Monday, July 2, 2012

Goodbye Jamaica....we love you.

Today I am thinking about the last four years and how to conclude this blog site. When we left America in 2008 for the island, we had no idea how deep the Jamaican people would root themselves into our hearts. A beautiful people. Relationships we guard closely.

We arrived on Jamaican soil in August of 2008, the night before Tropical Storm Gustaf! We stayed in a hotel for 3 nights with no electricity, water and little food! It was a blast! We were running on sheer adrenalin!

After those 3 nights, we realized we wouldn't be able to afford much more so we went in search of "free housing"!! The Bible College where we were assigned to work didn't have a place for us so we contacted the A/G children's home  in the same town as the Bible College. Thankfully, they let us stay in a room alongside a Missionary Associate couple and during this time, Renee's school and the Bible College classes had both started. We were working on visas, our shipping container, having Renee's uniforms made, eating out where ever we could find. Crazy days for sure!!

I will never forget the day our shipping container arrived! We were so excited to set up house in Spaldings, the town next door to Christiana. The freshmen class came over and helped us deal with boxes and paper so we could store them for the departure which at that time seemed so very far away!

We traveled to the A/G churches on Sundays. We got acquainted with the pastors, preached and did music in the churches, fellowshipped with the congregations. In our travels we got to know the layout of the land, traveling from north to south, and east to west. We taught in the Bible College, attended faculty meetings, Board of Administration meetings, missions meetings, participated in devotions, had the students to the house hundreds of times! made lots of American goodies, preached in chapels, prayer meetings and anything we could do to be connected. We attended National conferences, conventions, General meetings. We conducted Children's Ministries Seminars across the island, taught clowning, ballooning, face paintings, how to conduct kids crusades and the like.  We also led the way for the refurbishing of a church building and restarting it through the momentum of several different teams.  We fell in love with the people of Bath, Jamaica.

Both homes in which we lived served as a Bed and Breakfast for many people! Evangelists, guests and friends. We were blessed in so many ways as we opened our lives and our home.

We got to know people in both towns in which we lived. Spaldings and Mandeville. We found different ways to love on people. That is what we were there for. Our assignment was the Bible College but a missionary can't become so one-tracked that they teach and then go home and do nothing else. Everything we do is to connect people to the God that has sent us there.

Renee's busy life was another point of contact. From dance to art to violin! From her school days at Belair to PTA. We met so many wonderful friends along the way. She played her violin for the Governor General, the Japanese Ambassador and gave her Valedictorian Speech in front of the Minister of Education who was so very complimentary.

Our four years of ministry in Jamaica are over although friendships and memories will last a life time! 2012 brings us to a new ministry, that of Den being a lecturer in Valley Forge Christian College and Renee being a student at the same college. During the next two years we will be itinerating to raise and secure the budget to go on to the next field. We don't know yet where that will be but stay tuned! We will be in touch!

One of my favorite sayings is "It is bettter to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all." Maybe the reason I love the saying is because as missionaries we are always moving on to another situation or place. It would be easy to say, "I won't be here long so I am not going to make friends" or to say " It is too painful to think about the goodbye so I won't build a relationship in the first place."

I am going to continue to choose to love, knowing how painful goodbyes really are.

Leaving Jamaica.....Arriving Stateside!

We arrived at the airport Wednesday morning, June 27 at 5:30. An early start. A tough day. Safe flights. Melancholy. Sadness. Homesick for what was. Missing school. Missing our students. Missing Jamaica. Everything hit at once.

When we arrived at the Newark airport, there was something wrong with Ryan's car that he had left there when he flew to Jamaica for Renee's graduation. The car went in the shop. We went to a hotel. We were so praying that the car would be repaired quickly but it wasn't so we had to stay in the hotel another night.

We left Newark on Friday the 29th and drove to Valley Forge Christian College. Our next place to lay our heads!

The college is so gracious to let us stay in the dorm rooms until our shipment arrives. So the four of us are college kids together!

We have no idea how long it will be till we get our belongings from Jamaica. The container was held extra time. One hangup was our lock box. They wanted it opened because the officials thought we were shipping a weapon. Denny had to give approval for that box to be broken into. It is simply a document safe, where our passports usually reside! Lesson learned! Next time we need to tape the key to the box so they don't have to destroy it!!

I was really anxious to go to church yesterday, thought we would enjoy some Fourth of July flavor or celebration. Unfortunately we chose one that just lost its pastor so there was no celebrating! Renee and Ryan went to a church where Ryan was on the worship team while he was a student here at VFCC. We met up at a Mexican restaurant and enjoyed our day together.

A really special thing happened at church though. The first persons to greet us are from Jamaica. Yup, I cried.

At this point we are looking for some bottles to hold all these tears.....

The Last Sunday in Jamaica....

Sunday, June 24 was very very difficult. The dreaded day had arrived. When we first opened our eyes that morning it was a feeling of, "Do we have to do this?"

Jamaica had gotten into our hearts and we knew we had to let go, and it was proving to be very heart-wrenching. Seeing Renee go through this phase was tearing our guts out as well as our own personal feelings. We had tried to keep our emotions at bay for a couple of months but Sunday, June 24 everything broke loose.

First it was the goodbyes at the church. They honored the graduates so that was really special for Renee, they prayed over our family, they loved and loved.

We picked up a pizza to have at the house since our driver was to arrive at 3 in the afternoon. Little did we realize we would have a busy house once again! One of Renee's closest girl friends and her mom came by, some people from church came by. I was busy tending to the last minute things in the house, Den had to return the van to First Assembly that we had borrowed since the selling of the car we used took place on Friday. Ryan was running with Dad, Renee was entertaining guests, Mom was going crazy tending to last minute giveaways and such! It was a crazy and wonderful day.

Then the inevitable had to happen. Rowan, one of our students, came in with the bus to take us to Montego Bay. That dreaded moment had arrived. Tears galore as we pulled out of the driveway, tears galore the farther we went from Mandeville, tears galore....little did we realize there were still more in there to come out.

A few months back, Den in his fatherly wisdom, knew that this was not going to be an easy move for Renee, booked a resort for us to debrief before hitting the ground running in the states. We were there from Sunday evening till Wednesday morning. Although at the beginning of our stay we didn't know if Renee was going to be able to enjoy it, ultimately it was the best thing we could have ever done.

It was a good thing we had Ryan with us. He was able to distract her broken heart and try to make lemonade out of lemons. To say this was easy would be a lie! But I am so glad we were able to make Renee smile while being at the beach rather than in a makeshift place here in the States. God is so good!