Monday, May 07, 2007

48 hours in Jamaica - PART 4

Late that afternoon I packed and "watched" the final minutes of the final game of the Cricket World Cup on the television that George had carried to my room from another on the morning I arrived. The game was on both the channels. Fuzzy picture.

When I went to bed, I slept well. I know I've said that before -- but it was on a bed that was too hard with a pillow that was too flat in a room that was without air conditioning and I just shouldn't have.

Swam early again the next morning and recognized many of the people there doing the same. George took me to the airport at 8:45 and I had money to tip him and to get both a beverage and a meat pie at an airport kiosk after clearing immigration and security. I sat for less than an hour before boarding my Air Jamaica flight for home.

So, I went to Jamaica with an agenda. I had a plan for 48 hours of R&R and was so sure I knew what I needed that I set simple but rather solid expectations of what that time would look and feel like. I knew I needed to connect with God, and I was telling God what I wanted Him to do and how. I was, even in my seeking Him, not submitting to Him.

Looking back, I see His great grace in making my first hours in town miserable -- and in messing up my money and credit card stuff -- and even in the sunburn that really was not that bad. None of that was pleasant at the time, but it was a kind of discipline. Not punishment, mind you. Discipline.

God didn't want me to invite Him to go along with me on my vacation. He wanted me to go with Him.

He wants me.

He wants me to trust Him with the little stuff and the big stuff of life -- without doubt. He wants me to love Him more than I love the wonderful things He has given to me. He wants me to depend on Him. To lean on His strength and wisdom. To long for Him.

Thankfully, I have a lifetime to learn how to do this well and a very patient Lover.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

48 hours in Jamaica - PART 3

Somewhere as dusk turned to darkness, I gave up.

God had stripped me of my ability to do the things I'd planned: beach walking (dinky beach), recreational shopping (dead visa card), and eating in fun places looking at beautiful scenery (no cash, dead visa card).

Those things that I could be obsessive about, I had been disconnected from and had, in turn, become obsessive about that disconnection. In the darkness and silence, I gave up my right to obsess and control and plan.

I told God I'd be happy to drink water and Pepsi, and to eat the crackers and oatmeal bars I had in the room for a day. I told God I'd quit ringing my hands and second guessing my every move, and let Him take care of the plastic and the money well as the pillow that was "too flat" and the bed that was "too hard."

And I went to bed and slept.

The next morning, I woke at dawn and went over to the beach. The water was full of people while the sand area was nearly empty. These weren't tourists (the tourists were still in bed, sleeping off too much of too much from the night before). Neither were they the people whose livelihood is the tourist -- the incessent taxi drivers and shop owners. I was surrounded in that bright Carribean water by "regular" Jamaican families -- 4 generations of them. Their cars and SUV's were parked along the street and they were swimming and laughing and having a lovely time at 6 am on a Saturday.

Boys under the age of 10 swam in their underwear. It reminded me of when I was a kid and we'd all go down to the creek by the Monks in Missouri and swim in the heat of the summer. I swam about for about an hour and just relaxed as the sun rose over the mountains to the east.

Back at the room I read. I studied the Word. I prayed. I read some more. I nibbled on the food I had. I never felt hungry or anxious. Mid-day i walked around the Cottages property and enjoyed taking photos of plants. I napped in the chair.

Friday, May 04, 2007

48 hours in Jamaica - PART 2

I went back to the room -- greatly relieved to be away from the people who wanted to be helpful all through town as well as the man who wanted to kiss me and love me.

I took a cool shower, put on shorts and a t-shirt, and decided to take a nap. I slept for 90 minutes. By the time I woke up, it was 4p and I was really quite frustrated with everything.


And it wasn't going to start getting better...not yet.

For the rest of the afternoon and into the evening I did two things: I read River's REDEEMING LOVE and I worried.

I worried about credit cards and debit cards and my bank balance.

I worried about sunburn.

I worried about the frog that decided to get stuck in my shower (until, that is, I rescued him and set him free).

I worried about whether I should have purchased the stuff I got from the woman at the Fort.

I worried about how I would pay for another meal.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

48 hours in Jamaica - PART 1

In April I traveled to Montego Bay, Jamaica to represent Wycliffe USA at Americas Area leadership meetings. People gathered at the YWAM facility there (BEAUTIFUL LOCATION -- we slept in dorms on bunk beds, brought our own linens. You can see in the photo that our meeting room was spacious with lots of windows providing light and breeze -- and from the other photo that the view from the property was extraordinary. I spent a good bit of time in that swing.)

After the meetings, I stayed a couple of days on the island. I wasn't really interested in "tourist" things so much as I wanted time to pray and think and listen and sleep and just BE with Jesus. Away from email and schedules and meetings and yardwork. This is part of the story. It begins after I've moved from the YWAM facility to a "hotel" in town.

First, I walked down the lane and crossed the main street to the public beach area which is the size of my back yard (okay...a bit bigger, but as beaches go, pretty darn small) and stuck my feet in the ocean. I was frustrated that there was no where to "walk the beach." I'd so wanted to do that. It was part of my plan. My agenda for the 48.

I headed back down the main street (my hotel was at one end of the "Hip Strip" in Montego Bay -- shops, clubs, casinos) and was barraged by people wanting me to ride in their taxis, see their stores and buy their stuff. People wanting to have conversations that were supposed to lead to my purchasing some service or stuff from them.

Passing an ATM that was in use, I popped into one store that looked "upscale" to avoid the crazy, pushy sales people. Then kept walking. No ATM and maybe a place for lunch in site. Then this woman came and asked me the same question I'd heard a few dozen times "can I show you my store?" "Where is it?" I asked, seeing no store ahead (we were nearing the end of that part of the strip and only clubs and casinos were in front of me. "At the old fort Montego, on the other side of the park." I think my will was weakened. I said "yes." I was watching all along for an ATM, knowing that if we got there, I could not purchase anything without cash.

We walked and walked. She told me about the things we were passing and introduced me to people along the way -- taxi drivers and water vendors who she passed many times each day as she made her trips into town to fish for customers. The sun was bright and hot. I'd not put on sun screen for what I expected to be a 10 minute walk to a place for lunch and then the walk back. By the time we got to the fort and every vendor between the entrance and her booth (all of them selling exactly the same stuff as the ones on either side) asked me to come back to their stores when I was done with shopping at my "hosts" store, I was HOT.

The store was a small stall. Dark. Filled with things. Dreadlock head carvings smoking "weed" and pot ash trays, baskets and bags, shirts and shawls, man-woman statues that made me a little uncomfortable, beads and bangles, wooden animals and wooden bowls. All of it I'd seen dozens of times before.

And there it was, the Gideon Bible, sitting open and looking dusty on top of the wears. The shop owners all seemed to have one. They all seemed to ask about religion -- she had. Oh, yes...she's a christian and believes in god. One big god for everyone.

I chose a couple of items and then told her that she'd have to walk with me back to town to find an ATM so I could pay her. "No Problem, Mon," of course. She told me about her friend who is an actress and who moved to Minnesota -- to work doing the strip dance -- something she seemed to find admirable.

The ATM she found closest to the Fort was in a Casino. People working there knew her. The community of shop owners and taxi drivers and club bouncers all seems to know one another. I got the money, paid her and we parted ways.

I found a place to eat where I could look at the Caribbean and had a jerk chicken wrap. I drank LOTS of water. I'd gotten too hot and was feeling the effects of the sun. I sat a while and then headed toward the hotel.

Along the way I stopped at a place with t-shirts and trinkets and "groceries." They sold beverages and snack foods mostly -- and booze. I got a 2-liter of soda for my fridge and some t-shirts for gifts and tried to pay with the same Visa I'd just used to get cash. It wouldn't go through. She tried again...but no. I paid cash. Now I was back down to $10 US and a little Jamaican money ($4 US equivalent) and knew I had to probably pay a driver for my airport run on Sunday. I had 40 hours left in Montego Bay with $10 and a non-functioning credit card.