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June 24, 2012   
Team Jamaica 2012 gets ready for Montego Bay!  Al of the VBS materials have been packed and ready for the Jamaicans.  Please pray for us as we travel and do God's Will.

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June 29, 2012
Toby & Ellen are on the Island waiting for us! The team heads out bright and early =).

June 30, 2012
Well, we arrived in Montego Bay with no problem - though for some of our families, the weather was not so kind. Today, we get settled in, start practicing together and get the wheels turning on this VBS machine. I would ask that as you pray for us, you would also pray for our families and our peace of mind about what's going on at home so that we can focus & be tools in God's hands while we're here. Ministry has already begun!

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A fight broke out among the puppets after practice today!

Today was a very productive day for the team. After some team building time, getting to know one another in smaller groups, we gathered in the courtyard to rehearse our songs. Everyone had gotten a CD to learn the songs before hand, but we had to put the motions with the songs. All in all, it went well. No one cried or threw anything Wink. After a couple of hours going over all of our music, we took a dinner break and introduced our 1st-timers to some more Jamaican food. Then it was on to puppet practice. As you can see, thigs get a little crazy when the puppets come out. Using puppets is not as easy as it looks as our new puppeteers will attest, but it is most certainly a labor of love. Tomorrow we head to church, Jamaica style, then practice a little bit more. Our schedule for VBS has already been rearranged, but we are ready to be flexible & follow where ever the Lord leads us - after all, He's reason we're here!

Fred lost a leg!
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Looks like Joseph was a bit out of sorts.

Sugar coma!
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Here's the evidence =)

July 1, 2012  Church this morning, Jamaica style! The congregation at the Full Gospel Church of Excellence Ministries in Montego Bay was very friendly & welcoming. Some faces were familiar to those of us who have been here before, but many faces were new to us. As a team we signed the song "Your Love Is Deep" for them. It was our offer of friendship and contribution to the service this morning. Tomorrow afternoon we head out to our first VBS session. We had to cancel our morning session because the kids here are still in school until Friday! But we are able to pick up next week in the afternoon, so one door closed to us but another opened. God is so good to us that way! Keep us in prayer as we hit the ground running tomorrow afternoon Smile
"Jamaica Full Gospel Church of "Excellence"
When we talk about church Jamaican style there are few words to describe what one experiences in worship. It's like walking into a building electrified withe sound of instruments, clapping hands and tambourines. If there had been more room, I'm sure there would have been dancing during the singing. There was standing room only by the time our team arrived. The leadership invited the team to sit on the front row while many of the members stood during the 3 hour service. "Mother Toby" (so called by Pastor Sydoine Jeannite) brought the message, "Lessons from the Pea Patch". Ministry followed as the Lord moved throughout the meeting hall. Many were blessed and the Lord truly had his way. It is great to be back in Jamaica with the team and even great when we can all worship together.

July 2, 2012

Hit the ground running we did this afternoon. The kids here in Montego Bay are still in school sowe had to cancel our morning session and pick up with the afternoon session. We were there at a few minutes before 3:00 so we could set everything up and be ready as close to 3:00 as possible. The kids didn't get out of school until 3:30. Had to make some adjustments for the next 2 days at the Norwood Evangelistic Centre of Jamaica. For our first session, things went pretty well. Not quite as many kids as we were hoping for, but we expect many more tomorrow Laughing.  Praying for effective minsitry to happen over the next 11 days!

Jesus on the telephone, tell Him what you need!
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Satan on the telephone, tell him GO AWAY!

July 3, 2012 Lots of rain in Montego Bay this afternoon - it followed us up to Norwood. But that was OK, it stopped pounding on the tin roof just before we got started. The kids taught us a new verse to a song we learned years ago. Check out the caption on the picture Smile.  We had a few more kids today than yesterday - always a plus & to be expected. If the weather holds out, tomorrow should be our biggest day at Norwood. Then we head up to the mountains in Hanover Parish to minister there for 2 days.

We've been a bit spoiled by the weather compared to what is going on at home. But on both ends of this trip, God is forever faithful!

This is why we come =)
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July 4, 2012 Happy Birthday, USA! Even in Jamaica, we celebrated a little with a rousing, if off-key, rendition of our National Anthem at dinner, a couple of red, white & blue glow bracelets and some red, white & blue star shaped marshmallows Laughing. Then we headed out to Norwood for our last day of VBS at the Norwood Evangelistic Centre of Jamaica. As expected, we had nearly 80 kids today, plus adults who were members of the church. Of course, with that many kids ranging in age from 3 to 17, things got a little rowdy, but oh, did we have fun singing with them. Music is an international language where children are concerned. At the end of our session, 3 of the ladies prayed for us! It was so humbling. And they begged us to come back next year. And if the Lord wills it, we definitely will return.

Tomorrow we have our first set of 2 sessions a day, up in the mountains of Hanover Parish. The rural churches are a little different, it will be a brand new experience for half our team. Great Valley is remniscient of a little church somewhere in the hills of Appalachia, complete with VBS art projects from years past and an outhouse. Chigwell Holiness Church is completely different, with it's tiled floors and multiple fans. We'll walk a bit tomorrow, to let the kids know we're there. Many of them may still be in school tomorrow.  We'll be ready to love on those who are able to come and give them a "Cup of cold water" in Jesus' name.

VBS wears us out too =)!
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July 5, 2012 Today was the first of 2 days up on the mountain in Hanover. Because many of the children were in school today, our count at Great Valley was a little low but we expect a big turnout tomorrow. Chigwell had more kids in attendance because we were there in the afternoon. The best news of all though came to fruition when 2 young ladies, one at each church, accepted the Lord today! We come to plant seeds, to water seeds, to weed the garden & sometimes, to assist in the glorious duty of harvesting the seeds. Praise God for allowing us this glimpse of what we labor for. All glory belongs to Him alone!

Ann Marie praying to receive Jesus!
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Tina prayinng to accept Jesus!
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July 6, 2012 We began our last day of VBS as we have every day this week - gathering in Ellen's room for Toby to lead us in a morning devotion and share communion together. She shared with us from the Book of Esther today, the same book we shared with the kids up on the mountain, reminding us that the old testament isn't just a history book but a foreshadowing of what was to come.
God was again faithful to add a little one to His kingdom today! Little Shari-Ann prayed to receive Jesus this morning Laughing. We are not always so fortunate to see the reaping of the harvest as we have been the past 2 days. It really has us pumped up for next week! As we expeccted there were more children at both sessions today. We had a pretty steady rain for a while this afternoon and were afraid it might deter the children from coming, but it didn't. Praise God for that blessing as well. We are ready for a day of rest tomorrow - sort of. Saturday is market day so we wouldn't have many children come to VBS, so some of our team will travel to Dunns' River Falls in Ocho Rios while the rest of us will stay local and do some shopping, some relaxing at the beach or the pool and preparing for worship on Sunday. We get to participate in a concert at The Full Gospel Church of Excellence Sunday night. It should be lots of fun! Keep us in your prayers!

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Shari-Ann after she accepted Jesus

July 7, 2012 - Today was a day of rest & play for us =). Toby, Ellen, Diana & Rachel walked down the strip to visit a shopkeeper we've been ministering to while we've been on the Island. It is a wonderful thing to see Ram smile when we come into the shop. He will surely remember Rachel forever, so tender has her ministry been to him. Casey, Jessie, Stacie & Rylie went to Dunns's River Falls in Ocho Rios & stopped at the straw market there. Casey really enjoyed the strawmarket and haggling over prices. Rylie thought the Falls were awesome, loved the beauty of the nature surrounding it. All 4 of them climbed the Falls successfully Smile. Mimi, Jayme, Becky, Carissa & Tina walked to the strawmarket in Montego Bay and contributed to the local economy. Carissa enjoyed the strawmarket as well and wishes she had endless funds to share the wealth with all the vendors. Mimi is not so fond of the strawmarket, but went along for the company. Becky had the opportunity to lead us in prayer for one of the vendors and Jayme blessed her as well. A few of us enjoyed some Jamaican jerk at a local establishment called The Pork Pit - chicken, pork and shrimp grilled over an open fire- delicious!

Tomorrow we will attend the Full Gospel Church of Excellence for services in the morning and a concert service in the evening. Enjoy your time in the Lord tomorrow!

July 8, 2012 Today, a few of our 1st timers have some things to share as we head into our 2nd week of ministry.

Rylie Blankenship - It's so amazing here! God leads you through every step of the way and you must trust Him! The kids are amazing. It's SO cool to see kids that have so little but LOVE so much.

Stacie Blankenship - This trip has been all I expected and then so much more. The culture, the beauty, the children & their families, the worship have captured my heart. Our team is well balanced and we have bonded well, working & serving together. I have also seen how the Jamaican people are not rushed and very flexible with change. Personally, I have overcome some physical and spiritual obstacles. I had some concerns about strength & being able to be out in the heat but this hasn't been a problem. I have also tried new things daily that aren't typical for me. Spiritually, I have been able to open up more to God's leading & trust Him even more, forgetting about the wordly cares of life as I know it back in America.

Casey Thompson - I thank God for allowing me to come as far as I have. He has allowed me to see & realize the meaning of being thankful for the blessing He has already given me. With this trip to Jamaica I have come to realize that i could ever imagine. that God works in so many more ways than I could ever imagine. One way I see Him working is through the children here. Even though they have next to nothing in a material view, they still have a hunger for God. It is common for kids to walk from miles away just to spend 2 hours at VBS, then have to make that walk back home. Then you will see a 10-year-old fill the role of parent for younger siblings, watching over them on the way to VBS, taking care of them while they are @ VBS and then embarking on the journey back home with them. This just goes to show that God is Love!

Some of our team received a special blessing at church this morning. Sometimes it is so good to be in a different environment to seek the Lord with fresh eyes. Tonight is a concert at the Jamaican Full Gospel Church of Excellence. We will offer up some special music at their request. Then tomorrow we will head out for 2 VBS sessions a day for the remainder of our trip. Join us in praying for this week of ministry!

At Flankers Open Bible Church
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July 9, 2012 VBS two-a-days started again today. This morning we were at Flankers Open Bible Church. About 45 children & half a dozen adults came to share with us this morning. It's always great to see familiar faces and new faces are wonderful as well. We did music, gave our message, did our puppet show, made some crafts, colored pictures and sang some more. Some of the children who came last year requested a song we did with them last year - Your Love is Deep. It is a favorite of the team's and a favorite at the church services everywhere we go and share it. The lyrics come straight from Scripture, in Colossians 3:18. SO deep and high and long and wide is the Father's love for us - ALL of us!

Dark clouds greeted us this afternoon as we headed out to a new location - the Church of God of Prophecy in downtown Montego Bay. There were children waiting for us at 2:55 when we arrived and more came in as we were singing, bringing our total to nearly 30 there plus adults. We had an enjoyable time with these precious little ones. They were so polite and gracious. They enjoyed the music and the dancing - it was so much fun. Stacie had the opportunity to offer the salvation message this afternoon and did a fine job Smile. The children aren't the only ones who learn and grow when we come onto the mission field. The clouds that followed us to the church didn't dump their hard rain on the tin roof until we were well finished with singing and the puppets. God was gracious in that. To top off this crazybusy day, both churches fed us at the end of our VBS sessions. It was so kind and a hardship for them I'm sure, but it was a labor of love that blessed us greatly. It is amazing to see what people will do when God moves!

Tomorrow is another day at Flankers and the Church of God of Prophecy - long though it is, the work is enjoyable and He gets all the glory!

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The Church of God of Prophecy

July 10, 2012 - Have  we ever mentioned how faithful God is? Flankers Open Bible Church and the Church of God of Prophecy both saw a rise in attendance today from 45 to 57 @ Flankers and from 29 to 38 at the Church of God of Prophecy. We are always so blessed when children bring their friends to VBS to hear about Jesus. Seven children came forward to accept Jesus at C.G.P. - we are so amazed at the outpouring of harvest God has allowed us to share in the past 2 weeks. We are very honest with the children that if we know Jesus is the only way, we shouldn't wait to accept Him. We also make it abundantly clear that once you ask Him into your heart, He's there to stay. God meets each of us where we are and these precious children are no exception. Now we pray that they will get connected to or stay connected with a Bible-believing church that will nurture them as they grow. We have one more day at C.G.P. and two more at Flankers. We are excited to see what God will do!

July 11, 2012 - We had a wonderful day of ministry today! There were 65 children at Flankers this morning & 16 of them came forward to accept Jesus. Some of them were young but God will meet them where they are. We are praying that they will be nurtured and brought up in the Word so that their lives will be fruitful to the Glory of God. They were a bit rambunctious as the morning went on, but a little singing goes a long way.  The Church of God of Prophecy brought 42 children & 10 adults! The worship time was fun and the fellowship was sweet. Though I failed to mention it yesterday, both churches fed us yesterday and again today. We are so humbled by their generosity. We come to bless them & they turn right around and bless us. It was our first year to go to the Church of God of Prophecy but we were well received. Before we left this afternoon, one young man came up to give us a little testimony about how we taught him things about the lives of Joseph, David & Esther that he didn't know and he was so glad he came. This young man was in his late teens and he sang and danced with us just as the younger children did. We got a very formal thank you from one of the young ladies and one of the little ones wanted to pray for us and he prayed The Lord's Prayer. It was so touching, many of us had tears in our eyes.

We have one more morning session of VBS at Flankers tomorrow and then Jamaica VBS 2012 will come to a close. It's a bittersweet time to be sure. We miss our families at home, but it is sweet to be ministering on the mountain top with God while waking through some of the "valleys" of Jamaica. The people here have impacted all of us as much as we hope to have impacted them.

We also ask you to pray for Ram, a young Indian man we have been ministering to in one of the shops along the hip strip. The Lord presented two of our team an opportunity to witness to him one day early on in our trip and we have made it a point to stop by and see him in the evenings as we walk by. He will be returning home to India some time between December of this year & March of next and he has said his family is very traditional and they would not accept him if he comes to faith in Jesus. We are confident though, that by our fervent prayers and offer of friendship to him, he will come to know this Jesus we love so much. Will you join us?

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July 12, 2012 - The sun has set for the final time on our Jamaica Mission Team for this year. It is with mixed feelings we pack our bags, share one last meal on the Island as a team and prepare to return home. Flankers was overflowing with children this morning, singing songs, dancing around, reciting the memory verse. We celebrated their successes with them. We have seen God move in mighty ways this year, both thru VBS with the children, our relationships with leaders in the churches we've been serving in and in our opportunity to minister to Ram (pronounced Rom, by the way) in a shop on the strip. We are definitely planning our return tripfor next summer. New venues have opened up to us and we hope to be able to return to the CTE Basic School next summer as well. Continue to pray for seeds that have been planted to be watered and flourish and that our faith will continue to be strengthened from our time here with God as well. He who began a good work in us will see it through to completion. To God be the Glory!