"Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Homesick.....In More Ways Than One.......

With some of my favorite littles.
Wow! I can't believe I'm back home already. Last week passed so quickly, and I'm in such a drastic withdrawal that I'm finding it difficult to function. Living in NW Ohio with its single digit weather and below zero wind chill sure isn't helping any either. I experienced record highs last week and now, record lows--and I'm not just referring to the weather. lol. When I think that just last Friday Jonathan and I were sunbathing on a gorgeous beach in the Caribbean, it's doubly difficult to fathom that I am home in Ohio. Of course, I love my home in the good old U.S.A., but I truly long for my second home in Malvern, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. After all, isn't home where your family resides? Yes, I know it is. My second family is still in Jamaica, and I can't wait for the next time we are reunited. After all, 2014 isn't that far away, is it?

Team Meeting at the Hotel
I'll begin relaying my week in Jamaica in today’s blog, however, it may take me a few days of blogging to actually finish recapping my experiences. There were so many, so varied, so all-encompassing, so memorable. Jonathan and I began our Jamaican trip in Detroit--actually the Friday night before our flight. Our team leaders, Marvin and Scott, secured hotel rooms at the Best Western hotel near the DTW. Thank God, Joy graciously drove us to the hotel, as Jonathan soon realized his borrowed sandals were too tight, and Joy was able to take him to a nearby Payless to purchase some for our trip. Thankfully, they returned in time for Jonathan to attend the 9 pm team meeting in the lobby. It was there that we were able to meet our team members, the majority of which were from our church, a few first timers, and many returning team members, fellowship, get our 2013 Jamaica Mission Trip tee-shirt (always fun), directions for the next day, etc. Twenty five of us in all—13 men and 12 women, 6 newcomers, 19 returning members, all excited, all anxious, all anticipatory.

Our team, in Detroit, the evening before we left
Awaiting our bus at Montego Bay AP
Morning came early as we headed to DTW, and uneventfully boarded our Delta flight to Montego Bay. YES!! Then came the hard part---boarding our bus to begin the 3 hour journey from Montego Bay to Malvern. Known to everyone as nauseatingly difficult, the three hour bus trip took us through the winding, one lane landscape of Jamaica to Malvern. By the time we arrived in the early evening, Jonathan had lost his lunch 3x, and nearly everyone, especially me, felt as though they were about to. My doctor had prescribed motion sickness patches for me, and Jonathan quickly learned that he should have taken me up on my offer to use one. Lesson learned.

After arriving and greeting our Jamaican family, we chose rooms to sleep in, and I quickly showered. I had been so nauseous that I didn’t think I’d make it through the evening without a jolt of cold water to my body. And cold water it was. Yup, no warm water at all. Talk about a shock to my weary body. I made it an early evening, as my body was exhausted, my brain was weary, and my stomach was, shall we say......unsettled.

Waiting for church
Chillaxing in the drizzling rain
Day 1: Sunday – our day of rest. We gathered for community breakfast at 8 am, and readied ourselves for 10:30 am service where everyone was looking forward to hearing Pastor Scott’s (from Jamaica) message and Gaymore and the Praise Team’s music and worship. It was awesome. Afterwards, we lunched and met three local Bethlehem Moravian College students. They were on their last day of vacation before returning to classes the next day. Heidi and I befriended the young ladies, all of whom were studying to be Spanish teachers and walked them back to their campus. They, in turn, gave us a complete and total tour of the beautiful campus. Jamaicans are known for their happiness, kindness and hospitality and these three girls were no exceptions. Upon returning to the camp, we ate dinner, and readied ourselves for the evening service. That is, until it began to rain. Jamaicans in Malvern do NOT go out if it rains at night. So….unfortunately, church was cancelled, and we fellowshipped indoors, on the porch and ate popcorn.
The beautiful college girls

A dorm room
Day 2: Monday – our second day. We all gathered for breakfast at 7 am. Scott had asked me to lead devotions, so I spoke about God’s faithfulness. How to whom much is given, much is required. How we are to give our best, at our maximum potential during this trip, otherwise our God may be known as a "minimal God.' How this week was going to be LIFE CHANGING. Little did I realize just how prophetic that devotion would prove to be.

Heidi and me
While Scott went to town to get the HUGE amount of supplies needed for the week, Jonathan set to work on breaking up the floor in the room adjacent to the kitchen area. I changed and began priming the walls that had been set up earlier last year. Heidi and I primed until our arms ached. Heidi, apparently being ambidexterous, was able to switch hands because her arms were aching, as were mine. After all, priming needn't be perfect. So, the bathrooms were primed. The bedroom walls and ceilings were primed. Thank God, Tim primed the ceilings--not an easy task. We finished just in time to catch a shower (Yes, it was till freezing cold) before VBS at 3:15pm. Why we always wanted a shower B4 VBS is beyond me, because the Jamaican boys and girls manhandled us so much, that we totally needed a shower afterwards. Ha ha. Sticky, goey, and manhandled. Great fun.


Jonathan playing soccer with the kids
We had a wonderful time with the boys and girls, reconnecting after having not seen them in a while. Wow, I barely recognized some of them. It was absolutely fabulous to be able to spend time with them--their joyful laughter was contagious. It was obvious they were ecstatic to be out of school, and guess who they took out all of the energy on? Jonathan, Tony and Lucas played soccer with the boys. And wow, did they ever play. These kids play roughly, and Jonathan, Tony and Lucas were all up to the tasks. Worn out in the end, but up to the task in the beginning.

VBS went without a hitch, and we realized that the kids were actually well behaved. They listened and learned, didn't constantly interrupt, etc. We were happy. Sticky and manhandled, but happy. It was another thing getting the young children to leave afterward. In the past, there was a locking gate to the property, and a long hedge, so that once someone left VBS, they couldn't return unless someone unlocked the gate. Aha.
Beth leading VBS
This year, however, the hedge was gone, so as soon as we escorted the littles out of the gate, they returned through the vacant hedge. Yikes. We had around 60 kids the first day. And we had many stay for dinner that evening. They were Hungry with a capital "H," and we were happy to fill that void in their bellies. Heidi and I were just slightly concerned about what the morrow may bring if word got out that if they stayed, they may get a hot meal. Nonetheless, we hung out all evening, on the porch chit chatting, getting reacquainted with each other, telling stories and jokes, eating popcorn and playing cards.

CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO OF JONATHAN PLAYING WITH THE KIDS; The video is lopsided for the first 5 seconds, and then it straightens out, my apologies. (I love this kid!)

Community meal time
Tuesday morning came early, and breakfast was again at 7 a.m. The majority of the women on our team were headed to the local school to have a Dental Clinic. Heidi and I really wanted to go, but we comprised the entire Ceramic Tiling team, and the rooms all needed to be tiled, so we knew we were needed at camp. Thus, we stayed and tiled and tiled until we could tile no more. I think the most difficult part was constantly mixing the mortar with water and getting the correct consistency. We were mixing with a broken hoe, and neither one of us is known for our upper body strength. Oh my goodness, we sooooo appreciated it whenever Scott would mix the mortar for us. It seemed like we were constantly having to mix another wheelbarrow full.
Heidi, Alex & me ceramic tiling
Then......the major hour of 2:00 pm came. I needed to get cleaned up for VBS because I was going to be leading it tonight. At the last minute, Beth, our normal (Beth is far from normal, ha ha) VBS leader had to leave for the day and asked me to fill in. So I jumped in the ice cold shower (which felt great!) and went ran across the porch to my room -- wrapped in a towel no less. Heidi commented that I took about 2 minutes in the shower, and that......she heard children's voices.  No way. We still had another hour and 15 minutes. Then....I started hearing children's voices--louder and louder. I heard people asking, "Where's Shari?" Yikes. The kids were early.  We were not prepared, and chaos was ensuing. Lucas, Tony and Jonathan were going to set up an obstacle course for the kids. Well, that didn't happen because the kids were already there. 100 or more. No one was there to greet them at the gate. They were heading over to the dorms, and we were freaking out. I quickly dressed and flew out the door. Sans water bottle. Mistake #1. No. Mistake #1 was not realizing the kids were getting out of school early.

I love these girls
It was total chaos, without any obstacle course, greeters, soccer game ready, etc., we were all thrown. These kids were sooooooo happy to be out of school early and to be here that they just ran around and around. Thus, they kept all of us running around in circles. Literally. Finally, I told the story of Noah's Ark, sang some songs, played some games, and sent them home. Exhausted. Embarrassed. Wiser. These kids are sooo very sweet and lovable that no one could believe that VBS could have went so very wrong. Nonetheless, we picked ourselves up and knew that tomorrow would be another, more prepared day. Ha ha.  We ate a delicious dinner, compliments of Ed and Dan (our American cooks), chillaxed on the porch, and ate some popcorn. Evening came and went. The third day.

Tom finishing the last aisle
Day 4: Wednesday. Heidi and I knew that we had a lot to do today. Although we had practically finished one side of the first room, we still had another complete dorm room to tile AND two bathrooms. A lot to accomplish in a very short amount of time. Scott helped us tremendously, as did Cynthia, by mixing the mortar for us and setting ALL of the blue chalk lines. We had learned the day before that it was crucial that we follow the chalk lines.  Got it! Heidi and I tiled until our fingers were blistered and our hands ached. Our knees were bruised, even though we had knee pads, and it was difficult to even stand. Nonetheless, the rooms looked awesome. I decided not to attend VBS so that we could finish the final room and bathroom. Tom Hiss stepped in tiled the bathroom and the finishing touches of the last aisle of tiling. Thank God. I was exhausted, as was Heidi.

She was chilly :)
I had wanted to visit the local store, but just couldn't muster up the energy to walk down the road with some who were going. Instead, I ate dinner and sat on the front porch the majority of the evening. I was excited for church to begin at 7:30 pm.  That is, until the entire village of Malvern's lights went out and church was cancelled. I really, really wanted to worship with Gaymore's praise band and hear Pastor Scott preach again. I guess it just wasn't meant to be. The lights came back on a little later in the evening, but by then, it was too late for church. Instead, we just relaxed on the porch, chatting with our friends, re-kindling our Jamaican friendships, eating popcorn (of course) and just re-connecting.

The men working hard
Thursday was Day 5. Basically our last working day in Jamaica. Our last to make great accomplishments for the Kingdom of God. For the Jamaicans. We had a LOT to do today. The guys were still working on the outside building. Mixing concrete. Pic Axing. Laying concrete. Mudding walls. Using the wheel barrow. Building tables. Reinforcing benches. Working on electrical and plumbing. There's always a ton of projects to work on. And Heidi and I? Well, we needed to work some more on the tiling. The never ending tiling. I worked on it in the morning, but then retreated and Heidi worked on it the remainder of the day, while I went to the school with Karen and Lucas. I had been dying to go to the school to see the playground equipment that had been erected in honor of Beth's daughter, Kristen, last summer. I wanted to see the new cabinets that Marv had built and installed in the Principal's office; see how the counters and table that I tiled in 2011 were holding up; just see the school and experience the atmosphere. I so missed the school. The children's faces. Their honesty. Their joyfulness. Their obedience. It filled my heart and soul with joy to see the many Christian posters on the school walls. Ahhhh.

Here's another video Jonathan and the Men Working Very Hard in the Heat of Jamaica!

Playground in honor of Kristen Taylor
There was also VBS. Tonight was the night we gave out all of the goodie bags; I was to led everyone in the Prayer of Salvation (always a treat), and give each and EVERY child a hug, a kiss, and a 'I love you,' and 'Jesus Loves You,' before we send them off home. sigh.

Here is a picture of James, the Principal of the Elementary School,
standing by the items that Marvin Burns made for his office.
Marvin also made a table and a bookcase
Here's the table and counter that I tiled in 2011. Holding up quite nicely, I might add. If I weren't so tired of tiling, this may just inspire to do my own table and counter at home. Then again, maybe not.
Here's the pile of mortar and ceramic tiles that Scott purchased for the dormitory. Heidi and I (and Tom Hiss) used all of the mortar, plus one bag. Huge job. Scott, being an excellent construction worker and purchaser had purchased the correct amount; what he didn't account for was Heidi and I being novices and mixing the mortar too thick, thus using too much.

Here's a video of Karen and Beth challenging the kids to a "Scream Off," with the chant, "I love Jesus. Yes, I do. I love Jesus. How 'bout you?"  Who doesn't love a great scream off?  The kids loved it!

Here's Gaymore and I handing out the VBS goodie bags at the gate. He was there to command respect, as the children know him and obey him. I was there to extend the hugs and "I love yous." He passed everything out to the boys, while I did the girls.

Hear no evil. See no evil. Speak no evil. With Cindy Bohland and Cindy Brown. Love those girls.
We all walked back from the school, exhausted, yet exhilarated. It was great seeing the school and the playground. Walking around and talking with the Principal and a few teachers. VBS ended beautifully; bittersweet. We will all miss those kids. Tremendously. They have touched our hearts in ways that even we may not know. I only hope that we were able to touch theirs as much. 100% of the kids prayed the Salvation Prayer, so no matter what, I will see them one day--either here, there or in the air. lol

The evening came. We had dinner and fellowshipped. A group of our team members wanted to be adventurous and climb onto the roof of the building and watch the stars at night. That sounded good to me. That was until I saw the rickety ladder they would have to use. Hmmmm. On second thought, I would watch from afar. Kudos to Karen who braved the adventure. I ended up sitting on the second story side porch and listening to Scott tell stories of the prior mission trips, his elementary school years, general pranks, etc.  ALL hilarious.

A cute gecko made it's way into Cynthia's bed. Cynthia wasn't aware, as she was in the fellowship hall, but Connie and Stan decided to remove it for her. Connie cornered it between the side of Cynthia's bed and the wall. When she put her index finger on it's tail, voila. The gecko took off and Connie was left with it's tail.  WHAT?  Apparently, that's not uncommon. I know this because when I told the story to my girls at home, they finished my sentence with, "and it's tail fell off. Right?"  Right.  It, too, was hilarious, and we all had a great laugh.

Here's a great little video of Heidi and Scott attempting to get baby Gabriella to laugh

 We were all able to fellowship one last time before we headed back to Montego Bay in the morning. None of us really wanted to go to sleep because we knew that morning would come early. That meant 'good byes' would follow along with that bus trip. Uggh. That bus trip. Jonathan and I knew enough to put on a motion sickness patch that night. Evening was here. Our last night. Morning came early.

Jonathan and I also knew enough not to eat any breakfast the next morning. I packed a couple of PB&J sandwiches, for future hunger pains, and readied myself for my 'Good Byes.' Scott gave his final remarks and directions at breakfast, and everyone went off to finish their packing and putting all of their items that they planned on donating in piles. I gave my clothing to Christine, and Jonathan gave his clothing (OK, not his suit and not my skirt and blouse) to Christine's husband, Clive. Love that couple and their children. We took a lot of time taking pictures, as breakfast had been at 7am and the bus wasn't leaving to take us back to Montego Bay until 9am.  So....off I went with my camera and camcorder.

One of the freshly tiled, completed rooms. Beautiful!

Heidi brought Aero shirts for the men...
And for the women

Two of my favorite men, Gaymore and Jonathan
The men on our team.  Where's Marvin?
Dan and a little princess
Louise, Mona, Me, Connie and Karen working in the kitchen
Jonathan entertaining the children
Mona is giving a little girl a doll she brought with her
Lucas playing

Everyone preparing to leave for Montego Bay
One last team picture in front of the dorm
Our prayer circle, before boarding the buses

Well, I think this is enough for today's blog. I will attempt to finish telling you about our
trip in my next entry. I am having trouble getting the videos to load. They are awesome! 
Until then, be blessed!  Shari

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