This cold weather makes me want to think warm thoughts. My brain has been taking trips in the way way back machine lately. Twenty one short years ago this month I took a trip of a life time. It was a trip I could only imagine and a trip that I never want to leave my mind. I was a shy 10th grader that had a real problem talking to anyone and here I take a two week trip to Jamaica with a bunch of strangers besides my dad. This was a two week trip that opened my eyes to the beauty of the earth, love of God, and kindness of strangers.
January 2nd we flew from cold Minnesota to Jamaica. It was gorgeous, I couldn’t get over the color of the ocean. It was the most mesmerizing blues and aquas. I got to experience this close up a couple times with swimming and a glass bottom boat ride. We were picked up by our driver for the time we were there. He simply went by Johnny Walker and became a dear friend. We traveled to Brownstown Jamaica which was a small town about in the middle of the island. Think mountains, hills and lush greenery every where you looked. We stayed at a school where we would be helping build housing for future teachers of the school.
Oh there is so much I could tell you about the kids, which were adorable, to the food and the poverty we saw. It all affected me greatly and made me the person I am today. Seeing these kids who are living in tin shacks come to school in the cleanest most pressed clothes made a big impression on me. There are kids now that have everything given to them and they come to school looking like they just rolled out of bed. The pride to be able to attend a school just isn’t there. It is a privilege we take for granted there they did not. The children have to pay for their books, uniforms, and lunch. There is no free education there. We got to help build this building, but what touched me more were attending some of the classes and morning devotions of this school. They would pray and sing praises to God each morning before school. The respect they had for the teachers and staff was unbelievable just something I don’t see enough working at the school.
Like I said before there is so much I could say but there are two short stories I would like to share about this time of my life. First is fun. I was a very shy child and adult. I didn’t assert myself much and if my friends said they did or didn’t want to do something that is what I did. Well I missed out a lot in school because of that. In Jamaica an amazing young man who was studying to be a doctor invited me to go out with him one night in town. My dad said yes and I wanted to go. We went to the local roller rink. How fun skating in an open air rink with Marley vibrating through the air. The reggae music got in my blood that trip. It just slows your body down and you can enjoy each note as the music swirls in the air and surrounds you. There were some funny songs also like Whitney Huston put to reggae, just didn’t sound right to me. It was a night with a new friend and a time to let go of some of that inhibition and just be and have fun. I could smile, not care about what others were thinking it was a night to truly remember.
My other story was one that was rather scary to me. We slept all in one large room and my dad gave me silicone earplugs to wear for the snoring. I could never stand that sound still can’t. Well a stupid little thing like an earplug really messed me up. It ended up getting pushed in and lodged next to my eardrum. I tried and tried to get that sucker out but it just wouldn’t budge. My dad tried a tweezer but it just broke apart but the main part was staying in. I went to the local doctor they tried no success, then to the missionary doctor from England. She tried flushing it out nope it was there to stay. Now everyone was worried about traveling and air pressure not sure what to do. Well we come back to Johnny Walker our driver. He offered to drive me to a hospital some distance away to try and see if they could get this out. I was scared. My dad was scared of how much was a hospital going to charge an American. We got to the hospital and this is a scene I will never get out of my head. The waiting room was outside on the grass and the sign above the door said Operating Theatre. There was a young girl waiting that had an obvious broken arm she had to be in such pain. They took me in first because I was an American. That still guilts me to this day. I had a doctor that was from another country don’t remember where. He ended up cutting my ear canal and getting in under the ear plug and pushing it out from behind the plug. He had to cut my ear canal and ear drum in the process but he did it. That is the ear with the most scarring and damage today. When my dad asked how much he just responded please pray for our hospital and that is all. I still do, I pray for that operating theatre all the time. I pray for that little girl who is now about 30 years old now that she is ok. The smell and look of that hospital is in my brain forever. It was a large ward with beds down each wall with green peeling paint. It is somewhere I would never want to go back to.
That trip 21 years ago it changed me. It made me see that I had a little more self worth then I ever thought. It made me appreciate how much I had even though to US standards we didn’t have a lot. It mostly strengthened my love in Christ and to see what people he put in our path and how we went there to help this town and what they did was help me.
Brownstown Jamaica forever is dear in my heart and it is as fresh in my mind as it was 21 years ago. Sometimes you have to use that way way back machine in your brain to find a warm memory.