JAMAICA

Our legs moved slowly through the palpable heat as we ascended the slight hill to the modest meeting house for worship.  Slowly, because that is the only speed left after a full day of travel including a four hour layover and customs and three additional hours of relentless curves and holes in the road.  The night before proved quite restless as the anticipation of the week ahead took over my thoughts and won over my will to sleep.

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The service began slowly.  The Pierce family would fit in so well here.  Start times are  more a suggestion than a rule, and there is no one getting bent out of shape over lack of punctuality. We must have Jamaican roots.  There was an attempt to move the air around to provide some relief by way of an oscillating fan.  A few dogs sauntered in and stretched across the tile floor.  I was tired.

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The service officially began in song.  The minimal chatter was silenced with the melodious solitary tune of a woman, who I gauged to be in her seventies.  The sound was sweet and deliberate, and she was swiftly joined by the congregational choir that surrounded us. The only instrument was a tamborine. I attempted to join in, but a hard lump had formed in my vocal chords instead. The emotion of returning to this country nearly twenty years after my first visit, the experience of which impressed so heavily on me as to choose a career path, coupled with exhaustion and the realization that I was really going to be away from my kids for nine days was more than I could bare.

Worship had begun.

The next two and half hours were filled with song, exhortation, silence, prayer, teaching, a baby dedication (bawled my eyes out, y’all) and a direct charge from the pastor not to come down here and complain about this heat. Duly noted.  The closing hymn was Have Thine Own Way, Lord, which was also played at our wedding and since we were also celebrating our ten year anniversary – I was an out and out mess.  I was concerned I would cry the entire trip and accomplish nothing of any meaning because of my over sentimental self.

Have thine own way, Lord.  Yes, I thought. For this trip, and my life, have Thine own way.

Once I finally pulled it together, we began to distribute flyers (which really means we told everyone verbally) to advertise a sports camp we would hold there later in the week.  Walking through the community was such a reminder of how overly complicated we make things in our country.  Three boys (the age of mine) took turns climbing way up in the trees  for prized ginup or a mango.  We hover so, I thought.

We left the community to return to our homestead for the week.  We were staying in another meeting house in an urban area on the upper east side.  A slightly different connotation should be established for the Jamaican upper east side.  According to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, Jamaica’s per capita is about a quarter of that of the U.S. and the unemployment rate is almost double.  But what they seem to lack in economic prosperity, they more than make up for in cultural expression.  And besides all that, God seems to have heaped the majority of the world’s natural beauty right smack on the small island nation.  And we loved every molecule of it.  Whether it was stopping mid afternoon to dip our sweaty toes (yes, even your toes can sweat I discovered) in the ocean water or picking every mango within reach, we were enamored by the intensity of tropical beauty that surrounded us the entire week.

IMG_6643 IMG_6632 IMG_6657 IMG_6656Go ahead and die.

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Your breath is gone isn’t it? Taken away.IMG_6499 IMG_6452

In a stroke of brilliance on the part of our mission coordinator, we were more than visiting this site to offer our aid.  Yes we led a sports camp for 4 days.  But we led the sports camp together with our Jamaican Friends. The real mission experience was the coming together of two distinct cultures, unified by our Savior, to support one another in the Commission entrusted to us by the Savior Himself.  We bunked together, cooked together, cleaned together, rode in those vans together, relaxed together, worshiped together, ate together, and served together alongside our Jamaican Friends.  We had coffee together, ok?  We were able to experience the result of decades of partnership between the North Carolina and Jamaica Yearly Meetings.  It was so evident the investment that has been established there.  It is my humble opinion that any other mission experience is inferior.  When cultural, social, and economic boundaries are shattered, I think we get the closest to the Kingdom this side of heaven.

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I love this girl so much. My devo partner for the week.

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I don’t know how to explain how close we were without this picture: cards, corn rows, and cuddles.IMG_6570 IMG_6577

Miss Pauline.  My hero. IMG_6547

Morning praise. Jamaican Joys.IMG_6549 IMG_6502 IMG_6492 IMG_6480

The one with the football is at least 60.  She outran us all. 

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There are 26 people in this van.  There isn’t more love than that.IMG_6449

Worship on the riverbank.  I adore this circle.
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The charge I come home with is one that should ring familiar to my Christian brothers and sisters.  The mission field is everywhere and always.  No one is really exempt from cross cultural mission or local mission or familial mission. We step onto the mission field every morning when we step out of bed.  If you are a stay at home mom, your home is your mission field.  If you work in an office, the office is your mission field.  If you live in a community, your community is your mission field.  If you go to Wal-Mart for milk and fabric softener and you are standing a line that is 37 buggies long and the lady in front of you is looking despondent and helpless, that is your mission field for that moment.  And if you feel a tug on your heart for a region of the world that is far far away, that is your mission field.  Because sometimes your mission is the next country over and sometimes it’s the boy next door.  We are called to be ambassadors for Christ for as long as we are in this world to the very ends of the earth.  Everywhere and always.

That Christ’s mission may be paramount in my existence, my heart cry is this:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit ’till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.

Have Thine own way, Lord, that all my come to know you.

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8 responses to “JAMAICA

  1. Wow! What a blessing. Thank you for sharing your experience and for the reminder that we are all on the mission field.

  2. Thank you sharing the sport camps & all the Jamaica Love..I’ve been doing VBS down there with NCYM for 7 yrs..What another way to reach out through the camps to fullfill Gods mission & NCYM mission..

  3. Christi Anna, it is our desire that every person in NCYM of Friends read your wonderful story. Thanks for all you are doing for the Kingdom!!

    Billy and Viola Britt

  4. Thank you Christi Anna! So lovely and honest are your words and responses to the Church universal and our place in it. Brought back a LOT of memories of the year Ron and I taught high school at Happy Grove on the north coast, a school started in the early 1900s through Quaker mission work. When we were there, it had transitioned to a public school with over 900 students. We worshiped at Seaside Friends Meeting that year, with the sweet and oh so welcome sea breezes blowing through the large open windows. God bless your faithful ministry wherever and whenever, and all who joined together for the good work those nine days, from NCYM and JYM.

    Linda Selleck

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