By Andy Alexander
On Monday, November 6th, Marc Nations, Kenneth Steele, Jonathan Nations, Brad Soto, Byron Smith and myself traveled to Jamaica to preach the gospel. We landed in Montego Bay and traveled south across the island to the city of Savanna-La-Mar. Brother Errol Lawson met us at the airport and arranged for transportation. Brother Errol and his father J.S. Lawson work with the church in the Savanna-La-Mar area.
Brother J.S. Lawson owns and operates a small electrical business in Savanna-La-Mar. The church in Savanna-La-Mar meets in a small building behind the workshop of brother Lawson. Errol Lawson is working with a group in the Waterwheel area which is about ten miles East of Savanna-La-Mar and they are in the process of constructing a small meeting house. Several brethren were being transported from the Waterwheel vicinity to Savanna-La-Mar for each service. A congregation in that area will greatly help these brethren because of the transportation problem.
Several days prior to our arrival, Keith Burnett of Russellville, Kentucky and Clinton Douglas of South Bend, Indiana had already begun a two week meeting at the new location in Waterwheel. Services were held each evening in a temporary structure with open sides and a canvas top. The services lasted about two hours every night and many people from the area attended. Due to the method of trans-porting people to and from services, some of the members had about four hours a night invested in the meeting. The brethren did not seem to view this as any great hardship.
Transportation is one of the problems in Jamaica. The Lawsons are the only members of the church in the Savanna area that have automobiles. J.S. has a 1967 Chevy pickup and Errol drives a 1973 Ford Capri that is on its third motor. They also have a Mitsubishi pickup that was in the repair shop for our entire stay. The brethren come from several miles around the city and the Lawsons arrange for their travel each service.
The church now meeting in Savanna-La-Mar has about thirty to forty in attendance and the group meeting in Waterwheel has approximately twenty to twenty-five. Both churches are at peace and seem to be faithful in holding forth the gospel in their area. The Lawsons are a very stable family with an excellent reputation in and around the city. This has helped the Lord’s cause in that area and made our work among them much easier.
The people of Jamaica are very open to Bible study. Each day we paired up and went door to door inviting people to the gospel meeting that was in progress at the new location in Waterwheel. We told them something about the church and asked if they would be interested in a personal Bible study. Quite a few accepted the Jamaica Report invitation to study. During the two weeks we had approximately thirty-six studies.
Brother Burnett and brother Douglas also had a number of studies that are not included in those listed above. They concentrated their efforts in Savanna-La-Mar during the day, as they stayed with the Lawsons, and the six of us who came later concentrated our work in the Waterwheel region. There were four baptized into Christ during the two weeks and several were very close to obeying the gospel. The brethren will follow up on those and hopefully they, too, will be added to the Lord.
Most of the Jamaicans that we studied with had Bibles, knew how to read, and were interested in doing right. Possibly this attitude comes from the fact that the Bible is used as a textbook in the public school system. Most of our studies began on a front porch with one or two people but ended with several more listening in. Frequently young children would run get their Bibles and follow along in the studies. Perhaps one reason for the interest shown in Bible study was that televisions, radios, and video games were almost non-existent.
Our private studies lasted about sixty to ninety minutes and consisted of a lesson that began with the subject of sin what sin is and who is guilty of sin. Then, we discussed the penalty of sin and the torments of hell. Also, brought into the lesson was the fact that many religious people will be lost (Matt. 7:21-23). Following this, we studied vain worship, the danger of perverting the gospel, and scriptural names for God’s people, individually and collectively (Mark 7:7; Gal. 1:6-9; Acts 11:26; Rom. 16:16). The organization, work, and worship of the church of Christ, and the gospel plan of salvation were the concluding topics of our studies. Error was contrasted at every point and the lessons were well received because the people saw and heard every point read from God’s word.
Brother Marc Nations developed this particular format and while there are other methods of conveying these same thoughts, these were particularly effective. At each study, one would conduct the study and the other would write down the Scriptures that were used with a few notes. These notes were left behind for the people to look over and study. On several occasions as we walked up and down the roads past houses we had visited, we noticed some reading and going over the handwritten sheet that was left behind. It seemed such an oddity for those of us there the first time that so many people were interested in spiritual matters.
There are several lessons that were reinforced during our two week visit, as well as memories and experiences that will go with us for a lifetime. Some of the lessons that were impressed upon our minds are listed below.
The gospel mightily defeats every false doctrine (2 Cor. 10:3-6). Repeatedly, we met people who had embraced various forms of false teaching and the gospel answered every single one. Adventists, Baptists, Methodists, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, members of the Salvation Army, and others were met and all their questions were answered with Scripture and the false doctrine involved was exposed. It is easy to argue with the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of man, but when people see that the doctrine they have embraced is opposed by God, they usually change their attitude. Many would have to think about what they had learned, some said they were wrong and would have to think about their next step, and some obeyed the gospel. Only in a few cases did some seem to totally close their eyes to what was presented from God’s word.
The Salvation Army is a false denomination. This was something that was known but further impressed upon our minds. The Salvation Army has established churches in Jamaica and propagates its false doctrine of salvation by faith only just like any other religious body. One may as well drop thirty cents in the collection plate of the Baptist Church as to drop it in the bell ringer’s red bucket at the store front.
Christians in America are too busy. Most of us think we are too busy to squeeze a two week meeting with two hour services into our schedules. We have deceived ourselves into thinking that we have so many important things to do that attending such a meeting would be out of the question. Our television habit, hobbies, recreation, and diligent search for the dollar have most of us just too busy to do the Lord’s work. Jamaicans have far less of this world’s goods than we do, but they are going to carry the same thing out of this life that we do nothing. All that will matter in the end is what have we done to prepare our souls for the Judgment (Matt. 16:26).
There are still people who will respond to the gospel invitation. In the United States it almost seems impossible to have any success knocking on doors. Bible studies seem to be few and far between, but in Jamaica and other places around the world, more people are hungering and thirsting for the gospel. That is a refreshing feeling. I would encourage any gospel preacher or other interested Christian to travel to Jamaica and work with brethren in that area. They will be encouraged and you will be strengthened in innumerable ways.
Repentance is needed all over the world. The message of God’s prophets of old was repentance (Isa. 55:6-7). The message of John the Baptist and Jesus was, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17). Our time is no different and the same message of repentance is still needed. Jamaica is no different from any place in the world. Sin is prevalent and the need to repent is urgent. Alcohol, drugs, and fornication are some of the sins that must be dealt with when the subject of repentance is brought up in the plan of salvation. It does no good to baptize someone who does not intend to give up the sin they are engaged in.
Some brethren have the mistaken idea that we should teach repentance but not go into detail about known specific sins in the lives of the people we teach. The idea is that these people can learn about their specific sins little by little and hopefully repent when they learn they have been continuing in their sins. This only complicates matters and makes for problems in the local church later when these sins come to light. People need to know what repentance is and what it means in their life before they can properly obey the command to repent. This is obvious from such passages as Acts 2 where the Apostles directly addressed prominent sins of which the people in the audience were guilty. Brethren approaching the people in Jamaica will readily recognize several sins that are very open and prominent such as fornication, drinking, and smoking marijuana. No extra insight is needed to know that these sins are being committed. Avoiding teaching on these particular sins can lead people to the false conclusion that baptism saves without turning from sins. As we discussed the plan of salvation in each Bible study, we made sure that they were aware of what repentance was and what it meant in their life. This was usually the point where they needed time to think. Obeying the Lord cost something and they could see that cost in their lives. We tried to emphasize with Scripture that heaven is well worth the earthly cost.
A more zealous spirit to spread the gospel is needed at home. We arrived home after our two week trip with a more determined spirit to spread the gospel. It is encouraging to work two weeks with those of like precious faith in an area where the people desire to hear the gospel. It gave us some good experience in sharing the gospel on a daily basis both in personal teaching situations and meeting many people in such a short time from different religious backgrounds. The experience will never be forgotten and hopefully future trips can be planned and executed.
The cost of the entire trip was surprisingly low. For two weeks stay in a local hotel, airfare, and food less than six hundred dollars was needed. All foreign trips can-not be done for this low amount, but travel to Jamaica and several other Caribbean islands is unusually inexpensive. Americans are generally well-accepted in Jamaica. No real problems were encountered. The water on the island is chlorinated and safe to drink. The hotels in the rural areas are adequate and food can be found that is not much different from what we eat in this country.
The trip was successful from a human point of view. God knows the spiritual success that has and will come from such a trip. I personally benefited and the others who traveled along for the first time seemed to be of the same mind. Marc has traveled to Jamaica on a number of different trips and was a great help to the rest of us who were there for the first time. He knows the country and the people of Jamaica and is well aware of the spiritual needs on the island. There were no gifts of any kind offered other than the gospel of Christ. Denominations and some members of the church make the mistake of giving material things away. As long as the free goods are flowing, people are interested, but when the gifts cease, the people lose interest. We offered the gospel of Jesus Christ, the free gift of God, to a lost and dying world and quite a few were interested and did study the Bible. Let us all continue to study and teach others the soul-saving gospel of Christ.
Guardian of Truth XL: 6 p. 4-6
March 21, 1996