I almost said, dear kids; but since I have been here in Jamaica I have seen so many young goats who really are kids that I have decided against that word when addressing you. The country roads are common pathways for the multitude of goats found here. One’s driving demands constant attention to the roadsides from which these animals emerge. They, and many men, women and children are a constant menace to the unwary driver. You know, of course, that the cars we use have right hand drives, and that we must drive on the left side of the streets. It is quite confusing at first; I keep telling myself, “Think left.” but the natural instinct is to do the opposite. Left turns go quite well, but in making a right turn one must cross the traffic, and that all seems to come from the wrong way! But, one soon catches on, and we find the natives are most courteous. When we are trying to make a right hand turn on the city streets, the oncoming driver will stop and wave us in. Really! When we stop at the roadside to take a coffee break in the country, a motorcyclist or bicyclist will stop and ask if we had a breakdown. And whenever we must ask our way at an intersection, there is always someone near who is eager to give directions. One Sunday, on the way to a mountain church, we stopped three ladies walking towards us on the way to their church, and asked about the church we were seeking. One of the ladies gave us all the information: “The elder was away at Kingston, so there would be no service; the deacon was at home, and did we want her to show us where he lived?” So she got in our car, and when we came to a very BAD stretch of the road with large broken rock in the roadway, she advised us all to get out while the driver took the car over the bad part, lest we puncture the gas tank. So we did, scrambling over that awful road. When the worst part was past we again got in the car to go to the deacon’s house. She then scurried up a steep hillside to fetch the man. Now that lady did that out of pure kindness and Jamaican courtesy. She had to walk back a couple of rough miles! We did not dare come back the same way, but went down the back way. At the bottom we found another one of “our” churches which had no service because they had decided to go to another church for that morning. Rev. Brown had come all that way for nothing. Just another disappointment to us, but we went on to a third church at 12:30 and found that they had just finished Sunday School and were ready for the service. We joined them and heard a very good Reformed sermon by Rev. Beckford! Though it was an unexpected visit he did not lose his cool; his sermon was good, his delivery was good, and his ability to quote proof texts was amazing. That Sunday morning was not at all what we had planned, but it turned out for the best. It reminded us of the saying. “Man proposes, but God disposes.”
When we talk about “our” churches, we mean that they are a matter of “our” concern. They are charges of the ministers graduated from “our” seminary here. They are the people who have benefited by “our” gifts of money and clothes. But they are not ours in the sense that we have any control or supervision over them, although we do advise, and they appreciate that help.
The congregations are small: maybe four men, five women, and some ten children. The congregations vary, but only one or two are sizable-from thirty to forty in all. The singing is lustily done! Sometimes it seems that twenty natives produce as much volume as two hundred of our people. Really, one must hear it to believe it! We were in a church Monday night, (yes, these people meet Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays!) and the four men present each added to the accompaniment with drums, guitar, cymbals and some other clacking instrument. The others all clapped to the rhythm while singing at top volume! The Jamaicans are a singing people.
The countryside conceals many churches of various faiths. The R.C. and the Baptists have the most substantial buildings. Others, like “our” Belmont Church are but open air roofed-over shelters. But one experiences the communion of saints in such shelters just as in one of our own brick churches. We are happy that we “have” four young ministers and one older one to preach to the natives. Native ministers can most effectively reach the mental and psychological level of their listeners. They know the thinking, the besetting sins, and the devious way of expressing themselves better than our ministers can ever hope to know. The most prevalent sin of the Island is concubinage, and that sin must be eradicated from the people with whom we deal. Again, the native ministers can point that out. We have listened to sermons here that specifically condemn those sins, as well as “visiting” other churches, the insidious evils of Arminianism, and the more blatant sin of confessing holiness already attained. The instruction given by the Revs. Lubbers, Hanko, Heys and M. Hoeksema reveals itself in all the sermons that we have heard. The ministers are basically sound in doctrine and preach the Reformed faith fearlessly.
We are on a “working vacation;” a vacation from ice and snow, but yet a working one because we have no time for beach lounging and sight-seeing. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings are pretty well filled with work – the bad mountain driving adds to that work not a little! We paid a visit to the Baptist College and talked to the missionary who gave us quite a lot of news regarding the government’s activities regarding missionary sufferance. He told us that the government would no longer issue work permits for foreign (that’s us) missionaries, and that they expected to lose all their possessions in the near future. Maybe short term emissary visits will have to suffice to give added instruction and encouragement in the future. But the need is great; the people are starving from lack of biblical instruction. We find a ready response to the Truth of God’s Word when it is brought to them. Truly the harvest is ready, but the reapers are few.
I see that your Gramps has rambled so much that this letter is getting too heavy to mail unless I put on so many stamps that the address will be covered. Maybe when I get to see you again I can tell you more about the Island: its people, its customs, its road system, its political unrests and violence, and its beautiful waterfalls and large caves. But this letter is “full up.”
Until we meet again, Gramps
P.S. Gramma has lost her heart to the little babies and little children. She feels so sorry for them with their uncertain future, which, at best, is bleak. Mrs. Lubbers and Gram will soon have pleasure in distributing the clothing sent by Hudsonville’s people.