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  • Writer's picturePam

Lessons From Jamaica With Love

When my brother emailed me out of the blue asking if I wanted to fill a last minute spot on a mission trip to Jamaica, my heart leaped! This was a mission trip through Mission Jamaica, one I had been on twice before with a previous church, but has been 13 years since my last trip. The thought of spending a week in Jamaica, not to mention serving with my brother and sister-in-law, sounded awesome! After much back and forth, I decided God had opened this door for me, and I should walk through. How thankful I am that I did! The week was filled with many great stories; however, I thought I would highlight just a few of the lessons I learned from my week in Jamaica.

  • God provides! One of my concerns was flying international alone. My brother lives in Memphis so we would have to meet in Jamaica. God provided for my first concern in two ways: 1) I found a direct flight from Minneapolis to Montego Bay, Jamaica when all other choices were an overnight stay (NOT an option) and 2) After my flight was booked I discovered that a church from Buffalo MN, serving on the same team as I would be, WAS GOING TO BE ON THE SAME FLIGHT! My brother contacted them saying to watch for me, and sure enough, when I arrived at the gate in MPLS, I was immediately approached and welcomed. God totally provided!

  • God's got us! I had the privilege of worshipping at Faith Chapel, the church that is located close to Westhaven Orphanage, an orphanage for kids with disabilities, and would be one of the options where some would serve during the week. Before going up to worship, we stopped at Westhaven to help prepare some of the kids for worship too. I had served at Westhaven when I was there before, and the memories flooded back. I was surprised at how many of the kids I remembered! We were instantly greeted by several kids who love to hug and hold your hand! It can be overwhelming if you’re not sure what to expect. However, God speaks so clearly through them! One new friend I met, who is going through some very difficult circumstances, shared that he prayed for God to speak to him on the way to church. When he got off the bus, instantly a young boy ran up, grabbed him around his waist, hugged him, and wouldn’t let go. Brought to tears, my new friend knew that God was telling him “I’ve got you!”. Wow! A great start to the week!



  • Better together - We brought the children up the hill to Faith Chapel. Some in wheelchairs, some holding our hands, and some running up on their own. It was a beautiful picture watching everyone. Teamwork started here as we had to lift wheelchairs up the stairs to get them into the church. The kids were so excited to go to worship. Something they can’t do when groups like us aren’t there to help. God showed me how going to worship can easily be taken for granted.

  • Giving God our best - Faith Chapel was amazing! We were welcomed with open arms! Looking around at the people, they were dressed in their Sunday best! The women all wore hats and dresses. The men wore shirts and ties. They do this as a sign of respect and giving God their best. Do I think that God requires us to wear our best clothes to worship? No. But could wearing our best better prepare our hearts for entering into a place to worship our Creator? Hmmm…

  • Worship is ALIVE!!! - What a joy to worship with them! They are notintimidated by those around them. If they feel the Spirit of God in them, they rejoice! They sing at the top of their lungs (may or may not be “in key”) and they don’t care what those around them are doing or thinking! In all the worship that I saw/felt, my thought was, “I believe this is closer to what heaven will be like.” Another thought was “What would they think if they came to worship with us”?

  • One in Christ - They were so very welcoming. Here comes a group of 15 people from a different race and country to join them in worship, and they welcomed us with open arms! Literally – handshakes and hugs from strangers yet felt like home. Again, my thought was, “This is what heaven will be like!” Though we are so different in many ways, we are One in Christ!

  • Generosity - During the week I mainly worked on what they call a J’bode home, a home which is basically a Habitat for Humanity house in Jamaica. We were building it for a single mother and her 3 children. This mother has a brother that has AIDS, and in Jamaica there is a belief that if you have sex with a virgin, you will be cured from the disease. Her brother tried to have sex with her daughter and she stopped him. He was so angry with her that he burned her house down and she lost everything. She doesn’t associate with her family, yet another family welcomed her into theirs and offered her this plot of land for the J’bode house to be built on. What a generous gift, bringing her into their family!



  • Thankful for the small things - This house we were building was on top of a mountain, with roads that are narrow, gravel, and full of potholes! Because of that we had to carry all our supplies up to the site (siding, 2×4’s, paint, tools) and it was brutal! It’sso easy to take our roadways for granted, potholes and all!

  • Grace is beautiful! - My job was mainly painting. I was painting the siding which was leaning on tree branches. It was also on an incline and gravel. I was trying to flip the board over when my foot slipped on the gravel and down I went, board and all. Some of the women in the community were helping us and I was so embarrassed and worried that I had broken the board (which I hadn’t). They were so filled with love and grace for me – asking if I was okay. They made me feel so good when they said “No problem! We’ve all made mistakes!” helped me up, and continued on. It was a lesson where I appreciated the grace from others in my embarrassment!

  • Smiles say more than words! One relationship that I really enjoyed was with her 15 year old son. It started by him asking me later on day that I fell, if I was the one who had fallen. He had a smile on his face and I said “Why, yes – are you laughing at me!?” joking with him. He quickly said no, yet was the beginning of several conversations that I had with him that week. Later he was watching me paint on a ladder an area where it was hard for me to reach. I looked down at him and could see he wanted to give it a try. I asked him if he wanted to paint, and with a big smile over his face, up the ladder he went. He loved it! When he got down he looked at me, smiled, and gave me a high five! That was where he took my heart.

  • God knows our dreams! This sweet young man has much to carry. He is the oldest male and feels a responsibility to his family. We talked about what he had to do to help, talked about school, and I asked what he enjoyed doing. He told me he loved cooking! He makes chicken stew (which the community served us every day), carrot cakes, and more, using ingredients from the land. His dream was to go to school to become a chef, and work at one of the hotels in the area. I encouraged him as best I could, that if he worked hard and did his best, it could happen. I pray that someday his dream will come true. The last day, when I had to say goodbye, I gave him a hug and big tears rolled down his cheeks. I would have taken him home right then and there! After a long hug, we still couldn’t let go and had our arms over each of our shoulders. I thank God for my time with him. He will forever be etched in my heart and mind. I hope to always remember pray for him in the years to come, for our God to protect him, and that He leads him to his dream of being a chef.

  • It takes a village - Each day when we were working at the site the area women, children, and some men would come and watch. When we arrived at the base of where we needed to walk there was a group of young children (4 – 6 year olds) that would chant “white people, white people!” as they were so excited we were coming! They were not shy and would hug us, play with us, and just enjoyed playing with each other. It was interesting to watch the dynamics. You really couldn’t tell whose kids belonged to who. There were a grandmothers, mothers, nieces/sisters – a group effort where they all took their turn. And they didn’t hover over the kids, but letting them be kids. It was refreshing to watch.

We also had opportunities at the end of the day to do tourist things. What really stood out to me is that people of Jamaica are outside all day long, being in community. It seems the only reason they are inside is to sleep. The sense of community is strong and one that I feel is slipping away for us in the States. They know everyone – we hardly know our neighbor.

  • Hospitality - Each day they made us chicken stew as a thank you. They cook on an open pot outside, using ingredients from the land around them. Saw both men and women cooking. They didn’t have much and they were so kind to feed all 12 of us every day. And it was delicious!

  • Gratitude - We had a closing ceremony for the family when the J’bode house was completed. I have neglected to tell you that this house is 12’x16’ room with painted stud walls, a cement floor, and a metal roof, probably a fraction of the size of most of our garages, and the look of thankfulness, gratitude, and joy on this mother’s face you would have thought it was a castle (the view is unbelievable!)! She is thankful for this treasure yet it has no bathroom, kitchen, nothing…yet they are happy. I couldn’t help but think of all the things I think I “need” and ask God for. Enough said.

  • Brothers - how can someone who 50 years ago knew exactly the button to push to get me mad is someone today that I can call one of my dearest friends. One of the things I am most thankful for in this trip was connecting with my brother again. I cherish the honest conversations we had and am so thankful for our time together. I am equally as thankful for rooming with my sister-in-law and getting to have this shared experience with her as well. I am so thankful and blessed by the family that God chose for me!

There are so many more memories I could share. Thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts with you. The biggest message implanted on my heart was how awesome our God is! He cares for each one of us, regardless of where we are on this planet. He provides, teaches, molds, and stretches us into who He has created us to be. He knows the very number of hairs on each of our heads, and loves us just the way we are! How blessed are we to serve such an amazing God!

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