This has been a tough year for me juggling with family, ministry and school. Many may be asking, “Why didn’t I see anything posted on Chosen 300’s website about a mission trip to Jamaica?” Well, it’s because mission trips take a lot out of you when it comes to initiating the venture, planning assignment, implementing the program, as well as leading and keeping watch over my team. Essentially, I didn’t need to put more on myself than what I could handle. However, while West Moreland is a fairly new community in which we are serving, there were requests for me to come and help guide the program towards 100% compliance. With that being said, I want to say thank you to all of those who support our mission programs around the world. It is making a tremendous difference.
While I was initially traveling alone, Carrie Glover (West Philly site manager) decided to come along. I want to say thank you to Kristen Ware (Marketing director) for covering the mission site while Carrie is away. We arrived in Montego Bay, Jamaica and it was 81 degrees and sunny. As we exited the airport, Keisha and Andre and their two children who are members of one of our partnership churches in the US (First African Baptist Church of Sharon Hill, PA) greeted us. While the couple waited for our flight to land, they met a lady native from Jamaica who lived in the US. She began to share the program of Chosen 300 and our mission work around the world. I had the opportunity to talk with this woman. She is looking forward to visiting our mission when she returns to the US.
My goal when arriving was to meet with the pastor who we partner with in West Moreland Jamaica. However, he was at another parish and mentioned that he would need to meet me later in the evening. I’ll need to stop right here to say, “Jamaica definitely does not use the concept that says, “Time is of essence.” There is no time mentioned when holding a conversation which can be very challenging for Americans. I needed to emphasize to Pastor Bailey that I needed to know around about when he was arriving so I would make sure we were available in case the family wanted to take us to dinner etc. He finally gave me the hour between 9 and 9:30pm. Meanwhile, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up a few things and later went to a Jamaican fast food restaurant that reminded me of the “Popeyes” setup. They sold scrimp patties, beef patties, vegetarian patties, sweet bread, etc. Of course, I had both scrimp and vegetarian patties. Sounds like a lot? Well it was; I was hungry and ate all of it too. As we exited the store, there was a man outside begging for money. If anyone knows our story of how this ministry got started, you understand me when I say this. This man reminded me of Mr. Jones. I don’t usually give out money, but I felt the need to pass him the Jamaican change in my purse. I didn’t know how much the change was worth, but I had a mental thought in my mind of handing him over 40 cents. I guess I wanted to capture that moment again. I’m sure the change was next to nothing since the foreign exchange rate is 86:1 (every US $ is equivalent to 86 Jamaican dollars). As we walked a little further, there was an elderly woman who asked if we had 50 dollars. Of course, I’m thinking, “$50!!...that’s a lot of money lady!!” The woman was actually asking for change. Keisha had 50 Jamaican dollars and gave it to the woman with no problem. As I looked a little further, I began to notice homeless people all around and thought, “We will always be fighting this poverty epidemic throughout the world, but Lord whatever your will is for me to be of service to your people I’m willing to go.”
As we headed to West Moreland, we traveled through Negril. Andre and Keisha stopped to see their relatives, and then parked the car so that we could walk across the road to the amazing white sand beach. I kicked off my shoes, lifted up my long skirt to knee high and splashed my feet in the water. There were people walking the beach selling everything from wrist bands to fruit, to Aloe plants. Of course, knowing we were Americans, they wanted to charge us for our arms and legs. Thank goodness for Keisha who negotiated the prices down to almost nothing; we were like live bait ready to be eaten. I bought a piece of aloe plant and put it on my face and hands. I was told that it was ok to eat too. I drank some of it and almost puked. I couldn’t believe how disgusting it tasted, but I said to myself, “I’m going to have beautiful skin by the morning.”
We were waiting to hear from the person who purchased the food named Avril Samuel who is from the church New Hope where we hold the food program. She finally called and we were able to meet her at the market to purchase the food for the program tomorrow. When we got there, Avril had already started making her purchases. I noticed the cost of the food at this store was much cheaper than where they purchased last month. I was able to talk to the owner about the program and our purpose for buying the food. She agreed to give us 100 bags for free to bag the food. This will help to save on cost for the program since the food that is purchased is being spent to the max. Just a note: When funds are wired to the country, 80% of the funds are to be utilized for purchasing food and the other 20% is to be used for administration cost. With this said, the church in Jamaica is spending just about everything on food, so they are coming out of pocket for gas, bags, paper, etc. My goal is to make sure the program isn’t a burden on the church. At this time, I am working on this hiccup.
I got to the house and Marva who is Keisha’s Aunt was preparing food for us. When the food was done, I bit into the cabbage, rice and fish and fell in love! I have never tastes Caribbean cooking like this before. I asked Marva if I could take her home with me and she said yes…! This woman put her foot in this food (figuratively speaking); it was absolutely delicious!
Well, the hour was getting late and near the time of Pastor Bailey to come and meet with me. However, that never happened. He arrived back in the area around 10:00pm and by this time I fell asleep in all my clothing. His plan is to meet me in the morning.
Sunday, July 21, 2012 2:13am (3:13US) Blogging for Saturday, July 20, 2012
It’s a brand new morning and I woke up to find myself still in my clothing. The last thing I remember is lying down in my room, assuming to be awakened when the pastor arrived, but since that didn’t happen; I ended up sleeping through the night. I was wide awake after taking a cold bath, which makes me more appreciative of being an American. Yes, there are parts of Jamaica that are well-to-do, but since this is a mission trip, I stayed in a not so well-to-do rural community in Jamaica. Keisha came to our room to find Carrie and I wide awake and said, “What are you all doing up so early in the morning? This is Jamaica, we should still be sleeping.” We began talking about her struggles growing up in the community of West Moreland where we were staying. She stressed to me the need and how she spent over 15 years sending money and shipping clothes and food to her family. As she talked about the comments of some of the family members as they told her how they didn’t know what they would do if she were not there to support them, the tears began rolling down her face. I could feel her heart for her people and saw how she went above and beyond the call of duty. Yet, she felt it to be her calling from God, which made her destined to do whatever she could to make a difference.
Not long after, Pastor Leroy Bailey of the New Hope Seventh Day Adventist church arrived to finally have our meeting. We discussed the process in which the program was run. I later attended the service which took place from sunrise to sunset. The church did this in two services and a meal in between. I thought it would be a bit overwhelming, but it was youth Sunday, making it more interesting to watch the children and young adults enjoy learning about the Lord. By the end of the afternoon service, it was announced that the food program would be given to certain individuals since there were so many people. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and quickly approached one of the church staff to let them know that serving selected individuals was not the vision of Chosen 300 and that our goal is to allow anyone who would come, let them receive food. The announcement was adjusted and we knew that there would probably not be enough food. So in between services, we took another trip to the market to buy another $162 worth of food (13960.00 Jam) totaling $357.00.
We were hungry and we knew we would be eating until that evening, so food was definitely on our agenda. We also stopped at a cart that sold roasted corn; I was eager to try it. You would have thought I learned my lesson from tasting the Aloe plant. It wasn’t really that good to me, but I was told that the corn was roasted a little too long. I was hungry, so I ate the corn anyway along with my fish sandwich and I was ready to go.
We headed back to the church where they were holding Bible studies. During that time, I had the chance to talk to the leaders in the outhouse of the church about minimizing the portions of food so that we can make sure that everyone gets food. It was close to sunset (6:45pm) and I spoke for 15 minutes to the congregation about Chosen 300 and our purpose of our program. The people were very receptive and eager to receive food. I asked that they would form one single filed line so that we could have order. Meanwhile, Pastor Bailey had not yet arrived with the forms, which was a major concern since this is part of the accountability of the program to reference the people signing and receiving food. I must admit, I was a little frustrated since I the food program only happens once a month and all forms should have been printed and available for the people to sign. I had to make a quick decision to have the people sign on a blank sheet of paper and when the forms arrived the coordinator would copy the names on the original form and sign-off on it.
The people were so excited to receive food. They each brought an empty bottle so they could receive oil. It was interesting what bottles were presented to fill up with oil. There were bottles for milk, soda, water, beer, wine, vodka and more. I could still smell the alcohol and thought, “This should be an interesting taste when blending this with cooking oil.” I could figure out how people would have the audacity to bring such a bottle to the church and later found out many found bottles on the road and in the trash cans on their way to the church. Many could care less what kind of bottles they were presenting. Their goal was to get rice, flour, oil, fish, and sugar to their family. All together, there were 90 families that were served (4 per family) which totaled to about 360 who were fed.
Pastor Bailey never showed and I was a bit unhappy. This pastor has about 6 churches and can’t possibly make it to all of them in one day, but in the interest of the program, I felt it necessary to make accommodations. It was now after 8:00pm. Since I didn’t receive a direct call from the pastor, I decided to give him a call to find out what happened. I quickly realized that he was doing too much and needed to make some delegations. I have established that Monday, we will be meeting with the pastor and a few of those in leadership from the church. Overall, it was a long but prosperous day.