When you think of Jamaica, what comes to mind? Images of white, sandy beaches, palm trees, and a cloudless, blue sky? The ads for resorts that play incessantly on TV? Baking in the sun while passing buckets of concrete back and forth for hours? Same! (Yes, you read that right!)
Sunday morning, we departed for Church on the Rock. We were told that we’d need to leave at 12:30 to get back for lunch. At first, we got a little anxious: we’d be at church for more than two hours!? However, by the time 12:30 rolled around, many of us didn’t want to leave! Seeing how passionately they worshipped God was incredible, and left a mark on many of us.
That same enthusiasm ended up being a recurring theme throughout the week. We saw it when a man named Richard gave a heartfelt summary of Moses freeing the slaves from Egypt. We saw it when a lady named Patirica eagerly listened as we read her Bible to her. And we certainly saw it while singing during devotional time with kids at a special needs school.
After church on Sunday, they gave us the rest of the day to relax and let the remainder of our travel day exhaustion dissipate. That proved to be a good thing, as come Monday morning, it was time to work! We began laying a foundation for the Peace House, an informal church for those who can’t make it to or aren’t welcomed at one of the bigger churches on Sunday. Let me tell you, I don’t know if I’ll ever look at concrete the same way again after seeing all the work that goes into it! Despite the unwavering heat and tough physical effort, Monday morning was really fun!
Monday afternoon, we went to the infirmary, a state-run nursing home. At first, some of us were really nervous, and didn’t really know what to do. We were supposed to be feeding them soup and giving out water, but some of them couldn’t talk to us or feed themselves. However, after interacting with the residents, it didn’t take long for us to be comfortable. By the end, we had all interacted with tons of people, and bonded with them by reading, drawing, or just talking to them.
We worked on construction projects more on Tuesday, with half of us returning to the Peace House, and the other half building a house for an underprivileged family. It was then we saw a bible story come to life: the widow’s might. This family was at the bottom of the economic ladder, yet they still gave our group fruit to take home! That put everything in perspective: if they can give when they have so little, what’s stopping us? On Wednesday, we went to a special needs school, where we encountered some of the happiest kids on planet Earth. Seeing their joy, even over simple things like cracking an egg, was amazing. This just reinforces that fact that true joy doesn’t come from money or things, but from God and the people he’s put in your life.
Thursday, we had a pool party with the infirmary folks. We all had a blast, playing catch, shooting water guns, or just sitting in the sun. Almost everyone seemed so happy to be there. We each got paired up with a buddy, who we would get to know throughout the day. Several of us really clicked with our new friends for the day. The way they would get so happy over a pool day was awesome. What else was awesome was seeing so many in our youth group go out of their way to get to know their partners. Once we were done at the pool, we had lunch, watched a movie, and headed back to the infirmary.
Friday, our last day, was a “fun day” We went snorkeling in the morning, and saw some incredible things, including giant fish, a sting ray, and a sea turtle, along with the beautiful coral reef. Later, we headed out to the beach and hung out together.
“We are always at our best while serving others.” Someone told me that once, and it’s an adage that stuck with me. Last week certainly proved such to be true. Serving the people of Jamaica was a life changing experience. We were taught important lessons in gratitude. Everyday things we overlook: AC, plumbing, a full pantry- so many people don’t get them. We were taught important lessons in joy. That it really is about the small things. We get so caught up in the “important” things – grades, homework, making the Varsity team – that we forget to see all the many ways God is in our lives. And lastly, we were taught important lessons about God. How He really works through everyone. How He loves all his people, regardless of any and all factors. I know the people of Jamaica, and that incredible week, will stay with us for years to come