By Toni Riley

As I reflect back on the week, each day was different, each day had its challenges, each day had its special moments and each day was God given. There are two things that symbolize what the Jamaica Mission trip meant to me – Water and the Almond Tree. First water.

Water, we in America take water for granted. We turn on a faucet and we get hot, cold or whatever temperature we want. But let the water go out and listen to us whine. We run the shower as hot and as long as we want to. We have dishwashers, laundry, we can wash whatever whenever we want. Not so in Jamaica. Water is a precious commodity. We learned that the first night when Amber, the ACE coordinator, told us about taking a “military shower”. Huh? You get wet, turn the shower off, lather up, rinse off and the water is never really very warm.

I learned first hand how precious water is in Jamaica. The first day our team was split in two groups. One was painting a literacy room at Preston Hill School, the other was mixing concrete for a foundation at a home. Elizabeth and I were floaters we had jobs at both sites. To mix the concrete Marla Fitzwater, the ACE director, brought eight 5 gallon jugs of water to the site for the concrete. The family had no running water. She said to us that she needed more water and would need a couple of helpers. Elizabeth and I jumped in her truck. OK quick job and I didn’t take my camera. I expected to go to some central water pump, nearby, where there would be a hydrant that we would turn on and fill the jugs. Nope. We pulled up to the “well”. It reminded me of the old cistern that collected water for my family as I was growing up only it was about 1/3 the size.. The well itself had maybe 4 feet deep and six feet wide with a 3′ x 3′ opening. I’m looking for the facet. Marla looked into the well and said the water level was low only about 8 inches. We had a bucket and the usual rope was gone. I’m not realizing what all that meant. I’m still looking for the faucet – there is no facet. Marla went to her truck and got a bungee to lower the bucket into the well, this didn’t let us get much water and came off the bucket. Marla proceeds to jump down in the well to retrieve the bucket and just stayed to hand us up buckets of water. We lowered the jugs and she could get them about a third full and then hand them back as we handed her the bucket to fill. It took about 15 minutes to jugs, using a water bottle with the bottom cut off as a funnel. We only used about half of the last bucket and asked a woman who was also at the well washing her clothes if she would like the water, she gently smiled and said yes and we asked if she needed more and again she gently smiled and said yes. We filled two more buckets and gave them to her. She had three small tubs of laundry that was washing there at the well. Other members told stories of a group of homes where they built garden boxes that get water from the government once a week. The government fills a central tank and people come with containers to get their water. There is no system as to how much everyone gets. You bring your container and get your water. When the water is gone there is no more until the next fill up The children we played with at Hampstead School seemed thirty and drank as they drank from the cooler that we provided. Water is a premium that is used sparingly and carefully.

The other water that will always symbolize the Jamaican Mission trip to me is the Caribbean Sea. As soon as we started our trip to Galina Breeze, the ocean was in full view. We saw the picturesque water that you see in all the tourist brochures. When we got to Galina Breeze it was dark, but you could hear the surf on the coral below the hotel. Each morning when we woke, we could hear the sea, when we had our meditations we could hear the sea, when we had our communion service with Southbrook, the other church at ACE, we were at the sea and the surf was so loud we could hardly hear, no matter what we could always hear the sea. Sometimes is was rough and harsh, sometimes soft and gentle. Much like our days. But there was always something soothing about the sound of the water. To me the sound of the surf was God’s way of reminding me why I was there. Each day when I woke up I heard the ocean, I was a world away from my little farm and my animals, and I had an opportunity to do things that I had never done before. Each day I could think about the blessings and love that God has provided me and share those with someone else. Some days I did that better than others. As I sit here on Sunday morning, after my hot shower, drinking Galina Breeze coffee from the mug I bought at culture night, I think of sitting on the porch at Galina Breeze and drinking that same coffee and hearing the surf and getting ready for a new day. I want to never take the things I have for granted. I am humbled to have worked with a people that have so little by our standards but have so much and are so appreciative for what we did.


Thursday and Friday Pictures


2014 FCC Hopkinsville Mission Team at Galina Breeze in Galina, St. Mary

Everyone has arrived safely back in the States! Surely more blog posts to come, but it’s safe to say that we had a wonderful, life-changing week serving the people of Jamaica.

Saturday Devotional

By: Dr. Tom Steiner
Mark 8:22-25
They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him.  He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ And the man* looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus* laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

Annie Dillard, in her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, writes about a time when western surgeons discovered how to perform safe cataract operations. They performed dozens of operations on people of all ages, some who had been blinded by cataracts since birth.  Marius von Senden collected accounts and stories of many of the cases.  It was so remarkable to see when one had not been able to see before, when one’s mind did not know how to interpret what the light going into ones pupil was bringing.
The vast majority of patients had no idea of space – form distance and size were meaningless.  The things that sighted people take for granted were so strange and confusing to those who were newly sighted. Shown a bunch of grapes, one boy said, “It is dark, blue and shiny . . . . It isn’t smooth, it has bumps and hollows.”  And, in fact, some of the newly sighted people refused to see.  One father who had hoped for so much from the operation on his daughter said that “his daughter carefully shuts her eyes whenever she wishes to go about the house, especially when she comes to the staircase, and that she is never happier, or more at ease than when, by closing her eyelids, she relapses into her former state of total blindness.”
On the other hand, one girl was eager to tell her blind friend that “men do not really look like trees walking at all,” and was astounded to discover that her every visitor had an utterly different face.  Another girl, 22 years old, was so dazzled by the world’s brightness that she kept her eyes closed for 2 weeks.  When at the end of that time, she opened her eyes again, she did not recognize any objects, but, “the more she now directed her gaze upon everything about her, the more it could be seen how an expression of gratification and astonishment overspread her features; she repeated exclaimed: “O God! How beautiful.”
So, now you head for home. I know you have seen some remarkable sights, perhaps even photographed some of them. Were your eyes opened in a way they never have been before? You know, seeing isn’t just letting light into your brain, it is more so, opening our heart to the ways of God.  So, on this mission trip, seeing might have changed you.  Maybe you will remember, on your way home, that you have been in touch with God in a new way, perhaps you have seen God in a new way, and maybe the world will never look the same again.

Prayer:  O God of light and seeing, we are so grateful for eyes to see and hearts to know and feel.  We pray for energy and insight to tell what we have experienced and seen.  And we pray that what we have seen will draw us closer to you and to your people everywhere.  Amen.

Random Thoughts in the Heat

As I write this, we have finished our four days of ministry in Jamaica and are headed to the beach and market at Ocho Rios.  Physically we are exhausted, dirty and hot.  Emotionally we are all over the scale depending on the moment and situation.  Spiritually we are full of the presence of God who has been with us every second of every day of our stay.  What an experience we have had!  What a closeness our group feels as a result of our time in Jamaica!  AND how humbled we are that so many of you have sent us encouragement, prayers, devotionals, and personal comments. Thank you!  Gratitude also abounds for Elizabeth as she has created and maintained our blog, as well as answering our hundreds of questions about “her” country!!

I am so proud of each member of our team.  They have truly risen to the tasks we have been given, stepping out of their comfort zone almost every day.  For some, physical labor was a stretch–and we have done PLENTY of that with few tools and no Lowe’s to help make our tasks easier.  For some, interacting with residents at the Infirmary was overwhelming, but we did it and then went back and enjoyed it more the second time!  For others, being around curious children was not their strong suit, but how can you turn away a beautiful smile and curious mind who wants to experience “whitey”?  For some, attending a church much different than ours was stretching our concept of worship.  For others, leaving the protection of the group was a challenge, but they stretched and accomplished that.

For me personally, I have been amazed at how little the Jamaicans have and how often they express gratitude to God for what they experience.  They are thankful to be alive, to be Jamaican, and to be children of God.  In comparison, we have so much more economically, educationally, geographically and almost any other method we can use to compare.  BUT most of the time, we don’t sound very grateful to God…

When I look at their schools and classrooms and get discouraged with the poverty of supplies and materials, I remember that Jamaicans pay for their children to attend school by buying uniforms, lunches and daily taxi rides to get them to and from high school.  The schools we visited lacked structure and actual time spent in instruction.  Most classrooms used a lot of rote memorization.  The assessments we gave to first through third graders yielded discouraging results.  Long recesses and lunch times with short school days explain part of that and help account for a national illiteracy rate of 20+%.  The government seems uninterested in ensuring quality education, providing only very basic school buildings and not much else.  What a lot of work to be done educationally, an issue that ACE is attempting to face with tutoring for all ages of students in several area schools.

I am so grateful to have been a part of this experience, and hope that our trip to Jamaica makes a difference at First Christian Church for years to come.

Karen Shields

Reflections on a Week

As I sit here Friday morning awaiting breakfast and a day of rest on the beach I think back to the weeks before we were slated to leave for Jamaica. Thoughts revolved around fear, doubt, anxiety, and ultimately reversal of my decision to come in the first place. Things that I had no control over almost kept me from one of the most influential experiences of my life, meeting some of the most joyful people I’ve ever known, and being a vessel for God to do His good work. I can say now that I am overjoyed that I did not let the fears of this world stop Gods purpose for me and for this team. God is good…all the time.

The day we landed and stepped out of the airport the heat, noise, and confusion of what seemed like a million people, taxis, and buses certainly was intimidating and was feeding my previous thoughts of coming here. A young man named O’Reilly picked us up and began driving us towards St. Mary’s Parish, 2 hours away, where we would live for the next week. As I spoke to him he told me about how the Resorts sold a false idea of what Jamaica was all about, and that we were going to see the “real” Jamaica up close and personal. Still almost a week later those words resound in my mind…Im living in the REAL Jamaica…and I think its AMAZING! God is good…all the time.

I have met people who have literally nothing and yet they have a smile that melts the heart, a touch that soothes all fear, and a love of God that refills the spirit. Its hard to really find the words to describe how life is different here but if I had to sum it up I would say that less is more and true joy comes from the Lord. The Jamaicans I have met and spent time with all say the same thing “We are blessed beyond measure” but yet they live without running water, electricity, toilets, and proper housing. Without knowing it they have changed my priorities, life, and heart for this world. Their hope and joy give me hope and joy that we do serve an ALMIGHTY GOD and that He is merciful and His grace covers all. God is good…all the time.

I will never forget my time here and I plan on being back soon, because I promised Miss Dorothy I would bring her back something special, preferably a husband :), and in return she would make a special meal for us. The work was hard, and the climate harsh, but Gods mercy pulled us all thru even the hardest days. We will be home soon and the traps and pitfalls of the world are waiting for us like a hungry lion, but we have leaned on one another to do our best to continue His work and to stay focused on God. God is good…all the time.


Friday Devotional

By Jane McGinnis


“I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John, that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.”

Wendell Berry, The art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

I don’t know how many of you have heard of Wendell Berry, but he is a fellow Kentuckian, born August 5, 1934, on a Henry County farm, where his family has lived and worked and tilled the soil for 200 years. Berry is a novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer. A brilliant, world renowned, prolific author, he has written dozens of novels, short stories, poems, and essays. His writing is grounded in the notion that one’s work ought to be rooted in and responsive to one’s place. He has certainly remained grounded in the bluegrass of Kentucky.

I was recently introduced to Berry’s writings and found his words to be very meaningful and challenging to me. In reading his quote on love, I couldn’t help but think of the the work you are doing in Jamaica this week and the love you are sharing and receiving through your mission work. I love reading your stories about work and play – reaching out to people who are different from you – receiving from them – learning from each other – touching – laughing – and perhaps crying. God is love and he is there in the midst your work. You have shared your stories and experiences in such a beautiful way that teaches all of us. I am inspired by them and thank God for putting you in that place to witness to his empowering, redeeming, and life-changing love. Together we can work toward reconciliation and wholeness.

a prayer from Joyce Rupp’s “The Cup of Our Life”

Creator and Sustainer of Life,

All of life is my teacher!

May I see, hear, touch, taste, feel, with greater awareness.

May I relate to others in a more meaningful way.

May I not brush aside any part of my day

without being attentive to the truth that it holds for me.

O mystery of Life, be my guide today.



By Kathy Harton

One of the things we are blessed with is plentiful, clean, healthy food.  Part of the team went with Coach (a 58 year old Jamaican who works with ACE) to his farm to plant watermelons and pull weeds.  The food grown on the farm is used in part by the cooks at Galina Breeze.  The farm utilized a slow drip irrigation system constructed from a series of hoses. Considering that Jamaica is currently experiencing a drought, the irrigation system is a blessing.

Besides growing vegetables that we are familiar with such as corn, beans, eggplant, and cantaloupe the garden also included calalloo and hot Scotch Bonnet peppers. The mountainous terrain, poor soil, and rocky conditions on the island make gardening a challenge. They are fortunate to have a large variety of fruits that grow in this tropical climate.

One of the goals of ACE is to help locals learn to grow a variety of vegetables and fruits to sustain their families.  Several of us visited homes of students and built raised bed gardens so the students can learn about growing food for their families.  They are provided with some seeds to begin the garden with as well.

It is wonderful to realize that years into the future the hot, hard work we did today will mean that people are able to care for themselves and their families. Praise be to God for delicious, nutritious food that we can use to take care of our bodies!