On Friday we took time for a cultural day to explore some of the tourist attractions of Jamaica. It was a great way to relax, unwind, and learn even more about ourselves & each other. Diane showed her full spectrum of personalities from confident negotiating skills in the market shops to paralyzing fear at the Dunn’s river falls. We learned that Shana’s fear of animals extends equally to cats but that her fear of getting hurt/ being cold COULD be overcome as she was one of the 4 team members that successfully climbed the falls. Serena continued to be the constant compassionate leader by sitting out the water fall climb to hang with Diane on the shore. Meredith proved to be the most laid back of travelers by rolling through the entire day suffering from a terrible cold and NEVER losing her sweet demeanor or perma-smile. Terry’s sense of humor came out in spades as he climbed the enormous water fall with the 3 youngest gals in the group shouting jokingly, “I hate DJ” at our tour guide who seemed to find humor in our struggle to get to the top. We feasted on jerk chicken & pork at Jamaica’s famous Scotchie’s restaurant and soaked up the sun & scenery. I spent the day trying to freeze the images in my mind so I could remember forever the laughter & encouragement amongst a group of people who had been strangers just 6 days prior. It was a great way to end the trip!

When we got back to the manse, Rev Harrison took us for a mini tour of the property to show us some of the avocado tree’s that prior groups (including Serena) had planted. In just 4 years time, the trees had grown to be beautiful & productive. At this point, they offer about 20-40 avocados in a year and will continue to mature to a point where each will produce hundreds!! What a revenue generator for the parish!! We had a final dinner around the reverend’s table, cleaned the dishes one last time, and began to get packed for the trip home. Before we left, we each wrote a letter to ourselves to be delivered to our homes in 6 months. I can’t speak for everyone else, but mine will serve as a reminder of the things I’ve learned in just one week with the teachers & kids of Eccleston primary, reverend Harrison, and the group of missionaries I traveled with… former strangers that I now call friends:
• Be thankful in all circumstances
• When God gives you a blessing… you should receive it gladly
• Anyone can be a teacher
• Always have a plan B
• Children are capable of much more than you think
• A few bugs won’t kill you (even if they’re on the dinner table or in your bedroom)
• Take the time to know new people… It’s worth it
• To those who much has been given, much is expected
We said good-bye to Terry & Diane in Montego Bay where we left them for part 2 of their Jamaican adventure… the well earned VACATION portion. We hugged & parted ways with Shana in Atlanta where she caught her final leg to her home in North Carolina… then the 3 remaining of us caught our final leg back to Kansas City. We were greeted at the airport by our loved ones, braced ourselves for the sub 20 degree weather, and headed to our individual homes. I soaked up the hugs, stories, and questions of my 3 kids waiting for me at home and committed to myself that from now on I’d place my biggest priority on their education, showing them love, providing what I can while remembering that sometimes less is definitely more, and teaching them to be thankful in all circumstances… just like the kids in Jamaica!!