A Visit to Jamaica for Heroes Day
Our first visit to Jamaica in three years was all about renewal, both of relationships and our own familiarity with the island…and the tasty goat curry, ackee and salt fish, fried plantain and juicy papaya. Bro Nathan and I were joined by his brother, Dave—who along with his wife, Sis Cassie, spent two years living in Jamaica as full-time missionaries, finishing their time there just as the pandemic was getting started.
Our major purpose for the trip was to attend the All-Island Heroes Day Fraternal (October) in Broughton, the first large in-person event the brothers and sisters in Jamaica have been able to hold since early 2020. Broughton is a rural farming community fairly close to the resort town of Negril, so we spent a few nights at Bro Ray Arthurs’ small hotel on Seven Mile Beach. It’s always a joy to spend time with Bro Ray, as conversation with him overflows with his love for God, for the scriptures and the welfare of the community of believers in Jamaica. A stay at Bro Ray’s also demands a walk over the road to the beach with its soft, white sand and clear, turquoise waters. Sting rays, sea stars, crabs, little fish and big fish all play in the water close to shore, and we had great fun exploring this microcosm of God’s incredible creation inside the cordon in front of the somewhat optimistically named restaurant, Alfred’s Ocean Palace.
The heroes of Jamaica didn’t get much of a mention at the Heroes Day Fraternal—or any mention at all, if I’m honest. The focus was on being back together after such a long time. It took a little longer for the members from the other side of the island to join the rest of us after their bus was cancelled at the last minute, but they eventually made it just in time for lunch, and the Broughton Hall was filled to the brim with believers once more. Bro Dave led classes on John 14:2, ‘In my father’s house are many mansions’. This community of brothers and sisters on the island is one such mansion and to see everyone’s joy at being together is again is just a small glimpse what we’ll all share at being united in the Kingdom.
After the fraternal, we traveled on from Negril, first to visit old Bro Matthew of the Harvey River ecclesia. With no way to contact him beforehand, we just had to hope for the best—and unfortunately after journeying up the long, potholed mountain road, we discovered he’d gone into town for the day. The same town that, of course, we’d passed through on our way up. So we spent some time with Bro Matthew’s granddaughter, who takes care of him, and funny Sis Murna, who’d come with us for the visit, and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the family’s mountain-top compound, watching chickens roam and eating starfruit fresh from the tree. When it was clear Bro Matthew wouldn’t be arriving home before rain started to threaten, we bumped our way back down the mountain and dropped Sis Murna at home.
From there we turned northeast, towards Port Maria and the small cluster of sisters who live in that area. It’s hard for them to meet as a group, and they love it when visitors come through and are able to help facilitate it. An especial joy for them is to visit Sis Enid over an hour away in Port Antonio, so along with Sisters Shauna, Alissa and Sandra, we did just that.
The natural beauty of Port Antonio and the surrounding parish of Portland have long been popular with the rich and famous. But the real treasure is to be found in a small wooden house on a hillside and an old sister in the last days of her pilgrimage. Though Sis Enid’s eyes can no longer see and her body can’t get out of bed, her vision of the Kingdom is clear and her walk towards it just as eager as it has ever been. Encouraged by our time with these faithful sisters, we can’t wait to see the day when Sis Enid will leap like a calf from the stall, her youth renewed.
On the south side of the island, we spent some time with Bro Leroy and Sis Loraine, and started to put together plans for 2023’s Easter Youth Camp. It’s hard to believe when we waved goodbye at the end of camp in 2019 it would be another four years before the next one. The youth have grown a lot in those four years! Some have turned from kids into fully-fledged teenagers and others are nearly at the end of their university days about to embark on careers. Before the pandemic, we visited Jamaica two or three times a year. The world turning upside down like it did taught us not to take anything for granted, to really, truly understand the meaning of James’ words: ‘Come now, you who say “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring…Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”’
So we pray that if it is the Lord’s will, the Jamaican young people will be able to come together in April for fellowship and mediation around God’s word, and that we will be with them.