We had breakfast each day with our Jamaican brothers and sisters. We never went hungry or thirsty thanks to Lisa and her team, even on the day we didn't have any water. Before we opened the gate and let people in, each morning Pastor Muirhead, Reid, or Metts would lead us in a devotion. It was always something to remind us that we were there to work in unity to be a door to those who were broken to come to Jesus. A couple of the mornings Pastor Muirhead led us in the "Hallelujah" chant. It was just as it sounds. He would shout "Hallelujah" and we, with hands raised, would shout it back. It was dual purpose, to beat back the enemy and to charge us up for the day. Once the gates opened, it would be a whirlwind.
Those with tickets were let into the gate, where they registered and were given an arm band and a number. Each color represented different services that were offered. We had pediatricians, general practitioners, a dental team, and the local Lion's Club did eye exams and provided glasses. Once they were registered, they sat under the tent until their number was called. An arm band got you in for one service, if you wanted to see someone in addition, you had to go around and get another number. That helped prevent people from just coming in and hanging out in the air conditioning.
Once under the tent, before entering the building, the crowd was greeted by Pastor Muirhead, who then introduced our pastor, Darryl. Darryl's part was to present the gospel to them. He did it through words, and then he did it using a visual illustration. In the picture below, you see what the containers looked like before he told people that sin taints us all. He would take the sin container and pour it into the you container and it would turn orange. Then he would say Jesus has power to wipe away sin. He would take that Jesus container and pour it into us, and it would turn clear again, and then he would pour into the sin container and it would turn clear to, because Jesus takes all our sin when we trust him. It was a powerful picture, and it made it so easy in the prayer pod to then come back to that as part of the conversation. It was then that the clinic opened in full force.
The Jamaicans handled the intake and the distribution of arm bands and the directing of "traffic" within the clinic. I, for one, was so thankful for their part in this for lots of reasons. One being, even though Jamaicans speak English, wow can they be hard to understand sometimes! On top of that, a lot of Jamaicans intersperse Patois (a local language) with their English...when that happens all bets are off. Another reason was they were able to interact with them in a way that we could not. Often you would hear them refer to the mothers as "Mommy" or elder ladies at "Auntie." And the most important part I think was that they got to see the love of Christ displayed in a tangible way through their neighbors. What a powerful message.
Those of us who were not medically trained or assigned to specific tasks rotated from station to station. It was quickly evident where my strengths were and were not. The first morning I was in the prayer pod. What a privilege to get to talk to people as they were finished at the clinic. I met people who were far from God, and people who humbled me with their walk with Jesus. The most common request I got was for a job. Unemployment and underemployment is a significant problem in Jamaica. It is part and parcel of why the drug trade has such a hold, why there has been such unrest there in the past, and the part of the reason for 12 foot walls everywhere you go.
The very first morning, I met a lady with a small child. She had been there for her daughter to see the pediatrician. Nothing serious was wrong, but she had these sad, pleading eyes. As I talked with her, I found out that she was living with a man who was caring for her and her children. They were not married. As I shared the gospel with her, she kept coming back to "not being ready" that she had to be married because she knew what she was doing was not right in God's eyes. I explained to her that there's no need to be "ready." Jesus wants us just as we are, he wants us to bring him our stuff and let him deal with it. She agreed to pray with me, but I am not sure that in her heart she understood, as she left that sadness still filled her eyes. But, I am going to trust that God is bigger than my doubt and believe that I will see her one day again. That afternoon as I was readying for devotions that evening, I was practiced a new song that had captured my heart the week before we left, it's called Ever Be by Bethel Music. The second verse of the song says this:
Your kindness makes us whole
You shoulder our weakness
And Your strength becomes our own
You’re making me like you
Clothing me in white
Bringing beauty from ashes
For You will have Your bride
Free of all her guilt and rid of all her shame
And known by her true name and it’s why I sing
All I could do was be amazed that God had been preparing me to meet this woman through the words of this song! I shared that story with our team as I introduced the song to them. It became a favorite over the week.
There were other amazing encounters during the week in the prayer pod and beyond. There was the lady who on Wednesday would find out the results of a breast biopsy she had recently. There was a lady name Lana who after I prayed for her, prayed for me in the most powerful way. There was a lady and her mother whose prayer requests had nothing to do with provision or selfishness, they wanted spiritual strength and as the older lady said "More of Jesus, more of Jesus every day." Among the Jamaicans working the clinic there was Tamara who worked tirelessly to give the children of Grant's Pen an amazing week of VBS. Her humor and heart were so encouraging to me. There was Gavin, who when I was floundering trying to work the nurses station doing something as simple as taking down their information and getting their height and weight, swept in and got things rolling in the right direction. There was Donald, a young man of perhaps 18, who would come and listen to me practice in the afternoons. His faithfulness to being at clinic every day and his willingness to do whatever was needed was a blessing. Bianca, whose first touch with Upper Room was at MASH last year, who ran the intake like a professional, full of kindness yet able to keep those whom would try to take advantage from doing so. And Malcolm, a young man who attends Kencot Christian Church (another partner of our church) but came almost every day to help and to visit with us.
Clinic days flew by. A lot of the cases were simple, people who needed medications, people who needed glasses, or dental care. Unfortunately, the docs saw quite a lot of STDs, too. Some days were harder than others. I think it was on Wednesday when a lady came through who had stage 4 breast cancer and was not aware. That was a hard day on our nurses, doctors, and prayer pod people. That was a day everyone involved wished they could do more. As pastors, doctors, and prayer support people gathered around her to pray, tears flowed and our Great Physician had to be entrusted to see to her as she left. I can't imagine what it was like to be in the middle of that. Yasmine Muirhead has a great relationship with doctors in the community and would see that she was cared for, but that day took a toll on us.
One of my favorite stories happened on the last day of clinic. I was in the hospitality room working on songs for that evening when one of the Jamaicans, probably somewhere in his 50's from the grey in his beard, whom I had seen but not really spoken to, came up to me. His name was Oswald. "I write songs," he said. He sang me bits of a song he was working on. What a blessing! It definitely needed work, but his heart for God was so evident in it. Then he told me that he painted as well. I told him I would love to see them sometime. The next thing I know, he's come back with a trash bag full of canvases. There were landscapes, and still lifes, and an amazing portrait of a Jamaican woman. I couldn't help but gush over them, he was really talented. He told me he was taking some classes, but had drawn since he was a little boy. As we started to put them away, he slid a picture of a pink lily over to me. "Would you like to have it?" he asked. I was gob stopped. I wasn't sure what to do. Pastor Reid was sitting on the other side of the room I looked at her and she just smiled. So, I hugged him and took the gift. After he left, I went over to Pastor Reid and asked her if I should give him money for it. She assured me no, that Oswald was a new Christian and he wanted to bless me so I should allow him to be a blessing. What Oswald didn't know was my birthday was coming on Saturday. This painting was the best birthday present I could have gotten.
Each evening we would go to Kencot Christian Church, have dinner and a devotional time. Kencot is a large church and one that we have helped build, literally. It was great bonding time for us as a team. Darryl worked it out so that it wasn't just teaching, but interactive. I led a small group, and we had some great conversations. On Thursday after dinner, Lisa surprised me with cupcakes for my birthday. What a nice surprise. And then instead of doing our devotions, we went back to Upper Room to watch their basketball team play in a finals game. That was an experience! So much noise! Lots of cheering and horns and banging of pots and pans. It was quite raucous. The team ended up losing, but it was a ton of fun to be there and cheer for our friends. Another night after devotions a lot of us loaded in the vans and went to Devon House. Devon House was formerly the governor's mansion in Kingston. It's a gorgeous estate that has been transformed into a tourist/shopping area. There's a shop that sells ice cream that they make. It's awesome ice cream and a beautiful setting.
I'm sure there's lots of other stories I could share, but this post is getting way too long. Clinic days were long, but full of blessing.