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}

 

 

Why I’m Thankful for the Privilege of Modesty

I was waiting for my sister Beth to come back inside the college building so we could return to our evening STNA class when I heard the door slam.  I turned around and noticed a 30-something year old man walking inside.  He stopped when he saw me by the sign board and asked, “Are you Baptist?”  I smiled as I told him I wasn’t, knowing the reason for his seemingly random question – my loose blouse and floor-length denim skirt.

“Pentecostal?”

“No, I’m actually Holiness.”  I said. 

“Oh, that’s what I was going to ask next!  I appreciate the way you dress,” the man said with a smile.  I thanked him and he walked on, but when Beth came back in and we started walking as well, he turned around and called, “More people should dress like you do!” 

But I have occasionally wondered why I dress modestly like I do. 

I mean, besides the fact that I grew up with it and that Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me out of the house wearing something even slightly inappropriate.  Why does it matter what I wear?  Before I delve into the reason that I’m actually grateful for the opportunity and privilege of dressing modestly, I want to make the purpose of modesty clear.

The reason I choose to wear clothes that are modest and cover my body is to help out my brothers in Christ.  In Matthew 5:28, Jesus says that “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  This is true for both men AND women (and guys don’t need to forget modesty for themselves); however, from what I’ve heard, guys are much more visually stimulated than girls are, and therefore have to fight much harder to avoid lust, especially when a girl is showing off what she’s got. 

I am very aware of the debate going around in Christian circles of why it is a girl’s responsibility to keep a guy’s mind pure toward her, and just to make things clear, I believe that it is ABSOLUTELY the guy’s responsibility to keep his mind and thoughts pure, and I could point you to guys that say the exact same thing.  But look at what Romans 14:13 & 19 say:

“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way…Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”

Instead of concentrating on myself and whining about I have go to all the trouble to find modest clothing, I want to remember that I am doing this to avoid being a stumbling block for guys around me.  Modesty is a way that we girls can help and bless our brothers in Christ, edifying both each other and them by pointing them toward the Lord instead of our physical features.  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 8:13, showed how far we should be willing to go to help a brother not to stumble: “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”  Wow – there’s a challenge for you!  If something you do all the time causes someone else to stumble spiritually speaking, would you stop doing it just for the sake of that other person’s relationship with the Lord?

Yes, dressing modestly is hard sometimes, and we might struggle with having the right attitude through it, but we must remember that by not drawing attention to our bodies, we are serving the Lord!

But for me, modesty is more than just an act of obedience – it is a privilege.

Let me give you an example.  A recent example that, in fact, inspired this post.  I recently started working part-time at a local assisted living facility (which is almost a nursing home), and the dress code is a provided navy polo shirt and khaki pants, though they allowed khaki skirts as well (yes, I asked. 🙂 ).  To be honest, I really wanted to just find some loose scrub pants instead of a skirt, mainly because pants tend to allow for more movement and have more pockets (both VERY convenient in a nursing home).  However, Mom thought it’d be better and more modest to wear a skirt, and even loaned me one of hers until I could find a better one for myself.  So I wore the skirt.

I still wasn’t sure that this was the best plan, but God had other things in mind.  Co-workers and residents alike commented on my dress for the each one of my first six days of work, asking why I wore it, complimenting me on it, and asking what denomination I was.  One guy even asked to make sure that I wasn’t Amish and that we did indeed have power in our house!  These questions and my answers to them led to deeper things, like brief conversations about God, the Bible, my 10 siblings (news which is a literal jaw-dropper), homeschooling, and my unusual beliefs on many different subjects, both spiritual and non-spiritual.  I didn’t say everything right, and not even all that I probably should have regarding who God is to me, but I was amazed at how open these people were to talking about “religion,” and how it seemed to stem from the fact that I was different in an unusual way – and just because of a simple skirt!

I don’t mind wearing a skirt to work anymore – in fact, I appreciate the privilege I have in doing so, to not only stay covered and keep guys from lusting, but also to represent the Lord in the midst of a secular environment!  I feel very different, and I know I am, but God has called us to be holy, which means set apart from the world.  Jesus didn’t fit in either!

Modesty is a unique opportunity to show co-workers, neighbors, friends, and strangers that I am different.  I’m thankful that God uses it to open doors to talk to others about Him, and to explain why I do things differently!

All Scripture taken from the New King James Version.

 

Dealing With My Worst Enemy: ME

Remember the little book, Teddy’s Button, from the Lamplighter’s Rare Collector’s series?  The young boy, Teddy, is a naughty child who accepts Jesus into his heart and struggles to fight for his heavenly Captain.  He soon realizes his worst enemy is himself, and names that “old self” Bully.  Teddy tries hard, but finds that he sometimes loses the fight with Bully, and learns to lean on his Captain for assistance.

Well, today I feel like Teddy.  My “Bully” has been appearing much more and fighting much harder than I want him to.  And over the past few days, God has been dealing with me in many areas that I haven’t been wholly devoting to Him.  Conviction is setting in, and it isn’t a pleasant feeling.

But because of that conviction, I’m back to where I always should be – at the feet of Jesus begging Him to empty me of myself and fill me up with His Spirit.   I’m back in the little valley of self-realization, where I begin to realize the foolishness of my “wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:25), the selfish motives of my “service,” and the limit to my knowledge compared with the Almighty God.

I’ve messed up.  Instead of aiming to point others to Christ through every conversation, I constantly wondered about their opinions of ME.  I’ve kept silent while passing strangers when a cheerful “Good morning!” could have made their day that much better.  I have not taken “every thought captive” (2 Cor. 10:5), but instead let words flow out of my mouth without thinking of the effect they might have on their hearer.  I’ve wasted minutes throughout the day that could have been used to guide my heart back to its Maker, and I’ve allowed material things just a little bit more priority in my life than they deserved.  But every little thing does matter, and little things build up.

I’ve willingly exchanged SO MUCH – the Lord’s strength and power over sin – for SO LITTLE – the temporary gratification of my flesh.

Yesterday, I listened to a message that related us as Christians to a broken piece of mirror.  A mirror is not a source of light, but if clean, can reflect the light of the sun into dark places.  As children of God, we are just the same.  We are not the light, but if we are free from sin’s stain, we can reflect the Son’s light into darkness.  But as my pastor pointed out a couple of weeks ago, we cannot radiate Christ unless we have spent time in His presence.

I’ve heard so many messages about building our days around our time with the Lord and NOT the other way around, yet I’ve been tumbling into bed exhausted after another busy day, spending only as much time in the Word as I had to in order to support my claim that I do read my Bible every day.

But the Lord is emptying me once again of myself and all my follies, so that He may fill me up with His Holy Spirit.  Pain may be involved in the process, but the result will be more glorious than I can imagine!!!

O Jesus, come!  Reveal to me who You are; show me what it means to radiate with Your love, joy and peace!  Meet me in my weakness and be my strength.  Guide me as I walk the road of life, and help me to always do everything to Your glory.  I truly want nothing except what brings glory, honor, and souls to You.  Keep me on Your path, Lord – I am sooo imperfect and I need You to help me through.  Draw me ever closer to You!