Hope Amidst Hardship

For 12 years, Carlton Carty knew only intense poverty and suffering. Now, thanks to an Awana program in central Jamaica, he knows Jesus as Savior.

The first time they met, Carlton Carty made an immediate impression on Brad Rostad—but not exactly a good one.

"He was ill-mannered and rough," said the pastor of Cornerstone Church and director of Cornerstone Mission in Mandeville, Jamaica. "Because of their home situation—lack of home training and very little care—the children are known to be poorly behaved."

Life-changing invitation
Fortunately, Pastor Brad saw Carlton for who he is, a child Jesus died for, and invited him to Cornerstone’s new Awana program. Carlton lives a few miles from Cornerstone, but the church mini-bus picked him up for club along with other unchurched children.

Carlton enjoyed Awana so much that he began bringing his brother and three sisters. A few months later, he accepted Christ as Savior during a Council Time message. Three of his siblings trusted Jesus soon after.

Carlton’s life hasn’t been the same since.

"We have seen significant changes in him," Pastor Brad said. "Now he wants to do the right thing. Before he not only lacked the ‘power’ to do the right thing—he really didn't know what it was. For example, now he knows God is not pleased with lying and he doesn't want to do it anymore. He is much more amiable and seems to have a real tender spot in his heart. He usually responds positively to discussions about the Lord. He seeks to be helpful wherever he can."

Unrelenting poverty
Carlton’s transformation belies a childhood mired in such deep poverty that the family literally survives day by day. The Cartys lives in a house hand-built from zinc-coated scrap metal that’s roughly the size of a bedroom in most U.S. households. Situated atop mountainous terrain in Williamsfield, a small village in central Jamaica, it has a dirt floor, no electricity or running water and an outdoor bathtub filled with water gathered from rainstorms. Reaching the house requires hiking a steep, rocky mile-long trail.

The home is adjacent to a small plot of land that Carlton’s father farms Stone Age style using a hoe and machete. The potatoes, yams, bananas and sugar cane he grows provide nearly all the family’s sustenance.

The Carty’s income – Mrs. Carty cleans homes and Mr. Carty performs odd jobs – is typically $40 U.S. a month. Carlton can’t afford to travel to school more than two or three days a week, and the family usually eats one meal a day. Most Saturdays Carlton and his siblings arrive at Awana at 4 p.m. without yet having eaten. (The church helps as it can, but most members are also destitute. Pastor Brad owns the only car in the congregation.) This explains Carlton’s height – 4 feet 8 – at age 13.

Carlton has never set foot in a restaurant, owns no personal possessions besides a Bible, and he and his siblings rarely go to a nearby church because they own little clothing. ("They would be ashamed to attend a service," Pastor Brad said.) Mr. Carty allows his children to participate in Awana but rejects Christ as a member of the Rastafarian cult.

Lack of education is another hindrance to Carlton’s future. Jamaica’s public school system is too costly for kids in extreme poverty to attend high school. At age 14, he will have to help his family financially through any unskilled labor jobs he can find.

Carlton Carty with Awana leader Hope in Jesus
In the midst of such hopelessness, Carlton has found hope in Christ through Awana and Cornerstone Mission, which features sports and educational programs and other forms of outreach with the goal of evangelizing, discipling and educating kids in this deprived region. In spite of illiteracy, Carlton is on pace to complete his Torch handbook thanks to his leaders’ tutoring and his new determination to learn.

"We learn the verses one word at a time," said Vashtila Wilson. "We have to explain the meaning of some words in the verses and give him examples. We teach him how to read and remember and how to think about what the verse means."

"When you point to small words now, he can recognize them. He has come a long way," said Garfield Williams, a Torch leader and church youth minister who led Carlton to salvation. "His interest in handbooks increased when he accepted Christ."

'I go to Awana to praise the Lord'
Like many other kids in this area, Carlton’s daily life remains a struggle unfathomable to most Americans. But now he has hope in the form of a Savior who is always with him, a mansion awaiting him in heaven and a refuge called Awana where he is loved. "I go to Awana to praise the Lord," Carlton said. "Brother Garfield helped me accept Jesus there." 

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