First to arrive (on time!) got to play with the beach balls.
Yesterday we had to cut activities because we were running out of time. Somehow today we ended up getting done almost 30 minutes early. You just never know exactly how things will go. The kids are starting to catch on to our theme song. I noticed some recognition today. We also did a few fun songs with them when we needed to fill some empty space between activities. They love to sing, I love to sing, and so we sing together!
These older boys were a wonderful addition to our Peace Camp.
We've been taking lots of pictures of the kids, and boy oh boy do they love to have their pictures taken. They want to be in a picture with us, and then they want to use our cameras to take pictures of us with someone else. I don't mind letting them use my camera, and it's always interesting to see what pictures I have on there when I get it back. Most of the time the kids are in such a hurry that the photo's are blurry because they didn't hold the camera still for long enough. That's ok though because they are having fun taking photo's. After every picture you have to turn the camera around and show them the picture.
Look how happy they are!
We took the afternoon off from service projects today because we have so much to work on for tomorrow. As much as I want to do the service projects, it was a relief to have some down time today to just work on tomorrow. We have some craft projects to prepare, a video to make, and a campfire to plan.
Smart girls that I pray for...
Many girls will not graduate from high school, and the top reason is teen pregnancy. Even though there are many girls that will not make it to graduation day, there are still more of them than boys. Why don't the boys make it? Is it because they are helping out with those teen pregnancies? Nope. It's just the culture they are raised in. It's ok to drop out of school and just spend your time hanging out with friends. I want to spend more time here talking to kids about school and the importance of graduating. I want to help them find role models that will encourage them to stay in school.
Notice the girl in front posing? Very typical of Jamaican children, especially the girls.
This evening there was a worship service at the church for us. Lots of the kids came, as well as some of the members of the congregation. Carlene led us in praise music to start off, and as much as I tried to keep it in I just couldn't help it. I cried. I attended church in Jamaica tonight. It was crazy hot, there were mosquito's biting me on every bit of skin they could find, and I couldn't have been any happier. I've dreamed about this moment so many times, and tonight my dream came true. I stopped fighting the tears and embraced them for the happiness they represented. I sang praise music and let the salty tears run down my face. I was at church in Jamaica. Life is good.
She is reminding everyone to "think peace"
As soon as I got the tears under control they asked me to stand and tell the congregation a little about what this trip means to me. Did they really think it was a good idea to have me, waterworks Misty, attempt to speak at a time like this? I thougt maybe I could keep it under control, but we all know there was no chance. This was too big of a moment in my life to not let the tears flow. I don't remember what I said, but there are two things I will not forget - 1.someone taking a picture. My team loved to take pictures of me when I cried. and 2. the amount of love I got back from that congregation. I was not crying because I was nervous, or scared. I was crying because I could not keep the happiness inside anymore, I was bursting with joy.
Members of the congregation
After the service was over so many people thanked me for my tears. They thanked me and told me how much it meant to them to see me cry. Jamaican's do not commonly express themselves through tears. (I'm obviously not Jamaican!) Seeing me moved to tears got their attention, and they thanked me for crying in front of them.
This sweet lady showed up everyday and silently watched all the action.
Elizabeth chose to sing a song instead of sharing about herself in English. Her first language is Spanish, and while she does a great job speaking in English, she is still not comfortable with it. I think it's important to mention that Elizabeth has a beautiful voice and sings in a band at home in the Dominican Republic, so this is her comfort zone. As she started to sing she became overwhelmed by the moment and she started to cry. I was not familiar with the song she was singing, but the congregation knew it and they sang it to her. As she played the keyboard, and let the tears roll down her cheek, the people of Jamaica sang to her. They sang until she was able to gain her composure again and then she returned the favor by singing back to them. It was a beautiful moment, and I have goosebumps as I am writing about it now. Towards the end of the trip someone asked me what my favorite moment of the week was, and this was it. The congregation softly singing to Elizabeth, raising her up, and touching all of us in the process.
I attended church in Jamaica. Not everyone gets an opportunity like this, and I will forever be grateful for the hour I spent singing praise music, crying, and shouting "Praise the Lord" with these people.
A snack stand across from the church. This one was closed while we were there, but the kids would sneak out of Peace Camp to go to another one nearby and then come back with popsicles.
Along the side of the roads there are stands/stores/shops or whatever you want to call them. They are about 10' x 10' wooden structures (similar to the one above). Nothing fancy, just a basic room in most cases. It's hard to tell what they sell as we drive by them each day, and many of them look empty during the day. Tonight I realized why they looked so empty during the day. This was our first time driving back to our hotel after dark and I saw a whole different side of Jamaica. This place comes alive after the sun goes down, and temperature drops. Unfortunately the reason so many of the shops looked empty during the day is because they are bars, and the bars get busy at night. I wish there was less alcohol involved, but I do understand why they come out at night. It's just so hot during the day!
Breakfast on the beach. Our food came about 10 minutes later and Mark gave us aprox 2 minutes to shove as much in as we could. We were getting up from the table and still trying to put just one more bite in our mouths. We were a little rushed...
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and pancakes. We ate on the beach this morning! What a way to start the day!!
Lunch: pork, rice-n-peas, coleslaw, salad, corn.
Dinner: Burger King! Bacon cheeseburger and fries. We were in a hurry to get back to the church for the evening service, so fast food was the best option for us tonight.
Me and Mark...(Can you tell a kid took this picture?)...I have so much respect for this man.
Dear Lord, how do I even begin to thank you for all the gifts I was given today? Thank you for my blessed life. I saw children come to church tonight without parents. Be with those kids and help them find someone who can be in their everyday lives that already knows you...someone who help them get to know you as well. I pray that Peace Camp is not the end of church for them. These children want to go to church and learn more about you, and so I pray for the members of this congregation to find a way to continue reaching out to this community. Give them strength to reach out, and an unfailing faith to know that they are touching lives, even if it they don't see the immediate results. Lord, my heart breaks for the girls who drop out of school because they are pregnant. School is about more than what in you learn in the textbooks, and I am sad that they are missing out on the opportunity to be a kid, and to spend time with other kids their age. Watch over these children who are having children of their own. Everyday my eyes are opened to more stories and more experiences that make me want to be a better person. Thank you for bringing these people into my life. I can not wait to see what tomorrow brings. Thank you for a wonderful day. Amen.