A Brief History of Sunbeam Association for Mission
After reading The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson in 1972, Pastor Cedric Lue of the Open Bible Church decided to start a home for the boys who were living on the streets in Jamaica. The first home was started in 1976, in Mandeville, Manchester, with 25 boys. In 1981, the boys home moved to a five and a half acre farm at Nightingale Grove, Spring Village in St. Catherine. In 1990, when conditions at the farm proved cramped and unbearable, Pastor Lue relocated the home to its present location a few miles away near Gutter’s Corner. The superintendent of Sunbeam was a young man, Randy Finnikin. Mr. Finnikin is now our chairman of the SAM/Jamaica Board of Directors. Throughout its history, Sunbeam Children’s Home has struggled financially to provide the basic necessities for the boys. In 1992, Sunbeam was first visited by a mission team from Minnesota led by Dick and Lois Hokanson of Little Falls. They made continuing visits to Sunbeam because they felt their team’s donations of materials and labor made a significant impact to the lives of the boys and their home. Marcus Anderson, Atonement Lutheran Church, St. Cloud, MN, was on one of the Hokanson teams in 1992.
In 1995, Marcus led a mission team from Peace Lutheran Church of New London, MN, whose team members included Pastor Duane Semmler, Patsy Cordes, and Tracy Kalevik Jeremiason. Patsy felt the call of God to return to Sunbeam several times a year by leading mission teams. Tracy moved to the metro area of Minnesota, and along with her new husband, David, started leading youth groups from King of Kings Lutheran Church in Woodbury, MN. Sherry Bigalke, a member of Peace Lutheran Church, joined a mission team in 1997. It was during this trip that she felt God’s call to become a coordinator of mission teams even before there was an official organization. In 2000, Pastor Lue approached Patsy and Sherry, stating that he saw that these women and other team members shared the same vision and mission that he did. He then asked if they were interested in purchasing and operating Sunbeam. Many former team members gathered together to explore options for purchasing Sunbeam. A non-profit organization, a 501(c)3, Sunbeam Association for Mission (SAM), was incorporated on January 31, 2001. Peace Lutheran, New London, MN; Atonement Lutheran, St. Cloud; and King of Kings Lutheran, Woodbury committed to purchase Sunbeam in October 2001. Pastor Duane Semmler, then chairman of the SAM/USA Board and Sherry Bigalke, Executive Director, signed a purchase agreement with Pastor and Mrs. Lue. Pastor Lue unexpectedly died shortly after.
Since the team dormitories were completed by the teams in 1995, twelve to thirty mission teams each year have come from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Canada, North Dakota, Indiana, New York and others. Also, college teams and others have ministered to the boys of Sunbeam. Several college students have spent their summer at Sunbeam, as well as adult couples serving as long term volunteers. These team members have reached out to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and have come back with a renewed faith. God has used this mission outpost in Jamaica to touch the lives of the boys of Sunbeam, the team members, the people of Spring Village and Island Farm and the people of churches throughout North America. Why He has called so many people to this particular ministry is a mystery. Maybe it is because in one week’s time, missionaries have been able to be a part of the lives of the Sunbeam boys. They have felt safe in sharing their faith as well as their resources. They have seen the positive changes in the home. Also, they have felt that their lives have been blessed because of their experiences.
In 2006, a teacher from Wisconsin dedicated a year of her life to begin a school at Sunbeam. Sunbeam Learning Center is in its 6th year, now schools 14 boys, and employs a full-time teacher and a part-time volunteer teacher. We had our first student pass his GSAT’s in 2008, successfully completing high school. Several other students have been succesful since then.
SAM consists of two Boards of Directors. The SAM/USA board, which is the governing board and the SAM/Jamaica board, which is the operations board. We have joint board meetings every May, in Minnesota, and November, in Jamaica.
Current board members are: Kristy Beissler, Don Holland, Maureen McCarthy, Gerry Plowman, Charlie Lundberg, Dan Kudrow, Tom Weber, Gary Broman, Kris Lehman, Rick Nyessen, Mary Semmler, Maureen Miller, and Kari Larson. Mel Harmon is the Team Coordinator and Sherry Bigalke, Executive Director. We have 20 different congregations and an endorsement from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
It is our goal to increase the number of congregational members from 3 to 12 a year, with an eventual membership of 100 congregations. We hope to have 120 individual sponsoring members who will support the boys with monthly donations. But most of all, we hope that Sunbeam will be a light house of God’s love for all the world to see.