The Voice: Summer 2003

The Voice

Vanderkruks end time in Jamaica

John Vanderkruk writes:

My wife Malita (ex ’90), Natasha, Daniel, and I have been working with MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) in Jamaica for the past five years.

After graduating from Dordt in 1989, I worked with Hortico Inc. in Canada while Malita went to grad school to further her studies in Psychology and Dance Movement Therapy. We married in 1992 and settled in Waterdown, Ontario. Our lifestyle was comfortable. Malita landed a great job with Columbia Health Care. We were settling well, built a home, and gave birth to Natasha. We were active in our community and church.

Five years later, we felt unsettled. I had begun to work long hours. Many nights I came home long after Malita was asleep. One evening I woke Malita up to share with her what I felt was a certain vanity in our lifestyle. After tears we poured out our thoughts to our Lord Jesus.

The transition was not quick. It was almost two years after that one late night that we made a career change. Daniel was born around this time. How we packed our belongings and moved out of our home the Christmas of 1997 so that a refugee family of eight from Pakistan could move in when we did not even have our “new” career settled is a separate story. Only when MCC sent us an email nearly two months later did we receive affirmation that we would work towards community development in a third world country.

Jamaica is known for its clear blue skies, turquoise waters, and golden sandy beaches—not for the masses of poor, the corrupt government, and the violent communities inland. In 1998 we moved to a small town in the Northern Parish of St. Mary. Here we began to live and work with orphans and underprivileged persons in the area. For two years we lived with and learned with the people of St. Mary. It was an incredible experience: just to be the minority, learn the language, and begin to be a part of the culture. We lived on the compound of a children’s home, learned from local farmers, and visited the Parish prison all as a part of our work. The area had a reputation for being one of the most dangerous in the land—only God could have made us feel safe. During this time we welcomed Thomas to our family

At present we are living and working at Jamaica Bible College in Mandeville. The campus is located in central Jamaica in the cool Manchester Mountains. Malita has been teaching psychology and developing the program here. She has also worked with the campus library and physical education programs. I worked in campus development, community involvement, and constituency awareness. The college offers a three-year biblical program and a two-year business program. Despite the socio-economic challenges, the college offers the country and wider Caribbean an affordable Christian education for students to make a difference in their world. Malita and I have witnessed God’s handiwork in the lives of those around us—we have felt incredibly blessed.

In three weeks we will complete our work here. It has been a rich five years—beyond our imagination. We have made wonderful relationships that have given us the courage to continue to serve in any capacity that God lays out for us.