Friday, June 10, 2016

Flashback Friday: Spanish Wells, 1997

Our 1997 Spanish Wells Mission Team
Jennifer did not appreciate the snacks, apparently! 
Lately I have found myself daydreaming about a nearly 20 year old mission trip we took from Kissimmeee, FL to the Bahamian island of Spanish Wells. It is a place that is indeed worthy of daydreams- and worthy of a Flashback Friday post! That 1997 Mission Trip (July 21-27) was special, and here are 7 things I remember about that amazing week...

1)  The previous summer another church had brought their youth group to S.W. to do VBS (Vacation Bible School) for all four churches on the island, just like we had done in 1995 and were ready to do again.  The church that came in-between our trips brought way too many youth, which put a serious strain on the hospitality of the locals. Rev. Bill Higgs, pastor of Spanish Wells Methodist Church, asked me to limit our group to 15 or 16 people. Since we had abut 50 kids who wanted to be part of a trip to the Bahamas, we made our students fill out applications and do interviews before we selected the team. It made for some tough decisions, but we ended up with a mature, talented and dedicated group (that's us all dressed up at the top) that understood our mission was to serve.

Jerry and I in...action?
2)  To leave as many spots as possible for our youth, the only adults who went that week were Jerry Hanbery and myself.  And we did absolutely nothing! The youth were divided into teams working on various areas of VBS such as crafts, music, recreation and Bible study. The preparation all had to be done before the trip, because we had to take everything we needed. There is no Wal-Mart (or much of anything else) in Spanish Wells. They did the preparation, they did the setting up, and they did the teaching. Jerry and I simply set back and basked in the glory...

3)  In addition to the Craft Nazis (Lisa Kraus and Sara Thacker) running roughshod over small children, forcing them to do crafts while Erin Bay, Caron Cook and Kristin Landry cowered in fear!) I particularly remember the guys doing music. Jacob Luper was on piano, Jamie Parker on ukulele and Jay Lynes and Ben Thompson were leading singing. Having that sanctuary full of children every morning and watching them have so much fun praising Jesus was a blast. Plus Jacob would break into Les Miz music during breaks!

One of our many boat rides between islands!
4)  The hospitality of the people of Spanish Wells was overwhelming.  We stayed in their homes, where we were treated as visiting royalty. I know we certainly ate like kings! Fresh conch, fresh lobster, fresh mango...well, you get the picture. They took us out on their boats and took us to hidden beaches for picnics and some fabulous swimming.  The folks that Jerry and I were staying with took us (along with Teresa and Jennifer Minnigan) by boat to Harbour Island, home of the famous "pink sand." We ate lunch there and I had the most amazing grouper sandwich in history! I always felt a little guilty that we were the only ones who got to go- but not that guilty! It sure made for a very special day and some great memories! There were special events planned for us almost every afternoon after VBS, including some cliff jumping and a unique battle featuring Ben and Jamie throwing jellyfish at each other. We ate a great meal at one of the two restaurants on the island. The only downside to the friendliness of the locals was that some of their guys were getting a little too attached to some of our girls. This was a serious issue because on the island the girls already outnumbered the guy by a 3-1 ratio. New females who might steal the young men were not encouraged to do so. But somehow we escaped without marrying off any of our folks...

5)  One of the families of the church had a little boy named Ferris who had a serious medical condition. The entire church family showered love on Ferris, and we joined right in. On every occasion that week when the church family was together (and that was often) the number one question coming from our group was, "Where's Ferris?" We all fell in love with that little boy.
Jill Souther was in every picture...  :)
6)  It was quite warm in the Bahamas in July (surprise!) and special recognition should go to Catie CookJill SoutherMatthew Teoli (all pictured at right) and everyone else who pitched in with the recreation area. It was entirely outdoors, and was at times just a miserable place to be.  

7)  Do you want to know how strong the connections were we made that week? After we returned, we had one of our SHO-Time dinners at the local Cracker Barrel in Kissimmee. Many of the folks who gathered that night had been on the trip. At the time Cracker Barrel served drinks in replicas of old Mason jars. When the waitress brought our beverages, Jill Souther and Erin Bay looked at their glasses, then suddenly sobbed, "Ohhhhh...Mason jars. There was a boy named Mason in Spanish Wells..."  As is often the case in mission work, the people of Spanish Wells had a greater impact on us than we did on them.

My 6 years at FUMC-K provided me with more great memories than I could ever list, but this trip to the Bahamas ranks right at the top. Did I mention that there was lobster in the coleslaw?  And fresh mango and "Johnny Cakes" every morning for breakfast?Serving Jesus through serving the people of Spanish Wells was one of the great privileges I ever had in youth ministry. If you have memories of that trip, please feel free to share them. Marilyn and I are having lunch today in downtown Tampa with Jennifer Minnigan Kuramochi. Sure do wish you all could join us...

Because of Jesus,

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