Jamaica, Part II // a life-changing experience

I miss Jamaica.  This week and the previous one mark my two-year “Jamaica anniversary,” so you can guess where my thoughts have been!  🙂  I am still really hoping to go back sometime, but since I have left the timing in the Lord’s hands for Him to determine, I’m just learning to be patient and to pray.

And you know what?  I’m able through His strength to truly rest in Him, knowing that His timing is perfect!

I actually began the writing process for this post several months ago, hoping to publish it sometime soon thereafter.  However, for me, writing an article about Jamaica is not an easy or quick process, especially when I get lost in my thoughts and memories and journal entries and pictures, remembering the unique experiences with a smile on my face as the sights, smells, sounds, and feelings flow through my brain.  But I also just had to tack on some photos at the end!

If you read the first installment of this Jamaica series, you already know the basics – but if you haven’t read it or forgot (I don’t blame you…it’s been a while), go read it now, then come back to this. 🙂

I was originally casually invited to go to Jamaica in January of 2013, while Grace and I were in Guyana on a short-term mission trip.  I didn’t really consider it then, but when I got an email a month or two later inviting me again (Grace was invited, too, but she decided against going), I started seriously praying and thinking about going.  I had the choice between music camp with Grace or Jamaica by myself, and I knew that music camp would be more comfortable for me.  However, I didn’t really have the same passion for music that Grace did, so I was unsure of what to do.  I made a detailed pros and cons list for each option, and through this list, Mom & Dad’s input, and lots and lots of prayer, I reached the point at which I knew without a single doubt that God wanted me to go to Jamaica.

Honestly, I didn’t “want” to go to a third-world country by myself for two whole weeks.

I would be on a team of four, without anyone from my family or anyone even less than twice my age.  This didn’t excite my introverted, steady (read: shy and NOT change-loving) nature, but since I knew it was the Lord’s will, I obeyed.  The Lord blessed me in a big way by answering my prayer that I would feel excited about the trip, which was yet another encouragement that I was indeed doing the right thing.

So I made arrangements, packed my bags, and flew off to Jamaica!  I was recently reading through my journal entries about the trip, so amazing memories are floating through my head.  🙂  One of my favorite stories is from our last evening there.  Pastor Kerron Simmonds (the pastor of one of the holiness churches down there – he actually went to Union Bible College in Indiana for a few years) took Neena and I, along with his mom and aunt, to an expensive restaurant, Little Ochie, down at the southern tip of Jamaica.  It was a two-hour drive, and after a few stops, we finally got there around 8:00 PM.  The restaurant was directly on the beach, so we ate…..(drum roll)….seafood!  They stored the fish in deep freezers, and customers would pick out their fish and bring them to the cooks.  The sight and smell disgusted me, so I was thankful when Pastor Simmonds’ mom chose the fish, and even more grateful when they offered to cut the head off of mine before serving it!

I was apparently showing my apprehensive feeling toward the whole situation, and P. Simmonds decided to take advantage of it.  We were inside a dimly lit open-air building, with rock music blaring so loud my heart throbbed and a mixed smell of raw fish and salt water in the air.  He snuck up behind me, grabbed me by the shoulders, and shook me as he shouted in my ear.  I jumped and shrieked, and Pastor Kerron laughed SOOO hard at me (and for the rest of the night)…I think he had the time of his life just watching my face.  🙂  He also teased that I “didn’t want the fish looking at me” – which, of course, was true.

It was a really good fish, though!  Its unexpected deliciousness may have been partly due to my ravenous hunger (it was 9:00 at night..), but I’m pretty sure they told me that it was one of the best kinds of fish around, “jerk fish,” I think it was called.  The blaring rock music and the obvious impurity of some of the late-night restaurant-comers did quite a bit to dampen the mood, but it was an enjoyable and most certainly a memorable evening!

Little Ochie

We dubbed this the worst photo that we took down there, but this was taken after supper that night. 🙂

One night as I was journaling my adventures and thoughts, I realized that God brought me there to pray.  Anyone can pray, but we all know how much easier it is to pray when you have some specifics.  There are soooo many needs in Jamaica, and so few prayer warriors fighting for them!  I wrote down all the people and things that I noticed needs in – a list I still have and use, though sadly not as much as I should.

I miss Jamaica a lot, but I’m thankful that God knows what He’s doing and He knows what is best for me.  It’s a little ironic, actually, since my time in Jamaica was not at all luxurious, and I can’t say that I enjoyed it to the fullest, due to sickness, homesickness, out-of-my-comfort-zone assignments, and more.  But for some reason I feel like I left a bit of my heart there….perhaps with the children.

One thing I know – God brought me to Jamaica for a reason, and He taught me more in those two weeks than I could have learned at home in several months.  I am soooo thankful for the opportunity I had to go, and how gracious my team members were to a naive fifteen-year-old girl!

I appreciate you reading my heart through this extended article…but since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, I figured I should silence my words for now and just save y’all some time by using pictures instead! 🙂

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Sister Street leading a Bible School song

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This was taken on July 4th – I even unintentionally wore red, white, and blue that day!  It’s unusual to be in a foreign country on the July 4th, though. 🙂

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Giving my testimony publicly for the first time at the 400-member primary school!

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Now THAT is a hairpin curve!

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Neena and I among some of the many photogenic kids at a school

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These two guys were characters.  🙂  Kevin is on the right and Nathaniel on the left.

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We made hundreds of balloon animals for the daycares!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThanks a lot for reading!  🙂

{John 14:27}

 

 

My Trip To Jamaica, Part I

Hey, y’all!

As many of you know, Jamaica has been on my mind a lot lately.  I went on a two week mission trip in June-July 2013 (I was fifteen), and it changed my life.  I could go on and on about what went on in my mind and heart before, during, and after my Jamaica trip – God used it mightily and is still working in me through that experience.  For now, though, I want to share the summary I wrote shortly after returning home.  This is the raw report – no changes, edits, or additions.  🙂  Enjoy your raw taste of Jamaica!

Our mission team was pretty small.  Dave and Louise Street organized this trip, and Mr. Street has been there 8 times.  Neena Wilson is a VBS teacher and has been to Jamaica 9 times.  I, the youngest member of the team, am your friend (hopefully) and have now been to Jamaica once.

We stayed for two weeks, doing mission work in various schools, Vacation Bible School, churches, and wherever we got the opportunity.  It was definitely a new experience for me, traveling without any other family members and living primitively for two weeks.  But we could all sense God’s guidance the whole stay there, which was a real blessing.

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Sister Street and I giving the Bible lesson

Because of a modification in plans once we got there (Jamaican plans change almost every day), we were able to get into 15-20 different public schools in the area.  We did the same presentation at each school, sometimes dividing the students up into groups and doing it for each group.  Mr. Street would do some magic tricks and a little show with his puppet, Sister Street would lead in a couple songs, and then she and I would do a flannel graph story about Elijah.  Neena would come in with some review questions and a memory verse.   The kids loved it, and we loved them!  I made quite a few sweet little friends at one of the schools!

In Jamaica, the motto is “No Problem!”  They are much more laid back than Americans, never in a hurry to do anything or go anywhere.  We worked with the Jamaican Holiness churches down there, teaching Sunday School at one and VBS at the other.  Due to the school year being extended a week longer than expected, we decided to have VBS both Saturdays (two sessions each) and the first Sunday we were there.  We got a pretty good turnout, considering the late and lack of advertisement. 

Rabbit Ears

Pastor Simmonds giving Neena and I “bunny ears!” 🙂

Mr. Street told us about several young people who truly gave their hearts to Jesus last year.  They loved the Lord and were sincerely trying to follow Him.  However, partly because of the lack of discipleship and follow-up, they have backslidden since then.  A couple will openly admit that they are not Christians anymore.

If we look at it from man’s perspective, the spiritual future of Jamaica does not look encouraging.  There are many people “serving Jesus,” but their spiritual lives are built on emotions or what others think of them.  However, we serve a living God who is all-powerful and has a plan for Jamaica.  He has several true servants in that country, people who are TRULY loving Him and willing to follow Him, no matter what the cost.

I feel that God led me to Jamaica so that I can come back here and pray.  Prayer is so powerful!  It is easier to pray specifically now that I have been there and understand the needs better.  I am also very thankful for all the opportunities I got there to witness and serve.  I know that God used this trip to show me that only He can fully satisfy.  Praise the Lord for being with me through all and giving me the privilege to serve Him.

In the email I sent out before I left, I asked for specific prayer for myself and the team.  Thank you so much for praying and for letting me know you would!  While I was down there, the thought came to me that I should have asked you all to pray for the Jamaicans instead!  I would greatly appreciate it if you would continue to pray—not only for me, but for those who don’t know Christ.

And as an added bonus, here is a short description of our living habits that I wrote to a friend soon after our return:

We stayed in a four-room mission house (two bedrooms, bathroom, and living/dining room.  All the kitchen we had was a refridgerator/freezer and a small table area to put food on.  
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A glimpse of the “kitchen” and living room

It was challenging, as there were ants everywhere.  One morning I poured some cereal into my bowl and was about to go on preparing it when I saw it was moving!  There were ants ALL over it and in the rest of the box!  That was a little disapointing!  Another time they got into the peanut butter jar…yuck.  🙂 
Pretty much all we lived on there (besides little things here and there) was peanut butter and tropical fruit!  The mangos were delicious, but they turned my blue braces green.  We also took cold bucket baths each day because the shower head didn’t work.  
Hannah with kids

This was during one of our school presentations…my favorite school for obvious reasons!

To be continued…