Called to Be an Answer to Prayer

Submitted by Robin May, Guest Writer

I was thinking back to fall 2009 when The Crossing began coordinating its first-ever parent/child mission trip to Jamaica, and why I first decided to go to Jamaica with my daughter. Initially, I was excited about this opportunity for her sake. I loved the idea of my teenager’s eyes being opened to the needs of others and developing a heart for serving. Many of my thoughts at least tangentially reflected a desire for us to serve together and, through that, glorify Christ. But it never occurred to me that God had stirred my heart – and the hearts of all those who were on this trip – to go to Jamaica because someone had been praying for us to come.

And yet Loyd Jackson, one of the directors of Won By One, told our group early in the week that most likely, someone had prayed for us to do just that – to hold a hand, to carry a bucket of water, to play games with a child – to touch someone’s life and perhaps, to learn something ourselves on the journey.

The opportunity to be an answer to prayer came all week in the form of what Tim, the Won By One summer staff member in charge of coordinating our group’s jobs each day, called “service opportunities.” Each morning after breakfast, we gathered in the meeting room for an hour of Bible study, prayer, journaling and reflection. Afterwards, Tim came in and announced our “opportunity” for the day. The first day he did so, he called my name in a group that was going to move a 1,000-pound pile of marl (a gravel and sand-like mixture used to make concrete for foundations) up a narrow path on a steep hill to the building site. “Service opportunity,” I quickly assessed, was code for “where I would be working my tail off for the day.” Others would begin building one of the three houses we would complete that week, some of our group would work in the store, and still others would work in the greenhouses where Won By One is helping the natives develop a vegetable business. Throughout the week, we would all get the opportunity to take part in each of these jobs, and a handful of us would spend time visiting the infirmary.

Marl Haul
The marl haul crew was led by a Jamaican named Patrick, more commonly known as Ganga. This was likely the dirtiest job, though certainly not difficult, as our team-for-the-day took up positions along the dirt path and handed bag after bag of marl up the hill, where the last in our line would dump it at the new site and send the empty bag back down to be filled again. Ganga’s enthusiasm for loading bags of building materials and sending them up a human conveyer belt, day after day, was inspiring. He didn’t seem to care that he never got to build a house. For him, working on the home’s foundation was reward enough. He values the $20 a day he earns in doing so – money that allows him to provide for his wife and three-year-old daughter, Naomi, who suffers from severe asthma.

Men like Ganga are the exception to the rule in Jamaica. While most Jamaican men measure their value by the number of children they father (most often out of wedlock), Ganga is quietly raising his wife’s numerous children she bore before her marriage to Ganga. By the end of the week, Ganga had endeared himself to nearly every person in our group, simply by sharing his life and his faith in Christ with each of us as he patiently taught us all how to move gravel from one spot to the next, a tedious but necessary step in building a house for someone who was praying for a roof over their heads.

Store(ing) Up

Each person who comes to the Harmony House on a mission is asked to bring two suitcases full of 50 pounds of donated items for the Won By One store. These clothes, shoes, school supplies and personal hygiene items are carefully organized in approximately 240 square feet of space on one side of the Harmony House.

Harmons residents get to shop at the Harmony House store once every 12 to 16 months, depending on the supply of goods. The cost to shop is approximately $1.15. For this modest amount, each shopper fills two plastic grocery bags – one of children’s clothing and another of adult clothes or accessories. Each person also gets three pairs of shoes, a small bag of school supplies and another of toiletries. Shoppers then choose one of the suitcases, which they use to take their purchases home. Once home, those suitcases are often used as furniture and storage. Harmons residents get a total of 15 minutes to do all their shopping.

During my day at the store, I met several women who had prioritized what they needed most to meet the needs of their families. One woman, named Barbra, had four children ranging in age from 2 to 10 years old. Helping her manage the needs of her family by utilizing the space in her bags for all the clothes she needed for the four children, all within 15 minutes, was challenging…and humbling. My heart leaped with excitement when I realized my son’s size 10 summer clothes were going to find a new home. As I filled her bag, I remembered my son’s enthusiasm when he first opened a particular pair of Boston Celtics shorts. I couldn’t help but smile thinking that another boy might get the same joy from them. Barbra asked me if we could fill both of her bags with clothing for her kids, rather than one for herself. Telling her no was difficult, yet I knew if I didn’t, there wouldn’t be enough left for the others who would come after her later in the week.

The needs are many. The needs are great. Despite this, shoppers left thrilled with their filled suitcases, focused on what they had rather than what they didn’t have, and perhaps thanking God for the answered prayer of shoes for their children.

As I watched what must have been innumerable answered prayers stack up over the course of our week, I was further humbled by the way in which God drew us into His divine plan. As He answered the practical needs of His beloved children in Jamaica at the hands of us Americans, allowing us to be His physical representation for the week, He was also working in each of our hearts, softening us to see the reflection of His Son in the faces of those we were serving.

2 Corinthians 9:11-15

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

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