My day began at 3:30 AM. Yes, I did say AM. It is always so hard to go to sleep the night before we head out to Jamaica. I have this fear that I am not going to hear the alarm, sleep right thru and get this call from Leah telling me that I missed the bus! And then my mind is reeling with questions, Did I forgot to pack something?, Did I remember my passport?, Will we make the flight on time?, Am I going to feel sick on the coaster ride? (Big one!) Dramamine – check! Plus, there is all the excitement and anticipation of what this trip will be like.
I absolutely love, love this trip! We have a very good group this year and I can’t wait to work and bond with each of them. Plus, my small team is just AWESOME! Don’t tell anyone, but I actually think we have the best team! (Kidding!) There is such a serene feeling when we are at the village. I am on this mission trip for one reason, and one reason only, and that is to serve. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45. I feel like this one week I am “unplugged” from the world; no TV, no news, no electronics, no work and no yard work. Just me and my fellow team members, the sweet, compassionate people at the village, and first and foremost, God! I can feel his presence every minute of the day here, even while we are building a retaining wall or building roads, or having intimate conversations with the other team members. I just want to take in every blessing this week, I want my cup to overflow, and rest assured that on this trip it always does! Everyone at the village is so kind and sweet, and the view of the village nestled in the mountains, WOW! It just doesn’t get any better than this! Don’t get me wrong! I am definitely a home body and leaving my “fur” baby and all my Grace Church babies is hard to do. But I absolutely love it there!
So back to our traveling! Our chartered bus left the church at 5:00 AM. The ride to the DFW airport was good! Everyone was talkative at first trying to catch up on each others lives and happenings. But as the trip went on, I think everyone was trying to catch up on their sleep. We arrived at the airport around 8:30 am. A big thank you to David Porter for driving the van filled with all of our luggage and helping us to unload. We made it through the airport with only a couple of hiccups. Leah Walker had her bag peed on by a small dog – yes a dog in the airport. It wasn’t bad, and the owner was most apologetic, but still – only Leah! Doug McCulloch had a small glitch with the spelling of his name on his ticket that set him back a little while, but finally got it all straightened out. Then we were wheels up for about 3 1/2 hours. It was a great flight.
You know our group is always pretty entertaining though. As we were making our approach to the runway in Jamaica , the pilot touched down and started hitting the brakes, well one of our team members water bottle hit the ground and shot all the way up to first class. We were laughing so hard, it was quite unexpected. The most incredible thing after landing in Jamaica was there were no lines through customs. Usually we are backed up for hours just trying to get through. As Barry Hanks puts it, it is like being run through the chutes like a bunch of cattle. We were in and out in just a matter of minutes. Once we made our way out of the airport we saw the faces of some old friends that we have not seen in a while, Ben Beukema, the Missionary here at the village, Ionda Campbell (a resident here at the village) and Clifton (our coaster driver).
Ok, so now we were ready to load up and take the coaster ride to the JDV. It is a lot of twisting and turning roads, driving 100 mph (maybe a slight exaggeration, but it seems fast) on the wrong side of the road. It can be pretty scary at times, but all in all it was not that bad this year! There were a couple of times that I was reaching for a brake that was not there, mainly when there were dogs or people in the road or a huge truck coming right at you. But the ride from Montego Bay to the JDV is another 3 hrs or so. Jamaica is such a beautiful country, it literally takes my breath away. All you see is palm trees, tropical plants, white sand beaches and aquamarine water. Breathtaking! But as we start to leave the resort area and start heading to Mandeville, the scenery starts to change immensely. It becomes a very humbling experience and saddens my heart. You see people standing on the side of the road and some of their homes look as though they were never finished. You really get a sense of the poverty level that dwells on this island. It is written in our handbook that Jamaica is “A land of beauty, yet a land in need”, and we see it first hand while driving to the village.
We arrived at the village around 8:00 PM. We are all exhausted after a long day of traveling and ready to eat. Ms. Pamela had a nice, scrumptious meal waiting for us. Did I say scrumptious? She is the best cook! After the meal, we were all ready to unwind and find our rooms. This is the first year that we are staying in the new team center. It is a very surreal feeling knowing that you had a hand in constructing this building over the last 12 or so years. It is beautiful here at the JDV, mountains all around us, palm trees and green rolling hillsides. The team center sits on top of these hills, with the most picturesque view and an awesome breeze. It was surveyed by Martin Litteken years ago, he definitely chose the perfect spot!
I am looking forward to working hard this week, enjoying VBS and fellowship with my team members and friends at the village, Reggie’s nightly studies, visiting the infirmary and the bonfire! As you can tell we will be very busy this week, but we are on Jamaican time and as they say in Jamaica “It’s all good, no worries ‘Mon!”
So after a long day of traveling, it is time to call it a day! I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us this week and to tell y’all all about it when I get home. I also wanted to say a big ‘Thank you” to Leah Walker and Reggie Coe for all the countless hours and preparation that they devote to this trip every year and for putting up with all of us!
Before I say goodbye I also wanted to ask for prayers for a very sweet team member, Alisha Watson. She received news that her father had passed away after we arrived at the DFW airport. He has had a very lengthy illness and she was his main caregiver. Our hearts are breaking for her, but it was her Daddy’s wish for her to be here. So it will be a difficult week for her, but also a week to reflect on the love she had for him also.
Love you all – Sheila McGaughey