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Goose Bumps, Gungo Beans, God, and Government
We had heard about the plight of Delroy and his family just a few days after Hurricane Dean hit Jamaica. He, his wife, a daughter and three grandchildren lost their home and everything except the clothes they were wearing. Delroy has no skills and worked in agriculture. Of course, even that was gone with the banana trees all blown down, fruit stripped from the trees and the blight that has destroyed the coconuts. Delroy was able to salvage a few scraps of wood and some tin (commonly called “zinc” in Jamaica). Money we had prepositioned in Jamaica prior to Hurricane Dean was used to help clothe and feed Delroy and others. On our next trip, not knowing him or where he was living, we met him near his temporary home – a small room of a decaying abandoned wharf. They were hot and miserable there. You could look into his eyes and see the misery and despair.
We visited the site of his previous home and decided that on our next trip, we would try to rebuild his home. A few months later, we built him and his family a tiny two room house with total size of 16’ x 16’. They were still suffering. We continued to help him with some money, food, and clothing. Then we decided to try to help him help themself. We had this idea to help people get started raising pigs and Delroy’s family would be our pilot project. So, in the summer of 2008, we helped him build a pig pen and bought him a pregnant pig as well as feed. We also had to run water to his property. He commented that this was the first time in his life he has had running water (and this is not even connected to his home).
Two weeks ago, I (Donnie) was on the island and drove up to the base of the hill at Delroy’s. There he was with a produce stand, scales hanging from a tree, and two nicely dressed customers. I got goose bumps. Here is a man who was in despair and had lost most of his worldly possessions now making an income selling produce from his farm in the bush.
On his hillside, close to his house, now reside 8 small 4 month old pigs each weighing about 100 lbs. The mother sow is pregnant again. He has planted bananas and plantains on the hill to help shade the pigs from the hot morning sun. Delroy also has gungo beans (the bean most often found in the staple food of “rice and peas (actually beans)” and sorrel growing.
Later in the week, I accompanied Delroy and his wife to their farm in the bush (out in the country). Eleven months earlier, he had rented approximately 10 acres of land on a hillside not suitable for standard agriculture. When we were there in the fall, he was planting 200 banana trees and 200 plantain trees. Now on this rugged steep hillside, he has the banana trees, plantains, coconuts, yams, gungo beans, sorrel, pumpkin, sweet potato, and coffee growing.
So, back to the corner produce stand and my goose bumps. Why did I get them? God led us to help this man and his family in a time of great despair. That helped ignite hope. Now, he has a home, a pig farm, produce near their home, an amazing farm on a hill 10 miles away, and he is selling produce. He now has an income and a bright future. Seeing this end product – hope and relief - brought the goose bumps.
What about those guys buying the produce? Well they wanted to know what we were about. So, I started explaining how God had led us to Delroy, what we had done to help Delroy and the progress Delroy had made. Then they wanted to know more about what we as Isaiahsixeight hope to do in the future with the help of God. One of these men got goose bumps that he showed to me. During our discussion, Delroy told them how he read his Bible daily and again when he felt down or depressed. Goose bumps for me again. Delroy was not a Christian when we met him and he had Rastafarian leanings. The two men there both had connections with the government. They made some contacts which resulted in a meeting with Dr. Fenton Ferguson, the Member of Parliament representing the eastern ½ of the St. Thomas province and Vice President of the second strongest political party in Jamaica. He vowed to help us and try to clear some governmental obstacles for us.
God is amazing! He uses very ordinary people in very bad situations to do amazing things for those who follow and listen to Him.
See more about Delroy's family
Guinness, Ganga, Gambling, and the Gospel
Over the years, God has put it on our heart that we need to be working with men in Jamaica – particularly the young men. The reason for this is that you rarely see young men in the churches. Are they exposed to the Gospel? Not really. You do see tents with tent evangelists around, but these young men rarely attend those. They have heard and seen all that.
A few quotes resonate in our minds:
“Go straight for souls, and go for the worst.” William Booth
"Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell." -- C.T. Studd
“No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.” -- Oswald J. Smith
“Evangelization is a process of bringing the gospel to people where they are, not where you would like them to be… When the gospel reaches a people where they are, their response to the gospel is the church in a new place...” --Vincent Donovan
Where did Jesus go? He taught in the temple and synagogues, but he spent most of his time in the presence of sinners – going to meet them where they were. Another thing about Jamaica is that people seem very bored with nothing to do. At nights, they go to the numerous bars, drink Guinness, Red Stripe beer, or rum, smoke ganga (local name for marijuana), and gamble with cards and dominoes. So, if you want to take the Gospel to sinners like Jesus did, you have to go to them – to the bars and gambling establishments.
Thinking about this several months ago, we were struggling with how to reach these people. We realized that they were bored, tended to cluster around the bars, and were quite inquisitive. God has not empowered us to preach plus the preachers there are not reaching many, even when the preacher goes to them. So, how do we get the Gospel to them? God showed us a way. Entertain them and expose them to the Gospel where they are. People retain 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, and 70% of what they see and hear together (Mars Hill project). So, we decided to put together a portable theater and show outdoor movies where the people are (generally the bars). Some of the movies are clean secular ones that draw a crowd, and then we show a movie containing the Gospel message.
Well, you might ask how it works. It is really quite amazing. In almost all instances, we get our electrical current from a bar. We have children, women, and men in attendance. Many of the men are there to drink, smoke ganga (marijuana), and gamble. We have even had to compete with loud card games when showing movies with a Christian theme, but in all instances in which we have shown a movie with a direct Gospel presentation, the gambling has ceased and the men watch the movie. We have averaged over 50 people per showing.
Many of the men smoke ganga and drink through the movies. At times, the smoke is so thick that it burns our eyes, but usually they are captivated by what they are hearing – so much so that their conversations, cursing, and gambling cease.
We have people coming up to us after the movies asking us when and where we are showing them again. We have had people 15 miles away in the small town to see us on the street and ask us when and where we are showing the movies again. We have had people to ask us for copies of the movie DVD and the music we play. We have given Bibles to people at movies.
What is next and where do we see this going? We pray God will continue to show us the way and we think he has. We will continue with the movies, but they are teaching us something else. From the data above from the Mars Hill project about retaining 10% of what you read, 20% of what you hear, 30% of what you see, and 70% of what they see and hear together – how do we use this data and is this data true in Jamaica? Well, we are finding that many people in Jamaica cannot read even though they say they can; so, why give them a Bible? We need to think more outside the box. The cost of buying and shipping a Bible there is quite expensive, but some are still needed. Many people there have DVD players or have friends who have them. If our aim is to get the Gospel before them, we can do it using their DVD players by supplying DVD’s with the Gospel message or Bibles on CD. The Hope video, probably our best movie, can be purchased for less that ½ the cost of getting a Bible there. Also, hopefully, more than one person will see it. Also, we can legally copy some audio Bibles in MP3 format onto CD’s that play in many DVD players. So, for less than $1 US we could give them an audio Bible that they may copy as much as they want.
We believe God is leading us to continue the movie ministry, but also to distribute tracts, Bibles, DVD’s of the Hope video, and audio Bible CD’s. We are praying that this will help us reach people who are not reached by conventional methods so they can hear the Gospel message.
I have heard for years that music can calm a savage beast. It is truly amazing to watch a great presentation of the Gospel captivate a crowd of men who thought they would be drinking, smoking ganga, cursing, and gambling. The Gospel has that power. We just have to take it to the people.
Schools, Shoes, and Steeples
Last summer, we built a Basic School (similar to a kindergarten) in Stokes Hall. It is a remarkable community with a strong work ethic, a strong church, and community spirit. We promised to come back to help repair their church which was in major disrepair and in danger of collapsing. Of course, we knew the amount of work was too much for our small team, but this community really turned out and did most of the work. We even had the women of the church carrying buckets of sand, gravel, and mixed concrete. It was a great project in a great and grateful community. We had the opportunity to make new friends, share our faith and the Gospel.
We were pleased to see that the community had painted the Basic school with the sea and waves across the bottom and white skies above. The school which was down to 20 students before we built the new building now has 27 and can take up to 40. They are extremely happy with it.
One of our team members brought 140 pairs of shoes donated by the members of Riverchase United Methodist Church. We gave some of the children shoes as well as a suitcase of clothes from Holy Apostles Episcopal Church to the school teacher to distribute. The team members also donated some of their own shoes to many of the men workers on site. Some were wearing tennis shoes with no heels and with the laces tied around the bottom to hold on the remnant of sole. Some worked on top of the rafters in their bare feet. All were most appreciative of our friendship, our work and our contributions. We also left some Bibles for the minister to distribute. He also said he needed a large print Bible. He is 74 years old and has some difficulty with his vision. So, we presented him a large print Bible someone had made possible by a donation.
Read more about Stokes Hall Basic School
Angels and Anguish
We visited some of the sick and elderly aided by the Christmas Angel program. We went to see some of the same people I had met a year ago. Their plight is worse. Their health has worsened and their hope has diminished as the economy has declined. Two of these women are now captives in their own homes with no family to help them. They survive on a pension of about $55 US per month – in a place where gasoline is still over $2.38 per gallon. One lady can no longer stand and she has no indoor toilet. The other is an amputee living in what looks like a chicken coop made of old rusted tin. She crawls around on the floor then out to a small enclosure with a dirt floor where she has a small charcoal grill where she cooks? There are small chickens all around as she cooks as well as huge spiders and other creatures.
They say that they survive because the Port Morant Methodist Church serves them soup on Saturdays. I have seen the soup. It is a noble gesture, but it is thin and only one day a week. What about their other needs? What about the days other than Saturday?
We do not have an answer yet, but God has laid a heavy burden on our hearts and we know it could be better for them if we had a full time presence there. They need more food, possibly some vitamins, and someone to just show them that there are Christians who care.
They are angels and they are in anguish. We are in anguish over how we can help them. Maybe God will show us how we can be angels to them.
See more about these Angels
With God's help and direction, we plan to expand God's work in Jamaica. Our desire now is to continue the things we have been doing, but try to gain a full-time presence there to be able to minister to hurting people, like the elderly listed in the story above. The local church delivers them soup once a week. We believe more is needed.
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