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As the plane lands, I look out the window to see a poor excuse of a runway; it was a deserted wasteland. I had been to Jamaica before but only the tourist section of Ocho Rios, my only experience was getting off a cruise ship onto a bus and then climbing up a waterfall followed by getting back on the bus and going back to the cruise ship. There was no interaction with the locals other than the ones working at the waterfalls we climbed. As I returned my attention to the runway I looked to the mountain, we landed in Montego Bay one of the largest tourist locations for people in Jamaica, but as I looked you could not tell. There were unfinished houses, houses that were crumbling all over the top of the mountains.
“AMEN!” said the congregation as I snapped back to reality. I was at church like most Sundays I was daydreaming about Jamaica. Timbereidge Presbyterian Church – a church I have been going to since I was 5 – was nothing compared to the services in Jamaica. The excitement and the amazing tunes the congregation sang as they danced to Praise the Lord, it was not anywhere close to what I was used to experiencing. As everyone settled down to listen to the preacher’s thirty-minute monotone sermon, I began to daydream again.
It was apparent at customs that what we were doing in Jamaica had never been done before. Besides myself and five others (Coach McCullers, Savannah Hembree, Buddy Norton, Coach TAG, and Doodle) sat in customs for what seemed like an eternity as the workers tried to figure out if our supplies (basketballs, t-shirts, shoes, and jerseys) were to be sold or like we were arguing, to be given away to under privileged girls. After we were finished with customs, we loaded a bus with people we did not know to make a four-hour bus ride to our final destination Mandeville, Jamaica. Needless to say I was the odd person out. I being a Presbyterian had not been “saved”. I had been confirmed. I do not deny my faith, I believe in Him, but after hearing the views of my fellow Christians that I was accompanying on the trip, I did not tell anyone my position. Coach TAG a belligerent Christian who thought that if you were not a Christian you were going straight to h***. In my opinion, it is God’s choice who goes to h*** and who does and not her. She began to get on my nerves little by little. It may have just been me, but she would say little things like “she is not a Christian, if she was she wouldn’t have charged us for our basketballs.” She was always insinuating that she was better than everyone because of her position and how she followed Christ. In never dawned on me until this point in times how some Christians assumed that the way they lived there lives were better than others. I only confined a little bit of what I thought to Savannah, but I kept most of it to myself. Finally I fell asleep as we started our way up the mountains.
When I woke up we were at the compound. It was a very pleasant area, but I couldn’t see everything because it was already 10:30 and I was very tired. When we went to the dorms, I was shocked to see that there were so many people my age, we ended up sharing a one room bunk house with 16 other girls and their mothers. The shower room to say the least would do, except for the fact of only having cold water, which I got used to by the end of the week. When I finished with my shower, I made my bed and as soon as I laid my head down I was out like a light. The next day (Saturday) we had a free day to prepare for the beginning of the week because Sunday we had church. Savannah and I were surprised to see other groups along with our own at the camp.. A group from Miami, Florida and a group from North Carolina were the groups that we spent the most time. We spent all day playing basketball on the court they had and preparing for the next day. When Sunday arrived, we woke up and ate breakfast in the mess hall, to my dislike we had to wear skirts anywhere outside the compound (with the exception of our group, who, during the day worked on basketball skills). The church we attended was next to May Day High School, which is where we conducted are basketball camp. It was the poorest area in Mandeville, but the people there were amazing. The church service was wonderful, and the singing, the singing was the most magnificent sound I had ever heard. The way their accents blended with the music was fantastic. The way the service was held was nothing compared to the drone of the Presbyterian Church I was use to attending. It was an exhilarating experience that I will never forget. At first I was timid but as the week grew on, I became more at ease with my feelings because I became used to my surroundings.
The girls at the camp were amazing, Sesquia, Chrissy, Paula, Mona, Danielle, and many more would be there in the morning before camp, and would wave as we left in the afternoon. We would play games and relays but at the same time we would teach them the fundamentals and they loved it. Men and women would stand along the side of the court and encourage girls as they competed, which was really uplifting. One day a fight broke out between two men when one walked on the court and would not get off. After we asked him politely another man came to our aid and asked him to get off the court because he was disrespecting us. Words changed to actions and eventually both men were on the ground. Luckily the man that was defending us won. At night when we came back for the service they would still be there to greet us and come to the service with us. The services were held in a tent and Brother Buddy woud preach about how having the Lord in your life was the best feeling.
We had the same routing there everyday get up, eat breakfast, coach basketball, go back and eat lunch and chill until it was time to go back to the tent. I slowly began to change throughout the week. For one thing I said my first every prayer out loud (in front of people other than my family). I was so nervous, but Doodle said I did a really good job, and she was a blunt and honest person so I believed her. The last night was the most unforgettable, I did things I never thought I would get caught dead doing. I was dancing and singing along with my new favorite song. “ I feel like Running, Skipping, and Praising the Lord”. During the song they kept repeating the words I feel like “runnin” which had a motion of running in place, the girls from the camp started a very unorganized conga line which ran all the way around the tent and all of us teenagers and all of the children joined in the festivities. Even Brother Buddy joined in the festivities and grabbed me to dance with him right in the middle of the tent. I had done nothing of the sort in my life at church before, I would be out of place at my church, but there it did not matter. That night for the final time that week we prayed the pray he always did, asking us to except Christ into our life’s. He would ask you to pray the prayer silently, then raise your hand when you prayed it, followed by standing up and walking towards the front of the congregation to stand with him. He had said the prayer at basketball meetings, and at camp but I never stood up and I never will stand.
While there I med a boy named Drew form Fort Myers, Florida, and we became good friends and we would sit and talk about anything and everything. He was an extremely deep person, and he knew we understood each other. So that last night while we were talking I asked him a question.
“What do you want to do when you get older?” I asked.
He thought a minute and then responded “ I would like to go to college at Miami and become a doctor in sports medicine, but..” he trailed of as to ponder what he was going to say next and I was eager to hear his answer.
I asked “What?” he just looked at me.
He finally said, “That is what I would like to do, and maybe one day I will, but right now my life is in the hands of God, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
That when it hit me like a ball flying at my face during practice and hitting it square on the cheek. It sunk in deeper than anyone of Brother Buddy’s sermons or that prayer that I had memorized by then. I finally realized that my life was in God’s hands and even though I believed in Him I still did things that should not be done by a God loving person, even though God forgives. Before that statement I had my life planned out for me: Go to college, major in history and minor in philosophy, followed by attending law school to become a corporate lawyer. I wanted to do all those things, but God would be giving me other chances to fulfill my life, even if it may not be my dream.
I had been there for six days and of those six days no ones words had sunk in better than those of a 17-year-old high school student. Drew touched me that night like no other person had before. That night I did not say that silly prayer, but I just decided that I wanted God to be in my life more that he already was. After that moment I felt no different, just extremely glad about discovering something that discovering that took 15 years to sink in, that what really mattered was having God in my life. I laughed at myself afterwards, so many people had told others and me how we needed God in our lives, but it was a 17-year-old that did it for me. Not the preachers, not the adults, or the beautiful little girls who touched my life forever but ironically a boy only a year older than me; it was completely astounding. I accepted it though, but I have not told anybody my decision not even my best friend Savannah whose heart was already devoted to God. I went on that trip to help others with basketball not push them to devote their lives to Christ. What I ended up doing was devoting my life to God and to follow him, and do whatever he asks me to do, and I accept that and I am not afraid to do what He wants me to do.