It’s a strange feeling to leave the dead of winter and step out of a plane into tropical weather. The quandary is this: do you wear long sleeves and pants in the cold knowing you’re going to sweat upon arrival OR wear shorts and a t-shirt onto the plane knowing you’ll be a step ahead? Our Jamaica mission team was about 50/50 on the issue. Things like this “Jamaica me crazy,” as the saying goes.
I can only brag on the Lord as He was with us the whole way. Even during the planning phase, He was faithful in every little detail.
Our team consisted of 12 staff and 3 adults- the largest CLC International team yet. We had an awesome travel agent who kept us from getting gouged on airfare (thank you Celeste!) and found a great deal on a hotel. These are big deals, not just from a budget perspective, but also practical. Traveling can be draining and knowing you have good flights and a place to rest at the end of the day is huge.
As it turns out, the tap water was drinkable in Jamaica (not that everyone dared to do it). This was a far cry from Peru and Haiti where we drank bottled water and STILL got sick. The food was good as well. Rice and beans are a staple at almost every meal and being a in warm climate allows tropical fruit to grow like crazy. We ate fruits I didn’t even know existed! Our driver said the main dishes we MUST try while there were “jerk chicken” and “goat curry.” Everywhere you go there are signs advertising “jerk” which makes me think of beef jerky but it’s not that at all. Jerk is a seasoning they use on different meats. The jerk chicken was great and the goat was okay except all the bones.
Because we were at a small church in a little town each day during lunch our only option was to get supplies at a local store and bring with us. By supplies I mean bread, peanut butter and jelly. Yes, we had PB & Js five days in a row. Five days! I haven’t eaten that many PB & Js in the last 2 years. But no one else complained. It did, however, provide an opportunity to sample jellies not usually found in American stores. Among the unique flavors were guava, pineapple-coconut, papaya and mango.
It is true Jamaicans speaks English… but there’s still a small language barrier. Their version of English is not only difficult to understand because of the accent but they actually have other words we don’t use and ways of spelling common words that differs from ours. We all know Jamaicans say “Yaaman” (“yeah, man”). But how about “Wah gwan”? That’s slang for “how’s it going?” To which you reply, “Mi deh yah, yuh know,” meaning “I’m doing well.” I strained my ear listening when they spoke, especially the children. A few times I couldn’t understand them at all.
We partnered with a local church named Iterboreal Brethren of Christ. They have a very small concrete building with no play area. Thankfully, the primary school next door graciously allowed us to use their building, small yard, and bathrooms.
Our goal with CLC International is threefold: 1) reach people in other cultures with the gospel of Jesus Christ, 2) provide a cross-cultural ministry opportunity for our summer staff, and 3) equip native churches/missionaries with tools to reach their own children using the tools of camp ministry. It was encouraging to see all three at work on this trip.
Our staff taught Bible lessons each morning and afternoon. We storied the Bible from creation to Christ. Jamaicans love to say, “No problem.” It’s part of their culture to not want problems, but rather to relax and take it easy. I used this as a launch point to explain that there IS a problem called sin. The book of Romans teaches us that all people sin and the “wages of sin is death.” But praise be to God, the story doesn’t end there. Sin creates a debt that we are unable to pay but there was One who paid it for us through His own blood and death on the cross. Jesus is the solution to our sin problem. By turning FROM our sinful ways and turning TO faith in Jesus Christ we can have forgiveness and eternal life.
For some of our students, this was their first out-of-country experience. Hopefully, their perspective has been broadened, allowing them to see how other people live outside the borders of our own country. Many of our staff are involved in mission work and CLC International is one more opportunity.
Each day we gave a gift to the children. Over the course of the week those items included toothbrushes and toothpaste, clothing, toys, candy, and for the grand finale the best gift of all: a Bible. We gave summer camp devotional booklets to the leaders of the church to use when they have need and left our sports equipment with the school. Also, adults in the community were fitted with reading glasses (thanks Dr. Mark!).
I spoke with the host deacon on the last day asking if we had an open invitation to return. He enthusiastically said “yes.” We gave all our games and song lists to them and suggested they do a camp on their own during the summer. He and another youth leader had the confidence to say they would give it serious consideration.
In the end, it was another great adventure in doing our part of the Great Commission. Thank you to all those who gave of their time, prayers, and dollars to make it all possible! And thanks be to God for His faithfulness to honor those efforts.
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” –Ephesians 3:20-21