Jamaica was the first English speaking country in the Caribbean to gain independence from the British in 1962. As the country celebrates her 50th year of independence, I noticed in the airport the motto that says – “A Nation on a Mission”. So I asked my Jamaican friend if he knew what the mission was. Sadly, this mission statement was not communicated down to the citizens. I then read in a book which kind of define the “mission” as Vision 2030, which is to make Jamaica ‘the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business”.
I visited the local office of the CWM and was presented a small booklet by a professor from a local Bible school. It revealed the reality of life among the people through a survey done in 2013 with Jamaican children ages 6 to 10 years old. They were simply asked to draw a picture of how they would see Jamaica today. Quoting the research, “Every single child depicted acts of unspeakable violence – robbery, murder, rape, cruel treatment of animals, family discord, cursing, acts of unkindness, children being brutalized.”
Grace and I were invited to speak in Cantonese at the Easter Camp by the Chinese Christians. It was a small community of believers but they were very evangelical and fervent for the salvation of the Chinese in Jamaica. Jamaica is said to have more churches per square mile than any other country. I spoke on the book of Revelation and I must say that they were like the Philadelphia church, that is, faithful in their calling. We were there to encourage and challenge the believers in evangelism and service in the church. Though they were small in numbers, they were big in their heart for the lost so much so that some new comers who came to the church felt pressurized into faith.
In the course of our interaction with the leadership and the church members, we discovered that most of them were related either by marriage or from the same village in China. They were migrants from Hong Kong and China and most of them spoke Hakka and Cantonese, though recently, a large number of PRCs migrated to Jamaica for business ventures and they speak Mandarin.
In our conversations with the people, there was one common thread in their lives stories – that of the “fear” of robbery, theft and kidnaps. We from Singapore, a safe haven, cannot comprehend their daily “fears”. We can walk the streets any time of the day and even if it is past midnight, our streets are considered safe. So when I spoke of Revelation 3: 3 “If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you” it made a lot of sense for them to know what it means to be ever ready. Robbery is very common in Jamaica and their hospitals are world famous for dealing with gun shot wounds and surgery. It is almost a daily affair to hear of someone being shot in the streets. Among those we spoke with during our stay there, we know of members whose love ones were kidnapped for ransom, shot at by robbers, house broken into at gun point and the robbers would stay in their home to eat and drink before they leave as they know that Chinese households have lots of food in the refrigerators. One lady who we got to know became a widow when her husband was shot and killed recently. She was then carrying their second child. I was blessed to be able to dedicate both her children to the Lord on the Sunday before I left and encouraged members that as a church, we are called to attend to the needy and the widows.
You may find it hard to believe that the local Jamaicans employed by the Chinese do not see stealing from their employers as a wrong thing to do. Theft is common among the locals. To protect themselves, most Chinese households armed their home with security systems and companies have to employ armed guards and security services when they bring their earnings to the bank. Many who tried to save the cost were either robbed or killed. We’ve heard many such stories and when we visited them, their homes were so tightly secured that it was almost like imprisoning themselves within the safety of the four walls of their home. Every doorway was securely locked and they carried huge bunch of keys wherever they went. Can you imagine at True Way, I don’t even hold a key but while living in the church quarter there, I was given a bunch of keys to open and close locks each time I leave the church, even though there is a live-in caretaker.
After having heard their life stories I told them that I could have written a book for each one of them based on their experiences and adventures in a foreign land. We are truly blessed in Singapore, a safe haven to raise a family, work and do business. To those whom we have served with in this short trip in Jamaica, life goes on in spite of the decay in societal values. God is still sovereign and how can the politicians still not notice when the children have already identified the very ailments depicting them in their drawings. The church is still praying and looking for a pastor to shepherd the flock and I told Grace that I do not have the courage to say that Jamaica is where God calls me to serve in. Maybe if I’ve no children or was much younger I might have the “Can Do” spirit to pack and go, like most tourists who go to Jamaica for their beaches and fun might say – “Jamaica No Problem”.
Pastor Cheng Huat
May 18, 2014