The worldwide Augustana College experience


It is officially Day 5 of our trip and New Years Eve (although it doesn’t feel like it at all). Something about being on “Island Time” and soaking in the warm weather makes it easy to forget what day it is, let alone December 31st. Overall, the past two days at Great Huts have been days to remember forever. In order to appropriately generalize the events we have done I chose to title this blog with an acronym that some of my fellow trip-mates created, YOIJO. This new tag line for our trip is a knockoff of YOLO and stands for “You’re Only In Jamaica Once”! Basically anytime we cannot decide whether we want to do something adventurous, which is usually also dangerous and something we never thought we could do, we encourage one another by saying “YOIJO!” 

In order to connect this new tagline to our trip even more, I was reminded by Dr. Egan of the message I heard at the Apostolic Pentecostal Church the morning before all or our adventurous endeavors. During the Sunday Bible Study, the message of Isaiah was being preached. In this message we were reminded of how Isaiah was approached by the Lord and feared he could not do what he was being asked of. However, he trusted the Lord and knew he could do anything with Him on his side. Dr. Egan reminded us minutes before we rang in the New Year that we had all done many things we never thought we could do, but overcame obstacles and our own fears to do them. This realization was a powerful moment for me on the trip because I have been constantly reminded of how truly blessed I am to have this experience with the Jamaican culture and citizens. This experience is unlike any other I have had the pleasure of learning from and has been a true growth in the body, spirit and mind.

To further elaborate on this growth it is necessary to share some of the once-in-a-lifetime-experiences I participated in. The first one occurred during the Church service that I previously mentioned. Being a religion minor at Augustana, I was very eager to get the opportunity to observe the locals in their own spiritual element. After taking in the Sunday Bible Study message we were able to witness a worship service and a repentance ceremony. During this part of the service we were wholeheartedly welcomed by the congregation and were even offered a Bible and Song Book to read out of and participate in the reading of a passage and singing of songs. Throughout this I found it very heart warming to see how passionate each person got by “singing with their entire heart and soul” as the leader encouraged doing since “the Lord will be returning and will know what is in each of our hearts to determine his chosen people”. After leaving the service I reflected much on my own  spiritual commitment to the Lord and realized that I want to be more open and trusting in the Lord like the congregation I observed in order to grow and passionately participate in my worship services as well. 

After returning from the service we were off to Reach Falls, a gorgeous waterfall located in a rural District near Port Antonio. I made sure to take lots of pictures for my mom because if there is one thing she can’t get enough of, it’s waterfalls. Shortly after arriving at the base of the falls, we were immediately directed by some tour guides up the creek of the fall to go on a water hike of the surrounding area. After fastening our water shoes on we were off on an adventure and had no idea what was before us. As we “followed the leader” up the side of the fall we quickly caught on to the necessity of carefully following each other’s footsteps in order to help each other get through the rocky, slick terrain. After climbing and swimming our way up we made it to the top of what we thought was a gigantic rock slide that was going to take us back down part of the fall. In a classic game of telephone this slide (that wasn’t a slide at all) got word to the end of the line as they eagerly waited for us to start popping out of the other end. However after four of us went in and no one came out, part of the line started getting nervous. For those of us (myself included) that had already gone down the opening, we were sitting in an underwater cave! Pretty surreal moment to say the least! Knowing that Kaitlyn was behind me and had no idea what to expect (none of us really did) I peaked my head out of the cave and yelled at her “You can do it! You won’t regret this! YOIJO!” shortly after she was on her way down and although she was very out of her element and nervous about her surroundings, I wad very proud of her and myself for doing something we had no idea we could do. Once about half of us got into the cave we started looking around for how we were going to get out. The opening we had pegged to be the sure exit was definitely not what ended up being the way out. Instead another tour guy, all of a sudden, appeared from under a low ceiling in the water and told us he was going to swim with us underwater to take us out. Not knowing what to expect, we had to trust this man as he pushed us under and out to another opening. As we came up for air, adrenaline pumping through us, we were instructed by him to do it one more time. After the second underwater adventure we made it out to the top of a low flowing fall and was welcomed by a round of applause to our other trip-mates as we had successfully completed the hike, underwater cave, and swim under. Reflecting back on this part of our Reach Falls adventure it wad hard to fathom what all we had just accomplished physically and mentally, but hey, you’re only in Jamaica once!  

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