The churches on the island of Jamaica where our labors have been confined belong to three chief or principal ministers. These are Rev. Clinton James Elliott, who has some eleven churches scattered from Mahoe in the east to Cambridge and Grange Hill (The Crowder District) in the west, Rev. Joshua E. Frame with five churches most of which are in the area of Lucea and in the Parish (county for us) of Westmoreland, and Rev. Stephen E. Ruddock whose five churches are also mainly in Westmoreland, which is the southwestern section of the island.
Thus far we have reported in regard to the labors in 1968 in the churches of all three of these ministers. And our report continues with what our experiences were from the date of August 4.
Sunday, August 4, saw us again at Fort William with Rev. Ruddock and at another river baptism. This time it was a young lady, the daughter of the leading elder. There is something so refreshing about these baptisms, and such a display of childlike faith. The “candidates”, as they call them, stand in the water with the congregation lining the sides of the river. Often there are the unchurched who out of curiosity also stand there or sit on the bridge. Then each candidate in a very simple and sincere way gives answer to the question as to why he seeks baptism. Other questions are asked of him while he is still in the water, and after a satisfactory answer is given, he is immersed. Then the elder, who had also gone into the water, leads this candidate to the bank and to the congregation, bringing him into the fold now as a confessing member. Following a few moments of time, when the immersed, the minister and the elder can change into dry clothing, they walk to the church, a half-mile, a mile, depending on where they can find water for baptism. And as they go, they sing along the way on the public road. We have pictures of this as well as a recording of their song, “Converted Children, March on.” They are NOT ashamed of their religion. And with them it is far more than a matter of one day in a week. After a hurried lunch under a ledge of an abandoned stone mill, while a hurricane rain poured down around us, we went back to the Fort William church to pick up Rev. Ruddock and to go up Mt. Lebanon to that church. We came up from the southwest this time, having come up from the northeast the time before, but now this road was open and shorter. Here we had a communion service. The singing was from the heart, and it did us good to watch the children sing here. The text that night was II Corinthians 5:10 and the sermon was well received. Monday was the Jamaican Independence Day and we made use of it by looking up Latium and Sunderland—which we were to visit for a service soon—in order to know the way in the dark. We found a better road than the one we used last year.
Having heard a wild tribe in the cockpit country, and since Rev. Heys had a personal invitation from Colonel Robertson, their leader, to come and tour their city of Accompong, we decided to go Tuesday. We found them to be a very civilized and peaceful people, dressed like any other Jamaicans, and in this little village in some extremely wild country we not only found three churches, but even a church-school. It was Presbyterian. We ate our packed lunch in the school out of the rain. Wednesday we investigated that shipment at the railroad depot and tried to hurry up the shipment, telling them we had to have it SOON! That night we traveled to Lacovia to show our pictures to the Reading Church and to have a service there. We used the public school for electricity and Rev. Elliott invited the whole town. We had a near riot because of this, certain young men molesting by turning the lights on during the pictures and off when we gave up and needed the light to pack our equipment. The sermon was before the pictures, and then there was respect and quietness. We left to prevent a riot when certain elements became boisterous. The white man is not well received all over, and we were booed and ridiculed often. Thursday evening at Latium was better, and a quiet and attentive audience was assembled to hear a sermon on John 14:6. That morning we had inquired again at the railway depot about the clothing, and they advised us to take the train to Kingston to see what was delaying the shipment. The station master said that we should have had it a week ago already. We left on Friday at 6:45 A.M. on the morning train. And a wild ride it was! Over the mountains with sharp curves we went at full speed, throttle wide open. And we sat where we could watch the engineer. That it almost threw us out of our seats into the aisles on the curves meant nothing to him. That the wheels groaned and squealed on the curves and turns he did not hear. And apparently he went blind or lost all ability to see what we could plainly decipher on the sign: “Bring your train to a complete stop and proceed (over this bridge) at 5 miles per hour.” On the way home in the dark it was, shall we say, “More exciting?” At the freight house we were sent from office to office. And it became apparent that a phone call to Kingston would not have helped. It takes sometimes from 15 minutes to an hour to “wake up” the operator in Kingston. And then we would have had to make call after call, for they do not have a central switchboard in every establishment. Finally when we inquired at the right place, with the help of a trainman who rode to Kingston with us on the train, we got a big grin and the information that the freight train waiting at Spanish Town for us to clear the track before it could proceed, contained the goods. Arriving back at the depot that night at 8:30 we found that someone had let the air out of a front tire because we would not hire anyone to “watch” our car. They get you one way or the other.
Saturday morning was spent chasing from one place to another. First we went to the freight house and found the shipment and counted it. Then we went to the custom’s officer at the freight house. He sent us to town for some forms to buy and fill out. We tried three places and could not get the one form. Back we went to the officer just before noon. Mr. Binns, the custom’s officer, said that without the forms we could do nothing and the office closed at noon on Saturday. Understanding our position—and he did recommend that we get recognized by the government so that we could be on his list for duty-free importation—he showed us some pity and said that he would try to get the copies of the forms for us from a friend who was a broker. “Come back Monday” he said “and we will close this business.” 1
The rest of this report if that of Rev. Heys alone, for Saturday afternoon Mr. Feenstra became very ill with chills and high fever, which on Wednesday was diagnosed as a very severe case of the flu. We took him to the doctor Wednesday and got him some medicine to go with his antibiotic shot. Mr. Feenstra was not with us again in the work until Sunday afternoon, August 18. The wives went along on the preaching engagements, however, and can verify the remainder of this report.
On Sunday we went to Waterworks in the morning. A very attentive group listened to a sermon on John 14:6. At Galloway in the afternoon we again discussed Psalm 23 and a lively discussion followed which they and we enjoyed. We also played the Hope Heralds’ tape and the greetings from the Mission Committee. Then there was an evening sermon on Psalm 17:15 with some very emotional reactions.
Monday Rev. Heys was just leaving to go to the freight house and to finish the clearance of the clothing with customs when Rev. Elliott appeared. He went along, and his presence was invaluable in estimating the value of the clothing. We settled for duty of 35 shillings a bundle. Mr. Binns later on graciously cut it down to the minimum he could charge, which was 30 shillings a bundle or $3.60 a bundle in our money. The total cost of the duty on 3,015 pounds of clothing was $27. It did not go that easy however. We were sent back to the city to the customs offices there to get a signature. Then back to the freight house we had to go with the signature. Back for another signature. Back for examination of that signature. Back to pay the duty. Sent to another office to cool our heels waiting for the cashier, while she decided whether she was ready to take our money. We were told by her that we had to have a shilling stamp and that we should go back to the post office to get on. We sighed and obtained a little pity. “Give me a shilling,” she said, “and I’ll use one of my stamps.” Sent then to another office in the same building and waited on at once. Told again, “You need a twelve shilling, six pence stamp.” In all the stifling heat of the upstairs building, we were ready to call it a day. It was 2 P.M. and this had begun right after breakfast and as soon as the offices opened in the morning. This time it was a man, and he remained adamant. This is the rule: a 12 shilling, six stamp must be applied to the document! A helper in the office interceded and accepted the money instead of the stamp AND THE CLOTHING WAS OURS TO TAKE AWAY! Incidentally, this is not the end of the story. We still had to go back to the freight house on the other side of town for Mr. Binns to put his o.k. for removal after showing him all the signed papers. Thus it was late Monday afternoon when all was cleared for removal. This now was August 12, one week before our return home, but we still had to get trucks to deliver it to the churches. Wednesday we had Rev. Frame’s and Rev. Elliott’s removed but Rev. Ruddock’s truck driver did not show up till Thursday. Wednesday evening an 11-store fire in downtown Montego Bay destroyed those customs offices upstairs where all of our signed papers were. Had this happened two days earlier, we could not have cleared it before leaving for home. The shipment was to come between July 11 and 16 but came July 27; we did not get our hands on it till August 12, and we did not get it to the churches till August 15; and we were scheduled to leave for home the 19th.
After all the hectic activities of that Monday we still went at night to Cambridge for that “rained-out” service. This is a small congregation, high on the hill, but it was an attentive group, and we enjoyed the service. We had sent telegrams that day to the three ministers to hire trucks to get the clothing, and while we were waiting for the men to load the trucks Rev. Heys had a serious talk with Rev. Elliott and Rev. Frame about our future work on the island and what we were going to suggest to the Mission Committee. Before Mr. Feenstra’s illness we had done much talking together about what to do in this field. Both ministers agreed that it was a good plan that we conduct services of our own under our control. And it was because of this that the next Sunday Rev. Frame offered his pulpit to Rev. Heys and said, “You conduct the whole service this morning.” We thanked him but felt that we should first get the Mission Committee’s opinion on this, and one service at the very end of our labors would not change matters. We also put the question point blank to both of them, “If our churches have no money to give to you for your need and your buildings, will your people still want us to work here?” The answer of both was “Many followed Jesus for bread but not all.” Some would leave, they said, but many would stay.