KINGSTON, Jamaica When CES missionaries Elder Ardean Child and Sister Camille Child arrived in Jamaica, they offered to help with the Caribbean nation's LDS young adult conference.
The response was unexpected: "We've never done that."
That changed recently when dozens of young adults from Jamaica's 22 branches gathered at a centuries-old boarding school high in the country's Santa Cruz Mountains. Participants in the two-day event enjoyed gospel-themed instruction, danced, worshiped together and returned to their homes eager to help the Church grow in their native land.
"It was thrilling for them to be together as a country and feel of each others' spirit," wrote Elder and Sister Child in an e-mail report on the conference.
Jamaica's first young adult conference was planned and financed by the participants.
"For some it was a great sacrifice, but they all felt it was well worth the effort and they are excited to do it again next year," Elder and Sister Child wrote. "In fact, they wish they could do it next month."
Much of the first day centered on instruction and workshops designed to help the young adults in areas spiritual and temporal. Elder Jorge M. Alvarado, an Area Seventy, spoke of the potential and worth of the young Jamaican members. Many participants took time to visit with Elder Alvarado in small groups.
Other workshop presenters discussed timely topics such as the importance of LDS institute, celestial marriage, goal-setting, managing finances and occupational opportunities.
"When the workshops were over, the young adults polished the pews, window sills, piano and the wood trim in the camp chapel as a service project to thank the venue for letting us use the facilities," the Childs wrote. "What a sight everyone dressed in 'Mormon Helping Hands" T-shirts, working side-by-side in service."
The conference also offered plenty of fun. Participants competed in volleyball and basketball games and enjoyed nature hikes. The evening dance included a talent show and plenty of Jamaican jerked chicken, salt fish and other local cuisine.
The Sabbath at the young adult conference was unifying and joyful, wrote the Childs. Participants came together for priesthood, Relief Society and sacrament services.
"The strength that was felt at being together for the first time, and sharing testimonies, brought unity to the ordinance of the sacrament."
During a season in the Church that honors pioneers, the Jamaican young adults said they loved being pioneers in their country. They look forward to the day when Jamaica has its own stakes and more fellow members to call friends.