Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Hand Painting the Picture: Update on March 27th, 2010

Sometimes my eyes are opened to what surrounds me
Sometimes I realize a dense presence overtaking
Not a lonely, dark presence but a mysterious peace
Sometimes, rarely, can I even respond to the painting
She convicts me of my apathy towards what I see
She charges me guilty of not loving my neighbor
And of believing that things far too complex to know
Are nothing but simple figures and numbers
But as the chilling air tingles down through my spine
Reaching the inmost parts of my darkened soul
It’s times like these that one feels more than sees
And at such a rare time one can see more than canvas
One can sense that what’s before him is more than a fixture
In times like these one sees the hand painting the picture.

That poem sums up the past four days of my life. We are now in the Bahamas, and it is something totally different than Jamaica. The place we are berthed is a harbor which can hold up to 14 different cruise ships, and is the port of registry of the largest cruise ship in the world, The Oasis of the Seas (I think). We saw that ship yesterday, and it was pretty ridiculous; the money we throw around for leisure is insane! Anyways this is a welcome change of pace, since we had over 130,000 people on board last port, including two days of over 7,000 people, and sold some 80,000 popcorns, and 50,000 ice creams, it was super busy. This port will be slow, and give time to think and rest a bit, while also presenting an opportunity to the emboldened ones of us to try and talk with whoever comes. Many people that come may be from the USA due to the time of year (spring break). I hope to be emboldened and to share my faith fearlessly.

Before the arrival, we sailed. For three days after leaving Jamaica, which was absolutely amazing. I made sure to take time to talk with God, which is always a rewarding choice. I spent much of those three days alone, and a good amount of time in prayer. I saw God’s hand on the vastness of the sea, which teems with life. This brought thoughts of humanity in my head, and how blessed we are to be created in his image, and how complicated the human body is. Things around us often seems simple, say a plant taking in sunlight for growth or walking, when in actuality they are immensely complex. I still don’t quite understand why the earth feels flat or how plants use sunlight to grow with water, or how a baby is formed in a womb. We know the science behind it, but it is hard to think of such enigmas as random. Anyways, the last night of sailing was our prayer night, which was a good one where we spent time worshiping as the sun went down. It is still crazy how 400 people from every background imaginable coerce to create a community of peace. It is only because we all fly His banner that this can happen, and I thank God I get to be a part of it, even if it is a mere breath.

The end of Jamaica was absolutely crazy. There were school kids piled upon school kids, and all of them ordered popcorn. We had 7,100 people on our last Saturday and 7,200 on the last Sunday. Those were Logos Hope records, and everyone wanted popcorn. My job was a bit hectic and frustrating, but the Lord guided me through well. I even had a chance to go back to the Trenchtown reading center I had mentioned in a prior post and see a lot of those kids again. Although it was more of the same, it still felt new. The kids remembered me, and I played with them and had a blast doing it. I only hoped they felt loved.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Still Jamaica… Update on March 13, 2010

We have had one billion school kids come on board the ship in the past week. All of them have been saved from their sins and converted. Not really, but that’d be cool, huh. The truth is that working in the I-Café now means I do see loads of schools come and go and buy things every week day. The teachers and schools here are very different from ours. The teachers are very rude, and can still hit their kids. The kids can be anywhere from crazy, loud, and extremely rude to quiet and nice while ordering. The difference seems to depend largely on which school they are from. It makes me wonder what it would be like to have all the Port Huron or Detroit schools come on board, and how I’d feel about those kids. The kids here are hard to handle, and it is apparent they are short on love. I wish I could say I love them when they yell out of turn in the line trying to order, or when they try to cut everyone then give a nasty look when you tell them off, but I have failed many times to see the kingdom of heaven in these kids. It’s a shame that I don’t have time to love them all, if any, but that is the reality.
I went on a church team last Sunday to a church about an hour away in a town called Spanish Town. I gave my testimony (seems to be recurrent theme from me, eh?) at the early service, which started at 8, which meant we left at 6:50 or so. The church was full of people, even though it only seated around 50 or so, it was full regardless. Our group of five sat up on the stage with the band and pastors the whole time, which was a bit awkward, but alright in the end. The service was loud, as usual, and the actual music during worship was almost inaudible behind screams and general noise. That may have been due to the fact that there were tambourines for the congregation to use, and two ladies went nuts on them. The service was enjoyable, as our group presented a French version of Amazing Grace, a one man drama about total commitment to God, my testimony, and some book offers, after which they prayed for us.
After the service and a Sunday school, they proceeded to feed us rich in local delicacies which included this vegetable that is almost exactly like an egg in all aspects, some awesome fish, and some roll type deals that were delicious. We even tried some Jamaican Apple Juice, which is basically spicy apple juice. The first drinks were rough, but it got better the more you drink it. Apparently, they put ginger in almost everything they make. During lunch, they proceeded to probe us about life on board and where we come from. The pastor was an amazing people person, even though age seemed to hit him rather hard, and it was a joy to talk to him. Another guy that stuck around the whole time was “not fully committed, but was on the way”, which was left open for interpretation on our part. At the end of the meal the pastor asked us to pray for his church and for this man who has yet to commit. We did, and then he drove us home.
The rest of my week has been filled with school kids and ultimate Frisbee, which has been good. I even played soccer again, and had a little bit of fun. As it is almost baseball season, and a new sense of longing for home has hit along with a deeper desire to see my family, since a little more of life is becoming unraveled this Wednesday. All I can do is pray.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Child’s Heart: Update on March 4, 2010

Jamaica has been a tough place on my psyche for some odd reason. I have felt a bit frustrated, mainly in Montego Bay, at the people. I switched out of deck into the I-café last week, and it has been a relaxing change, and a welcome one. The only problem is the manner in which people in Jamaica buy things. It seems to me that they feel it is something like a market, and all of them crowd around saying what they want. Usually the Good Lord gives me the strength to have patience in those times, and sometimes even laugh at the difference. I haven’t cracked yet, and have chosen to not be stressed by this. On top of all of those times we shifted and got jerked around in Montego Bay, I have had a relatively negative view of Jamaica.

Well, lately I have remembered one key principle from my travels and from the hand of God; people are people, everywhere. Although culture is a heavy influence at times, people are also victims of their past and this earth. People all have vices, all have love, and all are different, while being similar. God charges us to love people regardless of our preferences of those whom we understand. Christ charges the task of showing love in the face of evil, in hopes of them turning. Christ charges us to love like children even those who may harm us, because that is how he loved. He loved unhindered, and unbiased; true love. So few humans have given true love, while all of us have received, when we wake up, how ridiculous is grace?!

With that said, I had an amazing opportunity yesterday to go to a children’s reading center in one of the most troubled places in Kingston. The objective was vague as we were to go and just be with the kids. When we got there, we introduced ourselves (four of us) and one of the guys read David and Goliath from the bible, then the teachers told us to decide what to do next. When we mentioned soccer, all the kids went crazy (except a couple girls), so we went out to it. During the course of the game, new kids flooded the dirt field. The kids were in the ages from 3-14 and there were tons. All the really young kids hung around the goal posts chasing each other. Eventually I started playing with them as well as playing soccer. They would chase me around and I would throw them around. Eventually the older kids wanted to be thrown around, which I did because I’m a softy for kids. One kid told me “I wish you were my dad.” I didn’t really know how to respond. They loved me easily and unbridled. They trusted me with their lives to throw them. Even in the violent world they live in, these kids know how to love more than almost any adult could boast.