Monday, October 26, 2009


Team Jamaica Retreat, 2009

I praise God for the church I am blessed with! No, it is not perfect and it never will be, but I have much to be thankful for. There are many blessings, but I am thankful for a church ( and sending agency ( that has shouldered the burden of financial support for me for the next 3 years, which relieved me of the need to raise my own support back in May and enabled me to immediately quit my job and come down to the island when my application was accepted (I was accepted April 8, and six weeks later I was in Jamaica)...I don’t think 6 weeks is a typical turnaround time for a missionary to know they are going and then be gone. PTL!
The next aspect I am particularly thankful for, though, is a sending agency that recognizes the importance of training and preparation in order to equip those that are sent. Part 1 of this was SPLICE (Spiritual, Personal, Lifestyle, Interpersonal, Cultural, Endurance/Enjoyment) training at Missionary Training International ( in Colorado Springs. I spent three weeks at MTI with 41 other missionaries that were also preparing to say goodbye to friends and family and move overseas. It was an incredible 3 weeks, where God revealed much to me about myself, about how I interact with others, and blessed me with some awesome friendships.

(all of the missionaries and children in front of our training facility)

Part 2 of the training provided was this past weekend, where our team (Kirk and Keri Plattner, Chad and Pam Huber, Erin Davis and myself) gathered at JDV (Jamaica Deaf Village) for a Team Jamaica Retreat. Three brothers (Ted Hirstein, Ted Witzig Jr, and Mike Rassi) came down to spend the weekend with us and encourage us in fellowship and teaching of the Word. I was especially excited because Ted H is my “BCFPP” ('B'rother in Christ, 'C'ousin by blood, 'F'riend forever, and 'P'rayer 'P'artner by providence.) I drove to MoBay on Friday to pick them up, then we enjoyed a Friday night meal with our team and some fellow Jamaican missionaries.

(on the way up to JDV friday night we ran across a glorious sight of the fog in the valley and the mountains peaking through, with the sun shining)

We spent all day Saturday “in class” being taught by Ted Witzig Jr, who is a psychologist, counselor and teacher at ACCFS (

(Ted Jr teaching us about communication)

(Our make-shift classroom in M3)

We took four tests in preparation for the retreat (Meyers Briggs, TKI, and FIRO-B personality tests, along with Wesley Spiritual Gifts Inventory) and then spent time walking through each of our individual results to learn about ourselves, but also spent a good bit of time talking about the chemistry of our team and how that will influence how we work together. It was fascinating to see how similar we are in so many ways (feelers vs. thinkers, accomodaters vs. competers…examples) but also to see how different we are in other ways (judge vs. perceive, extrovert vs. introvert, etc). I now feel more prepared to effectively communicate and work alongside my teammates, and I also feel aware of what to watch out for. To give you an example; because all of our conflict styles (TKI test) are either to accommodate or avoid (others being compete, collaborate, or compromise), none of us will want to bring up conflict or issues and face them head on. This could lead to important things being buried, only to rise later and cause a greater impact. Also, none of us want to express control of other people (FIRO-B test) but would prefer to have others dictate to us what to do or provide the structure for us. This means that none of us are going to want to jump up and take control of a situation or decision, leading to time wasting away unnecessarily. Additionally, in the Meyers-Briggs personality test, we are all feelers vs. thinkers, meaning we are going to think about the emotional and relational aspects of interaction more than the logical or factual. This is great because we all want to get along, we are pretty easy-going, and we care about relationships. The downside is similar to the others, where sometimes you need someone to be completely objective, factual, and make the common sense move. Anyways, everyone reading this is probably bored by now, so I’ll stop and just summarize by saying, I learned a lot about myself and my team, and am thankful for the expertise of Ted to guide us into a better understanding of how to interrelate as a team.

After class on Saturday we enjoyed a delicious meal provided my Miss Veronica (best cook in Jamaica) and spent the evening fellowshipping and getting to know everyone a bit better (especially learning about Ted H’s affinity for wasted tank tops of the 70’s)

(Lil Lucas enjoying some delicious food)

Sunday we went to New Life Church of the Deaf, which was a new experience for our teacher, Ted Jr.

(I loved sitting behind Ted and Ted and seeing them pour their hearts and hands into trying to worship in sign language!)

Sunday evening the Huber kids treated us to the traditional JDV snow-cones!

(mmmhhhmmm, delicious!)

(Our ACWR training team as we said goodbye...good pose fellas!)


Building a New Computer Lab

I was sitting in class at mission training in September when I got a text from Laura White (a fellow missionary serving CCCD) saying that we just received a $10,000 donation to work on a computer lab at the Kingston campus. Needless to say I was very thankful and excited for the project ahead, praising God for His provision!
I arrived on the island a few weeks later to find men already at work on the new room, which will be located where the old lab was, but under a new roof and with expanded area. The first task was to remove the old roof, ceiling and front wall.

(This is a view of what the old building inside the new looked like before demolition)

Once the walls were knocked into rubble, we hauled it all out.

(before we hauled out the rubble)

(Akeem Bowen is an ornery but helpful young boy, and he helped carry the rubble out, bucket by bucket)

New block walls were built and rendered, we installed a new ceiling grid and plywood, and lights were put in place.

(Before ceiling grid in place)

(After grid and ply installed)

We then poured concrete to match the expanded area with the height of the original floor.

(the mixer broke, so we mixed it all by hand on the ground, Jamaican style....10 wheelbarrows of sand, 8 of rock, then add 8 bags of cement mix, drench it in water, and mix)

(the fresh concrete poured up to flush)

(taking a break at lunch, me, Rohan, Richard and Alfonso)

Then we painted the ceiling and wall, and began laying tile.

(let the floor begin)

Ladrick Dryer is my good friend, and I’ve been working with him since 2005. He is one of the most skilled workers I know (yes, he is deaf), with the ability to do all masonry type jobs (concrete, block, and tile), woodworking, plumbing, etc. He is also an extremely patient man, hard working, and longsuffering. I enjoy working with him largely in part to the fact that he always gives me something to do that helps me learn the trade, and he always is ready to explain why he’s doing something, not just how to do it.

(cutting tile)

We began putting in the tile floor mid last week, but unfortunately Ladrick got sick with the flu so the rest will be installed later. Please pray for his recovery.

(Ladrick and I)

(where we ended on Thursday)

The new computers were also ordered and placed on an ACWR sea container (it left last week!) in Goodfield, IL, but unfortunately there was a mix-up between FedEx and Dell, and the monitors never made it to Goodfield. So for now, we’ll use an old monitor to set up the towers and keyboards (when they arrive), then wait for the Lord to bring the monitors at a future date. Please pray for the safe arrival of all the donated lab equipment.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


His Story of the Jamaica Deaf Village Molding Me

The Jamaica Deaf Village in Mandeville, Jamaica is a special place for me. It's the place I came on my first-ever trip to Jamaica back in March of 2002, when I first met my best friend and brother, Ionda Campbell.

(Ionda and I signing "brother")
It's on this mountain side where I first recognized the lost, sinful state I was living in as a 19 year-old college student in 2004 and the Truth began to convict me of my need for a Savior like it never had before.

(June 2004, Ionda Campbell, Kimor Lewis, Kevin Brown and I)

This is the place where I first began to feel God's tug on my heart to become a servant to the deaf full-time (2005).

(My siblings Matt and Katie, with Ionda and I in May 2005, when my family saw why I loved this place so much)

It is this place that I got my first taste of missionary life while interning in the summer of 2006.

(Students at KP. The girl in the middle, Daneisha Francis, stole my heart and then got transferred to Kingston a year ago, where we have been reunited...God is good!)

It is here that I feel so close to our Creator, where I can walk out the door, sit on the back steps of one of the houses, and view the beautiful hillside.

Or look up at the mountains after a rain and see God's hand envelope the top in clouds

This is where I first experienced worship like never before, at New Life Church for the Deaf.

(New Life "Hands in Praise" team performing a drama)

Here I have seen God accomplish miracles in the hearts of so many people who have come down on one week mission trips, just like He did in my life.

(The three young men kneeling to get their candles lit all became Christians while here at JDV this May)

This will always be a place that feels like home, even though I will probably never live here. It is at the Jamaica Deaf Village, where I can "just sit" and be in the presence of our Living God on a crisp morning, and see God's hand in the fog that fills the valley.

Although Kingston is home, I look forward to the opportunities I'll have to come here for weekends of fellowship, worship and solitude. This was one of those weekends. From watching the joy kids (Timmy and Dylan Huber) can have by diving into a simple little kiddie pool,

to marveling at how God has brought together children of deaf Jamaicans (Phoebe and Danae) to be neighbors, playmates, and fellow MK's (missionary kids) to the Hubers,

to seeing part of the vision of the Deaf Village fulfilled when CODA's (children of deaf adults) have friends and community that are just like them (Ashley McKenzie, Rosanne and Doreen Johnson, and Andrea Johnson).

This is the Jamaica Deaf Village. Home to 18 deaf residents (6 couples, 6 singles) and 10 CODA's (17 children in total), 2 missionary families, and a growing church. This is where God has accomplished his greatest work in and through me. This is His Story of me, and this is His Story of the Jamaica Deaf Village.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Finally Home

(View of the entrance to school from Cassia Park Road)

It's been a long journey since last December when God showed me where He wanted me to go, but last night was a perfect ending that one can only experience, not describe (but I'll give it a shot). I was able to spend 3 weeks here in my Kingston apartment this summer, but I never got settled because I knew I'd be leaving at the end of that 3 week period, so Matt and I just lived out of our suitcases. And actually, since early April when I moved out of "Serenity Now" (Mak's place in Indy) I have not been in one spot for more than 3 weeks. April and May I stayed overnight at friends, family and co-workers (Aaron Price, Jay Kelley, Chad Hoerr, Leuthold's, Mom and Dad's, and traveled for work...thanks everyone for your hospitality). Then during the summer here in Jamaica I helped with teams at all 4 campuses during my 10 week stay, so the 3 weeks at Kingston was actually my longest stint. I got back to the States August 10, but as my mom can attest, I was not home very often, particularly the first 3 weeks during which I traveled for weddings, events and visits.
When I arrived at MTI in Colorado on September 14, and was able to unpack and put clothes away in a closet and in drawers, I cannot describe how happy that made me feel. I've always considered myself one who liked change and liked to be on the go, but I guess at some point all of us just want to BE somewhere, and I had reached that point. So during orientation the first night when our instructor asked what our 5 greatest joys were for the day, the first thing that popped into my mind was "unpacking and knowing I'll be here for 3 weeks!" It still hadn't sunk in that Oct 6 was soon going to be here and then I'd truly be home, but last night, it finally sunk in.
As we pulled through the gate I could see some of the children racing across the parking lot near the office. As we got closer I started to recognize faces and I became more excited. Then when I stepped out of the car I just got overwhelmed by hugs, and my heart was smiling so big! Maria Lawrence (the principal) told me they wanted to stay up til I got there, so they were allowed to stay up later than normal. A couple of the older kids immediately grabbed my very heavy bags (over 50lbs, thanks to the American Air lady that led me slide!) and hauled them across the driveway, up the stairs, and into the apt. I tossed my bookbag down and went back down to see the rest of the kids. I made it to the little boys dorm and it started to sink in even more, when Roger and Cleveland and Dayne and so many other little guys came rushing and almost tackling me, asking "remember me, remember me" and repeatedly doing a handshape B on their forehead (my sign name). Unless you experience the joy of these kids, it's just hard to describe how it makes you feel. The love they show is incredible, and it humbles me. To think; I am going to have the opportunity to share life and learn from these kids and be a role, God help, God help, God help!
The housemothers then told the kids it was bedtime, so I went up to my apartment, chatted briefly with the two teachers I share my kitchen with, and then began to unpack. Oh the joy! I was really tired but once I laid the first thing out, I couldn't stop until all the clothes, boxes, and just stuff was all unpacked and somewhat organized. It was a blast seeing how much I was able to squeeze into free baggage checks! I definitely did feel a bit of pride there, I must say, it was a lot of stuff :)

(My bed, getting messy already!)

(A twin bed will serve as a temporary closet :)

(this couch arrived on a container this summer, and I was able to put it aside for's a temporary storage space also)

After unpacking I grabbed my laptop to see if I could catch a wifi signal, and praise God I was able to outside the office (we have wireless, wooohooo!). I updated my facebook status, sent a couple emails, and then went back to take a shower and hit the sack. To my shocking surprise (just kidding, I was actually half expecting this) there was no water. So, praise God I arrived at night and I hadn't sweated too much, and since there was no shower to be had I just called it a night.
Looking back to my first trip here in December, wow, it seems so distant, but now I'm here, and all I can say is, God is God, God is faithful, and God is SO good. All the time. No matter what. Amen.

Monday, October 05, 2009


Goodbye and Goodbye

Thursday was our last day of learning at MTI, and we went through a discussion on saying "Hello and Goodbye". More than anything it confirmed my notion that I am not so good at either of these practices. My hello's are often short, unintentional, sometimes insincere and too often catching me at a moment when I'm focused on something else. Goodbyes for me are something I don't like and don't do well with. It seems so trite to say a short goodbye after spending a lot of time with someone, creating memories, and being blessed by their friendship...therefore I often try to avoid farewells or just downplay them. My summation of it all was that I need to be more intentional about both.

Then came Friday, when many of us had to say our goodbyes to our fellow MTI SPLICEers. About half the class was staying for language training, but many of us were leaving for home and preparing to leave for the field. We had to rush through goodbyes in order to catch the airport shuttle, snapping as many pictures as possible, and then many stood out by the side of the road, some doing jumping jacks until our van was out of sight. A group of us were able to spend a few more hours together at the airport, which turned out to be a huge blessing as we reminisced about our experience and were able to take some time to say good goodbyes (I'm of the opinion that a good goodbye has to include a prayer for God's blessing and protection).

(the fellas of SPLICE)

(Jared and I were in growth group together...I was blessed! He and his wife, Stephanie, are serving in Japan

(My buddy Jake and I....already miss this kid. He gave me a handwritten card to remember him by)

(Robin was not only a phenomenal instructor, but quickly became a close friend also)

(Nate Hughes is pretty much the man! He and his wife, Emily, serve in the Czech Republic

(Scott Hara went to the Kingston campus in 2003 and helped build my apt, and Lord willing he and his wife, Ali, will be able to visit before they leave for Sudan)

(Dave taught me a lot and became a close friend. His wife, Beth, and son, Zane (1.5 years) also blessed my life in many ways. They were awesome!)

(Jeremy is the model older brother that most parents could only dream to have. He is grounded, tons of fun, loving, and wise)

(Jim Bo, what can I say, he is hilarious, has a huge heart, and lots of wisdom. He did steal my pig, but it was for a good reason...)

(SPLICE would not have been the same without Ben, perhaps that statement is more true for him than for anyone else. He is the life of the party and has a huge heart)

(some things about Indiana boys hold true regardless, and Bridger and I had a lot more in common than we did different. Hard times brought us together, praise God)

I had a crazy trip home, with my plane being halfway to Indiana before turning back to Denver for a medical emergency for one of the passengers. After sitting at Denver for nearly an hour while paramedics treated the passenger, we took off again and arrived in Indianapolis over two hours later than expected. Thankfully I have awesome parents who were still there to pick me up at 1:45am. Saturday I hung out with the family and got ready for my farewell at church.

Sunday was a huge blessing. My extended family showed tremendous support, with all my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and many cousins making the trip to lafayette to say goodbye. I also had some close friends come from Illinois, Wolcott, and Indianapolis which meant a lot to me. I'm very thankful for the willingness of Ted Hirstein (and Joyce and Troy) and Tom Hoffman (and Cathy) to come and lead the farewell service. Thanks to Bubba for bringing along his parents in the first place, and his friendship. Thanks to Kirby for making the effort to come out, even though it meant driving alone for 6 hours. Poppa Tones and Momma D, thank you for your love and support also. Thanks to all who came from near and far, I love you all.

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