Called to Be in Relationship

Submitted by Robin May, Guest Writer

Our mission trip to Jamaica was set up with the primary “practical goal” of accomplishing tasks in service to Jamaicans – building homes, stocking the Harmony House store, or pulling weeds at the greenhouses, one of Won By One’s newest initiatives to help the people of Harmons Valley generate income. Through each “service opportunity,” however, it became clear to me that what God was calling us to, even more than the building of a home, was the building of relationships with the Jamaicans we encountered, and with each other. Nowhere was that more evident than at the house sites and during our trips to the infirmary.

Building Houses

Building houses with Won By One to Jamaica is like watching an episode of Extreme Home Makeover (Jamaica style) unfold right before your eyes. Led by a three-man Jamaican team, five-seven of us Americans were assigned to each of the three job sites each day. Our goal was to finish all three houses in the week. These sturdy, hurricane-proof houses are more like a single standing room, 11’x16’ in size, and made with 2×4’s, styrofoam and chicken wire covered in layers of stucco-like concrete to form the walls. They have no running water or electricity, but this didn’t dampen the homeowners’ enthusiasm in the least. As we saw elsewhere, the focus of these families was not on what they didn’t have, but rather on how they were being blessed. They didn’t seem to long for “the perfect life” overnight. Instead, they seemed quite content to take small steps toward improving their quality of life.

We worked side-by-side with the men employed by Won By One, although when any skill was involved, they worked circles around us. We also worked side-by-side one another and in the process, our Crossing team got to know each other – we joked, laughed, sweat, threw rocks and ate lunch on a rock pile together. We were able to work together to change the lives of three families, including Dina and her 16-year-old son, Romeo. Dina’s husband died three years ago, and Dina had been living with family members since h e first became ill. She had been on a waiting list for a Won By One house for almost the entire three years. As we built her house, Dina and her extended family joined in as well, helping when they could and visiting with us as much as their accent allowed us to understand them.

One of the most memorable moments of the week happened Friday afternoon, when all 47 members of our team traveled to each of the completed homes to dedicate them. The brief ceremony was simple, yet extremely profound. We presented each new homeowner with a Bible, a flashlight, a bag of rice, and the keys to her new front door, as well as a framed plaque as a reminder that the house was built with love by The Crossing Church and Won By One. Each dedication was concluded by us praying over the home and those who would live in it.

The Infirmary

I’m not sure you can be prepared for the infirmary, no matter how much you attempt to steel your heart for what you are about to encounter. The infirmary was the one place of service that I believe tested our hearts like no other. The rest of the jobs allowed us to be God’s hands and feet in an effort to complete a physical task, and building relationships seemed to be a natural part of that building process. But at the infirmary, there was no “task” to complete as a physical representation of God’s love. Building relationships was what it was all about; our presence, our smile, our touch, our prayers and the reading of scripture was what God asked of us there. But to be successful, we needed God to supernaturally open our eyes to see these people as He sees them, not as the world defines them.

In Jamaica, an infirmary is not a hospital. It is a government-operated house for the unwanted. Many of the residents are dropped off at the front gate and never visited again. While these facilities do provide food and shelter, the conditions are stark, unsanitary, and fairly shocking to many of us.

The infirmary is filled with men and women who suffer from a range of physical and mental ailments. Some are simply old and time has taken its toll on their minds and bodies. Others have physical handicaps that keep them from walking, seeing, hearing or communicating. Still others have a mental condition that keeps them captive in their minds. Many suffered from more than one of these disabilities.

Most of our teens had never seen anything like this close-up, not having been around people with these sorts of severe physical and mental disabilities. But this didn’t stop them from loving on them in a way that must have made God celebrate in heaven. With God’s grace, our kids led by example, many of them treating the elderly Jamaicans as the treasures that God sees.

For one of our boys, this meant getting down on his knees to feed a woman who crawls on the floor to get around; from this vantage point, he was able to look her in the eyes as hebrought the spoon to her mouth. For another one of our kids, this meant picking up a helpless man with one leg who had fallen to the floor, cradling him in his arms as he laid him back in bed.

As we sought to be in relationship with the poorest and most under-valued of Jamaicans, we discovered that these people, even in the midst of filth, flies and loneliness, are able to find joy. They didn’t complain. They didn’t wallow in self-pity. Instead, they rejoiced at our visits and demonstrated a real joy in the simple opportunity to be in relationship with a brother or sister in Christ, even if just for the afternoon.

It was as if we were standing on Holy Ground in this unlikely place, and as we spent a precious few hours getting to know the residents, I think many of us felt we were being drawn into relationship with people we would one day spend eternity with.

Revelation 21:4
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

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