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.