When I returned to Jamaica in February, we had SO many plans! Pastor Brian Doyley (Ranch) and Pastor Travis Drummond (Clonmel Baptist) had both organized Crusades leading up to Easter which I would be actively involved in. My 2 Women’s Ministries and regular Bible Studies had been ongoing in my absence and we were encouraged to see new faces regularly coming along. The Hospital Prayer Ministry was ready to be further expanded, with regular weekly worship services.
I was building relationships with several other Pastors in the area, excited to see how connections would develop as CSI Jamaica moved towards working more closely with local churches and Pastors.
BUT, little did we know that our last short-term mission team to visit the CSI Mission House would be in February 2020!! Yes – Coronavirus, Covid-19 hit the island – the first confirmed case was on March 10th and the first death on March 18th. Schools have been out since the 2nd week of March and our air & sea borders were closed on March 21st. We realized pretty quickly that life in Jamaica and my Ministry was going to look very different!
Phone calls, texts, WhatsApp video calls, and emails were how I communicated with my ladies. When Churches had to close because of lockdown and quarantine, online services from Indiana as well as Ireland, were a Godsend. Encouragement from my Ministry Partners and Pastor friends through texts, emails, and video calls was very much needed and appreciated! For many weeks, I just left my home twice weekly – to shop and to do laundry at the Mission House.
There were countless challenges but also many blessings…the words of my life verse were never more meaningful than during this time.
1 Thessalonians 5:24
“The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it”
My prayer was that I continued to SHINE for Jesus and help dispel fear among the Jamaicans. I used the words a Pastor had shared with me
“Turn the page from: ‘Are we going to make it through these days?’ to: ‘What are these days going to make of us?’ “
Our Executive Director, John Key, and the CSI Board, with discernment and wisdom, helped steer the Ministry in a different direction, adapting to the new restrictions caused by unprecedented times. Our first Virtual House Build, back in June, was made possible by a Team – unable to travel- sending money which allowed our Jamaican staff to build a much-needed addition for a family of 7 who was living in one room with an outside kitchen area. We did a 2nd Virtual Build in early August when another Team donated the money they raised and provided a single mother-of-four with a small house. More than that, this virtual house builds gave our ‘day labor’ staff an opportunity to earn some money for the first time in months.
A ‘Giving Tuesday Now‘ appeal in May in the US raised funds to help Jamaican churches who were doing regular Food Outreaches. We helped five churches in my area provide food to those most in need and these outreaches continue on a regular basis. Food parcels, hot meals, and a Gospel message – God’s love in action!! Relationships have developed with several more Pastors because of these Food Outreaches and I am really excited to see their willingness to work together, both now and in the future. THE NEEDS ARE MANY, BUT LITTLE IS MUCH WHEN GOD IS IN IT!!
The Borders opened for International Travel on June 15, which brought mixed blessings. Tourists are slowly returning to Jamaica, with strict protocols in place. This is creating jobs, though many thousands who are repatriated are still unemployed. More Covid-19 testing means many more positive cases and unfortunately, numbers have risen drastically in the past few weeks. Churches have been meeting since May, with mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing, having temperature taken, and hand-sanitizing. I’ve been blessed to be part of 2 more baptisms in Clonmel Baptist, following 4 Sundays of Crusade in July. Pray particularly for Tanisha Holmes, a lady I led to Christ and continue to disciple. Please also pray that the increase in positive cases will not affect gathering for worship – the daily Curfew is already back to 8 pm – 6 am, having been 11 pm – 5 am since early June. Schools will not re-open until October at the earliest. This has caused difficulties in many families, as online learning is nearly impossible because of the expense of buying data for WiFi coverage. Thankfully, our Student Support program has continued, providing some help throughout these challenging times.
We already know it will be at least February 2021 before our first Teams visit Jamaica…and even that is not certain! Our Jamaican staff has suffered financially because most are just working part-time due to having no Teams. We remind them that they are blessed to be still employed, we realize the struggles they continue to face…but those struggles are the same for so many, worldwide!! Please pray the Jamaicans to realize this – that God wants our attention – GLOBALLY!! Does He have it ?? Many of us have had to make sacrifices – our priorities have changed, sometimes drastically but God is still Sovereign over us!! Our FAITH has been and is being tested but He is still FAITHFUL…We can sing of the Goodness of God!! He is moving, even in these difficult times, like never before!!
I am back in Indiana for various reasons: personal, medical, church updates, and meeting with supporters/ partners in my ministry. And one big reason – our CSI Annual Gathering at Cross America on Saturday, September 19th…anyone is welcome to come – even if you’ve never been involved with the Ministry…come to hear what we’re about.
There have been many positives midst the challenges of the last six months, and I know Jamaica is exactly where God wants me to be…However, I’m also aware this would be impossible without the prayers, encouragement, and partnership of folk like you who continue to support me and believe in me!! If anyone feels led to individually give to my ministry in Jamaica, you can find all the details on the CSI website. I am returning to the field on Monday, September 21st.
Just remember there is a MISSION on everyone’s doorstep – I love The Passion Translation version of Matthew 28: 19-20….“Now go IN MY AUTHORITY and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you. And never forget that I am with you every day, even to the completion of this age.”
Blessings to everyone!