How I Spent My Summer Vacation-Part Twoby Sheila Calabrese
Jul 17, 2005 (Updated Sep 1, 2005)
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For the second summer in a row*, I spent my extra (3rd) week of vacation going on a mission trip with a team of adults and youth from my church. This year we traveled to Eleuthera, a remote island in the Bahamas. Although Eleuthera is not really considered to be one of the top tourist destinations in the Caribbean, or even in the Bahamas, the turquoise blue and aquamarine water, unspoiled, pristine beaches, and natural beauty of the area, make up some of the most captivating views I've seen in previous trips to the Bahamas, Cancun, and Jamaica.
It didn't take long for us to realize, however, that we had arrived in what has to be one of the most humid places on earth! Moreover, despite covering the lower part of our bodies with insect repellent, we couldn't fend off the bugs, that scarred our feet and legs with a fresh supply of stinging, itching, bug bites daily.
On our first full day, we attended a worship service at the Wesley Methodist Church in the small village of Palmetto Point. We happened to arrive during the Bahamian 32nd Independence Day Celebration. The sanctuary of the church was brightly decorated with blue, yellow, and black ribbons; signifying the colors of the Bahamian flag. The 2 1/2 hour service was a festive celebration of praise, prayer, singing, a brief message from an American Minister from Long Island, New York, and a communion service. Our team was very impressed with the joyful, natural, flow of the service, which is sadly lacking in many of the ritual filled American church services.
We spent our mornings, starting at the early hour of 7:00 am on a construction project, with one crew mixing mortar and helping to lay cinder blocks for a cistern, and putting in a ceiling on the future home for full time missionaries. The second crew painted the back side of the Eleuthera Bible Training Center, that served as our home base for the week. A good portion of our time, was also spent sweeping and vacuuming dead bugs from the bathrooms and sleeping quarters, that had to be defogged about halfway through the week. We enjoyed a brief visit to several beautiful beaches on both the Atlantic and Caribbean sides of the island each day. We also had a great Bahamian Chef named Billy, who fed us delicacies each day like grouper fingers, conch fritters, and plantain, and even a traditional American meal of turkey and dressing. The wonderful staff of young missionaries and interns kept us energized, despite the heat.
The real heart of the mission trip, was the time we spent in vacation bible school with the Bahamian children. These precious young children were very friendly and receptive to our bible stories, games, crafts, and music; often surprising us at how well versed they already were in biblical knowledge. Our job was to try to build relationships, and put the knowledge into action, at least as much as possible, during our limited visit.
After a week of hard work, sweat, allergies, sunburn, and insect scarred legs, we had earned a sight seeing visit to Harbour Island, a quaint, scenic, island featuring colonial architecture and one of the top 10 beaches in the world, Pink Sand Beach. During the entire visit, our group marveled at the easy, laid back, attitude of the island natives.
Overall, it was a challenging week of spiritual team building, worshiping the God who created such a magnificent setting, and ministering to the Bahamian children. As we prepared to wrap up our final vacation bible school session, one of the young girls told a member of our group that she hated to see us go, because we gave them (the children) something to do, and when we were gone, they'd have nothing to do. We left that day, with a bittersweet sadness, after our hugs and good- byes from our new Bahamian friends. The memories of that day, made all of the toil, sweat, and discomfort of the week worthwhile, in knowing that we had brought some joy, into the the lives of the children of Eleuthera, at least for a few tough, but rewarding, days.
*How I Spent My Summer Vacation-Part One