Seeing God in Jamaica: Learning Outside the Classroom
Lauren McNeese, Features Editor
Over the summer, I went to Jamaica on a missions trip with Hixson Presbyterian Church where we visited the infirmary. It was an experience in itself to be able to meet and talk to people who were lying on their deathbed yet still smiling to see visitors. They were still singing, dancing, praying, and telling us about their God, who was their refuge in times of need. One person we met was an old man named Davis; his eyes were the color of the ocean. When we talked with Davis, we could not help but wonder about the things which he had seen and the life that made his eyes sparkle with the vibrancy of life. Eight months later, I returned to Jamaica for my interim. Davis was still in the infirmary. He did not remember me, but I told him that I had been praying for him since our initial meeting over the summer. My return to Davis and his community in February allowed me to learn and re-evaluate several life lessons.
You Don’t Have to Understand Everything
On our last day in Jamaica, we had a half day of work and for the second half of the day we went to the beautiful YS Falls. There are rope swings on the side of the waterfall. To swing across, you hold on tight, lean into the rope, and then are suddenly twenty feet over the water. You let go and for a second you are simply falling through the air. My friend wanted to try the rope swing, but she kept asking a lot of questions about how it worked and when to let go. She kept saying that there were physics behind it that she didn't quite understand, but finally someone told her that she should just try it and she didn't have to understand everything. My prayer and hope would be that everyone would experience the liberating, freeing feeling of jumping off the side of a waterfall at least once in their life. For those of us without access to a literal waterfall, this kind of courage can be found in the mundane. What would it look like if we took the time in our everyday lives to let go of the busy schedule which we may find ourselves enslaved to, and to just exist?
We are Called to be More Like Children
On one of the days, we had the opportunity to host a field day for a local elementary school, which we held at the field on the campgrounds where we were staying. It was a truly joyful occasion to be able to spend a few hours loving on kids and showing them the love of Christ. We ran around with them, screaming our heads off, throwing water balloons like there was no tomorrow. The Bible says that we are to become like children, and I believe it to be a simple yet profound calling.
Listen to Others -- You could learn something
I have always felt convicted to listen to my peers out of respect. However, it may be greatly impactful how much you can learn from your peers. On one of the last nights, instead of having teachers speak and give a devotion as per usual, the students were given the chance to speak and share. It was later in the week, everyone was tired, and it was a challenge to listen to one another well. However, hearing new perspectives on shared experiences proved to be a worthwhile endeavor. One of the girls on the trip brought up an example from earlier that day: when the freshman and sophomores went to go find the kids that would be in their field day group, everyone kind of lost it for a second. “They are SOOOOOO precious!!!” we all cried in unison. When we entered the courtyard of their school, we were all simultaneously hit with how beautiful these children were. “And to think that God sees us, and we are His children, and he thinks that we are that beautiful, too,” she said. “But like if it came down to it, we wouldn’t be willing to die for them. But Jesus died for us. And we like, spit in his face everyday…” This is where she trailed off and I became aware of the fact that the majority of the room was teary-eyed, myself one of them. I had seen the kids and thought they were adorable, but had not likened them to ourselves. It was an impactful comparison, and I was thankful for the opportunity to think through it, made possible by the action of listening well.
Decisions May Have Unpredictable Outcomes
One of my cabin mates refused to wear sunscreen for the duration of the trip. Though she had brought it, she was adamant about getting burnt early in the trip so that later on she would tan. I thought that sounded like a good plan, so I followed suit. While she eventually got a beautiful tan, I got sun poisoning. We both had made the same decision, but one had a positive outcome while the other had a negative outcome. It was also a random, luck of the draw risk to take for who would get the tan and who would get the sun poisoning. This same principle could be applied to various situations in life. Many times, it may not be worth the risk when we choose to copy a peer’s goals.
God is Faithful
The other resident that I remembered from over the summer was named Kent. Kent had been in his early forties and was sitting on the porch of the infirmary when I had first met him. He said that he loved to wake up early and watch the sunrise; it reminded him of God’s steadfastness. I asked about Kent, because I couldn’t find him, and the workers said that he had hit his head the week before and passed away. Both Kent and Davis are pictures of God’s faithfulness. Davis, eight months after our initial meeting, was still smiling and showing the love of Christ to the other residents. Kent had died a strong believer and had gone on to a better place.