Jamaica Mission Trip - wrapping things up

Interesting tidbit: it is very common for families to have two homes on their land.  They will start with a wood home, some more elaborate than others.  As they save money they will purchase the supplies to build a cement home.  You will see stacks of cement blocks sitting in yards everywhere.  I imagine it takes some familes a very long time to purchase those supplies, just a few at a time.  The ultimate goal is to have a cement home with a bathroom and kitchen inside it.  Becaue of this all the homes in one neighborhood will be in different stages.  Some are living in wood houses and have started a cement pile.  Some cement block stacks are quite large, while others are only stacked a few feet tall.  Some cement homes are started and you can see people working on them all day long.  It appears as though other families have hit hard times as the weeds grow taller than the short walls they were able to start building in their new cement home.  And then there are the beautiful finished homes...sitting right next to the family still living in a small wood house.  It's a different way of living than I am used to.  In the United States you drive through a neighborhood and the homes are all of similar value.  As we save money and when we want/need something larger/nicer we typically sell the old house and buy a new one.  How rewarding it must feel to finally move into a finished home after stacking cement blocks in your front yard for years and years. 

You can see the beginnings of a cement home going up behind this wood house.  That's the church in the background! 

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Today was our first "free day".  We slept in and then went to breakfast on the cliffs, where we had the most amazing view of the ocean. 

"Swim at your own risk"...risk of being completely giddy :)

Everone took their time this morning.  There was no rush to get through breakfast so we could get to Peace Camp on time.  There was not much of a schedule at all today, and I was just counting down the hours until Shelly's group would arrive and I could hear about her experience.

I'm just looking for excuses to add more pictures of the ocean!

  I could not take my eyes off this ocean.  There is beauty to be found in all parts of the world, but I'm having a hard time remembering what makes Missouri so special when I'm surrounded by this....

This afternoon we spent a few hours on 7 mile beach.   Shelly and I walked down to the craft market where we each bought a small item.  They knew we were sisters and we were called "Sister" the whole way through.  Seven Mile Beach is very pretty, and it's nice to have such easy access to so many restaurants, but the amount of people trying to sell us something made me uncomfortable.  I don't mind if they ask, but after I tell them no I wish they would leave me alone...not just follow us down the beach. 

This nice man at the craft market was respectful of us and our space.  Shelly bought a little dress for her baby girl who will be arriving later this year. 

Getting a refill on your drink at a restaurant in Jamaica is next to impossible.  There are rarely free refills on drinks, and even a refill on water is sometimes hard to come by.  After walking up and down the beach in the scorching sun Shelly and I were ready for a tall glass of water with plenty of quick refills.  I mentioned to our waitress that we were really thirsty after being out on the beach so I don't know if it was that or the fact that she could see the steam rolling off our bright red faces, but she never let our glasses get empty, and we drank a lot! 

Shelly on 7 mile beach
Closing ceremony tonight.  Carlene asked me if I was going to cry and I told her "yes!!!".  No use pretending it won't happen.  She told me not to sit by her because she didn't want to cry.  Too funny!  I did not share in the large group, but I did enjoy hearing what everyone else had to say.  We were all on the same trip, and for the most part we did the same things, yet we each have a different story to tell.  We are different people and each experience affects us in different ways.  I enjoyed hearing what people were going to take away from this trip, because it was different for everyone. 

A few of my favorite people  These three are touching lives every day, and it was a joy to be on this trip with them. 

What surprised me the most about this trip?  It hit me right at that moment that I was glad Troy didn't get to go.  (Sorry honey!)  I wanted him there, and I want to do it again and take him with me, but as I looked back on my week I realized it would have been a different trip if he had been there.  I would have spent our time together wrapped up in "us".  My sister was there with me, but it's not the same as having my husband-my best friend-the person that makes me feel complete.  I would have spent our time apart wondering what he was doing and what experiences he was having.  I would not have been as focused as I should have been.  Because he was not there I was able to put more of myself into this trip...but I'm not doing it again without him!  For my first mission trip though, it worked out well. 

Breakfast: Omelett - lesson learned, don't assume an omelett has cheese in it
Lunch: chicken club wrap, french fries, lots of water!
Dinner: brown fish stew, rice-n-peas, fruit salad

Our last night together. 
Dear Lord, thank you for this group of people.  They have so many things alike, and yet are so different.  What strong, caring people you have blessed me with this week.  Thank you for bringing them into my life.  I learned so much from them.  When this all began I told you I would give up my spot on this trip if it meant Shelly could go, and you not only found room for both of us, but you helped us find the funds to get here.  Thank you for bringing us here together.  As we sat at lunch today and I listened to her tell me stories from this week, I was so proud to be her sister.  From before we even landed in Jamaica and then all the way through this week she has amazed me.  Thank you for the opportunity to be here to share in all these moments beside her.  You didn't have to send both of us, but I'm so glad you did.  It would not have been the same without her.  It would not have been the same trip if even one of these people had not been here.  You have amazing people working hard for you, and I am humbled by the opportunity to have spent a week with them.  Thank you for all you do.  Amen. 

Ready to move to the beach!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Another free day.  I missed Troy like crazy today because this felt like a vacation day, and I don't want to be on vacation without him.  With that being said, I had a great day with Shelly.  It was so nice to not have a schedule today, and to not feel any guilt about spending the day on ourselves.  We went shopping (and bought gifts for our loved ones) and it was so nice to just wander in and out of stores at our own pace.  Since it was just the two of us we didn't have to worry about waiting for someone else, or worrying that we are making someone wait for us.  We even got brave and ventured back into the craft market.  We get stronger each time we walk into that chaos!  We worked our way all the way down Hip Strip taking our own sweet time.

Taking it all in...

We met up with some more people from our group at Margaritaville for lunch.  Here's is something I have not told you yet - meals take FOREVER in Jamaica.  When you go to a restaurant you better plan on being there for a couple hours.  A storm rolled in while we were at Margaritaville and people started rushing inside looking for a dry place to wait out the storm.  It got busy fast which made the service take a little longer.  When it was all said and done we were there for about 3 hours...to eat a sandwich and fries. 

This souvenir glass was Troy's favorite thing I brought home!  I'd be happy to go back and get him another one!!

I love that we took 3 hours for lunch.  I don't know that I have ever done that before.  There is always something to be done, places to go, things to take care of.  At home I would feel guilty for taking so much time to just sit around and visit with friends (while I watched the rain hit the ocean).  Even when I go on vacation I may not rush through things as quick as I do at home, but I've never taken that much time to just hang out and enjoy the meal (and the company). 

Waiting for food.....pose for more pictures!

I worried that this trip would not live up to my expectations.  Afters years of praying and talking about taking a trip like this there was quite a bit of concern that reality would be a let down next to my daydreams.  I'm happy to tell you there was no let down.  This was an amazing opportunity that I will always be thankful for, and something I can cross off my bucket list! 

Leaving a little bit of Odessa in Jamaica.  FYI: this is Pastor Chambers from the Egypt Garden Congregation

Dear Lord, I'm heading home to my husband!  This week has pushed me in so many directions.  I have cried tears of frustration and tears of joy, but as I went to bed each night I felt nothing but happiness and gratitude for this journey.  The hard moments were momentarily forgotten as new, exciting events took place.  Thank you for those hard moments, for I know that I as continue to reflect on them I will grow and learn more about myself.  Thank you for everyone that played a part in making this trip possible.  I hope they are able to see what a difference it made for so many people.  Lord, as I finish up this trip and head back home I ask that you will guide me as I share my story with others.  Help me find the words to properly reflect what this trip has meant without being boastful, or arrogant.  Be with the members of this trip, may they be blessed for giving so much of themselves.  Be with the people of Jamaica who have taught me to slow down and appreciate life more.  I will forever cherish the memory of walking through the neighborhood meeting children and families on that rainy afternoon.  My heart is overflowing with love for these people and I only wish I had more time to spend with them, to learn from them, and to share even more of their hugs.  My mind is full of acitivities I would like to share with these people, but my time has run out.  Help me find experiences at home to fill the void I will have when this trip has officially come to an end.  My story does not end with Jamaica, it is just one chapter in my life.  I have more to give.  I put my life in your hands and have complete faith that you will lead me where I need to be.  Thank you for my amazing life.  Amen. 

As Troy and I have talked about future mission trips and what that might look like for us, we both came to an easy and quick decision that we would like to be leaders/mentors for a younger group (either young adults or older youth) next time.  While this experience was amazing, and something we would love to repeat (only together next time), we both feel as though we are being called to take on a different role in the future. 


Thanks for taking this journey with me!  There is so much I didn't get a chance to tell you about, but I hope you got an idea of what it was like to be on a mission trip.  Like I said before, each story is different, and I hope you get the opportunity to hear other stories.  Thank you for letting me tell my story.

Let's end with the kids!  Here is the video of our kids doing the Peace Pledge....