Keith and I were able to take our older two kids on the Student Ministry trip to Jamaica on June 17-24. This was our third time returning to Harmons, Jamaica to work with a ministry called Won by One. Our team of 29, spent the week building two houses, two foundations, planting peppers in their new greenhouse and building relationships with the people of Harmons. It is an amazing experience that I can’t always put into words when I come back but I will try to share a few things God showed me this year.
One of the questions we were to think about as we went about our day was “What is the good life?” and where do you find it? Is the “good life” having all the necessities like food and clothing and running water or is the “good life” something more than that? This is the kind of question we don’t ponder much here in Columbia because we have most of our needs met immediately. But when you are removed from those comforts and placed in a third world city where many live without the simple things we take for granted like hot water, a job or a home, then it is much easier to consider this question.
In our devotional time together we were looking at the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 all week. Verse 3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We talked about how “poor in spirit” meant people who are needy and bankrupt. They are people who recognize their need for God. And the result of being “poor in spirit” is being blessed with a relationship with Jesus.
So our challenge was to put those two thoughts together as we worked alongside Jamaicans all week. Is the “good life” having all the stuff and comforts that I live with each day or is the “good life” something deeper? Am I just as needy and bankrupt apart from Christ as the people I talked to in Harmons? I wrestled with this all week long and was surprised at the ways God showed me the answer through comparisons.
I’d like to share those with you through a few pictures from our trip.
Here is my daughter helping lower the tomato plants in one of the greenhouses. This was backbreaking and tedious work but allows for the tomato plants to still grow while allowing the Jamaicans to reach the ripe tomatoes to pick. Is the “good life” growing your own plants so you have food to eat and to sell in the market?
One of the challenges we as Americans had all week was to only take what we could eat on our plates and not to waste a single bite of food. If you couldn’t finish what you took, you had to find someone on the team who would. We were only to bring empty plates to the kitchen.
So I couldn’t help but wonder if the “good life” was having our fill of food and being able to throw what we don’t eat away or is it recognizing that Jesus says “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35
This is a woman named Beatrice who lives at the Infirmary that we visited. Beatrice is crippled with arthritis and can’t get out of bed or do many normal things by herself. This was my third year to spend time with her. I even had the privilege of bringing her a few personal items she had requested last year. The amazing thing to me is that you do not hear her complain but she smiles and is filled with joy at the love and attention that is given to her.
She is physically dependent on others to help her with everything from bathing, eating and even changing her diapers. I couldn’t help but think back on what it means to be needy and see the similarities between Beatrice’s physical needs and her spiritual ones. She loved for us to read the bible to her and listen to the gospel music her roommate was playing loudly on the radio. So I also wondered, is the “good life” being able to do everything for myself or is it as the psalmist cries out “Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay.” Psalm 70:5
There are many more stories and pictures I could share, but I will stop with these two and leave you with some questions to ponder this week:
What is the “good life”? And where do you find it? And how do we teach our kids about it?