jamaica

How can I express the best week of my life in words? No words can do justice to the transformation, beauty, and power of the week I spent in Jamaica, but I’m going to try. God is so good.

First and foremost, I just want to say that Jamaica is the most beautiful country in every single way. The mountains and the ocean are breathtaking, and I think I took hundreds of pictures but not a single one did it justice. The people are just so incredible in their faith, and they give thanks and find joy in everything. The Lord is so present there, and every Jamaican I had the pleasure of interacting with was absolutely convinced of the love of God.

Here’s a little weekly recap so you know exactly what I did:

FRIDAY –> Friday was just a travel day. I was a little shocked that all 90 of us made it to Jamaica without any lost luggage. After our flight landed in Kingston around 8, we had a 2.5 hour bus ride to the Casa Maria Hotel where we were staying. Lots of introductions were made, games were played, and songs were sung. We arrived at the Casa around midnight, got our room assignments, and I went to sleep with the four best Jamaica roomies that a girl could ask for.

SATURDAY –> On Saturday, we had a bright and early wake up call, ate the best breakfast at the Casa and went to a local church to worship and pray for our week. We then walked out a beach/pier area and took pictures. We had three options for lunch – Chicken Hut, KFC, or Juici Patties. I was coerced into eating at Juici Patties, and it was the strangest meat-filled hot pocket/pop tart/empanada I’ve ever seen, but I did it just to say I did. We then went to an infirmary in a nearby town which is basically a group home for the elderly, disabled, or forgotten. It was really hard to see the state of poverty that these people are living in, but they are so revived by God’s love, and that was beautiful to see. I talked to a lady named Janet who sang lots of hymns to us, and told us the story of how she became paralyzed giving birth to her son, and we read Bible passages to her which she could recite by heart. All she wanted was someone who would listen and she could talk to, and I would have stayed with her all day long if it brought her peace and joy.

SUNDAY –> On Sunday, we got the experience of going to Jamaican church. Everyone there was so welcoming and thankful, and I truly got to see how big a role their faith plays in their lives. The music they sang was so lively, and the pastor talked about how God will bring anyone out of any struggle they may have. It was incredible to see, and I hope I get to do something similar again one day. We spent the rest of the day at the Casa just relaxing, swimming, and building community. I think this day was super important for us to get to know each other so that we could work more cohesively as a group to serve the people.

MONDAY –> Monday was our first day of work sites which was exciting! We were divided up into a bunch of different work sites, and I went to a church. We prepped and painted the outside and I learned how to build a house of cinderblocks. We laid around 150 cinderblocks and we reached a point where I couldn’t lift the blocks high enough to get them over the scaffolding. It was really interesting to talk to the pastor of the church and the men working on it and hear their stories. Someone also went to a farm and cut down sugarcane for us to eat which was literally so cool.

TUESDAY –> On Tuesday, I got to go to a school and see kiddos which was so exciting!!!!!! We painted classrooms according to colors they picked out and they even went a little crazy when they wanted to help, and they painted all the desks and chairs. They were all just so happy that we were there to play with them and love on them. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate my hair being touched, but I let them play with it because I just couldn’t deny them. I also want to give a birthday shoutout to Daren who turned 11 on the 18th!! He had a Flash themed birthday party and he wanted a blue bike that he could ride to school.

WEDNESDAY –> This was our last day of work sites which was sad, but I made sure to put in every last bit of effort I could. I went to a new work site that our team hadn’t been to yet. We were building the foundation for a new church for youth of Jamaica to go to and worship and build community with each other. This was probably the heaviest labor day because we were mixing concrete, moving buckets, and pouring it into the foundation. We also got to walk out to the ocean and see the most beautiful view ever (photo below). This church also had bunnies and chickens for the kids to learn how to take care of and nurture so that they could sell the animals to raise money for the church which I thought was so cool.

THURSDAY –> This is the day where all four teams meet up in Ocho Rios. We visited the market where I was persuaded to buy more bracelets than I know what to do with, ate gourmet food at Burger King, and climbed up Dunn’s River Falls which was gorgeous. We got back to the Casa around four, exhausted but determined to make the most of our last few hours together. There’s this thing we do called “no sleep till America” which is pretty self-explanatory, so I pulled my second all-nighter ever (shout out to Dance Marathon for the first) if you consider going to sleep at 6AM for the entire bus and plane ride an all-nighter.

FRIDAY –> Friday is definitely the saddest day of the trip because we have to say goodbye to the place we’ve grown to love so much and the people we call family even though we’ve only known each other for a week. The bus and plane ride were silent aside from a few snores, and saying goodbye to everyone at the airport was heartbreaking even though we were all going back to the same place.

It’s taken me so long to get this blog post up because it’s really taken me a long time to process and reflect on Jamaica. I learned so much and grew so much that it’s difficult to put in words.

I think my heart grew three sizes in Jamaica. I have such a heart for the Jamaican people and everyone I went on this trip with. I was worried that this trip wouldn’t live up to the hype that everyone was giving it, but boy did God meet and exceed every expectation I could’ve had. I watched a woman who has been paralyzed for 20 years sing about the goodness of God. I let dozens of kids play with my hair, and if you know me, you know I hate my hair being touched, but it brought them such joy. I talked to a youth pastor who is starting a ministry for teens and worked with my team to make a month’s worth of work into a few hours for the contractors building the facility. I learned how to lay cinderblocks for a kitchen extension at a church and was able to give the men working a chance to sit down and rest for a few minutes. All of these things would be more than enough to make a worthwhile trip, but God does not like being put in a box, so He did more than I could have ever imagined.

I really struggled at times with feeling guilty for being there and I even questioned going in the first place. If these people were already so, so strong in their faith and they already know and love God completely, what could I do or say that would help them spiritually? I also wondered if I was qualified to do this work because there are surely people who know more Bible verses than I do and can mix more concrete than I can. It made me really think about why I was there and if my own selfish desire to know God and find community were preventing me from serving and loving the Jamaican people as best as I could or someone else could. It took until about Thursday that I realized that we were there to stand in solidarity with these people. Anyone can send thoughts and prayers and maybe donate $5 to charity, but if we want to emulate the love of Jesus, we have to go into the world and show that we aren’t these detached, rich, white Americans who don’t care about or ignore the issues going on in the rest of the world. Jesus did this and He asked us to continue this work. That justified the entire trip, but I still needed to know that I specifically had a purpose there and I wasn’t a burden to the trip or the people of Jamaica. One of my small group leaders said that God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called. I sure felt called, so I realized that I have gifts that God gave me that would be significant and I should not feel guilty or underqualified.

This was really a struggle for me the entire trip and I debated making this post because I didn’t want anyone to think I was exploiting the poverty of the Jamaican people for more Instagram likes or a pat on the back. My first priority was to go and serve the love of God and show His love in any and every way that I can. I am not posting this to feel good about myself or so that everyone will read and think I’m such an amazing person. Although encouraging, I don’t want comments telling me how great I am. I’m posting this so that you can also hear about the amazing things our God did, does, and forever will do, and so that you may experience and share that, too. Mission work shouldn’t be an amazing thing to do. It should be something we do all the time whether it be an international mission trip or smiling to someone in the hallway. I realized in Jamaica that I should do this more often and whenever I can until poverty doesn’t exist and everyone knows about the goodness of our God.

I realized about halfway through the week that I didn’t want to and I didn’t know how to go back to living my life in Athens the same was as I had been. Not that my life was terrible, it was just unfulfilling. I felt more at home and at peace in Jamaica than I ever have in Athens. Every single person was so loving and intentional that it was impossible to ever feel lonely or unloved, and I saw God working in every single one of them. I also have never felt such freedom through surrender than I did in Jamaica. The word surrender hadn’t even crossed my mind until it was a word in a song one night during worship and I realized that surrender was exactly what I needed to do. Now that I’m back in Athens, I want to relive all these emotions every single day. I want to stay close to the people I met in Jamaica and grow closer to the friends I have here. I want to serve the community of Athens because you don’t have to fly to a third-world country to find poverty, it’s right here in our backyard. I want to journal and read the Bible more because that’s something I thought was a chore and didn’t have any desire to do before Jamaica. I also want to change myself for the better – I want to be more authentic because I was 100% myself in Jamaica and that’s something I haven’t done in a while. Not that I’ve been putting on a show of a fake version of me, but I feel like I truly found myself and was the happiest I’ve ever been in Jamaica. I want to be more vulnerable and more kind and more joyful and I want everyone around me to know the goodness of God in the way that I live my life.

I want to encourage everyone to go on a mission trip because it’s not something you can know by just reading about it or talking about it – you need to truly experience a mission trip and then you will know how no words are enough to describe it. I went to hopefully somehow change the lives of others, but I came back realizing that they had changed my life.

Here’s a few shoutouts to people that really deserve all my love and appreciation

  1. Thank you to the best small group & small group leaders for loving me exactly as I am and pushing me to be the best version of myself possible. I adore all of you, and you are all so special and loved and worthy – our group wouldn’t be complete if just one of you were missing. I’d do so much to have another post-worship small group sesh.
  2. Thank you to everyone on the Port Maria trip for being so intentional and loving and not hesitating to be a friend. The light of Christ shines so bright in every single one of you, and seeing you and saying hi on the way to class or in the dining hall makes my entire day.
  3. Thank you to God for being just so unbelievably good.
  4. Shoutout to Laura and Mike, the literal best parents a gal could ask for, and everyone who bought a canvas or donated to my trip to help me fundraise because I quite literally could not have gone without all of you!

This was quite a lengthy post and I hope it’s worth the read. Also, shoutout to all my mom’s Facebook friends who are probably 99% of my readers. I hope you all have a fantastic week!!!!

Love, ~E

P.S. – I know some people don’t support short-term mission trips for a variety of reasons, so if you are one of those people, I’d love to talk to you about it!!!

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