Training in Jamaica has come to a close and I have to say emotions ran high when the church here gave us a send off. Songs, cake, ice cream, going away gifts, and thank you's. Wow. I confess, there were a few tears shed.
Each time we do a trip, we come together at the end of the training and talk about the trip. How it went, what went well, and how we might have done things differently. As we talked, we decided that each of us would like to share in our own words, some of our personal high points with you.
Cock-a-doodle-doo.. My favorite part of the trip was watching our fearless leader crowing at the top of her lungs for the kids of Jamaica. We were doing a puppet skit, and Theresa was crowing with a roster at the end of her arm. This rooster didn't crow for the "sun", instead, all the kids joined him in crowing for the Son. What a lovely way to praise Jesus.
This being my first time on a trip with Fifty5five, it's hard to put my finger on a particular highlight of the trip. The entire week felt so surreal, and I could see God moving in everything we experienced. I'd have to say that part of my highlight was this morning (Friday) when Theresa asked the teachers to show us how they do worship. It was so beautiful and such a blessing to see how much these women love the Lord. And we learned a new song that we can do with kids (if I can remember it correctly)! The other highlight of my trip would have to be the children that attended VBS all week. I am always in awe of what God shows me through children...especially their love for Jesus. These beautiful children were so excited to participate in the songs, the activities, and even the crafts. It seems like children in America are so caught up in appearances, and I have experienced many kids, especially older kids, who are unwilling to participate in something because of how they might look doing it. Not these kids! Boys and girls of ALL ages made necklaces, glasses, sewed hearts, and more. And they did it with such joy and excitement. It was amazing to see something so simple, mean so much to these kids. And with these crafts being ties to the lessons, and seeing how they remembered what was taught, was so encouraging. It is definitely something I will remember for a long time and something that I can share with my kids when I get back home.
I think my personal high, and also my low, were the same. I know that doesn't make much sense, however, if you were there it would. I watched three of the church ladies, participants in the teacher training, confront darkness as a team unified in Jesus. There are some elements of spiritual darkness on this island. Voodoo is alive and well here. I saw it once in the Dominican Republic, and now I have seen it here. When you see it, there is a palpable aura of darkness. In this case, the light of Jesus shone through three ladies and reminded me of John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” What a powerful message for me.
I struggled with coming up with a "favorite" because there was another thing that happened that vied for number 1. I couldn't come up with a decision, and decided it would be ok to share both. Theresa is our team leader. She asked me a couple of weeks before we left to share a message of encouragement with the teacher trainees at the end of training. I immediately thought of a scripture and wrote up a message. As the time to leave approached, I knew in my heart it wasn't the right message, so I threw it out and started over. I came up with what I knew was the perfect message, only to realize the day before I needed it that it wasn't. I struggled with it for hours and started to get nervous I wouldn't have a message of encouragement to give these wonderful ladies. The evening before I needed it, God said to me ... "Are you done trying to do this in your own power? Let me do it for you." I don't think it took ten minutes to get it down on paper, and seeing the looks on their faces when I delivered it, it was just what they needed. One more example of God coming through for me when I couldn't do it in my own strength. One more example of Him coming to the rescue just in the nick of time.
If I had to choose one highlight for the week it would be seeing the creative ways this team teaches God's word! The reaction of the teachers and the children brought my most joy. My biggest blessing was serving the team with my spiritual gifts. What a wonderful week this has been.
Our training was a very different format than we typically deliver. The time was really whittled down from what we were accustomed to. It was so beautiful to see this team God assembled to represent His mission. We really have different gifts and talents and make a cohesive team. Each member would jump up at a moments notice and fill in. The highlight/lowlight of teacher training was at the very end, the teachers were so hungry to have the details of the different personalities of children and the percentages of how much children retain a teaching depending on how the message is delivered and participated in. It was a lowlight because they received much less training time than we are normally given yet in the limited teaching time they devoured what was taught and wanted to make sure they had the details correct. The Bishop of the church popped in a couple of times and he demonstrated how he learned the 10 commandments on his fingers.
VBS is always icing on the cake. There seemed to be several special needs children in the group. One stole all our hearts as she towered over the other children as a teenager yet had that child like demeanor and joy. It reminded me of how I should be before the Lord. There also was a non verbal boy that really got into a lot of mischief. He got to spend 1:1 time with me. It was then he really shined.
Please pray for our team as we travel all day tomorrow. We fly back to Miami then unto the Dominican Republic. Please pray our luggage travels with us, we make our flights and for safety. We could use an extra measure of energy as we approach our next week of training and VBS. Thank you for your prayers. They are the backbone of this ministry!