Our journey from the United States to the faraway island of Jamaica began at 2:45 in the morning. We were awoken by the loud music of an alarm blaring, startling us from peaceful sleep. We climbed into the car of our friend, Sandy, who was the leader of our group. Her husband drove us to the church, after stopping to pick up one more person. Once everyone was there and the van was loaded with the piles of luggage everyone had, we circled up to pray.
Climbing into the van, we were off for the airport. Mom and I climbed on a plane headed for Dallas, Texas. The flight was short and hardly felt like flying. It was 6am and those around us that had window seats had closed their windows. It was dark and we were quiet.
After landing in Dallas, we headed to our next gate. After locating where we were headed, we sat at some tables and got some breakfast and coffee and played a card game while waiting for the next group to arrive in Dallas. Once they did, we boarded our plane for Montego Bay, Jamaica and sat through a four hour flight. When we neared our destination, custom cards were passed out. It was easy for me, since my legal guardian (aka my mom) was their and could add me to hers.
The terminal we landed in was very bare and set a precedent for the rest of our expectations. We took a stop at the restroom, which was a little scary. In fact, after all of the bathroom experiences we had there, I don't know if I will ever view public restrooms the same way. The ones in the states are much better. Imagine the worst restroom you have been to in the states. That is what most of them are like in Jamaica, except perhaps at resorts.
Going through customs, it felt as if we were being interrogated. We had to have an abundance of information, and apparently we were not qualified to answer. We asked our leader for where we were staying, relayed the information, and yet still had to go get her and bring her over to where we were being checked in.
It was a huge sigh of relief to get through and head on to retrieve our luggage. Getting out of the airport, we had to get all of our bags checked since we had brought things to give to the kids. But once we did, we went straightaway out of the airport onto the street.
We were soon to meet Wayne, our bus driver. He has been apart of Jamaica VBS for a few years now, after handing his business card to Sandy a few years back. He took us to exchange our money and then get some supper at the Pork Pit. We had Jerk Pork or Chicken and 'rice and peas' (Actually, the peas are beans, but that is still what it is called!) Our meal together cost us nearly $1,000. Their currency is about 84 Jamaican dollars for 1 US dollar.
After dinner (where we saw a huge tree, lizard and large colorful beetle) we climbed into the car. On the way to where we were staying, kids lined the streets to sell fruit and other various things to earn money. This is a reality in their culture. Some boys who were selling some gnips (which are similar to grapes, with a hard skin and larger pit). They would lean against the bus, and one of the boys blew me kisses. It was funny to me, yet I am sure he thought my amusement would cause me to buy some from him. Laughing, I smiled as our bus lurched forward.
We then headed to our 'resort'. When I say resort, it is not what you expect. Hard beds, slightly scary chain fences with locks to keep people out of your room, and bathrooms that could be nicer. But, this was nicer and we were grateful, even if it was not what we were expecting.
I remember when we were exchanging money, a lady with her son was asking us what we were doing in Jamaica. We were telling her about our mission trip and she asked what Church we were apart of. We shared that we were nondenominational, Christian and she lit up with a huge smile and said "We both serve the same Lord God."
After our full day, we were exhausted and fell into bed at 8:30pm. We slept well, awaiting the next day.
I remember my excitement with being there. It was so new and different and I was so excited to experience as much as I could while there. One thing I wrote while journaling was, 'I can't wait to meet the kids!'
Indeed we are very blessed here in the states and you don't even realize just how much until you are submerged even in the best of another culture. On the coast there were many nice resorts, which may be what you picture when you think of Jamaica, but if you get a little further away, you begin to see what reality entails for these people.
I encourage you to continue praying for these people who have so much less than us and so desperately need the hope of Jesus Christ. Also, for those who are our brothers and sisters and have their own ministries.
Acts 2:44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;