Monday, June 28, 2010

Don't worry, be happy. . .

The next group of about 70 showed up yesterday in Kingston. Actually it's 4 different groups, but together they make up the next group we'll be working with here in Old Harbour/Old Harbour Bay. I'll be working closely with a group of 14 from Cadillac, MI and we'll be doing some home construction for most of the week. And I should have internet access for the week so I'll try to keep things posted and updated on here. . . including some more pictures! :)

The beach in Negril where we spent our beach day last Friday. . .

The site of our house construction this coming week. . .

Enjoying some coconuts fresh off the tree. . .

What would become Tropical Storm Alex made his way through here last weekend and early into this past week so we've had our fair share of rain. Other than that the weather's been great (sunny, hot and humid) and we haven't had any problems.

Earlier this week I was reminded of a verse an old friend had showed to me years ago; Jeremiah 29:11; "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." As I go through life (and get older) I am continually reminded of this verse. When I am tempted to worry about life and what's going to happen tomorrow, the next day, next year, or further, I remember this verse. Granted I know I should PLAN for the future, but not worry about it. I see people running through life, missing the little things, because they're so consumed with what tomorrow will bring. Then I come here and see those that have so little and sometimes don't know if they can even afford to eat tomorrow, but they're always so joyful and happy! 60+ year olds working their tails off doing manual labor or in a kitchen cooking for us so we can be fat and happy. . . and all with a smile on their faces. All reminds me. . . don't worry, be happy! :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Birthday? Again!?

Another birthday in Jamaica! I think this is 4 out of 5 for me. It's probably actually closer to 6 out of 7, but I quit counting. It's been an amazing day! But not because it's my birthday. . . I actually didn't tell anybody here. I don't really need all the attention at the ripe old age of 33! But it's been fun nonetheless.
Last night we walked from the church down to a busy street, pulled some speakers, a microphone, and a keyboard out of the back of the car, and had an open-air church service right there. It was actually pretty amazing. I went into it thinking it was kind of a stupid idea since things like that don't work in the US. But it was great to see these once shy kids walk up to complete strangers and introduce themselves. Handing out candy to kids. . . making friends immediately! haha Then when the service started, this 15 year old Jamaican girl, Trudy, belts out this song! She can sing better than probably 99% of anyone on American Idol, and she just nails it!! People are driving past and they just can't help but slow down cause their jaws are dragging out of the car! I don't know, it just gave me chills! Then these kids, again, once shy, are volunteering to get on the mic in front of probably 50 strangers, half of them smoking weed across the street, and share their testimony and what God has done in their life. Just a really cool experience!
Then today we mixed probably a metric ton of concrete with shovels, and then carried it in wheelbarrows and buckets about 75 yards uphill to where we needed to pour it. Side note: I hung right in there with the highschool kids even though I'm double their age! But they finished the construction that they came to do and so tomorrow they're going to visit an infirmary and the Westhaven Children's home. I've been to both of these places several times this year, but I know they're going to be stretched by the people they meet! I know each time I go I'm affected in unexpected ways and they will be too!
Thanks to all for the birthday wishes! But now this 33 year old's off to bed! Here's to living a 3rd of life!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What day is today!?

Just spent a week with a group of 160ish in the beautiful Falmouth area. First of all, I say 160ish because we (the PPM staff) never really knew how many there were. The group flew in on Friday (I think), and then a couple people who were already here joined them, then they flew in a person or two on Monday, then I think somebody left Wednesdayish and another person came in to take their place. So, by the end there were a lot of people. . . just not sure how many. haha
But it was a great trip! The group was broken into smaller, more manageable groups of 13 and then two groups of 13 were paired together for the week. Each pair of groups went to a different area than the others, and the area I was in charge of, Zion, had a 2 pairs. Anyway, long story short, I was basically in charge of my own group of about 55 people for the entire week. So it was a great way to get my feet wet for when I lead my very own trip in July.
We didn't have internet access where we were so I wasn't able to keep up on what was going on. But basically we (my group of 55ish) worked with two different schools for 4 days in the mornings, and then did some service projects in the afternoons at 4 different sites. A lot of painting, a lot of cement mixing, and a lot of block laying. Everyone loved the experiences they had and made some great connections with the Jamaicans.
So now that I'm back in the Montego Bay area and have internet I can keep this up to date with the most recent group I'm with from Louisiana. (I haven't had a whole day off yet since I've been here and I frequently forget what day it is!) Only 19 of them, which seems easy now, but they're ready to leave their mark on Jamaica. Already they've been digging the foundation for a wall at a local church and spent a couple days connecting with some of the youth while playing football (soccer here). They're also going to get the chance to visit an infirmary later in the week as well as an orphanage. Then we'll take them for a relaxing day in Negril! Fun times!aa

Friday, June 11, 2010

Face time

This morning we dropped off our group from 'Bama (Roll Tide, Roll) and after a quick day of prep work, we're picking up a team of 157 tomorrow! Talk about craziness! I'll be in charge of a group of about 30 or so and they'll be working at 2 different schools and doing 4 different construction/service projects. We will be painting 4 rooms at the William Knibb High School, building a block house for a lady named Perta, doing repairs on George Feeling's house as well as building him an outhouse to replace one that is in disrepair, and starting a home from the ground up for a single mother named Sandrine. We're going to be extremely busy this week, but as always we know that God will be glorified through our giving!

Which brings me to the title of this blog. . . face time. Last week I was smacked in the face with the realization that all anybody wants is to be loved, one-on-one. Most of us in the USA experience this from our parents, family, teachers, pastors, neighbors, friends, or any number of people. But there are many people who don't get to experience this affection for various reasons. The people we worked with this past week mostly fell into the later category. I started thinking about this as we were doing VBS with the few kids that came out for it. It didn't have a formal structure to it, but instead was just individuals sitting with the kids doing crafts, talking, and just spending time with them. As I saw this towards the end of the week, Josh mentioned that these kids don't get that personal time with their parents because the parents (and it's usually parent, singular) they are busy trying to make ends meet. And the schools are too crowded for the teachers to be able to invest much individual time in the students. But as our team sat with them, individually, and spent time with them, they were like different kids! They felt loved and you could see it!
Then I started thinking back through the week with this theme of one-on-one time in mind. And it just smacked me that the joy we were constantly seeing in the faces of some of Jamaica's most destitute was because they were feeling loved! At the Westhaven Children's Home we spent time just playing, dancing, and sometimes just holding hands or hugging the children. . . and they couldn't be happier. They have enough funding for the staff to do the bare essentials for the children. . . no one-on-one time. At the infirmary sitting, talking, singing, and a just touching the adults there, and the joy can not only be seen, but felt! Again, enough money and staff to take care of their basic needs.

I felt something on my foot and looked down to find this. . .

Untying my shoe made his day and we both had an amazing laugh!!

So as I go into this next week, this is what will be on my mind. . . giving individuals the one-on-one attention that we all long for! Give someone around you some face time this week and see what happens!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Jam-aica packed day!

Today was another jam packed day! Starting at 6:30 we left to go do devotions at a nearby school here in Montego Bay. At St. James High School the group had the chance to sing a few songs, give a couple testimonies and share a quick devotion with around 350 kids. The group loved the opportunity and really took the chance to step out of their comfort zone.

The school doesn't have such a bad view either. . .

A sign at the school displaying the words of national hero Marcus Garvey. . .

The Jamaican coat of arms painted on the school. . .

After we left the school we went to a local infirmary. An infirmary is basically a place for people to go when they have nowhere to go and no one to take care of them. Many have physical and/or mental disabilities as well. As these places are quite understaffed, the staff has time to only take care of the bare essentials. So when teams or individuals come to spend time with them it's quite a treat. The team spent time talking with the residents, singing with them, praying with them, reading the Bible with them (all at their own requests) and generally loving them with by just simply holding their hands or putting their arms around them. It was definitely an eye opener for the group seeing the living conditions and the physical condition of most living there.

I found a friend, Gabriel. . . few teeth but loves to smile, clap and sing!

Some of the residents at the infirmary. . .

After we left the infirmary we headed out to Spot Valley where we painted a classroom at the school while others TRIED to dig the foundation for the wall around the church property. The key word is tried. . . the trees and brush and clay served to be too much for the small shovels and picks. A backhoe has been ordered. Ha!! But the painting went extremely well and the classroom is now a beautiful (and much brighter) mint green. The principle and the teachers were very excited to see the improvements, sure that the brighter environment will improve the morale of the class.

A partial "before" picture of the classroom. . .

And the girls proudly showing their achievement. . .

So it was a great day! Long, but great! The team is having a great time and they're already making plans to come back next year! Tomorrow is going to look very similar to today with the exception that we will be visiting a children's home housing around 90 mentally and physically disabled children. I've been there before but it's always an experience with new teams. God is definitely going to be stretching them tomorrow. . . even more than today.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The first team arrived this afternoon! They're from 'Bama, so they have a fun southern accent! By the end of the week I may start saying warsh instead of wash.
They're a fun team though! They're excited to be here and ready and willing to have their worlds stretched a little. And we're always more than willing to make sure that happens! Going to be working at a church plant, planted by one of the oldest Baptist churches here in Jamaica. The sending church here in Montego Bay allegedly has Sam Sharpe buried beneath it. I talked to the pastor and he said that they've recently started checking on the facts to see if he really is still buried here. But Sam Sharpe was the pastor at this church at some point. Anyway, this congregation has planted this church in a developing community about 30 minutes east of Montego Bay at a place called Spot Valley. There is a HUGE housing development being built here and they're expecting upwards of 40,000 people to live here. So this church has been strategically planted to minister to this developing community.
While they're here, the team will assist in some of the construction of the wall surrounding the property, they will have a VBS (Vacation Bible School) for some of the kids in the area, assist in some painting at the local high school as well as doing some devotions before school, and worship with and serve the local community. It's going to be a great week! Definitely looking forward to what God has in store for this team!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Got into Kingston a little after 8:30 last night. Gotta admit. . . getting ready to land I started to get a little nervous about driving through Kingston at night. But once we landed and got picked up (with our little minivan, affectionately named Connie) and started driving, it all seemed to go away. Drove through a small portion of downtown Kingston and then not too far away from the areas that have been in the news recently. Nothing! Calm. . . silent! Awesome! Dropped off the young lady who had picked us up and headed into Spanish town to find out "hotel", Spanish Treasures. One of the ladies from the church who will be working with the team in a couple weeks met us just inside Spanish Town and led us to our hotel. . . which we never would have found! haha

This morning we woke up about 7:30, had a traditional breakfast of saltfish and ackee, calalou, fried dumpling, and fried plantains. Deceivingly good!! Met with the hotel people and finished plans for the team to stay there in a couple weeks and we were off to meet with the church we will be partnering with.

Now, this church is the model of what I believe missions is all about! The pastor and some of the ladies from the church who will be leading the group that week were all there to discuss with us the plans for the week. Each of these ladies was in charge of a separate aspect of that weeks trip! Not only had they already looked over the proposed itinerary, but they had made a more detailed itinerary of their own for us! They had broken down our school devotional time each day into detailed times and activities for the 7 or so schools or so that they had already lined up for us to go to. The lady in heading up the meals they will prepare for us was upset that they couldn't make us more food and still stay under budget.

What does all this mean? What we strive to do at Praying Pelican Missions is partner with active churches and simply help them further what they are already doing and/or propel their intended ministries. One of the things I love about PPM is that we are not doing our thing. . . we are helping the Jamaicans do their thing! Too many times missions had been about making another culture into Americans or help another culture's "church" more like an American church. On the opposite end, it's frustrating to try and work with a church that isn't active. They aren't a beacon to the community and so it's hard for us to come and help them do something that they're not doing. But this church in Spanish Town has a very active ministry to the people in their community and it is so very refreshing to come across and church with leaders like this.

Yeah, so, I'm just rambling now. haha Anyway, after our great, long meeting, Christopher and I drove up to Ocho Rios and then over to Montego Bay where we are now. Tomorrow is going to be another long day of preparing for our team that will arrive Friday. It's only 10:00 now but I'm already tired! But, already having a great time here and I've missed so much this "land of wood and water". Going to enjoy my time here. I'll keep this updated whenever time (and sleep) allow.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sitting in the Cincinnati airport. . . off to Jamaica for an exciting 2.5 months! Lots of emotions today. Did I pack everything I need? Did I pay everything? Are my brother and Bella going to survive the summer? Leaving behind good friends for a long time. But I know in my heart that it's all worth it! Looking forward to God changing my head and heart this summer. I've become so mean over this past year for some reason. Not sure why, but I have a feeling I'll figure it out very soon. So, please continue praying for me and the 2000ish people that will be in Jamaica this summer along with the 2500 in Belize and hundreds more in Mexico and Haiti.

The journey begins. . . once again!