Consider it pure joy…

Today I write in a state of gratefulness and awe.  Amazed that the words written by one man near two-thousand years ago could reach into my reality and change the way life goes for me.  And for others like me.

Three weeks ago I invited an odd assortment of people into my home to work our way through the book of James.  I didn’t put too much thought into it – not in a real thinking sense – but followed my gut.  Some of them didn’t know each other, some of them didn’t know why they chose to come, but we began the journey holding our hands around my kitchen table and praying for guidance with the smell of lasagna baking in the oven.

“2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

We read the first few verses through and began with the question in our guide “How do you deal with trials?”

It took all night.  Everyone at that table was going through a trial.  Without going through the details we waded through insight.  The fascinating concept of considering it JOY when we are faced with a trial.  The order to do so – not please think about considering it joy, but CONSIDER it.  Also fascinating was that it was JOY we were ordered to find.  Not peace, not submission, not acceptance, not surrender which take some doing in their own right, but the nigh impossible JOY.

The responsibility rested heavy on the kitchen table.  The order that if you cannot find that joy, please ask God for wisdom and don’t do so with doubt.  It was clear that this Considering it Joy business is a practice, something to be renewed every morning and turned into perseverance, not a one off entrance into a state of bliss.  The responsibility that is placed in our hands is to apply ourselves diligently to the task of creating joy out of pain.

Not to mention the reward.  Wouldn’t you like to be complete, not lacking in anything?  Wouldn’t you like to be wise and full of joy?  Wouldn’t you like to transmute the emotions brought on by trials and simply experience pure JOY in spite of circumstances?

But do we trust that this will happen?

Through the course of the past few weeks I have been pursued by James and his inspired order to Consider it Joy.  A friend who often sends me his readings from his morning devotions spent three days on subject matter centered around dropping the complaints and entering His presence with praise.  My own daily devotional emails from a well followed womans devotion site led me through conscious decisions to be grateful.  My life coach and I spoke of the power that is created in the space where you have done the work to take responsibility.  Our pastor spoke on reliance on the Spirit to guide our walk through the Christian life where there is Joy.  And trial after trial forced me into practice over the course of the last week in particular.

It has been a fascinating journey that would have been eerie if the stalking had been done by any other spirit!

Across oceans, a similar journey through James has run parallel.  A blogger that I follow has been pursued by a stream of the same ideas over the course of the last few weeks.  I invite you to read Andy’s blog and see the shared lessons from the book of our mutual friend, James.

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Weekend of the {RED}EEMER

The weekend was much anticipated.  Volunteers met, paid for their T-shirts, were trained in their tasks, and were told what time to be there on what day.  The YAG was fully engaged and many of us left work to be on time to work together with over 100 volunteers who put their names down to be part of this event.  We were bringing Nicole C. Mullen to town.

The Cayman Islands Baptist Church is quite new – just over 5 years old.  We’ve only been in our building for about 3 years.  Our YAG is only three months old.  But our mission, to be a Community of Love, is what led the missions committee to bring Dove Award winning artist Nicole C. Mullen to our island and invite every human being within the water borders of our islands to come FREE to listen to her and share in her worship.

Hearts were touched.  Lives were changed.  And pictures were taken.  This is the story they tell.

A volunteer designed this flyer. It was put in every mailbox, hung on every door, and used as the profile picture on facebook, bbm and twitter by volunteers for weeks leading up to the concerts.

Finally the day came and our Pastor and the Missions Team greeted Nicole on the tarmac at the Owen Roberts International Airport

The event organizer, Pastor Randy, and Nicole at the Airport with the Cayman Islands flag

Nicole took to the stage in our church with Andrew Thompson, her backup singer. The church was full to capacity but we had two massive screens set up with bleachers across the street in the park and more than 1200 people came the first night with a similar turnout on the second. The park was a truly festive place to be with a jerk chicken stand, hot dogs, cupcakes and ice cream on sale - as well as Nicole's CDs and {RED}EEMER T-Shirts

The YAG came out in force - several of us volunteered as greeters, parking lot attendants, merchandise volunteers, garbage collectors, a part of the prayer team that was praying through each concert upstairs in the church. I'm somewhere in here but the only thing you can see is curls 🙂

This gracious lady and her team members (one of them on the far left) signed autographs until everyone was gone. EVERYONE. Not one person who wanted a photo or an autograph was turned away.

On the second night (there were TWO free concerts) Nicole did things differently, going acoustic on a few songs and telling more of her story. The two nights were very different and both were amazing!

At the last song the backing track failed. We've had some trouble with our sound board for some time now but... right in the middle of "I KNOW MY REDEEMER LIVES"? Nicole didn't miss a beat. She sang that powerful song acapella and sent goosebumps up every spine within the sound of her voice!

We are so grateful that Nicole and her team were willing to come and share with us. The event brought our church family together even closer than we were before (which was pretty close!) and you have given our community a gift that will never be forgotten

These two ladies, one of them a YAG leader, worked TIRELESSLY to make this thing happen and pulled it off without a single hitch (sound board excepted but God knew what He was doing with that!) They are a blessing to us.

WARNING BELLS and THE PROPHET – vol II

“You.  Were you in church on Sunday?”  I shook my head no, for I certainly was not at this church.  “What did you come to church tonight for?”  I didn’t understand the question.  I turned to the friend who had invited me and, glad to not be the person Prophet-man was picking on, his eyebrows reached up for his hairline and he moved his head out of my way to give me a better view of my questioner.  Peter, peter why did you deny me?

Prophet re-phrased his question.  “How do you want the Lord to bless you tonight?”

Stalling, I said “I haven’t thought about it.”  I mean, how can one think with all your jumping around and rebuking?!  No.  Of course I didn’t say that part.

“Think about it.”

And he waited.

Seeing he wasn’t going away I capitulated.  “I’d like some rest.”  Incredulity hit his face and he looked at the rest of the church over his wire-rimmed glasses.  But no, Prophet-man wasn’t getting into any more of my business than that.  “Yes.  Rest.  That’s a big deal you know!”

“Stand my sister and receive your blessing”.  So I stood.  I was told to close my eyes and raise my hands “to receive my blessing of rest.”  The man said “I see you need a vacation.”

I said “Yes.  I leave on vacation tomorrow.”

“Where are you going?”

“Jamaica.”

“Where in Jamaica?  Trelawny?”

Bahahahahahaha (inside of course) “No.  St. Elizabeth.”

“You going to look about some land?”

“No.”

“Do you have land there?”

“No.”  Not until my parents die and Lord I sure as hell don’t want to inherit anything today.  Who knows?  This Prophet man with an interest in my land might well and engineer it.

“Do you need land?”

“No.  I have everything I need.”  At this point I had opened my eyes and sat down, feeling like a fool standing with eyes closed and this man trying to pick my information out of my mouth.  “Well my sister, you are about to receive some land.  Since you don’t need it you should sell it and give the money to the church.”  Resounding amens.

Swiftly moving on from my uncooperative rebellion, and before his failure to crack me gained much notice and put a spoke in his wheel of momentum, he called out “Who has a headache?”  (Classic.)  Closing his eyes, reaching out his hand like Moses parting the sea, and making his face the picture of concentration  he called out “Stand up!  I feel your pain my sisters.  Two of you have headaches!”  (What are the odds?!)  Two women stood up.  (Of course.)

He held out his hand to the head of the one nearest to the front, gesturing for someone to stand behind her.  And blowing wind into the microphone he pressed one finger into her forehead and down she went.  She was so overcome that he left her to the care of her neighbour who fanned her face with a sheet of paper.  Leaving her he twisted snakelike to headache number 2 and said “Sister does your head still hurt?”  She shook her head a quick no and sat down.  “See?  GODDDD  does not WAIT for man to do his work!” he bellowed triumphantly.

Hell.  I woulda said no too!  My friend brought his mouth to my ear and whispered “I know you’re ready to go.”  I nodded “A half-hour ago.  Wait till the time is right.”

When we turned our attention back to the front he had drawn information out of other members, one lady in a custody battle for her child, another praying for a family, and turned to target a woman in the back by the door.  “Come up here Mama.  I see your pain and it hurts me too.  The Spirit has told me of your secret sickness.”  She came, all two hundred pounds and five feet of her frame, labouring to walk to the front, swaying with the spirit like the Okonkwo of Chinua Achebe.  Her unnamed illness was targeted as the Prophet put his finger on her forehead, calling out the demon in her, and pushing her down determinedly with one finger while looking over his glasses.  The whole thing happened right before me in the aisle between our row of chairs and the pews across.  She fell into the arms of another member, missing my swiftly drawn-in legs by a hair’s breath.  His face was a fury as he focused all his strength into one finger and I could feel the tension of his arm and of his concentration as he struggled to make it look spiritual. Oh… and also… he blew tongues and holy wind all throughout into the microphone.  “Shambalaambalusha.”

She then began to shake and convulse, her hair braided in rows close to her round scalp falling heavy on the person behind her, bawling out in tongues – once again a line of unintelligible sounds repeated over and over – at my feet.  They brought out a sheet to cover her legs (clearly this church was prepared) so that she wouldn’t expose herself in the Spirit.  My eyes were glued with morbid and removed curiosity at the woman twitching like a murdered calf on the floor when another lady stood to the front.  As the new woman started to sway the woman at my feet quickly scrambled up to the chair next to me given up for her, her performance briefly forgotten,  and resumed bellowing and wheezing out her tongues, shaking her hands and shoulders out to each side and pushing me into my friend.  As the new woman getting her “healing” came down, her hand swept my friend’s face pushing him into me.  And so we were pinned between two babblers, convulsing without care for their neighbours, proving themselves to be deeply spiritual indeed.

“Yo bredrin, this church is a contact sport!”  No one would have  noticed my even voice with all the high volume nonsense words flying about and so I said it out loud this time, looking my friend full in the face.  He turned his head and his shoulders shook against me as he bit his lip against the pending flood, and we both looked up to see another woman on her way down.  At the sight of the last remaining escape route about to be blocked off, I picked up both our Bibles, my handbag, my keys and his keys and said “Let’s GO.”  Climbing over three bodies laid out on the floor (they had run out of sheets by now) I made it to the door not caring to see if he was behind me.  I half-gasped, half-guffawed goodnight to the ladies at the door and ran through the blissfully quiet night air to the car before the body count got any higher.  Two steps out the door the laugh bubbled up and tumbled out in peels like sheets of rain.  He was five steps behind me and as we clambered into the car he laughed out “Speak your mind!  I’d love to hear what you think.”

Tears came out as uncontrollable laughter shook my whole self.  “Take me home bro.  In order to sleep tonight, I have a bottle of wine I have to finish!”

Now ladies and gentlemen, forgive me if I misunderstand.  I do not dare to claim perfection or complete understanding and risk being rebuked like Job.  But I believe deep in my soul that my God doesn’t destroy people, doesn’t demand that they not feed their families, doesn’t get up in their business or rebuke them for using their gifts, isn’t rude and would not have someone wait to apologize for an offense.  The God I serve doesn’t expect me to behave possessed like a voodoo priestess, He praises self-control and consideration, good stewardship and offers grace and not judgment.  He doesn’t demand I tell all my business to every man who calls himself a prophet.  In fact He Himself stands at the door and knocks and waits for us to open it, doesn’t kick down the door and go through the drawers for the cash we have hidden in the sock drawer.

As for Prophet-man, something my God told me Himself  “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  See, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20)

These are the fruits all Prophets in the Holy Spirit should have:

WARNING BELLS and THE PROPHET – vol I

Please forgive the irreverence with which I recount the following experience.  Truth is I found nothing at all reverent about it and try as I might have in the days following the most reverent response I could find was a nervous chuckle.  I know God has his flock in many pastures but the story I’m about to relate (as factually and as untainted by opinion as is probably possible for someone like me) reminded me much more of the lion David killed to protect his sheep than any green pastures or still waters.

On a whim and on an invitation given on short notice I found myself in what had once been the living room of a house.  At the door a camcorder recorded and relayed the images of the main room, pewed out in chairs of blue upholstery much like those of my own church, into the other room or rooms of the house.  Bibles open and ready for Bible study, worshipers filled the two rooms tight, two bottoms to a seat, as a team of four women led an emotional praise and worship session.  The Pastor welcomed me to his humble church with a gentle and heartfelt squeeze of my hand and I decided to like him.  I have since decided also not to hold against him what took place thereafter.  There was much kindness coming off this teacher and I had heard a little of him from the friend who brought me to this place.  The bottom of this friend and my own shared a seat at this very moment in the little pentecostal church.

But this Tuesday night was different – neither my host (nor the Pastor I’d like to think) had much clue about where the night would eventually end up.

During the music I looked around and saw quite a few faces I recognized.  Mothers of some of my friends, one or two young professionals, domestic helpers, labourers, teachers, all mixed in but mostly humble and devout women.  The music seemed to have possessed one lady over by the window and she chanted quietly to herself, swaying her slender back side by side against the wall facing me across the church.  Two hands in the air and braids spilling long and pretty over each shoulder onto her long black and yellow dress.  I remember looking at her furrowed brow thinking wow – that’s some pain she’s going through.

The music was ended by the signal of the Pastor up front in a space saved from the overcrowded seating for him to stand in.  As the ladies took their seats he had the church greet each other.  A sweet lady, one of the singers, came and greeted my host and shook my hand with genuine pleasantness that still lingers in the smile of my memory.  I thought later, and in fact still think, she is a lady I would like to know.

Up to this point everything fit.  I was in the house of God with His people and was most excited to break bread together and feast on some good Word.

A guest speaker was announced.  There would be no Bible study tonight because we were blessed with the presence of Prophet Evan Macomb or something similar (but not quite).  (The word “PROPHET” set off warning bell #1.)

A man about 5 feet 11 inches tall with a bald spot shining stark and small surrounded by hair that threatened to be an afro in the weeks to come stood to speak.  He wore shiny black leather shoes, a black pair of trousers with white pin-stripes about four inches apart that you would find at a higgler stand, and a classy black shirt with white stripes, white collar and cuffs with onyx cuff links.  A black alligator leather belt held the pants to his wiry frame.  His watch caught my attention – I had seen one just like it in a recent sale at a duty-free store and balked at the price.  The brown band and gold setting over a black face struck me as odd and I couldn’t figure out why immediately but the feeling lingered.

It was much later that it sank home to me.  Nothing this man was wearing matched anything else.  It came to me as he was speaking and the discord had become too powerful to ignore.

He began by complimenting the Pastor – the gentle greeter – for all manner of good purporting to have knowledge of the man that had been given him by the Spirit.  He then went on to raise a frenzied response from the congregation and they were to greet the Holy Spirit.  “Jeeeeeezus must be welcomed properly!  You’ll get THAT by midnight!”  The commotion that followed wasn’t good enough and so he called for them to try again.  And involved the musicians – a man on a strange-looking electronic drum and another on the keyboard.  He started to jump and shake like a man possessed and “speak in tongues” (warning bell #2).  Then he drew his hand across his waist and the keyboarder missed the cue and didn’t stop.  And then he called for more drums and the drummer could only find the sleigh bells setting.  And the “Holy Spirit” took him on a rampage of biblical proportions.

“MUSICIANS KNOW YOUR PLAAAAACCCCCE!  Play di drum man!”  He was so pissed off he lost his accent AND his tongues and slipped into Jamaican patois (warning bell #3).  At fever pitch he continued “I rebuke you!  You may be what stands between a person in need and their HEALING!  Don’t you know that MUSIC is what ushers in the HOLY SPIRIT?!  Especially the DRUMS?  The SPIRIT enters me through the DRUMS!” punctuated by foot stamps and jumping, and then turning to the congregation he hushed down to a half crouch and a cheeky whisper “You’ll get THAT by midnight.”  (warning bell #4?  Or did I lose count?)  “PLAY DI DRUMS!  Musicians you are ALL replaceable.  ALLLLL of you.  No matter how good you are or how well you sing God doesn’t NEED you.  He ALLLWWAYYS has someone waiting to REPLACE you”, he continued with much animation in his spirited body to some nervous amens.

“This is not a rebuke my brothers but I am in the Holy Spirit.  I will apologize for offending any of you later but not now, not in the SpiriT” (with a capital T and a rrrrolled Rs.)  “So musICIANS.  PLAY or get off the SPOT!”  (warning bells and alarms and all hell breaks loose inside me at something sounding very much like the Caribbean phrase piss or get off the pot) “YES church, you’ll get THAT by midNIGHT!”

Then he turns his stern and angry eyes, to the palpable relief of the room not least of all the musicians, to the Bible.  “Today I have been led to speak to you about Interceding.”  And then some more “tongues” that sounded much too familiar now as they  were clearly the exact same “tongue” phrases he’d enunciated at least twice now before this point.  Now you see why I put quotation marks around warning bell #2?

His sermon went something like this:

  1. Selected verse with “interceding” in it, clearly pulled out of a quick internet search of a Bible.
  2. Some incoherent tongue speaking.
  3. An explanation or clarification that was clear as mud – e.g. “Christ is the only intercessor (interrrrcessaaaaa) so don’t let anyone talk to you about interceding for you.  For they CANNOT DO what he has ALREADY DONE!”
  4. Some more tongues.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 four times.

None of his “interceding” verses related to each other.  Context was neither acknowledged nor discussed.  At one point he was reading one version of the Bible and the version on the church screen was different so his verse said “interceding” where the screen said “intercession” and he yelled at the people out loud saying “it doesn’t say intercession, it says interceding.  Interceding and intercession is two different things.”  I looked at my friend but he couldn’t look at me for by this time my eyes were wide open as the wonders unfolded and his carefully held laughter was shaking his shoulders.

If the Prophet were to be believed it was Elijah and not Elias that was a New Testament church member, Isaac and not Abraham who was asked to sacrifice his son, Jesus alone can intercede, intercession and interceding are two different things (ok so tenses are different sure but COME ON) and he implored us to intercede for each other (see note on Jesus above) and for the church building project…

DONT. EVEN. TRY. TO. UNDERSTAND.  That’s what I GOT by midnight!

Then the Prophet launched into the building fund that the Holy Spirit told him about.  Didn’t take the Spirit for me to notice we were meeting in someone’s house, and I am no Mentalist!  He asked the membership how many members there were.  Pastor responded saying 100.  He calculated swiftly that $1,000 from each member would equal $100,000.  He called on members to pledge $1,000 a month right there and then.  “I know you are all building and providing for your own homes but provide for God first and HE will provide for YOU”.  He saw my coach handbag on my lap (Yes.  I watched his eyes.) and called out “see you ladies who like your pretty handbags?  Give your thousand dollars to the Lord and he will bless you with SIX HANDBAGS!”I was dumbstruck.  Jaw literally dropped.  And not a little annoyed. I saw domestic helpers and gardeners who make less than $800 most months walk up to the front of the church to pledge their thousand dollars because they were told by this fire-and-rebuke-breathing minister in the “spirit” that they would be given 100 times what they have given back.

And as my eyes widened even more the man turned on me.

More on what he said to me in tomorrow’s post.

THE YAG (Mysterious Happening #2)

It was the same weekend as Mysterious Happening #1 and it was a miracle explosion.

In 2011 two young women from my church began a discussion about starting a Bible study for young adults.  They met a few times, talked around the subject with the pastor, but it didn’t quite take off.  In November they invited myself and another young woman into the conversation and now there were four of us.  We looked up a Bible study, selected one on relationships, met once, and still it didn’t take.  A little bit disheartened, we prepared to launch in January.  In our preparation we ordered books, selected a venue, worked out a menu, and launched the CIBC Young Adults page (Now called The YAG) on Facebook.  All of a sudden we were official!  Now to see if there were others out there like us who were wanting to study as well.

The Sunday before our first meeting we met with our pastor and prayed for guidance, for attendance, for the Spirit to prepare our group.  We expected five people at our launch of RELATE.

Twenty-five showed up.  The seats in my living room were all taken and some of us took the floor.  All our books were gone at meeting one and we made another order.  At meeting two there were even more people!  It was called AFTERGLOW, and we were blessed with music from Jordan and Heather Richmond, and there were no less than 40 people there.  And now we need to order MORE books!  Almost immediately it was too big for my living room and a couple from our church kindly donated the use of a warehouse that they have refurbished – wooden flooring, air conditioning, plush rugs and cozy seating.  Our Friday night (to Saturday morning) meetings continued to grow as we got deeper into the makings of good relationships.  It is the Happiest Happy Hour I’ve ever been to!

Our study is one of the Threads collection, called RELATE.  In our first meeting a visiting theologian gave us an introduction to the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was quoted in our study and was, coincidentally (nah no coincidence) the subject of his own thesis.  The first topic was Understanding Relationships.  We came to understand there is one fundamental need every human being has in their relationships – either Security or Significance.  With this foundation we came to understand more about ourselves.  We discussed the revolutionary idea that relationships are NOT ABOUT US but about the purpose we were created to fulfill.  The six “one anothers” of the New Testament were broken out for our exploration and the relationship armour of Colossians 3:12-14 were also chewed on for a good amount of time.  We are now half-way into session two – Developing Relationships, what our stumbling blocks are and what we should aim to bring to the table.

“Not what a man is in himself as a Christian, his spirituality and piety, constitutes the basis of our community.  What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ.  Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to the both of us.”  ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

In the short space of a month this has snowballed into much more than a Bible study.  It has become a whole new community, a social circle, a support system.  Young adults are coming from other churches – Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Presbyterian, Church of God, no church at all – we are coming from all walks of life – teachers, civil servants, lawyers, students, unemployment – and we find belonging with each other.  Friendships are being formed, relationships are being rescued, issues are coming to a head, characters are being strengthened, and each of us is making the journey of the others rich in love and support, companionship and prayer.  It seems as though 2011 was a dark year for many of us – breakups, divorces, affairs, family drama, unplanned pregnancies, unemployment, alcohol-soaked violence, baby mama/daddy drama – things that make my haircuts seem trivial.  Our members have each walked out of their own individual pool of pain and into the arms of the others.  Our Facebook group has over 100 members – for an island of 50,000 people that’s pretty revolutionary!  In the space of a month our lives have begun to change – we have had a Bitterness Burning, a Baptism, a Birthday party, Valentines Cupcakes, we watched Courageous together and we have members calling in from other parts of the world on Skype.  It is our deep-seated conviction that no one should go without encouragement.  And now we are launching our missions!  We are working with our church to host Nicole Mullens in two free concerts at the end of March and we are planning our first international mission as I type!  Perhaps it will involve cupcakes… who knows?

THE YAG - heart in hand

None of us could have predicted how far this would go.  None of us could have planned for any of the growth we have made!  The mystery is in the peace that comes with being together.  Now we long for Friday night and call out encouragement and help and meet with one another throughout the week.  We are so blessed to have each other and to rest in our Father’s arms together.  And as we are salt and light during our work weeks and in our communities, we take comfort in knowing there is salt and there is light just a street over, around the corner, at another desk, in another place, and that that person is also keeping us in prayer before our God.  At the beginning and in the middle and at the end of the day it’s all about Him.

And then I had this dream… handing out cupcakes in La Ceiba.  It could happen!  In fact, before the end of the year I am sure it will.

Another time I will describe my own path to YAG and through YAG and how it has changed everything.  If you are interested in sitting in on one of our sessions, or even joining our group study, please drop a comment and I will send you material and arrange your link into our meetings.  We are setting the world on fire!  I invite you to be the spark that lights the flame where you are.

Walter – (Mysterious Happening #1) – A tale of YAG

 Family secrets and secret family – all revealed in God’s time!

OK so this didn’t begin as a YAG story.  It began on the same day of the YAG and was one of the two mysterious happenings that changed the faces of my present and of my future.  I invite you to pray for me that it be a change that stays with me forever.

This first mysterious happening began with an invitation.  Our church, the Cayman Islands Baptist Church, hosted over 30 pastors from Honduras and Cuba for a weekend of continued education and training.  It was a retreat and the visitors were hosted by church families and went to full days of training by American and Caymanian pastors (translated to Spanish) and the pastor of our sister church in Cuba (translated into English).  Two of these gentlemen were hosted by my parents and I shared a few memorable meals with them, sharpening iron with iron and refining my own language skills.  In church on Sunday the whole contingent treated us to a heavy baritone rendition of a well-known praise song in spanish and Pastor Randy introduced a few of them by name.

Enter Walter.  Or should I say, THE WalterS.  Walter Bush Snr. and Walter Bush Jr. from the First Baptist Church of La Ceiba.  The name Bush hit me like a cold water drop from an a/c unit and I turned with eyes lit up to my mom.  She was smiling and wiggled her eyebrows at me.  After service ended and our church family gathered together to catch up I walked up to a YAGgie girlfriend of mine speaking to two vaguely familiar men.  As I came into earshot I heard one of them say to her “Our roots are in Cayman but we wouldn’t have a clue as to where to look to find our family here”.  On approach the older man lifted eyes identical to mine – a rare mix of hazel and green – and I said “You must be the Bushes”.

Thus began an animated conversation with my cousins.  Mr. Walter Snr. is the image of what I have always imagined my grandfather to look like.  My mom confirmed it to me – his height, his eyes, his aura of calm is much like her father.  Walter Jr. and I spoke at length of what it is to be a Bush – the satellite ears, our unique battle as a family with compulsiveness, the addictions that our compulsiveness can drag us into, our family attachment to mutton peppers, our family recipe for our famous pepper sauce (IMAGINE!), the power of our personalities.  We were invited to visit them and exchanged email addresses and parted ways with smiles deep down in our hearts.

And now the Walters have called… on the day that I dream of handing out cupcakes in La Ceiba.

Cupcakes in La Ceiba? – A tale of YAG

A very REAL YAG cupcake

The story I’m about to tell you in three parts began in January.  But the cupcakes happened this weekend.  And this weekend is where I will start.

It was muddy and the river rocks were peaking sly through a slick sheen of red river mud.  I don’t know the name of the neighbourhood but I have been here before.  There are children who live on the streets here and there are some that only look like they do.  They were out in the road now in their most tatty clothing – mind you it could well have been their only clothing for all my dream would tell me.  And all I know is that I am here to help, to bring joy and talk with them and I have a hand full of cupcakes.  Light, fluffy, gorgeous creations made by one of our very own YAGgies.  But more about that later.

I look a little ways ahead up the incline of what passes for a road – or passed for a road before the river reclaimed it with her blood – and see others like me, cupcakes in hand, men and women, reaching out to the shy children.  And soon they aren’t so shy.  There is no language barrier in my dream – we are laughing and teasing with full understanding in two different languages and the children are playfully giggling.

I wake up to a Friday morning filled with corporate challenges and Very. Important. Things. to do.

But it comes back to me at 7 p.m. when the YAG meets for the fifth time.  I remember my dream and speak about it to the YAGgies and my Pastor listens carefully (and far more seriously than I expected) to my dream.  It is only when I am done and biting into a very real cupcake made by the same YAGgies in the dream that he tells me that Walter has called for him to preach a series of sermons at First Baptist Church of La Ceiba.

To understand all this I will ask you to bear with me…  there are two stories I need to tell you back from one life-changing weekend in January.  Follow along and read the miraculous tales of the YAG.