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Saying good-bye to the children at CCCD each January has never been particularly hard for me because I always knew that I would see them again, probably the next January. But today I had to say good-bye to a group of fellow professors (lecturers as they are called in Jamaica) knowing I may never see them again. Oh we all said the right things…you’ll come back and visit us; we’ll stay in touch; we can’t wait to see each other and work together again…but the reality is that none of those things may be true.

They threw a ‘surprise’ good-bye party for me today but Sharon just had a sense that I wasn’t big on surprises so I knew it was coming since she warned me last Friday about an ‘event’ that would be happening on Monday. She too doesn’t like surprises so I was glad we were on the same page and I was prepared, at least in part, to enter a room prepared for a good-bye party.

I walked into Room 1 of Building A, the only air-conditioned classroom in the school, and found a room full of lecturers, a table full of food and a gigantic cake saying ‘Thank You Dr. Patricia Powell (Patti). I was referred to as Dr. Patti by everyone so I’m glad they didn’t just have ‘Patricia” written on the cake. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a cake with my name on it before so I was very touched.

Then both Dr. Asburn Pinnock, principal of Sam Sharpe and Sharon Anderson-Morgan (why didn’t I decide to hyphenate my name?), chair of the special education department each said a few words. I was touched and deeply grateful for my time at Sam Sharpe and the true friendships that had formed in the four plus months I was there. They ‘got’ me and accepted me and I think, even loved me as I loved them.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, saying good-bye over food seems to be a good idea and today it was a very good idea.


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How do say good-bye to a church? Oh I know a church is really a group of people, not a building, but nevertheless it is also a physical place where God meets His people and for me, particularly at The Meeting Place, a place where I have been healed of many hurts. But today I had to say good-bye to a church, a pastor and a group of people I have come to love in four short months.

When I try to understand why this is so hard I realize that it was a place where I was free to worship, praise, cry out to God and grow emotionally in Christ without anyone really knowing my concerns or even me. Little did they know that I was a Dutch Reformed girl from South Holland, Illinois with deep hurts but also areas of giftedness.  I was able to just come and be a part of a body of believers without having to do anything or prove anything.  I could just be me.  Also, because it is a Jamaican charismatic church I experienced and saw physical and emotional healings, lives transformed, prophetic words carried out weekly and an emphasis on freedom. Because of that, there was  freedom for me personally and for all who attended with me, in our worship and in our expressions of love for our Lord.

Allow me to share the words of two songs that touched me deeply, ‘I’ll Stand’ and ‘Freedom’. We sang both today and when I sing them I feel total abandonment and a freedom to worship through dance, singing and the lifting of my arms to the God of the universe who loves even me.

Finally, I was able to say a personal good-bye to Pastor Mary Wildish-Reece and her husband John Reece and asked John to pray over me. I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to lend closure to my extraordinary worship experiences at The Meeting Place.

I’ll Stand

I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the one who gave it all
I’ll stand, my soul Lord to you surrender
All I am is Yours

Freedom

I wanna clap a little louder than before
I wanna sing a little louder than before
I wanna jump a little higher than before
I wanna shout a little louder than before

Freedom, freedom,
Freedom, freedom
Freedom, freedom,
Freedom, freedom

No more shackles, no more chains, no more bondage
I am free, yeah
No more shackles, no more chains, no more bondage
I am free, yeah
No more shackles, no more chains, no more bondage
I am free, yeah

I am free to run, (I am free to run)
I am free to dance (I am free to dance)
I am free to live for you, (I am free to live for you)
I am free (I am free) I am free (I am free)
I am free to run, (I am free to run)
I am free to dance (I am free to dance)
I am free to live for you, (I am free to live for you)
I am free (I am free) I am free (I am free)

On my bucket list of things to do while in Jamaica, and before I head for home, was to visit the Rastafari Indigenous Village. I tried to arrange a visit while I had visitors at my condo but it never seemed to work out so this week I made it a priority to arrange a rip and today was the big day!

I was picked up in front of El Greco hotel, the hotel that sits adjacent to my condo, and made the trip to Montego Bay Gardens with a young couple from San Diego. We were first met by two young men from Brussels who spoke “only a little bit of English” but were fluent in French (not Dutch- the other language of Brussels). We were then met by First Man and escorted across the river to the Village.

This is one experience I will not easily forget. I’m so grateful that I read “The Rastafarian Experience” before I took this journey or much of what we were told, especially of Rastafarian history, would have made little sense. We arrived at a very humble village and were treated to coconut water and a lesson on healthy eating since the Rastas only eat fruits, vegetable and herbs. We were told which fruits, vegetables and herbs offered which nutrients and how they were able to make their foods both sweet and salty. Then we were escorted to the labyrinth which we all walked and were given a lesson on identifying which herbs are good for various ailments. Many herbs aid in ‘manliness’ so guys, take a lesson from the Rastas. Coming into the tent we were treated to drumming and singing, Rasta style, and invited to participate. While enjoying the music we were treated to herbal tea and fresh fruit. Again we wee given some history of the Rasta movement in Jamaica and some of the concerns of the village.

We ended our day with a trip to the ‘souvenir shop’, something even offered by the Rasta Village. First Man took us back across the river, sharing his dismay over the accumulated plastic in the river. I too have been appalled to discover that I just throw away milk jugs, juice jugs and soda bottles since there is no recycling in Jamaica. He was truly interested in our ideas and the man from San Diego actually worked in recycling so we had a very interesting discussion as we crossed over the river and back into the non-Rasta world.

Now the only thing left on my Jamaican bucket list is to visit the Pelican Bar- a Bar in the ocean on the south shore. Rick, are you up for another trip to Jamaica?

Today was one of the most emotional days I have experienced yet during my semester at Sam Sharpe. The year-end Valedictory service for year 3 graduates was held at Calvary Baptist Church to a packed crowd of students, family members, friends and lecturers. What an amazing experience!

The service was supposed to begin at 2:00 and at 1:45 my driver had still not arrived but I wasn’t too concerned since nothing, and I mean NOTHING has started on time at Sam Sharpe since I’ve been there. So I called my driver, arrived at the church at 2:05, and made my way to the stage to sit with my fellow lecturers. Then the students began their procession into the church. Students in the day program chose a solid fabric and matching patterned fabric as did the students in the night program but everyone had a different style. I’ve never seen so many different ways to use two different fabrics!!. It was beautiful and very stately.

The ceremony was moving and made me very proud to be a teacher…it is considered such a noble profession in Jamaica. The keynote speaker, Dr. Claudette Crawford-Brown from the University of the West Indies, Mona, gave a stirring talk about how teachers are the answer to stopping the violence that plagues Jamaica. In fact, she shared that Jamaica is the most violent country in the world and much of the violence is done against and by children. Jamaica may not deal with terrorists or even wars but deals with violence on its streets and in its homes and schools every day. In fact, last Friday a 3-year-old was taken from the preschool right up the road and transported to the middle of the island. Happily the child was found unharmed but that is the exception, not the rule.

Dr. Brown challenged this new class of teachers to be the difference needed in Jamaica and turn the tide of violence that is around every corner. In addition to her talk there were several responsive readings calling on God to grant each of us wisdom and knowledge, patience and perseverance and courage to face the future as teachers. It was one of the most powerful, moving, and thoroughly Christian services I have ever experienced.

After three hours of pomp and circumstance, the service ended. The lecturers lined the aisle as the students passed between them on their way out the front door of the church. There were plenty of handshakes and hugs as the students and lecturers had moved beyond teacher/student to friends. It was bittersweet to congratulate the special education majors, all of whom I know quite well, knowing I will only see them perhaps one or two more times before I leave.

Then it was time for the group lecturers’ picture. It was pretty funny when the photographer asked me to move because ‘I was too light’. Once again I was the only white person in the church but by golly I’m trying my best to change my skin color to match theirs. ☺

I ended the night by stopping at the Pork Pit, getting jerk chicken for my driver, Mr. Johnson, and myself. Sharing meals with the special people in my life in Jamaica is becoming a very welcome habit and a great way to say good-bye.

I am NOT a cat person, have never been a cat person, and will probably never be a cat person but I have a black and white kitten who is determined to become my friend. Several weeks after I moved into 1 Court Manor my ‘friend’ came running through my screen door, up my stairs and sat up there looking down at me, daring me to shoo him or her out. I did just that and haven’t seen my friend for months.

But last night this same kitten (or perhaps small cat) decided to come for another visit and this time sat right next to my door, meowing to be let in. She let me pet her (at least I think she’s a girl) and was determined to join me INSIDE my condo. Well I wasn’t ready to share my last week with a cat, even a cute one, but she did sucker me into bringing out a bowl of milk and some cut up cheese. Not being a cat person I really have no idea what cats eat but figured dairy would be a safe bet.

Well tonight I came home at around 6:30 and was met by my new friend, meowing at the top of her lungs. She actually started pawing my door and was determined to make her home with me IN my condo. Still not ready to share my digs with a cat, I gave her one of my jerk chicken bones and that quickly quieted her down.

Now let’s see if she comes again for dinner tomorrow night. Guess who’s coming to dinner at my house every night?

      

What does food have to do with grace, church, ministry and friendship?

Everything! Just think about how often food figures in the Bible story or how much of church life involves meals. I don’t think this is incidental. Food expresses our dependence on God and on other people.
Meals embody friendship and welcome. So food is a powerful way of doing mission and community. The Son of Man, Jesus says in Luke 7, came eating and drinking—this was the way Jesus did mission.

How can meals express a vision of the kingdom of God here on earth, a vision meant to be shared with others?

Once you start looking for it, it’s amazing how often food is used to express both judgment and salvation.
A meal in the presence of God is the goal of salvation. The first thing God does for Adam and Eve in the garden is given them a menu, the fruit of every tree (except one). The climax of the exodus (an act of salvation commemorated in a meal) is when the elders of Israel eat with God on the mountain in Exodus 24. Isaiah promises a messianic banquet of rich foods that will never end in Isaiah 25 and Jesus anticipates this perpetual meal with God in the feeding of the 5,000, a meal with more food at the end than at the beginning. The last supper looks forward to the time when Jesus will eat with his disciples in the kingdom of God. And the Bible story ends with a meal as we celebrate the wedding supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19. Every time we eat together as Christians we are anticipating this hope.

(Thoughts taken from Justin Taylor’s online study, Between Two Worlds)

So I’ve begun to say my good-byes over meals. The first occurred yesterday when my three fellow special education lecturers and I went out to lunch for Chinese food. It was great to relax after an intense morning of curriculum writing. We also found time to hit a few stores in the area since two of my co-workers were looking for necklaces to go with their dresses for tomorrow’s Valedictory Service. Food and shopping…it doesn’t get any better than that!

The second occurred today as it is Teacher’s Day in Jamaica and it is celebrated in style. In fact, America could take a few lessons from the high regard reserved for teachers in this country. The Sam Sharpe students put on a luncheon with entertainment and it was again great to see ALL of my fellow lecturers in one place, sharing a meal. I am known as “Dr. Patti” at Sam Sharpe and it still takes me a bit by surprise when I am introduced but the students did a lovely job of making corsages and boutonnières for each of us, serving us lunch and entertaining us with songs and words of thanks.

And that’s just the beginning, I hope to see my dear friend Mrs. Russell this weekend and say our good-byes, stop in at CCCD to bid adieu to Daviot, Kayde-Ann, DK, Jodi, Jeff and their children as well as all of the CCCD kids, and then there’s the special education party. It has ended up that somehow I’m in charge (perhaps because my complex has a pool and restaurant on site) but that will probably be on Tuesday.

As Jesus broke bread with those he loved so will I continue to do so over the next several days as I share my last meals, at least for now, with my Jamaican sisters and brothers.

With mixed feelings I arrived at O’Hare airport bright and early on Sunday morning, ready to return to my home away from home, Montego Bay, Jamaica. I had been able to celebrate Easter at home with my family and extended family and spent much time catching up with friends old and new. I also had a chance to unpack half of the clothing I brought to Mo Bay and also cleaned out my summer clothes, bringing two suitcases full back with me for the students at Sam Sharpe.

I arrived at Sangster International Airport to find that one of my suitcases had not made it to Mo Bay so it took me an extra hour to get out of the airport. I called my driver, Mr. Johnson, and was as pleased to see him as he me. In fact, he had just told his friends that he had to leave soon to “pick up his friend from the airport.” What an honor to be called his friend, not just his client or passenger. The skies were overcast but the Caribbean Sea was a beautiful azure blue and called me home. I took the time to just sit and watch the sunset out of my window, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.

Once I settled back into 1 Court Manor I searched for a cheese pattie to feed my craving only to remember that they are not delivered on Sundays so I settled for a chicken sandwich at the Groovy Grouper. I came home, cleaned up, made dinner, and am trying to figure out my schedule for the next 11 days. I have so many loose ends to tie up, friends to say good-bye to, a few sights to still visit, and packing to complete.

But I also know that I’ll be able to worship at the Meeting Place one more time, see Lattwana and O’Shane one more time, eat out with Dorrette Russell one more time, spend time with my Sam Sharpe students one more week and participate in their Valedictory service on Wednesday. I am confident that it will be a busy an exciting 11 days, richly blessed and full of surprises (and cheese patties).

By the way, I still have not received my second suitcase…ah the joys of traveling abroad.

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