Two pastors from Michigan, Merlin and Kay Pratt, founded PAPA’s Ministries. One Jamaican man explains how it touched his life.
O’DANE KYLE ROBERTS
I was 9-years-old when I first met Merlin and Kay Pratt, the founders of PAPA’s Ministries. I was attending the Fruitful Vale Methodist Church, in a small community in Portland, Jamaica. I just began my journey, of understanding the Gospel and building a relationship with Christ, when PAPA’s started VBS (Vacation Bible School) in my community.
I began teaching kids like me, about the wonderful works of Jesus Christ, and his love for us. It was not very long after I had become a soldier for Christ that I started working with PAPA’s Ministries. Helping with VBS was the first step as a missionary for Christ.
I was attending the Happy Grove High School. The School was about 45 miles from my home. It cost $800 ($7US) every day to travel to and from school. The hard part was waking up every morning at 4:30 am to get ready for school and returning home at about 6 pm every night. My family was struggling financially because my mother was alone. My father had left us in 2002 when he went to live in the United States.
When the church heard of my story, and my family’s inability to fund my schooling, they found someone that would sponsor my education through high school.
Since the school was so far away, the church proposed that I find a place nearby where I could stay while going to school. After traveling to school for a month, I heard of a teacher who accommodated students in her home. My mom went to see her, to find out if I could stay there during the week. They came to an agreement that a monthly sum of $12,000 ($100 US) should be paid for accommodations; I would go home on Fridays and return on Mondays. The sponsor agreed. I would get lunch money for the week from PAPAS’s Ministries.
Three years later, I was in 9th grade, preparing for CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) exams. My sponsor stopped paying for my accommodations so I was asked to leave the place I was staying. I had to move back home and started traveling to school again. At this point, I could only attend school three times at most for the week, because the money I received from PAPA’s Ministries had to be used for transportation. My mom would make me sandwiches to take to school for lunch, and we did that for the next few months.
When PAPA’s Ministries Moved to Negril, to serve a community on the opposite side of the island, I was still in high school. PAPA’s Ministries was unaware when they left that the person who was sponsoring my schooling had stopped support. While I was thankful to them for helping me through a whole year of school, a few months later I dropped out.
Two years passed and I was in Kingston, staying with my Aunt and looking for a job. But that didn’t work out very well since I was a high school dropout. Life was getting harder and harder each day, I felt like I didn’t serve a purpose. I prayed every day for a change in my life. I didn’t have anything except Jesus Christ. It wasn’t long after I got a call from Kay Pratt requesting my help on the project PAPA’s Ministries was doing in Negril.
I knew this was God answering my prayers. When I arrived in Negril, I started working with PAPA’s on their new Project SMERC (Sheffield Methodist Education and Resource Centre). I stayed at the home of Merlin and Kay Pratt for three weeks. I knew my stay was temporary. I remember they said, “When are you thinking of going home ?” My response was, “I don’t have a home to go home to. There isn’t anything there to go back to.” I told them what had happened since they had left Portland. They decided to let me stay in Negril with them to continue my work on the project.
PAPA’s also agreed to send me back to school. I would work on the days that I was not at school and also after school. PAPA’s Ministries had a kids club at SMERC, and I started working with kids. The Pratts decided to return to the United States and they put a plan in place. They appointed me as the PAPA’s Ministries representative on The SMERC Board and I stayed in Negril. I became responsible for Kids Club every Saturday evening. I got a job not long after they left, so I was working while going to school on the weekends.
When PAPA’s Ministries moved back to Port Antonio, I also moved back to town to finish my schooling. PAPA’s Ministries has been in the center of my life for a very long time.
Upon completing school, I was given a place on the Board of PAPA’s Ministries as the Jamaican Coordinator. A part of my role as the Jamaican Coordinator is to prepare for the work teams, making sure everything is ready before the team arrives on the island.
I hope to begin college with Papa’s help and someday be an even more significant part of God’s plan for mission on this island. Thank God for Papa’s Ministries.
~ PAPA’s Ministries is an Advance Special of the General Board of Global Ministries #3021286. It is listed in the Step 4: International Ministries section of the EngageMI guidebook. For more information click here.