By Kevin Van Wyk
On June 18th, 25 of us returned from Jamaica after a week of cross-cultural experience. I’ve had numerous people stop me to ask how the trip was. I’ve given a variety of responses according to what memory happened to be in my brain.
But, each time I felt I was really answering a different question… “Was it worth the cost?” I am quite frugal. I don’t like spending money on vacations, clothes, or food. So spending hundreds of dollars for one week in Jamaica is hard for me to justify. I can’t help but think they would be better served with a check and prayer.
So, let me share some reasons to go, and then I’ll share some reasons I never want to go again. Keep reading and you’ll get some thoughts from Jessa and Doug on the trip, too.
Reasons to Go…
1. For me this was a matter of obedience. Mat. 28:19 assumes we will go and make disciples. Many years ago I was convicted by Bill Brights message which challenged believers to have a divine call to stay. The default should be for us to go. With that reminder and a nudge from Jessa and Zack, I figured I should pray about going. God’s voice was clear; “Go.” I asked multiple times for a different answer, but got the same response. So, for me this was a matter of obedience and the question of value to the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf (CCCD), myself, or others with me was not the issue.
2. We did bless CCCD. We made huge improvements to the Knockpatrick campus, befriended deaf students, and encouraged the staff and missionaries. With 25 of us we got a lot of projects done that would have taken weeks for others to do. We power washed and painted 3/4 of the missionary dorm, painted the cement support walls along the driveway, painted a welcome sign on the wall, made repairs to cement walls in pig pens, cleaned and organized a storage shed, and built new backboards for basketball. Maybe even more significantly, we befriended the students. Some were far better at communicating than others, but the friendly competition with older kids and fun activities with littler ones was love in action. I also believe the conversation with Eva, the missionary host, and the two college interns was helpful. They were weary, yet our discussions and support for them made a difference.
3. We learned something… well, a lot of things. We learned about signing, poverty, self-sustaining efforts in missions, God’s working in the hearts of deaf students, patience, strange foods, international travel, that lizards do bite, and much more. There are stories and lessons in each of these. For me, two stand out. First, was the creation of Deaf Can Coffee as a coffee shop staffed by deaf students who are trained and now sought after by other coffee shops. This was inspiring to see and taste. Second, was the development of patience in me. I like my task list and being able to check things off. The message we heard from Eva was to enjoy the relationships. Church will start late, meals will start late (lunch was often after 2pm), so enjoy time with people.
Hopefully, this gives some helpful answers as to why we should continue to send groups on short-term mission trips. Now, let me share the underbelly of missions that makes me want to stay home.
1. I hate the stress of flying. There were confusing signs and chaotic crowds from the start, long winding lines, TSA questioning our Bibles in suitcases, an angry Jamaican customs officer who hated everything I did, and a complete search of everything in my suitcase just before getting on the plane. Seriously, they removed everything from my luggage, which was meticulously packed to fit, only to say, “Hurry up, you're going to miss your flight.” They helped throw everything in and smashed it shut. I was a bit annoyed. I suppose I learned some patience and kindness in all that.
2. Lizards, cockroaches, wasps, and ants… I comforted myself, thinking the lizards are at least eating the spiders and mosquitoes! You should ask Doug about the wasps, Isaac about the biting lizard, and Jack about the ants. I am more grateful now for a clean, pest-free home.
3. One more to share for now… food. Now in all fairness, it was excellent. Several times I thought I could be paying $30 for this meal. (That is US dollars, not Jamaican.) I never went hungry and they always had peanut butter and jelly. (Guavah jam, actually, and it was really good!) The only reason this made my list was because of the surprise Orange Scotch Bonnet Pepper (known as the Jamaican Hot Pepper) which I ate. That baby was 40 times hotter than a jalapeño and similar to a Habanero according to the Scoville Heat Units measurements. No one else seemed to get one, so it must have been a special treat God decided to bless me with. I learned to rejoice in suffering.
So, was it worth going?
Absolutely. It was not a vacation or something I would choose of my own desire, but it was good. I learned a ton and can support and pray for CCCD with far greater understanding and compassion. I hope you consider going.
Also, a big thank you goes to all who supported us in prayer and financially! Your gifts made a difference in the world and in the heart of many!
A Prayer: Lord, “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord,
O’er mountain, or plain, or sea;
I’ll say what you want me to say, dear Lord,
I’ll be what you want me to be.
It may not be on the mountain’s height, Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me;
But if by a still, small voice He calls
To paths I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Thine,
I’ll go where You want me to go.” By Mary Brown
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