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CHRISTAFARI: CHANGING THE WORLD, ONE RASTA AT A TIME!
KINGSTON, JAMAICA -
Jamaica for Jesus, “Don’t expect to change Jamaica, expect for Jamaica to change you”:  At the end of July a few members of Christafari had the privilege of joining Action House and 30 of our friends and fellow ministers in a ten day missions trip to the beautiful island of Jamaica.  Most of the Missionaries on this trip had heard about our venture to the island through my e-mail updates and our ads in major Christian magazines.  God could not have chosen a better team for us to minister.  We set out to minister to Jamaica through concerts, drama and skits, street witnessing and visiting an orphanage and a children’s remand center.  Our goal on this trip was not to Westernize or Americanize the Jamaicans, but rather to listen to them and learn from them, and then minister appropriately according to the context of their culture and the given situation. At the morning Bible study on the first day I told the team “Don’t expect to change Jamaica, expect for Jamaica to change you”.  It did.

The Orphanage, “Showing fatherless children the love of our Father”:   In Jamaica 85% of all children are born outside of wedlock. Most of these kids are raised by one parent but some of them are not even that fortunate.  One of the most heartbreaking days was when we visited the Blossom Orphanage.  Upon arrival the team immediately dispersed and everyone grabbed a kid or two to hold and care for.  It was a love-fest as we attempted to give these children an example of the love that they had never received from a parent and reveal to them the love of Christ.  There wasn’t a dry eye in our missionary team as we went from one crib to another and held the children.  The hardest room to visit was the one filled with kids that were born with diseases or abnormalities.  A few of the children had Cerebral Palsy.  Some of them weren’t even given names so some members of our team gave them one.  Outside of the orphanage we played with the healthy children.  We gave all of them gifts (clothing, toys and hygiene products), and blew up balloons and made animals out of them for the kids to play with.  One of the team members brought a major percussion arsenal with him so we played Jamaican rhythms, and those who didn’t get an instrument banged on buckets or anything that made a sound. The percussion proved to be a big hit everywhere we went. Then Max pulled out his sax and the kids were mesmerized. The hand drums were beating, Max played his sax, and I chatted raggamuffin.  The kids loved it!  I sang songs about Jesus and then led them in some Jamaican worship choruses.  At the end of our visit I had everyone on our team lay their hands on the children and we prayed for them. It was hard to leave this place. We all wished that we could take these kids home with us. We will definitely return again to this place. In fact one of our missionaries stated that she hopes to come back to the island to work at the Blossom Orphanage.  Please keep these children in your prayers.

The Children’s Remand Center, “8 rasta youths in solitary confinement gave their lives to Christ”:  Another life changing experience was visiting C.O.P.S.E. a children’s remand center.  This place is set aside for troubled youths.  Normally when a kid between the ages of 8 and 18 is caught breaking the law the police contact his family and he is remanded into the custody of his parents.  C.O.P.S.E. is for those children who’s parents refuse to take them back into their home.  Essentially, it is a children’s prison.  While the rest of the team ministered to the majority of the children outside, I was given the opportunity to take a few core missionaries into the solitary confinement area to speak with the seriously troubled youths.  There were 9 youths in solitary and all claimed to be rastas or sympathizers to it’s belief system. What followed was a long and hard-core reasoning session with Bible verses flying everywhere.  As a result, the Lord led 8 out of the 9 youths to Grace and Salvation in Christ!  After leaving solitary we went out and sang worship, I chatted dancehall and the kids played percussion.  As we left we blessed them with gifts and prayed in our hearts that God would turn their lives around.  

Action Houses, “Reaching them with drama and equipping them to reach others”:  One of main ways that we reached the people of Jamaica was through Action Houses. An Action House is a presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through skits, drama, music and dance.  We call it a human video.  Almost everywhere that we went we held an Action House.  Whether it was at a church, a school campus or on the side of a street, our muti-cultural and international group drew a lot of attention.  The last skit of each Action House titled “The Puppet Master” always had the greatest impact and prepared the audience for the salvation message and altar call that followed.  At the end of every Action House lives were changed for Christ.  It was great to see our whole missions team participate in the skits and dramas; it created a unity between the members.  One of our main goals with Action House was to teach the Jamaicans how to do the skits themselves and to put on their own Action House programs.  It was great to see the Jamaican youths do our skits with their own island flavor.  They did it better than we did, and with less practice.  They were well received by their audiences.  It was a blessing to see the vision of Action House spread throughout the island.  In the future when these Jamaicans hold their own Action Houses they will be writing their own material and will bring the gospel across in a way that will get the best reception in their culture.  Our goal of equipping this younger generation in Jamaica has already begun!

Rastafari, “Comparing Rastafarianism to the Bible”:  During our stay in Jamaica we lived at the college campus of Caribbean Christ for the Nations and I had an opportunity to teach a class on Rastafarianism and Marijuana. I gave biblical reasons why Haile Selassie is not Christ in His return and shared scriptural, and medical reasons why we should not smoke marijuana. I told the students my testimony, gave a comparison between Christianity and Rastafarianism and gave pointers on how to witnessing to Rastas.  Later in the week I was also interviewed on camera for a documentary on Rastafarianism.  I am glad that God gave me the opportunity to share my beliefs and convictions to rastas across the world on video.

 Midnight Ministry Team, “Street witnessing and salvations”:  For those die hard evangelists who really wanted to experience the true night culture of Montego Bay I led a late-night ministry team.  Virtually every night I took a few team members into the center of the town for one-on-one ministry. The women ministered to the prostitutes and the men reasoned with the rude boys (gangsters). Each night was a unique experience with it’s own set of challenges. In the early morning, by the time we packed 11 people into a 5 person taxi to go back to our campus, someone had always come to Christ or been ministered to effectively.

Spontaneous Performance, “Mashing up the place at Pier One”:  One night during our midnight ministry everyone in town told us that we should go to Pier One, a local club where they hold the second night of Reggae SumFest. Since everybody else in town was going I figured that we should check it out. Besides, I wanted the team members to truly experience the Dancehall culture.  When we got there we found out that it was a Dancehall DJ competition.  The place was packed with people and all of the up-and-coming DJs were taking the stage and garnering a mixed response from the audience. Suddenly I had a gut feeling and decided to take a risk and follow it. So I squeezed through the crowd and asked the MC if I could go up and flash a piece. At first I could tell that he was going to say no, but then he paused...... I was one of the only white people in the place, was obviously not Jamaican and yet I was speaking in patois? He said that maybe he could fit me in at the end if time permitted. Filled with confidence I said “No, put me on next for one song, then I’m gone”. He asked for my name and then went up on stage and to my surprise he introduced me! With a split second to respond I hollered at the selector to play the “Badda Badda” rhythm.  This crowd would make singing for Showtime at the Appollo seem like a pre-school class performance.  As the rhythm played I walked up on stage speaking in Patois. At first the audience was shocked. I could tell that they were about ready to start laughing, then I began chatting the song "Best Friend”. It tore down the house! The crowd’s response was so loud that I had to “Wheel” and have the selector start the song again. I freestyled about Jamaica and Montego Bay and then told them about Jesus Christ in a Dancehall Style. With crowd participation at it’s peak I left the stage to an overwhelming response of applause, shouts and whistles. I HAD ARRIVED!  The rest of the week in Montego Bay many people knew me by name and talked about how I “mashed up the place.”

Gully, “All but one dead or in jail”:  Two times during our trip I led my core team into the Gully, the worst and most crime filled area of Montego Bay. It is similar to Trench Town in that it is aluminum shacks built around a polluted sewage flowing gully.  This is the type of area that the police tell you not to go into. They say that if anything happens to you they will not come in after you. The lower half of Gully kills people with guns and the upper half uses ice picks and Machetes. But I had friends in there and a reason to go inside. In past years I have gone into the Gully and led rude boys to Christ. Upon arriving in the upper part I was disappointed to learn that all but one of the guys that I had brought to Christ on my past trips were either dead on in prison.  Only my one friend Mark remained. I got to minister to him and he led us around the area and watched out for us. We gave away more gifts of clothing, hygiene products, crayons, pencils and Christian children’s books.  Everyone in the gully was grateful for our gifts and God kept us safe.

The Concerts, “Reggae in a Christian style bearing fruit”:  We rented the amphitheater in downtown Montego Bay and set up a stage, sound and lights for two nights of ministry. This was the weekend before Jamaican Independence/Emancipation and Reggae SumFest, the world’s largest reggae festival.  The Amphitheater was in the center of a major round-about, so we had traffic driving around us the whole time.  Many pulled over and parked and each night the crowd that attended witnessed an Action House and a reggae concert.  For the first night we were blessed with a performance by the Christian reggae pioneer Lester Lewis and his band. This guy has been doing Christian reggae music in Jamaica for over 25+ years!  He was well received and Max and I were called up on stage and had an opportunity to perform some songs with him.  The second night we had another Action House followed by a Christafari concert. Max, Vanessa and I were backed by some local musicians and performed a set that was primarily dancehall (given the audience).  I finished up the concert with the message of salvation and an altar call.  Many lives were transformed by Christ that night including some rastas!

Baptisms, “Fulfilling the Great Commission”:  On a Sunday after Church we went to a local beach for a baptism. I had the privilege of baptizing one of our team members who had never been baptized before.  Throughout the previous week everywhere that we went we had a group of kids following us around. We spent some quality time with them and bought them dinner each night. One of these kids came to Christ at our concert in town the night before.  So on that Sunday I also had the privilege of baptizing him in the aqua blue Caribbean Sea.  

Trials and tribulations, “Robbery”:  In addition to all of these positive experiences in Jamaica we also faced our fair share of trials an tribulations. It seemed like every time we took two steps forward, we took one step back. One day while two of our team members were on the beach relaxing, one of them was robbed at knife point.  She ended up chasing after the thief rebuking him and commanding him to give her the money back in the name of Jesus. Two times while running away from her, he ended up giving her a portion of the money back to appease her incessant demands. When all was said and done he ended up getting away with over $100 US. Talk about being bold. You go girl!

“Injury”:  At the amphitheater we had major problems with our power source for the stage. With no sound and lights for the majority of the first night and part of the second we were forced to improvise using flashlights, car headlights and a portable stereo. During one of our performances an Action House leader fell into a hole in front of the stage and punctured her shin to the bone.  As she was rushed to the hospital to get stitches she insisted that the show must go on. It did, and the power finally came on in time for the Gospel message to be amplified throughout the streets for all to hear.

“Comedy”:  To add humor to our trials was my experience while performing on stage:  It was in the middle of our song “Best Friend” when I had the band do a hard mix and I jumped up and down in a frenzy delivering rapid fire lyrics.  While I was leaping higher and higher I came down harder and harder and then all of a sudden “CRACK”! I broke the stage! It was hilarious, this 4 foot high stage was cracked like a “V” in the middle. While laughing under my breath I continued to sing the song without skipping a beat. Meanwhile the stage crew crawled below to repair the damage. Perhaps I need to ease off on the Jerk Chicken and beef patties?

Come Again, “Our return”:  Towards the end of the trip I got to go to Reggae SumFest for Legends night and I also had the opportunity to meet with some concert promoters.  They drove all the way from Kingston to meet with me.  They are working on bringing the whole band back to Jamaica this November for a major ministry outreach concert with Judy Mowatt and Papa San at the University of the West Indies.  Please keep this in your prayers.  

Conclusion, “Over 40 Saved. Praise God!”:  I praise God for bringing such a good team together for this year’s Jamaica for Jesus trip. I have never worked with a team that was such a great representation of all of the parts of the Body of Christ and had such unity.  They took all of the trials in stride and truly gave God the glory for all the wonderful works that He accomplished during our visit.  I am especially thankful to Action House for all of their hard work and great administration.  It was 9 years ago when I first went to Jamaica as a missionary.  In my last 8 visits I had always dreamed about taking a large team to the island.  It was this Summer through our partnership with Action House and the provision of the Lord that all of this was made possible.  Most of all I am grateful to God for changing all of our lives and the lives of those that we ministered to.  We estimate that over 40 people gave their lives to Christ for the first time on this trip.  Praise God!  We will definitely be back again!  

In His Steps, Mark Mohr Christafari/Jamaica for Jesus

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