If someone were to ask what I knew about Jamaica before the trip, I would have mentioned the bright green and yellow of their flag, Usain Bolt, and the very cool vernacular that I wish I had. I may have added the touristy aspects, but that’s about it.
I arrived in Jamaica with my head full of summer (which basically means I wasn’t doing much technical thinking beyond what to eat or watch when I woke up). I didn’t even look up the weather, and so when I entered the airport I was slightly surprised by what felt like a walk through a thick, warm cloud of moisture. Even the airport floor was slick, and I worried that my first activity in this country would be kissing the floor with any of my body parts besides my feet.
Needless to say, that did not happen. I left the airport unscathed and I thought “I am totally ready to do some work for God! I have tons of experience working with kids. I was a counselor for two summers in Texas heat. I can do a week. It will be easy!” I didn’t actually say this, but I was unconsciously thinking those thoughts, and of course God saw them. He must have chuckled and said “This child has no idea what I have in store. I have a different plan.”
His first plan was to strip me of the pride I had. That second night there I discovered a steady stream of ants crawling into my backpack. A forgotten muffin had been left in my backpack and the Jamaican ants, who are like bloodhounds, told all their cousins to come on over. Now I am not a bug person AT ALL, so the site of who knows how many ants crawling around in my bag unnerved me. Plus, a new situation arose, which involved a slightly chaotic relocation of people’s belongings and sleeping quarters. Already freaking out because of my little friends, I had a small mini-breakdown. Thankfully, I had an awesome team member who was there and prayed for me as I tried to explain that I was not completely insane (just a little).
That was a turning point for me as I recognized that God is in control and He wanted to work through me. I wasn’t there to impress Him or anyone. I was there to see Him work, and so I took a humble step back and watched. Here is a list of the God moments on the trip.
1. Vacation Bible School. Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world. It was one of the songs and the theme of VBS. My favorite moments of our VBS were watching the kids sing this song and a lot more (that I didn’t even know); laughing when they squealed and ran as I chased them in our games (seriously some of these kids are going to be Olympic track stars); and having them say “Miss-ah!” then leap into my arms whether I was prepared to catch them or not.
2. Hanging with the kids at The Nest orphanage. I believe that two of the most valuable gifts you can give any child is your time and attention. It was true in this case. However, I think the most precious moment for me there was when the little boys showed us their beds. They were so excited, so proud. “Miss, miss! See my bed!” Their beds were the most valuable possessions they owned and it was special to see them wanting to share that with us.
3. Ministry at the nursing home. Actually, I think I was ministered to. I ended up sitting with a kind lady who had worked with Salvation Army for years. I asked her if she wanted me to read to her. She said yes, and so the first passage I read was Psalms 139. While she was saying amen and hallelujah, I was the one getting all choked up. For some reason as I read, it was the like Scripture became real and powerful. I am not sure how to describe it, but the words became more than words on a page. I felt like the promises I was reading were literally a two edge sword (Eph. 6) and a life giver. Then I read the Crucifixion and resurrection story with some other team members. At that point I was like, “Wow. God is amazing. He did all that for me! How crazy is that!” The phrase God is good, became real in that moment.
4. Painting the school compound. I applaud all those painting enthusiasts out there. I appreciate your meticulous skill and dedication to making the landscape look good with a brush. I will hire you if I need some painting done. For the first three days, we painted around two hours. It was hard work in the heat. I’ll have to admit the first day I really struggled. I try to imagine lying on the beach or making snow angels, but that served to only make me feel hotter. Finally, bonding with some of the others as I painted and acknowledging that this would make the school compound shine, propelled me forward. Plus, besides a few stray marks here and there, I started to admire our paint job.
I could tell a lot more God stories including our evangelism in the park, tasting jerk chicken for the first time (It is possible that it might be served up in heaven), our trip to the beach, listening to testimonies . . . I could go on, but I will end by saying, God does love us. He wants to be part of our lives no matter what, no matter where. According to Psalms 139:9-10 “If I ride the wings of morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me.” So true. God was working in my trip to Jamaica and the coolest thing of all was that I got to see it. 🙂