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Monday, June 21, 2010

The Cayman Islands

"for he has founded it upon the seas..." - Psalm 24:2 ESV

Have you ever been to a place quite as magical as this?

And that my friends, was just a view of our pool. Yes, we were "suffering" greatly for the cause of Christ as we watched little boats and yachts stream down the canal to the ocean. We were in the bowels of discomfort when we could only get the room temperature down to 73 rather than the optimum 72. Oh and how cramped we were, having to share a king sized bed for most the week (two of us) and having to fight for the covers! Oh and I cannot begin to tell you how exhausting it was for us to have drive out from weekend "villas" to do work at the churches. Oh, and of all things they were right by the Gulf! Oh, how wretched!

I mean the list of our horrible, driveling activities included:

- Walks to the beach
- Snorkeling at the Coral Gardens
- Petting stingrays at Stingray City
- Relaxing the afternoon away at Rum Pointe (It is not Point, the Cayman Islands are British)
- Kayaking into Smith's Cove
- Exploring cavernous caves
- Shopping on the streets of Georgetown

As you can definitively see, we were absolutely tested beyond our boundaries...constantly being pushed to the limit of our physical endurance of the water and constantly under threat of getting too much rays. Yes, we have gone through much hardship to return to the Unites States and I hope that you all appreciate that.

If you cannot already tell this is going to be a rather satirical and joking account of what happened, it is notmeant to be taken at face value. For a more serious account of ministry work I would refer you to the sister blog, Cayman-Brac: There you will find a decent perspective on what God did through our lives while we were on especially Cayman Brac, one of the friendliest and most hospitable places on Earth.


To say that this trip was "providential" would be a gross understatement. God had (and still has) something up his sneaky, random sleeve (if you are offended at God being sneaky or having sleeves, you may as well stop reading now) that we are all still trying to figure out. I mean just what were a bunch of Southern boys (and moi, the Border transplant) doing in the Cayman Islands...for NOTHING? When, I first got the message from Ryan, I thought to myself, "Well, that is interesting...but I bet it is going to cost me an arm and/or a leg (or maybe just one of my two kidneys) to go." I inquired about it, skeptical and not giving it much thought.

Well, boy was I in for a surprise...

Ryan wrote me back saying that the trip was going to cost me nothing, as in not one American dollar (this is not exactly true, because I spent some money on other things, but not on the basics of the trip itself). I was incredulous and wrote back how incredulous I was. Still, I thought, "This is too good to be true..." and just dismissed it. Then, Ryan tells me to come meet the pastor we would be going to work with, so I figured, why not right?

So, we went out to East Moss Point Baptist Church where I listened to the pastor speak (I am still referring to him as "the pastor" because at this point I still did not know his name) and he spoke about of my least favorite subjects (which mind you has changed...I will explain in the future). I was kind of indifferent to the man who kind of momentarily said a few words and moved on (turns out that he was preoccupied with something heavy; don't ever judge on first impressions alone). It was not a grand slam for me and I was having to consider getting a job up in Athens and whether or not the timing of the trip would work, etc.

In other words, I still needed to pray.

So, pray I did. I prayed for a few weeks and it just seemed as if God were opening this thing up wiiiiiide open (the trip was on the right days, the cost was nothing, I needed a senior trip, it was with some cool folks, and I even think the planets were aligned...) and so I said, "Sure Ryan, count me in."
Well, graduation was hard and I had to tell a lot of people, "so long," and I spent a week at my Aunt and Uncle's house in Saraland hanging out with various folks. All a long the way people kept asking, "Are you sure this is real; I mean this is RYAN OGBORN we are talking about, right? How do you know this not like the ultimate "punk'd" episode?"

Me: Hey Ryan, I am ready to go to the Cayman Islands!
Ryan: Oh yeah cool, hold on one moment I gotta go get something out of the back...
(Ryan exits, I am left waiting awkwardly...)
Me: day dreaming...You know, I really think that the Trinity is more like a muffin than an egg, you see you have the berries and...
Ryan: Man, what are you doing?
Me: jerking back to reality... Oh, what hey dude, I was just craving some muffins.
Ryan: Ok, that's weird. Well, I got a surprise for you, hold up
really loud noise
Ashton Kutcher: WAHAHA! Man, you thought you were going to the islands!? Haha, man you just been punk'd!
Loud yelping as a rush and tackle Ashton Kutcher in a rage of fury

Ok, well I probably would not rush nor tackle Ashton Kutcher, but I def would not have been pleased. Well, the day finally arrived and sure enough Ryan came to get me from school (w/ Josh Driscoll in tow) and after staying a short night at his house, we were off to see the wizard (I mean it might as well have been Oz to me...I had not idea what to expect)

Well, it did not take us long to arrive (meeting up with the Copelands in Pensacola) on the Cayman was cloudy and overcast for the first three days we were there, but that gave us time to get know our surroundings and it gave Pastor Randy time to worry us to death (by Day 3 we all dreaded, "Hey, you guys ready?")

A word about Customs/Immigration...

So, we arrived in the Cayman Islands and like an idiot I had not consulted with Ryan about our address and place of residence (neither did I know Pastor Randy's [or rather, Randall] name at that point) so the Customs people were already eying us suspiciously (in fact, the last officer asked me point blank, "Wow sir, three weeks is a long vacation, don't you think?") So, after being red flagged as potential scalawags we are allowed to enter Grand Cayman.

During these first three days we found out that 1)two of us were going to learn to drive on the left (i.e. wrong) side of the road on the right (but really wrong) side of the vehicles. 2) Pastor Randy has a book fetish and wanted to share it with the rest of group, can we say, "intense reading?" and 3)that we were be shipped off to a remote island location where we would having youth meetings that we planned out and executed (or rather got ourselves executed). It was a bit overwhelming at first (especially when Pastor Randy mentioned wake up and 5 am in the same sentence) and I am not going to lie that it took some adjusting to constantly be following Pastor Randy around.

A word on that...

What we did with Pastor Randy for the three (minus weekends) weeks we were there seems to me to be kinda what Jesus' disciples would have done. I mean to be honest, what do we think the disciples did all day? They literally gave up their lives to follow Jesus all over Palestine (and North America...oh wait, wrong religion) and to see him work and teach. It was cool how we were constantly around Pastor Randy in his various tasks (and there were plenty) and see how he dealt with people and their needs. We also were taught many, many snippets of wisdom and biblical teaching almost everyday.

We then were thrust into an alien environment to hold youth meetings: the isle of Cayman Brac. Now, this may sound really ignorant and prejudice, but I expected to be on an island with kind of scanty dwellings, no running water, and lack of AC. I did not expect what I found.

I found, well, a rural but yet civilized version of Grand Cayman; I was introduced to "the Brackas." Well, everything seem to be going rather smoothly and we took a good 15-20 min trip out to Site 1 (Site 1 is the mission home Josh and I stayed at and Site 2 is the mission home where Ryan and the Twins stayed at) where I continually made awed comments about the Bluff in the following manner:

Me: "Whoa, that is a big rock."
Other conversation and small talk begins...
Me: "Wow, that is a really big rock."
They acknowledge my comment and continue talking...
Me: "Geez, dude that is a really big stinkin' rock!"
At this point they get annoyed and toss me out on the street where I proceeded to walk for the next two hours to the mission house.

Ok, that did not happen, but I am sure that at some point that they thought that I was either 1) non-observant or 2) stupid. So, we follow the really big, wow-this-is-amazing rock all the way around to the mission home where rolled in our luggage and sat down to hospitality and comfort. Wrong. I tell you, it didn't happen that way at fact, the moment we arrived is the moment we found out we were locked out.

That's right. Locked out. Out in the heat. With the mosquitos and finger-sized ants (I am only slightly exaggerating...those ants were terrifying). Looking at our hosts awkwardly.

Yes, that was our introduction to the Tatum family. (Also, please note that after like an hour and half of haranguing, Nathanya [Nat] decides to attempt to open the window and ta-da! We were in there like skin care) They and the other people at Fellowship (Mark and Pauline come to mind) were awesome hosts and kept us bountifully supplied with all sorts of food and goodies.

Then we were introduced to the Cayman-Brac bullah. This cake of yummy goodness became like our bakery crack-cocaine man! We were always like buying bags of those things (because it was like 5 for like 2.50! You can't beat that deal!) So, pretty soon we were stuffing our face with bullahs. Then they served us steamed Kingfish and we about died (Yes, some of my fondest memories concerning the Brac involve food and the eating of it) from the fishy succulence!

Anyway, the Brackas also showed us around their island (even opened up the museum to us when it was closed, but you can't get'em to do that sucka!) for two straight weekends and we were awed at stuff like cliffs, caves, corral graveyards, luscious parks, and who can forget the corner hangout (ok, we were not awed by this and we have decided that this is the Southern equivalent of hanging at Walmart except with twice as much booze)

The folks on the Brac are pretty intent on praying us back over there. They need a good pastor to strengthen and equip their people to make disciples. Do I sense a call? Not yet, no. If God wants me over there I am open, but as of right now I do not feel like that is where he wants me. But anyway, for serving over there they gave us a love offering way beyond what we really deserved. I praise God for their generosity and hospitality while we were there.

Also, something amazing happened...check this out:

But seriously though all of the folks on the Brac were so generous to us and went above and beyond to take care of us, a church elder named Mark even let us use his van when ours went caput. I was even unfortunate enough to take a nasty scrape on the left side of the van, and they just shrugged...and I was very, very scared about that. We were well cared for by both Fellowship and Ebenezer and they really blessed my heart because I had begun to give up hope on any really genuinely good churches left. They love each other they loved us and I sincerely hope that God sends them someone who can help to become even greater than they already are. Some of most powerful and God-ordained moments happened while serving with these people and for that I am grateful that God decided to put us together.
Through us, God decided to bring salvation to several folks and as the picture above shows, I even got to baptize three people...something I had never done before. I could not possibly begin to tell you all of what God did through youth rallies, church services (which were the most awesome traditional services I have ever went to), and the other moments we had together. It is not in the scope of this blog to cover the play by play, if you wish to know a full recounting I can collect my thoughts go through it with you, just leave a comment.

But it def wasn't all ministry folks, not by a long shot.

I mean, we went to hell for crying out loud! (Yes, you saw right HELL)

I have already listed some of the activities we did, but I think the best moments were when we were not doing anything, when were just hanging out. I have to say the last week and half was made more interesting by the arrival of 1) Heath Conner and 2) Leah Brooke Smith (Pastor Randy's niece) and 2) Beth Lawyer (who I credit for a bunch of the pictures on this addition of the blog). These guys helped to shake things up a bit and added a bit of a variety to our group. We hung out on several occasions (Heath was with as during normal hours and since they were next door the girls would hangout by the pool with at night) and even went down to the beach at night a couple of times (Actually that is no entirely accurate. Beth and Ryan invited Leah and I to go to the beach one night [which to be honest we were having a great conversation and we really did not want to] so we went with them begrudgingly. Well, at about halfway there, the two of the "skipped" off far ahead so I looked at Leah and said, "Here's our chance! Lets go run back to the apartment!" So, we did, we escaped back to the apartment and it was like this amazing accomplishment, and we pretty much talked till they got back) So, we did end going down there like the last night and Leah and I took a loooong walk down the beach and talked about a variety of things that concern a recent high school grad. It was really cool because it was deserted and the night sky on the water is priceless.

We had lots of fun and there were moments when we sorely tested, but through it all, God did some pretty amazing things and introduced us to really awesome people we would never have met otherwise. So, this concludes the blog...I know it is lengthy one but thanks for reading!

Grace and Peace


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