When Terry Fry shared what Isaiah68 does in Jamaica in February at church, Ben looked at me and said “this is right up your alley. I knew it would be.” I was basically a puddle on the floor of the chapel when he got done talking. Three of the ministries that I hold closest are Vacation Bible Schools (especially with lower income families), ministry to pastors and their wives, and special needs children. Terry mentioned all of these that Sunday morning. I prayed and really didn’t think there was a way for me to go. I’m a mom, my husband is in seminary, I’m a mom, and it’s just expensive. But I continued to pray. At the informational meeting, I told Terry, Jan, and Stephanie that I really wanted to go, but I really didn’t see how it would happen. Terry said “Just pray. See what happens and pray.” The following week was a lot to handle for us. We needed a new tire, I found out if I was going to go, I needed to have my passport expedited, and my great uncle, who always helped financially on every short-term mission trip I went on passed away at the age of 99. With the passing of Uncle Horace, I was just encouraged more to pray for the Lord to provide, as well as give wholeheartedly in everything I was doing. With a new tire and more travel coming with my uncle’s funeral, I knew we needed to receive a gift. I prayed that God would send us $300 if I was supposed to go to Jamaica. This would cover the tire and I could apply for my passport before we left for the funeral. That afternoon, an envelope was in our mailbox from the lawyers who closed on our house in Tennessee a year and a half ago. I opened it wondering if we owed them some money or if it was a tax document. It was a check. For $601. I cried and praised God for providing for me. I knew this was Him telling me to commit to going and not to worry about how He would provide for everything.
That all happened in late April. Between then and the trip, I raised more support, gathered people to pray for my ministry there, as well as for my family. I like a good plan, and I really didn’t know much of what we would be doing in Jamaica besides what Terry had shared that Sunday morning. I knew there was another team coming with us and that I could just jump in and help them with VBS. All right! Ben and I drove to Oklahoma to visit some family the week before we left. I had selfishly prayed that God would provide a pair of Chacos (water shoes) for me to take with me and that I would have cash to take for food and spending. While we were visiting, my mother-in-law said “what size shoes do you wear? I have a pair of Chacos I haven’t worn in years and wondered if you could use them for your trip?” Gasp. YES! That’d be great! They were my size. Then, as we were leaving his aunt’s house, she gave me an envelope and said “if your trip is paid for, use it for whatever else you need.” Cash for spending money. The Lord hears us when we ask.
Ben and I (and the boys and the dogs) were about 3.5 hours outside of OKC when our car started jumping. Thankfully, we were at an exit. Ben pulled off and found a gas station. The power steering stopped working, he couldn’t accelerate, and we realized we couldn’t drive it anymore before having it looked at. Thankfully, there was a mechanic just under I-40 who worked us in and found a new alternator for us. Thankfully, we had moved our trip up a day so that I had a day to get ready to go to Jamaica, and thankfully, my kids had an iPad they could watch a movie on. We brought the dogs and all into the mechanic’s office, and four hours later were on the road again. My parents met us in a Starbucks parking lot with coffee in hand at 10:00pm. I said to my mom “I’ve never been more happy to see you!” She responded with “I know God has big plans for this week because Satan is trying to do everything he can to discourage you. Don’t let him! You’ve got this and will be amazing!” Insert tears of thanksgiving here from both of us. Again, the Lord always provides for us.
We got to Jamaica on Saturday and were pretty laid back. Sunday, Terry and Donnie (the other half of ISA68) shared at Wheeler Field Church (where I did a couple of days of VBS) and Terry talked about how God hears us when we ask. That He wants us to ask. That we have not because we ask not. It was such a good reminder of God’s provision. On Monday and Tuesday, five others and I headed to Wheeler Field not really knowing how many kids we would have. 80 kids showed up. I was able to tell them several parables and share with them that “When we’re lonely-JESUS RESCUES!” (this was the theme for VBS). We played games, blew bubbles, made a craft with them, sang old VBS songs, and held a bunch of sweaty kids who need a Savior just like I do. We did this in the morning and the afternoon on Monday and Tuesday, as well as on Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Each day, there was a kid who would stand out to me. One boy told me he wished that I was his momma. Another tried to give me his craft that we had worked on together as a gesture of thanks. It was all that he had to give. Instead of taking it, we took a picture together so he could remember that God loves him and wants to rescue him, but I could remember to pray for him.
So many of these families lived in some of the worst poverty I’ve ever seen. Walls made of sheet metal, dirt floors, no doors or just a swinging piece of metal. At one point, I had about 4-5 children sitting in my lap and wanted to make room for one more. They were so loving and took such good care of all of their friends.
On Wednesday, we went on a few visitations to some moms and children who ISA68 helps. All of the children have Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy. My background is Special Ed, so it was such a joy to be able to encourage these mommas; that they are good moms, that they’re taking good care of their sweet kids, and to talk to and hold some of these kiddos. I continue to pray for community for all of these parents. It’s a different culture in Jamaica and so much of the burden to care for the family comes from the mom. These moms take care of their yards and make the little houses that they have suitable for their children, even when it’s hard. They also welcomed about 25 people into their home unannounced and shared their lives with us. What an encouragement to live in this kind of hospitality.
There were also three Jamaicans who ISA68 works with. These ladies are in their 40s and 60s. They’ve been ministering to the least of these for 20-30 years and are still doing VBS and visiting families, even when there isn’t a team there. I was so encouraged by these women. They are ministering in their backyard. They’re making an impact and getting to know people who might not have ever heard the Gospel if not for them. They’re being consistent. I also want to be like them when I grow up and minister in my backyard, too.
The last full day I was there, I was able to go with Terry, Richard, and Tom, along with their drivers, to work at Pastor Courtney’s house. This pastor is the go-to guy in this area in Jamaica. He lives down the street from Wheeler Field, so I was able to see some of the same kids from VBS. The men had rebuilt the back wall to his house. Their house is not big. It has a dirt floor, the stove is on the front porch, the kitchen is on a sheet of plywood in the front yard. They don’t have running water or electricity. Whenever it rained, the rainwater would rush into Courtney’s house and basically take some of the floor with it. The men were able to reconstruct the back wall and I was helping mix concrete that day to pour the foundation. This wasn’t my first rodeo. I had done this previously in Nicaragua several times. And I really enjoy it. So, we started mixing and by lunchtime, we were done. While we were there, I was able to talk to Courtney’s wife, Shereen. They have three children, have been married a little longer than Ben and I have and do ministry together so well. I hope that in my time with her, I was able to encourage her, that they are doing a good work there. That people trust them and that they’re living in community so well together. People were all over their front yard and they didn’t tell anyone to leave. They welcomed everyone with grace and even cut three amazing pineapples for us. Courtney doesn’t get a salary from a church, but they raise pigs and sell them. They live off of the land, and they ask God to provide for them. Courtney’s leg needs surgery and he really needs to have it in the states. Would you pray that God would provide a way for that to happen? I know it’s possible.
From the beginning to the end of my trip, this was the theme. You have not because you ask not. The Lord loves to give good gifts to His children. When God wants you in a place, He will make it happen one way or another. I was able to do the three things Terry had mentioned that Sunday morning back in February. It’s amazing to me that God was that into the details of the trip, even though I know I shouldn’t be surprised. But we always are surprised when the Lord answers us in the way we are praying. He has raised dead people back to life. I know that He can use me on for His glory. If you’ve ever questioned if you should go to Jamaica with Terry, the answer is yes, GO! I can’t describe it on paper. The Jamaicans know how to do life together and do it well.