, I was ready to begin exploring Jamaica. Over the three weeks there, I don't believe we missed seeing an inch of Jamaica. We visited Montego Bay, Bambu, St. James, St. Mary's, St. Anne, Mammee Bay, Negril, Grange Hill, Savanna-la-Mar, Spanish Town, White Hall, Hays Whithorn, Kingston, Brown Town, Ocho Rios, Alligator Pond and Runaway Bay.
During my tour of Jamaica, I saw the beauty of the islands that one would see advertised on television or promoted in vacation brochures. Then, out of nowhere, the poverty of the people that is hardly exposed slapped me in the face. I had read about it and had seen some of it on television. But, when I actually saw it with my own two eyes, I was overcome with so much sadness that I cried.
I witnessed young and old men, women and children fetching water from local rivers for home use. As they navigated the rough terrains of the Jamaican countryside, they would lose half the water out of their buckets before reaching their homes. I saw mothers cooking meals for their children on makeshift propane gas grills outside of their homes. Most of their homes were very basic with no electricity or indoor bathrooms. As soon as I got back to my friend's home, I knew I wanted to help make a difference in their fight against poverty.
Each year since my first visit to Jamaica, I have adopted a family to help and encouraged my family, friends and church to help make a difference in the life of someone stricken by poverty. Scripture teaches us that we are our brother's keeper. Whether poverty exists here at home or abroad, we cannot turn a blind eye to the needs of God's people.
Over the years, I visited and sent care packages to my friends in Jamaica, always passionately thinking about what more I could do to help. This year, I decided to do something different, something bigger to make more of a difference. Rather than putting together small care packages, I galvanized a missionary care package project to supply desperately needed clothes and shoes to help impoverished Jamaican families.
I reached out to my family and friends, who donated clothes, shoes, and money to help with this mission. I went to Belk, JCPenney, Dollar General, The Shoe Department and other local retail stores and spoke with managers and sales associates about my missionary care package project. I was surprised and happy that they were eager to oblige me with the best deals in their stores. Sometimes they would call me when items went on sale.
Using my great-grandmother's recipes, I baked and sold cakes and cookies to friends and family. I used this money to buy items and help pay for the trip to Jamaica to take the clothes and shoes.
Over a year, I was able to gather hundreds of new and used pieces of clothing and pairs of shoes for infants through adults. As friends and I began sorting and labeling clothing, I realize it would be a challenge to ship the packages. I had a total of 14 duffle bags and suitcases weighing 50 pounds each that needed to get to Jamaica. I sent two bags earlier with a friend traveling to Jamaica. A couple of wonderful Christian women, who shared my devotion, paid the $325 baggage fee.
I planned to take the remaining bags with me, but needed help. I called my father, Sam Campbell, and explained the situation. He immediately said, "I guess I better go with you to help with those bags."
I had limited funds to ship the remaining bags. I contacted Delta Air Lines, on which I was to travel. Initially, the airline requested $1,600 to transport the bags. Only by the grace of God, and at the last moment, Delta agreed to transport the bags for a minimal fee.
My father and I arrived in Jamaica on Oct. 2. Upon arrival, we worked with my friends to transport the bags from the airport to a local villa. Over two weeks, we distributed clothes and shoes through four churches in Jamaica. The people receiving the clothes and shoes were overwhelmed and grateful.
But I was more touched that I could help uplift people who live in poverty every day of their life. I plan to continue helping poverty stricken families both here at home and abroad. I never imagined that reaching out to others in poverty would become my life's mission, but it is a mission that has allowed me to bless others and truly experience the joy of giving.
I would especially like to thank Delta Air Lines for its generosity; the sales team at Belk in Beaufort, including store manager Ginger Olszewski, Hailey Krob, Katie Hall, Lisa Gibbs, William Tomes, Amekia Banks and Lakenya Green; the sales team at The Shoe Department in Beaufort, including Magaly Benjamin, Erica Evans, Tanaya Terry and Mary Johnson; Andy's Secret, Beaufort; Mobley's Shoe Repair, Beaufort; the Rev. Norman Jenkins and the Grays Hill Full Gospel Deliverance Church, Beaufort; the Rev. Ben Williams and the Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, Hilton Head Island; Gloria Murray, Morris Campbell, Sam Campbell, Spring Island residents, and many others who have helped to make this mission project possible.
For further information, call 843-812-0134.