Devin Brown, known locally as Ruffy, has been our taxi driver for approximately 7 years. Before that, we rented a bus with driver or we rented a van or car and drove ourselves (never again!). Not only is renting a taxi driver and his vehicle for a day cheaper than a car rental, it is safer and you get his brother and helper as escorts. These guys are sad when we leave and can’t wait until we come back. They love to be with us.
Many times, they will say – “you guys are different from the other Christians here. You guys help people.” They get into the helping spirit as well – many times working alongside of us with no expectations of pay. Other times, we will hire them. Always, they get to hang out with us, eat some of the food we eat (they love my sandwiches and red-neck caviar). They go to church with us, go to show Christian movies with us, are frequently put “on the spot” at churches and asked to speak. Frequently, we tailor our devotions and church talks for their ears.
They are a major part of our mission field. We have seen them change for the better over the years, but their “culture” and as Paul would say – their “world” or “flesh” is deeply embedded. Other than us, there are extremely few examples of Christian men for them.
So, now that you know something of these guys, what about the capacity of their vans?
We are always amazed at how many students are crammed into the taxis, vans, cars, and buses going to and from school. Ruffy has told us before that he could get as many as 30 in his van, but the police were cracking down on that.
So, we decided to do a Vacation Bible School in a community called Wheelerfield – where we built a church about 3 years ago. The church is a church plant from another church we are associated with and has also spawned a preacher who is now leading yet another church (more about him later). Well, Wheelerfield is a small rural village with few people, but it has a large field, two adjacent structures we can use and is central to 3 other communities where we work. So, we decided this was the place for a large Vacation Bible School and we would bus the children in from the other 3 communities.
So, we contracted with Ruffy, another van, and still a smaller 3rd van to go pick up teachers, adults, and children for the VBS. Well, it was very chaotic, but we had over 200 children in VBS, over 50 adults in an adult Bible study we had not planned, and about another 25 adults helping shepherd children as well as our team of 14.
Were we worried about the police? Well, I had hired the local police chief to provide security for us, because this was a nighttime VBS. So, no one was monitoring the capacity of the vans.
How many? Fifty (50) – in each of two eleven (11) passenger vans. The 7 passenger van could only manage 39 people. And they came back and they loved every minute of VBS.
In 2014, we have lost two of our most dedicated pioneers in this mission to Jamaica - Jack Mullins and Tom Hunt. We humans tend to give ourselves more credit for our works and ideas than we should. Ecclesiastes 1:9 “… there is nothing new under the sun”. Our omniscient God not only knew the idea, He gave it us and probably had given it to others before us as well. For this reason, only He should get the Glory.
However, we as humans, despite our failings, do have those in our lives who inspire, lead, and set great examples. Jack and Tom were two such men.
Jack led me on my first mission trip to Jamaica. Tom, while not a leader, was on that trip as well. That would be Jack's last trip (winter of 1996), but he constantly encouraged us who continued to travel there. Tom would lead another church group down, then accompany us on several other trips to Jamaica. Tom continued wanting to go beyond the time his health would permit.
What kind of legacies did these guys leave? Well, I don't think they were thinking in those terms, but their passing caused me to look back and see where that trip Jack led has taken this mission. I can only tell the story as I know it. I, Donnie Cantley, will recount what I remember:
- My first trip with you was in February 1996. I believe Terry Fry went a few years on a preceding trip. I have been approximately 36 times and Terry’s trip number is in the high 20’s.
- We have repaired/improved 5-6 churches - from major structural changes with new roofs to adding large fellowship halls. In the Wheelerfield community, we built the church building for a plant church.
- We have built 4 Basic Schools (like kindergartens/preschools). 3 of the 4 are church related and even the other one is led by a Christian lady.
- We have built have built at least 9 houses. Recipients have included a blind man, a woman dying of cancer with 3 children, a special needs child, an old man whose home was in shambles, a family with 3 children whose home that had collapsed, and one where a collapsing masonry structure endangered the family.
- We have built church pews for 3 congregations, an alter rail for one.
- We have helped thousands with home repairs, food, school supplies, clothing, and/or shoes.
- We have had Christian concerts, Christian videos, and street preaching at street corners, at community centers, and at bars and gambling places at 9 locations.
- We frequently are asked to speak at churches and even occasionally asked to deliver the sermon at a church.
- We worked with an orphanage to do major floor joist replacement and flooring, built lockers, did electrical and plumbing work and replaced a pump to get water to the orphanage. We also renovated a chicken coop and supplied the chicks and feed.
- We have done the equivalent of over $40,000 of major repairs on a Special Needs School.
- We have furnished educational electronics and school supplies/teacher’s aid to the special needs school as well as to over 15 basic schools.
- We have helped support children in preschool and now we are helping some of the same children pay their college tuition, fees, and transportation costs
- We fund a Christmas program annually that feeds close to 200 people a hot lunch at Christmas, provides gifts to close to 100 children, provides gifts to close to 100 patients in an indigent nursing home, and provide boxes of food to approximately 50 poor, sick, and elderly.
- We have purchased pillows for the residents at the indigent nursing home as well as purchasing them a commercial washing machine and we visit regularly.
- We have supported two special needs babies in the communities with baby beds, mobiles, toys, protein powder, vitamins, blenders, and bought one mother a refrigerator to help the child.
- We take a lot of peanut butter and vitamins to Jamaica for feeding programs not mentioned elsewhere and for the basic school children.
- We do some to help support a church soup kitchen.
- We built a 7 station community computer lab for the community at a local church.
- We provide printers, computers, and memory sticks to our associates there for use by poor children and the basic schools. Much of the material we take is copied and distributed to other basic schools.
- We take Sunday School materials, craft supplies and teacher aides to teachers.
- We have had approximately 300 short term missionaries from the US join us. Some of these people have been profoundly impacted and seek to go again and again.
- We have made a lot of relationships with the Jamaicans. Isaiahsixeight has a great reputation there.
- The last 5 years, we have rented a mission house there. It have been used by mission teams from 2-3 different states other than Alabama.
- The missionaries who lived there in the community for about 12 years and moved back to Missouri come to Jamaica with their own teams occasionally and stay at our house. When they appear at local churches, the people assume they are a part of Isaiahsixeight and introduce them as such. Because of our good name in the region, the missionaries are proud to be known that way.
- Last year, after the Special Needs School had some disappointing test scores and some inquiry as to why, we were told that it was most likely due to hunger and absenteeism. In October, we began a feeding program at that school feeding over 75 children breakfast on Mondays and Fridays. The teacher reports much better results and a great decrease in absenteeism.
- In June 2014, a team from Pelham did a VBS at a church we built as a plant church from another church. We used taxis to pick up children and adults in 3 neighboring communities where we have relationships. We had over 200 children in the VBS, fed them snacks, had approximately 30 Jamaican adult onlookers, and had at least 50 Jamaican adults in an adult Bible study. All of this was done in the early evening because school was still in session. (Imagine if school had not been in session).
- In July, we had a team from Fayette conduct a VBS in Port Morant. They were also asked to go to another community and share the experience there as well.
- We are currently having discussions with a young Jamaican man filled with the Holy Spirit about helping him get some seminary training. We are coordinating some religious activities with him already.
Jack and Tom will be missed, but their legacy is passed on to us. Read the 3rd verse of the hymn "Faith of Our Fathers" by Frederick William Faber written in 1849. Its message still rings true for us!
Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto thee;
And through the truth that comes from God
Mankind shall then indeed be free.
Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!
Approximately 18 months ago, I was contacted by Ms. Nunes, the Head Teacher at the Special Needs School. After asking about her students, she told me how poorly they had performed on their year-end testing compared to previous year. Then I asked if she had an explanation – the answer – “you can’t learn on an empty stomach”. Many of the children were coming to school hungry or not coming at all since they had no money for lunch or transportation. Also, many Jamaicans do not go to school on Friday. If you have insufficient money for the week, who wouldn’t pick Friday to be the day to stay away?
So, this is how and why we started a feeding program at the Special Needs School. We purchased a gas stove, some pots, pans, bowls, table wear, utensils, food, and helped hire a cook. So, on two mornings a week, 75 students get a Hot, very nourishing breakfast.
At first, we started the breakfast on Tuesdays and Thursday, but Ms. Nunes made a wise decision to move it to Monday and Friday. Monday to get the kids there on the first day of the week and Friday to make sure they come to school on Friday.
Results – much better attendance, teaching was easier and they did much better on their testing. The feeding program continues. Maybe
this is why Jesus fed the multitudes.
I have written much about Mushie and her mom, Michelle. I also try to take every mission team to meet them and hear their story. Usually, there are tears shed – by Michelle, by team members, and by me. Michelle, because she knows how God loves her and how blessed she is as well and how God has used us to bless her. We feel blessed just by hearing her express her love for Mushie, seeing how thankful and full of hope she is living in what to many of us is an impossible situation.
You see, Mushie was born with hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”) and as a result, has severe cerebral palsy. The diagnosis was made before she was born. The father insisted on an abortion, but Michelle refused. The father abandoned them. Then Michelle’s parents disowned her because she would not put Mushie in a facility for the severely handicapped.
When we first met them, they were living in a very small one room of a shack. No screens, no mosquito net, no fan, and only one light bulb. Mushie was malnourished, had floppy legs and arms, she could not chew (her mom chewed her food), and she cried when mosquitoes would bite her. To make things worse, they were about to be evicted and had no place to go. Immediately, we obtained mosquito nets, vitamins, a blender, eggs, and other items for them. Less than a week later, I returned with a fan, a better blender, more vitamins, and protein powder. We set up a system to also help get eggs and peanut butter to them. Lastly, we purchased a baby bed for Mushie so she would no longer roll out of bed.
By a miracle, God provided us with a ready-made foundation two lots down from where they lived and we built them a house (story told in last Newsletter).
In early 2014, Mushie had some severe seizures and was placed in the hospital for a few days. She could not leave until we sent money for medications. Then, we had a team there in June. Michelle had a garden, chickens, and eggs. She blended the fruits and vegetables to feed Mushie, but she could not preserve them. So, our team went to the local small town and purchased them a refrigerator. In July, another team was there visiting and in the interim, Mushie had been sick and was prescribe an antibiotic that had to be refrigerated. Now, they had a refrigerator! Michelle made everyone from the team come into her tiny house and see what was in the refrigerator. She had eggs, carrots, greens, juice, fruit, tomatoes, and onions – all the things that were spoiling on her before. She was so proud and grateful!
They have been doing well, until the Chikungunya virus struck (see separate article). Both of them got sick – high fever, headaches, muscle and joint pains, etc. Mushie had it very bad and would cry every time she moved her muscles or joints. I received a call, because she was getting dehydrated and her mom had no money to buy juice. Again, we sent a small amount of money to her. She bought juice and Pampers.
Speaking of money, they have very little. Because of Mushie’s condition, the government does give them some money. It works out to about $15 US every other month. So, they survive on less than $0.50 per day – yet, they feel blessed and inspire every one of our team members who meet them.
Please pray for Michelle and Mushie and pray that we too can be as thankful for our blessings.
Chikungunya (Chik V.)is a mosquito borne viral disease. The word is a tribal African word that means "to bind up". That is probably due to the fact that some of the patients get muscle pain and arthritis. The Chikungunya virus has caused disease in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Africa, France, Italy, and the US. It made a big appearance in St. Martens, the Caribbean Island in November of 2013. I took notice of it then because there was evidence it would spread through the Caribbean.
When we went to Jamaica with a small team in March of this year, it was still in the southern Caribbean. In early June and then early July, I was watching it much more closely and it was infecting a lot of people in Puerto Rico and was starting to infect the population in the Dominican Republic. Reports are that approximately 500,000 people in the Dominican Republic were infected. Luckily for our teams, but unluckily for the Jamaicans, the virus did not start affecting Jamaica until August. That coincided with the rainy season, more mosquitoes, and the start of school. In September and October, it was ravaging Eastern Jamaica, where we do our work. Reports are that at least 50% of the people in that area got the virus and absenteeism in schools was greater than 50%.
As people recovered and developed immunity, there was less transmission of the disease in our area; however, the disease apparently has not peaked yet in other parts of Jamaica. This infection caused us to cancel a small trip in October this year.
Please pray for Pastor Campbell in Stokes Hall. His Chik V infection left him almost debilitated with arthritic pain. He is a very active farmer in his 80’s. As with most pastors in Jamaica, their pastoring duty will have its reward in the next life, but little in this one. Most get no income from their churches and must have another job to sustain their families.
Please note - we will closely track the disease on the island. Most of our mission teams travel in the dry season and there are fewer mosquitoes. So, acquiring mosquito borne viral illness would be less likely. Hopefully, by the time we approach Spring, the disease will have run its course on the island. For now, we are waiting and considering a trip with two of us soon. In the meantime, we will monitor the disease.
Courtney is a rarity in Jamaica. He is a really neat guy about 30 years old. He had little formal education, but is very intelligent and creative. He even built a motorbike from old parts, plastic bottles, a plastic chair, and even used Vise-Grips as a kick starter lever. The things unique about him? Well, he is married, he goes to church, and he is called to preach.
We first met Courtney when we decided to build a church building for a new plant church in the middle of a cane field community called Wheelerfield. Courtney, his wife, and his two children came to help us with the construction. When we went back to visit the church, he would occasionally speak at the church. He wanted to be an evangelist. On several occasions, we would go out with him to show some Christian movies and then he would preach. Later, after the death of a minister at a church in a neighboring community, he was called to come preach at that church. Since then, that church denomination has ordained him.
Courtney told me that in 2007, he was in a serious accident. In the hospital, he was in a lot of pain and was about to lose the leg. He prayed to God and accepted Christ. He then taught himself to read by reading the Bible. He was so on fire for God, that he started evangelizing in the hospital. He is a great example of what God can do and an example to Jamaican men.
Immediately, the question came to us – how can we work with Courtney to help grow the Kingdom? Get him a better Bible, some study aids, help get our movie system into his hands, help him and his family financially so he can do more Kingdom work?
Well, I had heard of this program from Birmingham Theological Seminary (BTS) in conjunction with Third Millennium Ministries whereby one can gain a free Certificate in Christian Ministry online. All the video lectures and readings are all online and free. But, Courtney does not have Internet service. We took an iPhone 5 with data plan to his home – no signal. We took a cellular broadband modem that works great in Jamaica, but his remote area has no service. So, what to do?
After meeting with the President of BTS, he gave us the entire course of study on a USB thumb drive. Courtney has no computer or device to accept it. So, on our next trip, we are taking him a used iPad 3, a cordless WiFi router with USB port, and all the seminary data on the USB thumb drive.
So, Courtney will be able to undertake some seminary training in the cane field where he lives. Our main concerns are his ability to read (which is not great) and his time to study.
So, please be in prayer about Courtney, his spiritual growth, and how we can help him become even more effective spreading the Gospel.
The Least of These - by Mitchell Morris
Jesus is coming back. We know that. And when He does, Matthew 25 says He will separate the “sheep” from the “goats”. His “sheep” will go to eternal life, but the “goats” will go to eternal punishment. What sets them apart? What’s the difference between a “sheep” and a “goat”? In Matthew 25, Jesus says that our identity as either a “sheep” or a “goat” is determined by what we have or have not done for “the least of these”. Because as far as He is concerned, that is exactly what we have or have not done for Jesus Himself. That’s a big deal. This begs two huge questions – “Who are the least of these?” and “What can we do for them?”.
So who are “the least of these”? Jesus says that “the least of these” are those who are hungry, thirsty, estranged, unclothed, sick, and imprisoned. Basically, “the least of these” are those who are in need of something and can do nothing about it. There are “the least of these” all over the world. There are “the least of these” in Africa. In India. In Birmingham, Alabama. In southeast Jamaica. In southeast Jamaica, “the least of these” are children who eat a maximum of one meal a day, or have no bed to sleep in, or have no roof over their head, or have no shoes, or have only one set of clothes, or can’t afford to go to school, or have no parents, or have never been told that they are loved. They are kids who are neglected and mistreated because they have special needs or disabilities. They are adults who are abandoned with little to no care because they are elderly, physically incapacitated, or mentally unstable. They are Jamaican people who are hopeless because they have never had a “sheep” show them the love of Christ.
So what can we do for “the least of these”? Jesus says that His “sheep” feed them, give them drink, welcome them, clothe them, care for them, and look after them. Basically, as “sheep” we are called to share the love of Christ by sacrificing and giving of ourselves in order to meet the needs of “the least of these”. This is what Isaiah 6:8 does. Why? Because the Bible commands us to. Because we are called to love others like Christ loves us. Because the location of our treasure reveals the location of our hearts. Because Jesus says that’s what separates the “sheep” from the “goats”. Because we are His “sheep”. Because our Shepherd loves us, and He loves “the least of these”. Because we love our Shepherd and want to serve Him. Because Jesus is coming back.
The tree is Myristica fragrans – better known as the nutmeg tree. From it, we get not only the spice known as nutmeg, but we also get the spice known as mace. Both come from the seed portion.
The red veins on the outer surface of the seed is the source of mace. As you dry the seed, the mace becomes more brown. If you shake the seed, you feel and hear something large inside. That is the main meat of the seed and is where you find the nutmeg spice.