I’m on a mission trip! (Quit laughing.) Part 1

So I’m currently in beautiful Jamaica, suffering for Jesus…

Actually, the entire Taff family is participating in something I have been dying to tell you about, but frankly, between our crazy trip down here, the resulting fatigue (see: ‘Mr. and Mrs. Old Grey Mare/Stallion Ain’t What They Used To Be’) and the schedule once we got here, I haven’t been able to stop and sit down and write. Also, wifi is expensive and very slow…

Those are my excuses, and I’m sticking to them.

OK, ANYWAY—we are on the Cruise With A Cause mission trip, and it’s kind of amazing! (You can Google it, or look up their Facebook page for further info and details. Seriously. Go do it, I’ll wait.)

Dr. Matthew Dunaway, the guy who started this thing, went on a Gaither cruise a year or so ago and talked to Russ and I then about this incredible vision he has for organizing and carrying out the world’s largest mission trips. This is his 4th cruise, and he always has a very impressive line-up. This one has speakers like John Hagee (who frankly, I’ve never been a giant fan of, but my sweet Daddy watched him all the time, so I have a very warm, fuzzy feeling about him…), Josh McDowell, Bishop Paul and Pastor Debra Morton, Dr. Johnny Hunt and a few frillion more. The artists include Casting Crowns, Sonicflood, the Crabb Family, Hezakiah Walker, NewSong, Buddy Mullins, hip hop artists Da General, LeCrae and my personal favorite hip hop name “John the Rap ‘Tist”, Tye Tribbett (unbelievable performer), Donnie McClurkin and a cast of thousands more. There are also wrestlers (Lex Luger and Nikita Koloff), a magician (Danny Ray), and comedians (Rod Allison, John Gray—he is unbelievably funny– go check him out on Youtube). ALSO, most importantly: David and Tamela Mann from “Meet the Browns”–more on that later! There are around 3000 passengers aboard our ship, the Carnival Destiny, and there is only one port of call—Montego Bay, Jamaica.

We left from Miami, spent a day at sea, then arrived yesterday. The Cruise With A Cause folks have got this thing down to an art. There are all kinds of services, conferences and categories: there are missions into the schools (yes, the Jamaican government is actually allowing Christians into their school system to openly minister to their kids!), street evangelism (the wrestler guys are very effective there, I would imagine…), prayer ministry, and prison ministry. Each team is assigned a leader (Russ and Aaron Crabb each led a team on our bus), and we all receive very detailed and specific training –this is a well-churched nation so we’re to be very respectful and not go in like we are turn of the century missionaries to the Congo. We are not here to ‘collect scalps’ for bragging rights ( i.e. “Hey look at us, we saved X amount of Jamaicans!!”) We are here primarily to share our personal stories of strength, hope and love and tell them how very valuable and important they are to God. We are supposed to collect names and address of people who make commitments, but the primary reason is that Cruise With A Cause has been working diligently with local churches on the island and every single person who has a spiritual experience during our time here will be followed up by and connected to a church family in their immediate area. It’s a well thought-out and highly organized plan of action, and after making sure that we all understood the mission, the protocol and the logistics of the whole thing, they turned us loose on the island for two days!

Russ, the girls and I signed up to go into a high school. Russ was supposed to sing a song or two and then just share his testimony. He asked Madi Rose if she would consider speaking for a few minutes as well– he figured high school students might be able to relate more to a cute 18 year old girl with bright red lipstick than a middle-aged white guy they never heard of—and somewhat to my surprise, she agreed. So yesterday morning after a last minute instruction talk and rally on the ship, we joined 65 other groups who boarded buses and took off for their assigned schools.

We rode for about an hour, our bus bouncing along deeply rutted roads, climbing higher and higher and deeper into the interior of this gorgeous island. We passed small villages with ramshackle houses dotting the hilly landscape, lush cane fields and large farms. We were all a little nervous and excited, so we took advantage of the time to get to know each other a little better. Aaron Crabb, his wife and kids were also on our bus—this was his second Cruise With A Cause trip, and he was taking a group to an elementary school. We had no idea who would be assigned to our team, but God BRILLIANTLY arranged to give us an amazing African American woman attorney from Chicago named Diane and about seven teenage girls from her church’s youth group— total score.

Muschette High School in Trelawny Parish sort of appeared out of nowhere; it looked like a compound, surrounded by walls with an inner courtyard. Curious students in maroon and white uniforms watched us climb out of the bus. Most of them readily returned our smiles with shy ones of their own, but a few of the kids stared impassively at us, no doubt wondering exactly what we were doing there—frankly, so was I. I’m going to be really honest here. I have no problem talking about what I believe one on one, or at a women’s conference as a speaker, or as the Lord leads but there is something inherently uncomfortable to me about sharing my faith in what feels like a contrived kind of setting. Maybe it’s my white liberal guilt at work, but the idea of sweeping into THEIR country and THEIR school system to ‘bring them the gospel’ seems a little presumptuous to me in a country that has a church virtually on every corner. (This attitude may be why I have not jumped full-force into mission work before—apparently I would kind of suck at it.) But I totally believe in the Cruise With A Cause mission and mindset, so I took a deep breath, plastered a smile on my face, took Russ’ hand and walked towards the school.

(photo courtesy of Arnold Kelly)

To be continued…


8 Responses

  1. phwd737

    Sure like what I’ve read so far!!! Can’t wait for Part 2! Love to hear what God does in other’s lives! So cool! :)

  2. carsmith

    Dear amazing Taff family,
    I did laugh when I saw the cruise ship and thought you were suffering in style for Jesus….again. My laughter changed as I read “the rest of the story”. My heart was busting with pride and I smiled as I read your words. You never read about all the good those people are doing.

    Madi and Char are amazing young ladies and I’m so proud of them. You and Russ have taught them well and they will never forget these experences. You will be as blessed as those High School students. Madi you rock. Enjoy the trip.
    Love you guys.

  3. LindaB

    OH, HOW EXCITING!!! I did read up on “Cruise for a Cause” before you left, and it sounds so innovative and COOL! Great idea! A great GOD idea! And I’m so proud of you and your family for going! And I’m praying for you all! And the unsuspecting people of Jamaica! They won’t know what hit them! Hopefully, it will be the life-changing, Spirit filled message that God loves them, died for them, and wants to be the center of their lives! And God will do the rest!

    Can’t wait for the next installment! Wish I could hear Madi speak to those high schoolers! Where’s your little camera/video thingy? I hope you took it with you! I feel so proud of the competent young lady she has become……..like she was my niece or something!

    And how is our Animal Channel expert enjoying herself? Did she get to see some unique-to-Jamaica critters? We need pictures of her too, Mom!

    Your “white liberal guilt” you say??? BA HA HA HA! You crack me up!

    Oh,…..and I’d like a picture of those wrestlers doing street preaching!!! THAT would be very interesting! I don’t imagine they’d experience any heckling!

  4. bettyrwoodward

    Can’t wait for the next instalment. Well done Madi.

  5. auburn60

    We share some feelings on ‘Mission Work’…’contrived’ and ‘presumptuous’ would be a start for some of my feelings…NOT ALL MISSION-TYPE WORK…calm down, everyone. And yes, I’ve done my share to have an informed opinion. So I’m anxious to hear what you think of this venture.

    You might meet Megan’s bandmate…his name is Ted and his wife is the photographer (?…I think that’s what she told me.) They are on that same cruise. And I’m trying to remember if I said anything bad about him to you…I might have, so just..’y’know…don’t pay any attention to me…OH, I hope they don’t read your blog….

    Well, anyway, waiting to hear how Madi wowed the crowd.

  6. Barbara M. Lloyd

    How exciting! I can see Madi fitting in perfectly….like an old pro. I’m joining Linda in hoping you are able to tape Madi sharing. And, each other member of the family, too. Maybe including a little singing by my Russ.

    Looking forward tothe next installment of your beautiful adventure.

    Praying for all of you.

  7. jonny

    Really like the attitude, ideals behind it ! Thanks for sharing = )

  8. » I’m on a mission trip! (Quit laughing.) PART 2 | babybloomr

    […] (You can read Part 1 here.) […]

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