Last night at midnight the Logos Hope – My home – left the last island in the Caribbean on our schedule – Roseau, Dominica. The Caribbean has been my home for 8 months now, though the Logos Hope is where I spend most of my time so every time I walk out the door I experience some culture shock. If I were to use only one word to describe my experience of Caribbean people – I would say alive. Alive in a way that European and even Australian people can be dead. People want to talk to you, to say good morning to you as you pass in the street. People are not afraid to ask you spiritual questions. In this way they are friendly, but in another way they can be rude. Sometimes the staff in the book fair struggled to deal with the demands of insistant customers who asked for discounts, demanded service and rarely smiled or said ‘hello’. Christians here are not afraid to spread the Gospel – and I have learned a little boldness from them. The nations I visited gain their income from tourism, hosting wealthy white tourists on sandy beaches – while their populace often live in abject poverty. The contrast is frightening to me, and it scares me that the tourists don’t see the poverty as they are wisked away from their cruise ships in a taxi to a nice beach.
In the Caribbean I spoke in front of another church body for the first time, handed out gospels on the street for the first time, performed an evangelistic drama for non christians for the first time, told a story to a group of kids for the first time, and started really trying to talk about Jesus one on one with stranges in the cafe. I have become accustomed to introducing myself as Chris from Australia – the land of Crocodiles and Koalas and Kangaroos. I have learned the hard way how to lead a team with love and patience – and discovered in me and weeded out a competitive spirit that doesn’t support the body of Christ.
The Caribbean has been a special time for me, and I will never forget it.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much like the center of attention as this day” I thought as children and adults alike approached from all sides wanting to hi-five, hug me and have a photo take with me. Some kids were excited and happy to see me, others were afraid at first but warmed up slowly. The kids in the kids zone were excited to play with a character known as El Capitano, the captain of the Logos Hope. The cleverly designed suit can be worn by any crew member and you can see out through the eyes and mouth. It is very hot inside the suit though, even in the air conditioned deck. Sometime it was hard to see kids that came from all angles – even from behind – but I tried to give every child a hug or a hi-five and make their visit special. I also went to the welcome area where people come on board after standing in a queue. I welcome them, pose for a photo and encourage and excite the kids and put a smile on their face. My hope is that as they cheer up a little, they’ll be more open to the message of hope that the ship and it’s crew have to offer – the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Dressed entirely in white, I stood perfectly still looking out onto the audience of shoppers and tourists, the lights were on me and all was silent. With three others from the ship, I was about to perform a drama called ‘In the light’ in a shopping centre main stage – and I was to play Jesus.
When we had first arrived at the centre we were told a dance group was scheduled to use the main stage and we were to find another place, but since we had only a cd, but no speaker system of our own (expecting to use theirs) this was not possible. We gathered to pray and asked God to help us find the best way to continue. After we prayed the manager appeared and I appealed to him to use the stage before and after the dance group and the water show that also was to happen. I had been to this place earlier to help with a performance so I know what was possible, God had prepared me for this. They agreed and we went on stage right away and performed two dramas, one where I had a minor role – the audience loved it.
During the dance show and water show we made balloon animals and painted faces for kids and some in the team had good conversations with people and we gave our flyers about the ship so people could come visit.
Then after all this finally came the moment for all my practice to come to something real, to perform on stage. Waiting a few seconds for the music to start felt like an eternity standing there in full view, but eventually it did start and everyone acted so perfectly in timing, expressions and movements that it was like a dream. The drama presents a girl who God creates, and who rejectes God and goes her own way and is oppressed by the devil, and another girl who is created and worships God and is joyful and how Jesus dies on a cross and in doing so frees the oppressed girl and defeats the devil. We never explain the drama, but it seems to speak for itself. The crowd loved the drama and applauded loudly. After this a team member shared her testimony and shared about the ship.
I am so glad to have studied drama and practiced long and hard to have performed this drama which presents a message that we would never be allowed to preach in such a place using words. I pray that it would have a lasting impact on those who watched it.
When you hear the word ‘Rehab’ what do you think? Bad people? Addicts? Attitude? Prison like places? Sometimes I think about a shirt that my good friend Paul has that says ‘Nintendo Rehabilitation Clinic’. But seriously I had no idea what to think when I was told I was going to a rehab centre. I’d never been to anything like that before and frankly I was a little bit scared. I was also scheduled to spend some time on the public deck of the ship in the morning, but that morning the organiser found me and said that there weren’t many visitors so I’d be going to a rehab centre in the morning too. Two in one day!
The first one that I went to was for people who were sentanced by a court to be there as an alternative to a jail sentace, so there were many iron bars and security cameras and guards, though it was a lot more homelike that I would immagine a prison. We had no plan, only some materials and the Holy Spirit, and we were only two in number. A staff member gave us a tour of the facility and then decided to take us to the detox wing to give our presentation. These were the people who had just arrived and were off the drugs for the first time. I was now more scared than I was earlier, but I put on a brave face and put my trust in God as we passed through an iron gate into the ward. Could you imagine my surprise and releif when I met such a friendly, courteous, attentive bunch of gentlemen! They were very interested in our ship presentation, my testimony and our gospel presentation. They asked lots of questions about the ship and asked us to say a special prayer for them. It was wonderful to talk to these guys who had really hit rock bottom and encourage them.
The second rehab centre I went to in the afternoon was completely different. It was really just like a big house, though it had a very big fence around it with some barbed wire, inside everyone was free to move about and interact. They all lived together and did chores to keep the place clean and tidy, and that it was! I’d be ashamed to invite the clients there to see my cabin or my office! Our group was much larger this time and we had two Dutch speakers with us (Dutch is the official language of Curacao). Each of us showed our flags and told our names, where we came from and what we do for work. This time I gave a ship presentation from memory using a helpful song I learned from an Aussie girl in my first week in Trinidad. Others gave their testimony in Dutch or in English translated into the local language – which is a mixture of Spanish, Dutch, English and French. We also had the opportunity to chat one on one with the clients after our presentation and I enjoyed chatting with one guy about the ship and my faith in Jesus.
At the end of the day I was really surprised at how God can use me in situations I have no experience or talent in. Thanks God for working through me, and working in me.
As I walked through the market that afternoon my senses were overwhelmed. People were calling out to each other, some selling, others greeting each other and others still were arguing. The street was crowded with people, though every now and then a car would push it’s way through. The streets are made of loose asphalt and the gutters wide and filled with stagnant water and garbage. There were good smells and bad smells rising up through the air.
I was handing out flyers for the ship that afternoon with a group of young guys and girls. There were thousands of these flyers so the object was to simply hand out as many as possible. In Europe or Australia this would be quite a challenge. Personally I’d never accept a flyer for anything as I shop, but here in Guyana it’s different. I had no trouble handing out flyers, especially when I mentioned the ship (also I was wearing a bright blue ship tee-shirt). Some people even got off their bike or stopped their car to ask for a flyer, and if I missed someone they’d call out to me. I got in a conversation with one lady who said they really like white people in Guyana and I told her a bit about the ship and she said she’d come on Sunday. One girl from our team got in a number of deep conversations and I made sure to keep an eye on them while handing out flyers.
It was a great opportunity to venture out into the town and invite people to come to the ship and hopefully there expereince God. Many people did in fact come on that Sunday:
The queue for the book exhibition in Georgetown, Guyana
Since then I have been out wandering a few times just for fun.
Today I was approached by two girls from the ship who needed a guy to go to the zoo with so I went along. I really loved the zoo and all it’s strange south-american animals, including this eagle which is absolutely huge.
A Harpy Eagle
On our way back I had to keep my eyes pealed as whilst most people are friendly to us and wave and get our attention just to say hi, some people are not so respectful towards women and often make advances. We had been told that there were dangers in going out and that girls can’t go alone off the ship, and this made me think that everyone in the city was bad but it’s obvious now that like anywhere there’s a few people who are ill-intentioned for whatever reason.
However I may have felt about Guyana when I first arrived, I think now it is an alright place with some really great people.