Inspiration, insight are parts of Shelton's message
Adam Shelton is an impressive young man. At just 19, Shelton already has received his Associate's degree in Network Administration and has just recently completed his first mission trip, having joined 3,000 others through Praisefest Ministries in working with the people of Jamaica.
"It was so much fun," Shelton said of the trip, which began May 29 and concluded June 5. "Most of what our group did was with school and early childhood."
To reach the school they were assigned to work with, Shelton's group, which included fellow Reach Out Christ's Kingdom (ROCK) Ministries worship team members Shawn Lyman, Becky Hickson and Zeke Hickson, traveled over poorly maintained dirt roads by bus for more than two hours. When they arrived, however, the trek was more than worth it.
"We talked with the kids and did some music programs -- things that are more geared toward younger students," Shelton said. "The kids there enjoyed it and our whole group did, too."
Conditions at the school were much different than what Shelton and the group are used to seeing "back home."
"They had no electricity, no air conditioning or even running water. They had water towers on top of the building to collect rainwater so they could use that."
Despite the difficult conditions, the Jamaican students still possessed the innate innocence of youth.
"The kids loved sunglasses," Shelton said. "In the middle of everything else, the hardships of everyday life, and sunglasses were something that stood out."
Shelton said he hopes to return to Jamaica next year to continue the missionary efforts.
"It's definitely something I would like to do again. If you can help someone with the hardships they're facing, that's great, but if you can help lead them to the Lord, then it's something truly special."
Shelton understands full-well the difficulties which can arise in life. Two years ago, the young man was injured in an automobile crash near Fagus on his way back home to Piggott after attending classes at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff.
"It was late at night and I was driving back home. A deer ran out in front of me and I swerved to miss it. My tire blew and I lost control of the car and ended up flipping three times."
The accident left Shelton with a six-inch shard of glass in his arm. The worst injury was to his right ear, which had been mangled so badly there was little of it left. The teen used part of his shirt to make bandages in order to slow the loss of blood, then walked half a mile to the nearest home in order to call 911 and his parents, Chris and Jackie Shelton.
The path from then to now has been a difficult one for the young man. Numerous surgeries have been required to help reconstruct his ear. Specialists at Vanderbilt University in Nashville removed one of Adam's ribs, then restructured it to take the place of his missing ear. Skin grafts were taken to mold the ear to make it as close as possible to the original in size and shape.
In the midst of his own personal trial, Shelton said there were times he struggled during the ordeal.
"I was actually depressed for a while. It really tested me. But now, two years down the road, I'm almost done with it."
Shelton has taken this difficult period and turned it into a positive. He shares his story with others in order to serve as an inspiration in overcoming adversity.
"A lot of youth groups are inspired by my story. It's a really awesome testimony."
With his positive outlook, strong faith and willingness to work hard to achieve his goals, the future is wide open for Shelton. While he plans to continue his studies for a career in technology, the teenager says his next path will be "wherever God takes me."