The Ugly Side of the Island

  
One of the greatest things about living in Barrouallie is the breathtaking views you can enjoy every day, particularly at sunset.  In a way these pictures illustrate what people think about when I tell them I’m called by God to serve as a Missionary in the Carribean.  Automatically they envision me sitting on a white sandy beach drinking a glass of pineapple juice and”suffering for Jesus.”
While those gorgeous pictures describe the island, there’s another part to it that’s quite ugly 

  1. Children have no fathers and teenage mothers so they’re pretty much allowed to run wild.  It’s been said that some drop their bags somewhere after school, then spend the night with friends (not family) and pick their bags up on the way back to school in the morning
  2. Extreme poverty so that for some people thieving (stealing) is a normal way of life
  3. Young women not having a father often look to men in town for security and end up in an abusive relationship 
  4. The lack of men who are willing to take responsibility also means few strong role models
  5. And there are times of year such as “carnival” are completely given over to immorality and selfish desires

The truth is this contrast of beauty and ugliness is pretty constant.  A friend of mine from a nearby island jokingly says that after taking one of those gorgeous sunset photos he’s tempted to take a picture of what’s behind him as well (never looks as good).  Likewise while that sunset is uploaded to Instagram I can easily see poverty, abusive relationships, and an immoral culture.

This contrast creates a real delemna for me because I want to share both sides of the island, but find myself only sharing it’s beauty.  This is partly because sharing too many of the struggles will make it seem as if I’m complaining or develop an attitude of bitterness in my heart.   In a deeper sense though this comes from a belief that people don’t need to see the ugly side…and the Lord has shown me that’s a sin against Him.

The greatest danger in only sharing the beautiful side of Barrouallie is it gives people the wrong idea about missions.   We believe it’s all going to be good times with gorgeous sunsets, and then are shocked when things don’t go well.

  1. Like the Sunday less than ten people come to hear the message you spent hours preparing
  2. Or kids break into your house and and stole a tablet (got it back the next day)
  3. And you put lots of work into an outreach ministry but nobody comes
  4. Or the school principal who three-months ago promised to let you volunteer there continues to delay things 

In moments like this it’s easy to wonder if we are indeed called by God because missions isn’t supposed to be this way.  I mean where’s the white sandy beach and pineapple juice?  And that’s why as a Missionary it’s part of my responsibility to “pull back the curtain” and let you see the islands ugly side.  

You will cry

You will get angry

You will wonder if God really wanted you there

But that’s okay…because in those moments God gives grace 

In a way sharing the islands ugly side gives God greater glory because He gives the strength to face that ugliness with courage and humility.  So yes it’s okay to take a picture of that amazing sunset, just make sure you notice the extreme poverty surrounding it too.

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