Thursday, May 27, 2010

Accompong, Jamaica.....

It has been our goal since we moved to Jamaica in August 2008 to visit every Assemblies of God church on the island. This endeavor helps us in the classroom, helps build relationship with the pastors, brings an awareness of the Bible College to the churches, has become our weekly culture lesson and is a fun excursion for the three of us. No doubt if there is a beach nearby we take advantage of that too!

This past Sunday we found ourselves in Accompong. When Renee first saw a direction sign, she said the name correctly and told us some history that she learned in her school about this place.

Accompong is a Maroon settlement. The Jamaican Maroons were runaway slaves in the eighteenth century. They first fought the British in 1655. They fought against slavery. When they first ran away, they ran to the mountains. I thought I knew about mountains growing up in Pennsylvania, until I moved here. Jamaica's mountains are REAL mountains! In these mountains they formed "safe" communities. There were five safe places. Accompong, Trelawny Town, Mountain Top, Scotts Hall, and Nanny Town.

Some Maroons were captured and taken to Novia Scotia and then later exiled to Sierra Leone. As a matter of fact, one of Jamaica's national heroes is a Maroon and the only national hero that is a woman. Granny Nanny. She died in 1733. Nanny lived and died in Nanny Town. She possessed a fighting spirit generally associated with the courage of men. She was a fearless Asante warrior who used militarist techniques to trip up the British.

In 1739, the British governor of Jamaica signed a treaty with the Maroons. The British would give them acreage and the Maroons would live in five locations with their own chiefs under British supervision. They would no longer be able to harbor slaves and would be paid a bounty of two dollars for each slave returned.

In 1795, a new governor was in power, the slaves were mistreated and the Second Maroon War broke out. The Accompong Maroons stayed neutral and the British left them alone and today they are the only ones that remain. All the other settlements were destroyed.

Today the Maroons are autonomous and separate from Jamaican culture. Interestingly, Accompong is the most inaccessible place on the island and has a community of 600 people and an Assemblies of God church. Of that I am proud! The name of the church is Ta Ta Denue Assembly of God. Its pastor is Cynthia Knight. She is the lady on the left.

Here we are climbing to get to the community.

The road kept getting narrower and narrower, I must have been terror stricken because I didn't get any photos! Needless to say when the white folks arrived, everyone stared. That's okay, we are used to it!

Sunday School was just ending when we arrived and immediately we were welcomed by the pastor and her sister, Cynthia's able assistant.

The worship was great, the only accompaniment were the drums, by the way. Because of the gun battles that were beginning to take place last weekend in Kingston, the rest of the service was dedicated to prayer. Intense prayer for the nation, the government officials, the gun men, the children, the church. It was a wonderful prayer service, before the prayer had begun, they asked us to greet the church, which isn't unusual, but I knew Renee particularly enjoyed this church because she spoke of how she sensed they were "crazy for God." This was a term I hadn't heard her use up until this point, so I knew that she had sensed something in this particular place.

After the service before the rain began to pour, a gentleman, upon seeing "foreigners" ran to the car to ask if we would like to see the museum. Here is Mark walking us through the artifacts and paintings to describe the Maroons history. There would have been more to see outside, but that will have to wait for another day, torrential rains burst out of the sky for the next couple of hours.

The painter of the murals didn't use a photo to paint. He simply painted what was in his mind from history. Incredible.

The horn is still used to sound for a gathering or tragedies or important meetings. I thought it was cool that the horn was also used for the entrance to the community.

Such a fascinating experience, history come to life.

A missions team had come to this community and painted on the little Sunday school wall. Anna, the pastor's sister is so proud of her Sunday school wall! Little things that people do mean so much in a country where these sorts of things would not be possible.

And still to think there is an Assemblies of God church there, incredible!

Monday, May 17, 2010


Saturday was a lovely Jamaican day! Beautiful sun, beautiful blue skies, beautiful students and a beautiful audience to watch the graduation.

One of the things I love most about AGBC graduation is the processional. The leadership, lecturers and all three classes of students walk in to the song, Chariots of Fire. It is a beautiful piece and lends itself to a graduation processional. The service was lengthy, however, each speaker was well prepared and all in all it was a joyous day.

It is so hard to believe that we have been here at the college 2 years already. The time is flying. 4 semesters down, 4 to go. It is hard to imagine the college without this years third year students that just graduated. It was a special class to me. They were the first students I had for Prison Epistles and I will miss them so much. They really taught me the culture of the Jamaican classroom and so much about life here. There is something about this class that just graduated that grabbed my heart. They were so kind to me. They took me in and showed real Christlike-ness when I was so new to the country. I miss you already Maureen, Peta-Gaye, Melisa, Jerome, Kharson, Jason, Nicholas, and Roan. I am praying that God opens incredible doors for you as you now proceed into your internship and enter the ministry full-time. May He shower on you perseverance and steadfastness. You are chosen, now walk in that calling and bring forth much fruit.

Right behind this wonderful class are two more groups of stellar students, the 2nd year class and the 1st year class. We visited Othneil Bailey's (2nd year student) church yesterday where he was the preacher for the morning. Powerful message, Powerful person, and a joy to Denny, Renee and me.

At the graduation, the students presented the lecturers with a lovely fruit selection and an award. I received the most animated award and Denny the most challenging teacher award! I guess that means I am the loud and crazy one and he is the most thought provoking surprise there!!

Teaching at a Bible College is a unique ministry. Training leaders is really about the future. In the present you see grades,(good and bad) character growth, work ethic, passion for full-time ministry, mental and emotional maturity, looking for a spouse, dreams about the future. What we do at the Bible College is in the present reality but actually the hope of shaping for the future. It is not everyday that you see progress or even fruit, but it is all in trusting the one who sent them to the college, who in the first place, started a good work and He will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Graduation is a special time of year. We love the students so much. We almost hate to see them go yet isn't that what it's all about!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Some days you just never forget!

I was seven years old when JFK was assassinated. I remember my desk and where I sat when my third grade teacher, in shock, told her class the news. I was thirteen when man stepped on the moon and made history in space. We were camping at Wagon Wheel and the camping facility had a barn with a television in it. I remember it was mounted up high on the wall. For a time the swimming pool was empty, no one was sitting around a campfire, cars went silent. Everybody gathered in that barn to view a small step for man and a giant leap for mankind.

I was seventeen when my dad loaded the family to take me to Bible college! In a station wagon and lots of belongings, we drove from Mansfield, PA to East Providence, RI. I remember as if it were yesterday where I stood in line to register and then to purchase my books. I was twenty nine when AGWM sent a representative to our home in Walpole, MA to do a "home visit" to see if we were people that AGWM would invest in for missionary service. I remember details about that day that make me laugh twenty five years later.

I was thirty four when I delivered my precious firstborn. The doctor and the nurses, the food, the hospital environment, my epidural headache, all of the experience is like a video camera in my mind.

There are just some days you can never forget and then there are days that you wish you could forget and just can't. Some things happen in life that trip you up for a lifetime. There are days that are so mind boggling that you wonder where did I go wrong and what did I do to deserve this.

Five years ago today was one. May 13, 2005. I am not superstitious, however, it was on a Friday. Friday the 13th! One of those days that I wish had never happened but it did. May 13th is not a happy day for me nor are there any pleasant camera shots from that day. But today on my fifth anniversary from being devastated I have learned some truths that weigh in on my thinking.

1. Before making any move, whether lofty and idealistic or normal and average, count the cost.
2. Hurting people hurt people, wounded people wound people, and healing people heal people.
3. There are very few people you can trust.
4. Keep your life simple (uncomplicated), others will come along to complicate.
5. Beware of people who keep lists of wrongs, their perfection leaves no room for you.
6. People are quick to say, God has something better, not so. Some things are just evil.
7. When in desperate times, all you have is the love of your family and the closeness of HIS word. Rest in it.
8. Rely upon the divine healing of the Creator.
9. Make His love the music of your heart.
10. Forgiveness is a choice. Go from strength to strength.
11. Make peace with your past so it doesn't spoil your present.

Today, five years later, there is one thing that means the world to me and that is kindness. Although kindness is a thought, a motive, a feeling, kindness is also a verb.

In my darkest of days, when someone, I knew or didn't know, was kind to me I melted. It was as though my heart was in their grasp. It was as if Jesus himself was using that person to minister health into my broken spirit.

Some things in life just aren't fair but as the author wrote, GOD is.God is too wise to be mistaken. God is too good to be unkind. So when I don't understand, When I don't see His plan or when I can't trace His hand, I will trust HIS heart.

So I thank you Jesus that I have never left your love and you haven't left me. In the darkest of days or the brightest of glorious moments you are there. I thank you that after five years I am still standing, still loving you and still showing people kindness like they have shown me. I celebrate you today Lord, not the experience but only YOU.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mom, You're one in a million!

When I became a mom in 1990, one of the gifts from you Mom, was a Mother's Day Ideals book. On the first page you wrote above this poem, To Debby, Happy First Mommy's Day 1990! The poem says:

"We set aside a day each year
Which we call Mother's Day
To honor Mother, hold her close,
And cherish her in every way."

"Yet wouldn't it be nice for her
If we could truly say
We set aside some time for love
To make each day our Mother's Day."

I'm so happy I grew up where I did and in the family I was born into. What makes a mom a mom anyway? Well, having children, of course.
But what makes a mom a great mom?

You were my first teacher and I didn't even know it. I didn't call you Mrs. Hall like I would have at school, but as I look back over 53 years, you were my teacher. Where did I get my love for books and libraries....from you. Where did I get my love for ice skating and watching ice skating.....from you. Where did I learn how to do needle work...from you. Where did I get my love for flowers and gardens.....from you. Where did I get my love for recitals, plays and programs.....from you. Where did I get my love for church music.....from you. Where did I get my love for the piano....from you. Where did I get my love to decorate for every holiday....even the small, uncommercialized ones.....from you. Where did I learn to keep a few more things in the cupboard in case someone stops by to eat...from you. Where did I learn to be a mommy...from you. The best mom in the world.

I am so happy that I grew up in your town! Right on the same corner as two of your sisters and your mother. I regret that your father had died a few years before I was born. I suppose you are alot like him in many ways. You were your daddy's girl. Oh, how I wish I could have sat on his knee.

I am grateful that I grew up in Lambs Creek, home to lots of rattlesnakes! How many times did you capture another snake with a hoe or a rock to protect your five little ones? How many times did we stand beside the snake hanging over the clothesline to measure who was taller! How many photos were taken to show dad later how big they were. You taught me to be brave!

I am grateful that in our small town you read every obituary in the newspaper and took us to the funeral home to pay our respects for nearly everyone that died....but who are they mom? we would ask and your reply would be descriptive or you would say, I don't know but I think they may be related to so and so! Off we would go, either to wait in the car or to go in and show concern. You taught me compassion.

I am grateful that you took in ironing and let me be your helper with the water bottle and rolling up the clothes to stay damp or letting me iron the small things. To this day, ironing is my favorite household chore. And when I iron, I get my small glass of pepsi just like you did! Since I married a preacher it is a good thing you taught me how to make clothes look crisp! You taught me to be detailed conscious.

I am grateful that you invited college kids for Sunday roast beef dinners and after Sunday night services the popular lunch meat sandwiches and chips! I am grateful that you liked alot of people in the house, it was more fun to play games that way! You taught me how to be hospitable.

I am grateful that you always had a goodie box with gifts for whenever the occasion arose. You have to be the worlds number one person for giving gifts! You shop way in advance for events coming up that require a gift. You would never forget a birthday or an anniversary even today. With every marriage and birth, your list just keeps getting bigger. You taught me how to shop and how to be generous.

You have even taught me how to be a gramie before I am one! Thank you for teaching my children so much about life, Jesus, and care for people.

So Mom, even though I am a mom, Mother's Day is not about me at all, it is all about you. You are one in a million and I love you.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thank you, Pastor Berkey

We are nearing the end of this college year. Everybody is ready!! Especially the third year students. They are in "school days are over, at least for now" mode! Finals are next week so this week ends the classroom lectures. On Monday it was surprise party day with brownies and a gift for each student.

Let me tell you about the giver of the gift for the students. Ed and Gladys Berkey came into Denny's life in the seventies when he was stationed at Westover Air Force Base and attended Bethany in Agawam, MA as an airman. He had re-dedicated his life to Christ shortly before arriving in Massachusetts. God was so gracious to allow him to attend a dynamic church and to sit under the ministry of Pastor Berkey. That was his first encounter with the Berkey's. Den ended up going to Zion, marrying me, assistant pastoring in Illinois, staff pastoring in Walpole, Mass, serving as missionaries in Madrid, Spain, coming back to Walpole as staff and then the call that would change our lives forever came! A huge surprise to us. Bro. Berkey was then the superintendent in SNED and was looking for a Youth/CE director for the district. We were thrilled to think that we would have the opportunity to directly work for this man that had so impressed Denny many years previous! Den served in the district role till the Berkey's retired in 1997.

Many times in ministry settings, once the position has ended, there is little to no contact with the people that you worked alongside with, shared vision with, collaborated with, and together saw God do incredible things. Not so with the Berkey's. Once we left the daily interactions and office hours, the phone and emails continued. And much to our delight continue to this day along with periodic personal visits. We are so blessed. Our children are blessed. It is one thing to listen to a man in a pulpit, it is another for my children to be around servants of God that are true to their calling and consistent in their daily walk with Christ.

A few years ago, Pastor Berkey wrote and compiled a book entitled, "Tools for the Pastor's Office." It has been translated in other languages. It comes from a man with rich experience, home missions to large church, district superintendent to camp and conference speaker. A pastor who knows what he is talking about! Because of his generosity, we have been able to give each graduating student, last year and now this year, this incredible tool.

Our students are able to read and learn from someone who has taught us so many things in life and ministry. The best thing would be to have Ed Berkey in our classroom speaking to the students directly, but this book is the next best thing! So Monday we gave the graduating students their treasure. Books are not abundant in Jamaica and if they are to be found, they are quite costly. The students recognize this and it would seem as though we handed them a million bucks, especially for those who are trying to build a ministerial library. We can't say thanks enough for the Berkey's generosity. We do know that God is going to bless them and bless our students! Here are some photos of a few of the students, since it was Monday morning, some were late, they didn't know it was party day!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Missions: The automatic outflow and overflow of Love for Christ.

What drives a single woman to leave her job, her family and friends, the comfort of the states, and come to a country and serve 30 children 24/7 for six months? What kind of woman gives up her car, shopping malls, and freedom for a MAPS budget but little else? What sort of woman brings her belongings but doesn't take anything home except a pocketful of memories and a suitcase full of Jamaican love? What makes a woman say, I don't know what you need, but if you tell me I will do everything in my power to assist you. What kind of woman sacrifices and goes beyond the call of duty to minister to kids with all kinds of "orphanage" issues? How does an American woman lose more sleep over the disparity of the children than the rats running over head?

I met such a woman. Becke Medina arrived in Jamaica, November 2009 and left May 1, 2010. She served with excellence at the New Vision Children's home the entire time she was here. She had a passion to invest in the children and teenagers, as a matter of fact, she called her "kids" World Changers! She spoke destiny into their lives on a continual basis. She tutored them in their school subjects, she raised up a team of the older kids to actually lead Children's Church and wow, they are great. They even had an invitation at a local church to do a program on Easter Monday.

Becke didn't come onto the property to do a "job", she mentored these children. She ate with them, played with them, prayed with them, served God with them,served the Jamaican leadership with purpose and distinction.

How did she accomplish so much in just six months? Becke had drive, inner motivation, purpose, a positive work ethic. She wasn't looking for reward, renumeration, or a title. She served the children with an automatic outflow and overflow of love for Christ.

I commend Becke today as I did while she was here. I miss our times together. I miss the laughter, I miss taking her to the store, I miss our talks, I miss her sisterhood with Renee, I miss her physical presence.

By now, after all these years, I should be used to people coming and going into my life, but sometimes you meet a friend that you just don't want to let go.