Eager to learn, eager to help
Her church announced a plan to minister in Ghana and Josette Matthew jumped at the chance.
She had been to Fiji on a successful missions trip only the year before, in 2016, and was eager to repeat the experience.
“I automatically knew I wanted to sign up,” she said of her reaction to the announcement at Beulah Tabernacle Church’s annual convocation two years ago. “That experience [in Fiji] was really eye-opening and taught me so much about my faith.”
The South Pacific archipelago is known for the balmy temperatures, fantastic landscapes and coral reefs with clear lagoons that attract tens of thousands of tourists each year.
Approximately 31 per cent of the local population lives in poverty; nearly 140,000 people live in substandard housing.
Ms Matthew discovered that many Fijians had few material possessions; most rural areas lacked bathrooms, hot water and other basic amenities.
“In Bermuda we take things for granted, like just the ability to go to the store and buy whatever you want,” she said. “In Fiji they didn’t have much, but, the little they did have they didn’t take for granted.
“I was there for two weeks and got to interact a lot with the children in local schools.
“When it was break time we would hand out cookies, drink and a piece of fruit to children in the classrooms. It was just touching to see how much they valued that.
“Instead of just gobbling down the food, a lot of them would save it, to enjoy later in the day.
“They were just so appreciative, and it taught me as a Christian that the need to depend on God and be thankful even for the little blessings in life.”
She is eager to replicate that experience in Ghana.
Ms Matthew leaves for the West African country tomorrow.
She’s travelling with a group of 21 people who have signed up for the missions project she learnt of through Beulah Tabernacle. They return on July 15.
“Ever since I came back from the last one, people who heard about my journey were so inspired,” she said. “The customers at Heron Bay MarketPlace, where I work, still ask me about that experience to this day.
“I’m excited and a little bit anxious about this new adventure and can’t believe I’ll be flying out so soon.”
As this will be her first visit to Africa, she’s also eager to learn as much about the culture from the locals as she can.
“I’ve loved travelling for as long as I can remember, so to combine that with my interest in volunteering is just the perfect combination,” she said.
She “counts it a privilege” to be able to represent God while carrying out a range of community service projects; painting buildings, gardening, building a well, ministering to the community and working with children.
The Bermuda contingent is also taking clothes and school supplies to the Ghanaian community.
“I’m most excited about volunteering with children and interacting with young people in Ghana,” Ms Matthew said. “I do a lot of volunteering with children here in Bermuda and am associated with The Continental Society of Bermuda and YouthNet Bermuda, which I’ve been a mentor with for nearly ten years.
“I feel like Bermuda’s young people have so many challenges to deal with and really just need guidance, someone to listen and understand them and to put a smile on their faces.
“From my past volunteer work, I know how tough some of their home situations can be, so helping them, in even a small way, is something I’m really passionate about.”
It was rewarding when young people she assisted expressed their appreciation for her help years later, she added.
She hopes her story will inspire others to do the same.
“I would tell anyone thinking of going on a missions trip to just go for it,” she said. “If they are looking for something different, or to broaden their horizons, they should just take the plunge and do it.
“It will increase their faith as they lean on God to orchestrate every aspect of the trip, from the people they meet to the numbers of lives they can impact.
“My hope is that while in Ghana I can show appreciation for and learn from their culture and style.
“I also want to show them just how friendly we are in Bermuda and help them to get to know God as their provider, like it says in Philippians 4:19.”
A member of the Pentecostal faith since the age of 15, Ms Matthew said she has allowed God to direct her life through prayer and surrender to Him.
“I’ve been through a few instances in my life where, in my own strength, I didn’t know how to get out of them. God has show me He’s the only option and He always comes through.
“I’m grateful to have built a relationship with God over the years and that I can talk with Him at any time.
“Some of us are so quick to talk with our friends about our problems, but why not try Jesus? He is everywhere and all-powerful.”