he has never been on an airplane, and she has never been out of the country.
But on Friday, Jami Caffee, 17, of Brownstown will step out of her comfort zone by boarding a plane in Washington, D.C., for an eight-hour flight to Ireland for the United Pentecostal Church’s Apostolic Youth Corps mission trip, which goes through June 8.
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Caffee will be among 100 people ages 17 to 22 on the trip, and there will be eight chaperones. She is the first person her age from First Pentecostal Church of Brownstown to go on an overseas mission trip.
While there, youth will work with missionaries Joe and Fanny Cooney and focus on street evangelism.
“When I would go to youth conventions, they would have presentations about it, and people would get up and talk about it,” Caffee said of how she found out about the Ireland trip. “They shared stories about how it changed their life and just different experiences. I know I want to evangelize and just spread the Gospel.”
Caffee applied for the trip in the fall and started doing some fundraising, but she didn’t find out that she was accepted until January. The trip cost $3,550, but adding in luggage fees and spending money, Caffee had to raise nearly $5,000.
Caffee said she conducted dinners at the church and a bake sale, sold T-shirts and popcorn and sent out sponsorship letters.
“It was a little bit stressful. It kind of scared me. At first, I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it,” she said of fundraising.
But she received a lot of support from her church, and it all came together.
“It shows that they have faith in me, and they know that I can do it,” she said. “It means a lot. It really touched me.”
Her mother, Melissa Caffee, said she was proud of her daughter for raising the money needed for the trip.
“At first, I was scared because I was like, ‘Where’s all this money going to come from?’ But she basically did it all herself,” Melissa Caffee said. “I was kind of thinking, ‘This is just a thought.’ But then when it continued, she was adamant about going. She wanted to do it.”
Her pastor, Ron Cox, also was happy to see her make the trip a reality.
“She comes from a home that’s been challenged as a one-parent home, so she’s had a lot of challenges,” Cox said. “Her mom has supported her very strongly in this, so she has overcome a lot of obstacles to be able to do this.”
Besides doing street evangelism, those on the trip will visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, pray at the peace wall and attend the Belfast Conference.
Jami Caffee said her ultimate goal in life is to become an evangelist, so going on this mission trip and learning from missionaries will help her get started on that path.
She said she became interested in evangelism two years ago during the church’s trunk-or-treat at Halloween. Cox said that event gives the community a safe place for people to trick-or-treat, and the church serves a meal.
“We see people come in from all walks of life,” Cox said. “In Jackson County, from the different areas that I work in, there is an overabundance of single-parent homes, an overabundance of drug and alcohol abuse … and many people, of all the churches that we have, have no church connection whatsoever.”
Seeing all of those people opened Caffee’s eyes.
“As a young person, when you feel something beginning to tug at your heart, to see people in these conditions, you think, ‘What can I do?’” Cox said.
That directed Caffee toward evangelism and going on the mission trip.
“For Jami to go to Ireland, to be a part of something, is going to be a learning experience for her,” Cox said. “To be outside of what she calls her comfort zone, to be outside of Jackson County where this is all she’s ever known and see how big the world is, see how big what she is associated with is and to allow what she has now through her experience with God to help break out of that intimidation and those feelings and fears, to broaden her vision for what she can do in people’s lives.”
In February, Caffee graduated early from Brownstown Central High School. In March, she began working at Central Christian Church Day Care in Seymour, where she teaches 1-year-olds.
She said her next goal is to become an associate in missions worker, which would involve spending an extended period of time with a group of missionaries. So there’s a chance she could be making another trip to Ireland. Then she would work toward being an evangelist.
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Name: Jami Caffee
Education: Graduated midterm from Brownstown Central High School
Occupation: Teaches 1-year-olds at Central Christian Church Day Care
Family: Mother, Melissa Caffee; sister, Kyliegh Caffee, 19