Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back in Fort Worth

I know for you, our readers, that our posts just quietly and unceremoniously quit showing up. For us in Jamaica, however, our blog posting ended in sparks and fireworks - literally!

Friday turned out to be a rather blustery day after an otherwise calm, windless week. That morning we headed down to the soccer field to get a team picture with a backdrop of beautiful banana trees, the water of the bay and our new cornrows. (One of the school dogs, Jake, also felt he needed to be in the photo.) As we were smiling at the camera, a crack like a gunshot echoed from behind the school building and we saw a shower of sparks erupt from the power lines. We ran back to the school to warn everyone as the high-tension fireworks continued.

Ms Russell, the school principal, ran back behind the building to make sure nothing had caught fire and saw a neighbor on top of the fence trying to disconnect a wire with a big branch. It seems he had been stealing electricity from the school and wanted to get rid of the evidence before the power company got there.

In the end, we were without power for several hours and it seems that 2 microwaves, at least 1 window air-conditioner and the modem at our house didn't survive the surge. Loss of the modem meant no emails or blog entries. Ms. Russell called the authorities but I don't know what happened to the man who was syphoning off electricity, but at least he wasn't electricuted.

Friday was my (Jennifer's) birthday and the team gave me a beautiful figurine of 3 children learning to sign "Jesus Loves Me" and the school gave me a nice CCCD book bag. There was also birthday cake and many well-wishes. We joined the teachers for a season of prayer that morning; it was a beautiful time of reflection, of unity, and of importuning as we asked God to provide for CCCD's great needs. Financially, things are very difficult for them right now. Kingston has become so violent that some of the teachers said they stopped going to church at night because they were afraid they wouldn't arrive back home. Please pray for CCCD, for these teachers that are giving so much of themselves, and seriously consider sponsoring a child so they had be assured enough food to eat.

Friday afternoon after the teachers went home, our team went down to the "Hip Strip" or the tourist section of Montego Bay. We did some shopping and then went back to the beach at Doctor's Cave. From there we rented a small glass-bottom boat that took us out to the reef and 4 of us (Sammie, Janice, Quita and I) went snorkeling. It was like being in Finding Nemo! It was really amazing. Sammie said that was something she could scratch off her bucket list and Jen thought it was a fabulous birthday! Personally, I was reminded of Job 38 when God recounts His amazing creation:

"Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt'? Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this."

When I mentioned this passage in the boat ride back, I said, "Job had no way of seeing what we just saw when he heard God say that!" and Sammie replied, "Yeah, but I'm sure Jonah saw the whole thing on his way down!"

That night we went to a very nice dinner at Marguerite's right on the water. It was a huge contrast to how we'd been eating, to suddenly have a wine glass, a bread plate and way too much silverware, but we thoroughly enjoyed the meal. We took Ms. Russell with us and enjoyed our time. From the balcony, we saw a sting ray swim by in the shallows, he was really beautiful.

But there we also learned that God never stops working! This was supposed to be "time off" but God's work never takes a vacation. The hostess at the restaurant was an absolutely gorgeous and classy young woman, and Janice asked her if she'd ever done any modeling. She modestly answered that she was a contestant in the Miss Jamaica pageant that was coming up soon. We started a conversation with her, and in the end she was excited about the prospect of adopting CCCD as the charity she could support from her platform.

Saturday we were able to take our time getting packed and heading to the airport and we had a long but uneventful flight home. (Uneventful is a good thing!) This fit the criteria for what I think is a perfect trip: Before I left I was happy to go, I happy to be there while I was there, and when it was time to leave I was happy to go home. Stil, it was hard to say goodbye to Andicea and Ms. Russell and the other friendships we'd built. I pray we all can keep in touch with our friends as fellow teachers and sisters in Christ.

Please continue to pray for the team as we transition back to life at home. I'm starting a new chapter in my life as my best friends had a baby while I was gone (little Summerlyn is still in the NICU, please continue to pray) and I will start a new teaching position and a new subject in the fall. Laura and her family are trying to get all the pieces in place to move to Arkansas where Dirk will pastor a church. Most importantly, pray for CCCD, that God would provide for them financially, that He would strengthen them over the summer, and that they would remember what they've learned during the training so it can benefit their students.

Thanks for reading! We'll try to get some pictures available to you.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Prayer for Saturday

Our Warrior and Our Peace ~ Alcuin of York

O King of glory, and Lord of valour, our warrior and our peace, may You win victories in the world through us Your servants, for without You we can do nothing. May Your compassion go before us and come behind us; be with us at our beginnings, and at our endings. May Your will be done in everything we do, for You are our salvation, our glory and our joy.

Prayer for Friday

Resting ~ Frank Topping

teach me to rest in You.
Teach me to see the sky
and to think of nothing else
but the joy of it.
Teach me to look
at field and flower
and be soothed
by colors and seasons.
Teach me to close my eyes
and to rest
in the Love that has supported me
all my days.
Teach me, Lord, to rest in You.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thrilling and Therapeudic Thursday

I'm very sorry we didn't post yesterday, but by the time we got back to the house we were exhausted. Quita took a few minutes to check her "happy birthday" emails and then we all collapsed. (The girls in the kitchen - Yvonne, Marie, and Odette - made her a beautiful cake and she got a lovely banana-leaf purse.) The devil was working hard to confuse schedules, test relationships and discourage our work, but our God is mightier than any arrows Satan can throw our way!

This week of teacher training is the only time of year when all 3 campuses get together, so it was important to have some fun and fellowship. This morning after a breakfast of sausage and baked beans, we took a 1-hour bus ride to Negril. For those of you who went to Knockpatrick with us last year, let me make it clear that this was a very different kind of travel. We followed the coast the whole time and had lovely views of the sea and no switchbacks. Our delightful hostess for the week (and the principal here at Mo Bay), Dorette Russell, is also a licensed tour operator, so she gave us all sorts of interesting facts along the way. She also has her own very nice AIR-CONDITIONED bus. We stopped to see some cliff-divers, climbed to the top of the lighthouse, shopped at an open-air market, and then went swimming at the beach.

After dinner when we got back to campus we received the warmest of thank-yous from the staff. Individual teachers with whom we'd bonded came forward to give us kind words and a cool gift. We also got to laugh through all the inside jokes for the week. It was a very special time. Miss Lawrence, the principal from Kingston, said she felt this was the most informative and fun teacher training they'd ever had. We want to keep these relationships going, not only to hear about our sisters in Christ but also to be able to help them implement what they've learned.

Right now we're sitting around the kitchen table and some of the Deaf girls from Mo Bay (who live upstairs) just finished braiding our hair and now we're chatting. It's going to be very difficult to say good-bye to most of our new friends when everyone heads home tomorrow. But perhaps we can soften the blow by going back to the beach in the afternoon!

Before I sign off, I want to ask you to pray for little Summerlyn Anne who came into the world 6 weeks early today. She weighed 4 lbs, 3 oz and was born to my best friends back in Fort Worth.


Prayer for Thursday

For Success ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Lord, behold our “family” here assembled. We thank Thee for this place in which we dwell; for the love that unites us; for the peace accorded us this day; for the hope with which we expect the morrow; for the health, the work, the food and the bright skies, that make our lives delightful; for our friends in all parts of the earth, and our friendly helpers in this foreign isle. Let peace abound in our small company. Purge out of every heart the lurking grudge. Give us peace and strength to forbear and to persevere. Offenders ourselves, give us the grace to accept and to forgive offenders. Forgetful ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully the forgetfulness of others. Give us courage and gaiety and a quiet mind. Spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies. Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavors. If it may not, give us the strength to encounter that which is to come, that we be brave in peril, constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath, and in all changes of fortune, and, down to the gates of death, loyal and loving one to another. As the clay to the potter, as the windmill to the wind, as children of their sire, we beseech of Thee this help and mercy.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Prayer for Wednesday

Renewal ~ George Appleton

O my God,
Grant that I may so wait upon Thee,
That when quick decision and action are needed,
I may mount up with wings as an eagle;
And when under direction of Thy will
And the needs of people
I have to keep going under pressure,
I may run and not be weary;
And in times of routine and humble duty,
I may walk and not be faint.
For all my fresh springs are in Thee,
O God of my strength. (Isaiah 40:31)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tales of Tuesday

Today Laura and Sammie taught on reading and language. Teaching reading is always a struggle with deaf kids so the teachers were very excited to learn more strategies. Laura made a huge impression with her knowledge, education and experience, and she and Sammie were great role models for deaf and hearing teachers working together. Sammie announced at the start of the day that teachers were going to be pulled out of their comfort zones, and she was right!

Unfortunately, Quita was not able to join us during the morning sessions. Last night she was walking back to the house and she tripped over on some St. Augustine. The laptop survived but Quita's neck didn't fair as well. Now that the stress of getting here and giving her workshop was finished, she needed some time to recover. When she walked in at lunch time, everyone cheered and were very happy to have her back with us.

This evening was the teachers' night on the town. We went to the Hip Strip, the touristy section of Mo Bay, for several hours. Some people did some shopping or just walked down Glouster Street. Laura and Maureen went in search of ice cream, but most of us did some night swimming at Sunset Beach. In the bay there is very little surf and the water is clearer than a swimming pool, so we had fun just floating and talking. Sammie and Janice actually managed to get cold, but stretching out in the water and relaxing helped Quita's neck to loosen up.

Now it's 11:15 and Janice and Quita are setting up for tomorrow's workshop. The rest of us are sitting around at our kitchen table talking with Andicea, one of the Deaf teachers from Mo Bay.

Tomorrow's presentations:

Janice - classroom management
Jennifer - Individualized Edcuation Plans (IEPs)
Sammie and Laura - Compeletion of Reading Strategies
Maureen - special break-out session with vocational teachers
Sammie - interpreting (hearing)
Laura - interpreting (deaf)

Please pray for us all!

Prayer for Tuesday

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit ~ Rex Chapman

Bring me to see that what I have is there to be shared.

Bring me to see that what I have is not the last word in life.

Bring me to see that ultimately my security, my peace of mind depends not on my talents, not on my achievements, not on the status that goes with these, but on knowing that all that I have gains its meaning from You.

To know this, Lord, is to know both poverty and riches.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday Montage

Remember Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life? "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings." Well today we figured out that "Every time the breeze blows, someone is praying for us." So we'd like to start today's blog by saying thank you, and we beg you to pray a whole lot more! It's a stiffling kind of sticky-muggy-humid here in Mo Bay. Even the folks who live here all the time acknowledge that it is HOT.

But the good news is that Quita's presentation went well. The teachers and principals were excited to see the manipulatives that ETA Cuisinaire donated and most of them were eager to learn how to use them. Some of these teachers had to really step out of their comfort zone when Quita "forced" them to put their pencils away and solve problems with Base 10 blocks, but in the end they liked such a visual, tactile and kinesthetic approach to math.

This evening after a dinner of sweet and sour fish (which wasn't as scary as some of us had envisioned) we had a social. No one quite knew what to expect, but a good time was had by all. We played some classic party games like Musical Chairs, Black Magic and Pebbles in a Pond. We all just got silly and did some dancing and a whole lot of laughing. Janice showed off the dance she learned last year at Knockpatrick, and Maureen and Sammie had the opportunity to participate in the balloon burst relay. (Don't ask - you'll have to wait for the pictures!) It was a great chance to build some unity. The social let us break some barriers between deaf and hearing, CCCD and MMBC, and the three individual campuses.

I must cut my post short because Sammie needs the computer to make some adjustments to her PowerPoint for tomorrow. She and Laura had more opportunity to talk to the teachers and see what they needed, so they are being flexible and modifying their presentation.

Praise God that Quita's lesson was a success and pray that teachers can interalize what they learned and bring it back to their classrooms. Pray God's blessing and guidance on Laura and Sammie as they present tomorrow. And please... pray for a breeze!

Prayer for Monday

For the Seven Gifts of the Spirit ~ Bonaventura
Lord Jesus, as God’s Spirit came down and rested upon You, may the same Spirit rest upon us, bestowing His sevenfold gifts.

First, grant us the gift of understanding, by which Your precepts may enlighten our minds.

Second, grant us counsel, by which we may follow in Your footsteps on the path of righteousness.

Third, grant us courage, by which we may ward off the Enemy’s attacks.

Fourth, grant us knowledge, by which we can distinguish good from evil.

Fifth, grant us piety, by which we may acquire compassionate hearts.

Sixth, grant us fear, by which we may draw back from evil and submit to what is good.

Seventh, grant us wisdom, that we may taste fully the life-giving sweetness of Your love.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Sum-up

The sun rises early in Jamaica, but it's so beautiful, we didn't mind! We had a nice breakfast together as a team this morning of scrambled eggs, fresh pineapple and toast with much-anticipated guava jam. Then it was off to Sunday services with Ms. Russell at Rose Mount Missionary Church. It was a huge blessing to be so warmly greeted by the family of Christ, to worship with them in song, to share the Lord's Supper together and to hear biblical principles applied in a different culture.

Then came the fun part of the day - Doctor's Cave! After tuna sandwiches in our cute little kitchen, Ms. Russell drove us down to the beach and we (finally!) got to experience the part of Jamaica everyone else usually gets to see. We floated in the clear blue water and snorkeled just swimming distance from our big umbrella in the white sand. It was cool and refreshing in the ocean, but the quality girl time was refreshing, too. (Maureen wasn't up for swimming and stayed at CCCD. She got some quality work done on her presentation and had great fellowship with the Mo Bay teachers helping them get set up for the workshops.) After all the stress of organizing our teaching materials, packing ourselves and our families for a week away from home and actually getting here, it was really nice to take a few hours off.

But before you start fussing, turning green with jealousy or calling our missions pastor in indignation, please understand our real work began at 6 when we sat down for dinner with our teacher-friends from Mo Bay and the newly-arrived teachers from Kingston and Knockpatrick. It was an informal get-to-know-each-other kind of evening, but it was very important to start building (and re-building) relationships with the teachers. Just like doctors make the worst patients, often teachers make the worst students. It's our goal to give them practical, useful tools they can take back to their classroom and not just talk at them. That has often been their experience and they are tired from just finishing the school year.

After dinner we headed into tomorrow's meeting room to set up math manipulatives, reading cards and the door prizes we'll hand out to the teachers. It's now 11:30 - we're going to have to "sleep fast" because devotions begin at 6:15 in the morning!

Please pray for Quita has she presents on Math (or Maths as they say here on the island) tomorrow and for the rest of us as we adjust our schedules and our presentations to be sensitive and relevant.


Prayer for Sunday

To Him Be Glory ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Lord, help me to glorify Thee. I am poor, help me to glorify Thee by contentment. I am sick, help me to give Thee honor by patience. I have talents, help me to extol Thee by spending them for Thee. I have time, Lord, help me to redeem it, that I may serve Thee. I have a heart to feel, Lord, let that heart feel no love but Thine, and glow with no flame but affection for Thee. I have a head to think, Lord, help me to think of Thee and for Thee. Thou hast put me in this world for something, Lord; show me what that is, and help me to work out my life-purpose.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

We've Arrived!

It was an eventful and blessed day. Once we made it to the airport, we collectively held our breath for the luggage weigh-in! Praise the Lord only one was overweight, and they let it slide. The next adventure happened after we boarded the plane. We were sitting on the tarmac - waiting, waiting, waiting when the pilot came on and announced they were waiting for a part. Always a great feeling when you are about to fly! After an hour delay, we finally took off!

Praise God we have arrived safely in Montego Bay. We had a nerve-wracking adventure in Jamaican customs. We were going through the "nothing to declare" line. The customs agent asked why we were there and why we had so many bags. We explained we were volunteering and we brought school supplies. She waved us over to the "declaring" line. It was a bit scary because they could charge us or even take some of the things. Prayer ensued, and the lady asked to see four of the bags. Quickly, we found the bags with only supplies in it. She was satisfied that we were the honest, hard-working women we seemed to be!

Once out of the airport, we were warmly greeted by Ms. Russell, the principal at the Montego Bay campus. It was a bit of a task getting 12 bags, 6 ladies, and 12 carry-ons in a little van! We knew God didn't get us through customs to leave some of it on the side of the road. We are staying in a three-bedroom house on campus that normally houses an American, single male! It is comfortable and clean and has an Internet connection.

Tonight we were treated to local fare at the Pork Pit. It was a fabulous meal of jerk chicken, jerk pork, and spare ribs. Chipotle's got nothin' on the spice down here! Sammie survived the heat of the jerk!! Yippee!! Afterwards we treated our host to ice cream; Devon Stout was her frozen confection of choice. You'll have to look that one up - we never did figure out quite what flavor it was, but the Jamaicans said it was rum.

Our next stop... the Mega Mart! One of the deaf ladies with us, Andecea, told Janice that we had to be careful in the Mart because there were wild animals waiting to bite us. All through the store she kept "caring for" the lion so it wouldn't bite us. Janice asked her why the lion wouldn't eat her. The response was, "I'm Jamaican, they won't eat me." Quickly, Janice retorted, "Do they only like white meat?" We thought Andecea was going to die of laughter.

Tonight was a wonderful experience "hanging out" with several of the teachers, cooks, and Ms. Russell. We are all exhausted and ready for bed, but feeling so blessed to finally be here. Ms. Russell told us that church would probably be louder than we are used to, and the pastor might switch to "Jamaican language."

Saddle up our horses, tomorrow is another adventure.

Prayer for Saturday

Prayer of Faith and Declaration ~ Tommy Tenney
Lord, fill my heart with passion from Your heart. Fill my mind with the thoughts and principles of the mind of Christ. Fill my mouth with the words You wish me to speak, and strengthen my soul with the courage to declare them to the desert of death and prophesy them to the winds of adversity.

You have commanded me to speak, so I speak as an oracle of God with the ability You supply. You have anointed me to minister, so I serve with the humility of a servant and the love of my Savior.

I declare a season of resurrection, a season when the glory of God will fill the earth and Jesus Christ will be glorified through the Church. I release the healing power of the blood of the Lamb over my region to the glory of God.
I release the passion of God in my home, my church and my city to open the heavens. I release the resurrection power of God to destroy the works of the Enemy and to raise up the lost souls of my city and region.

I declare with divinely delegated authority based on God’s unchanging Word that Jesus Christ is Lord over my life and all that concerns me. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.