It was twenty years ago this month, I was on a bus heading away from Kingston to Montego Bay, and I was looking out of the window feeling very disheartened and confused. I had come back to Jamaica for a two week trip with one aim; to connect with someone who loved God and served Him in Trench Town who could help me get connected with the community and set up a basketball programme to reach out to young people. I believed that God had stirred my heart for this … but despite coming all the way to Jamaica for this purpose I had not met anyone who had even been into Trench Town, much less someone that I could work with to reach out to young people. With all the violence in those days, Trench Town had a very negative stigma and few people who didn’t live there ever went there.
So, sitting on a bus that was leaving the city, I prayed and brought my confusion to God. As I was praying I had a moment where I was overwhelmed with a sense of God’s presence. At that moment I looked up, and the bus was driving passed a basketball court. It seemed to be more than a coincidence so gave me some reassurance, but it still didn’t fix the problem nor silence my anxieties. I continued to pray. Soon afterwards I was again overwhelmed with a sense of God’s presence, and as I looked up and the bus was passing another basketball court. This happened two more times on the same journey, which strengthened my faith to believe that, somehow, God really was working out His plan. Just before leaving Kingston I had connected with a pastor who told me about Bobby Wilmot, another pastor he knew, whose church was in Trench Town; but we had tried to call him and not got through. At Montego Bay airport, after checking in for the flight back to the UK, I found a telephone box and took out the torn off strip of an old envelope that had Bobby’s number written on it, and dialled the number. I got through this time, and as I explained who I was and why I was calling, Bobby was (true to character) instantly enthusiastic about the plan. In fact he had just been discussing the possibility of setting up a basketball court with some other members of his church. We kept in touch, and by the following February I was back in Jamaica and started the work in Trench Town.
“I am the resurrection and the life. … Do you believe this?” from John 11:25 & 26
These words of Jesus are often put on bill boards outside churches, and can sound like a matter of doctrinal belief. But they were said by Jesus to Martha, a dear friend, at a moment when she was grieving the death of her brother Lazarus. In the context of that story, Jesus was effectively saying; “Your brother is dead, and with him your hopes that I could heal him … but all the hope of being raised in the end to a fully healed life is actually here, right now, because I am here … do you believe this?”
That is not so much about doctrine as it is about hope when it is most needed. In the twenty years between that bus ride and now, working in Trench Town, there have been many times of disheartenment and confusion, but there have also been many times of sensing Christ’s presence and knowing that, because Jesus is here, He is working out His plan. Taking a moment to be in His presence changes us and helps us reconnect with the truth of who He is … I pray that you will have that experience today.