O ne of my first weeks in Jamaica, I woke up, grabbed my morning coffee, and climbed into a hammock in the concrete courtyard to sit with the Lord. I was serving at the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf (CCCD), which provides education for the Deaf community in Jamaica. I had never been to Jamaica or interacted much with the Deaf, but I had come for the summer of 2018 through Cultivate, a program for 18- to 25-year-olds to see how God is at work in other parts of the world by partnering with missionaries in the Reformed Church in America.
The sun was bright and the sky was blue, and as I read my Bible and prayed, the word “farming” popped into my head. I knew that CCCD’s vocational school had a farm, and I felt God nudging my heart to get up and join the farmers that day. I ignored the feeling and tried to convince myself that God wanted me to do something else. He continued to nudge.
Reluctantly, I went back to my room, put on work clothes, and walked out to the farm, where two people were working. The sun beamed down its hot rays. As I turned over dirt with a pitchfork, sweat started running into my eyes and blisters formed on my palms. My fingernails were dark with red dirt, and my back was sore. I’m from Iowa—I know hard work on the farm, but this was like nothing I had ever done before.
Throughout the morning, the two farmers took frequent breaks and watched me work. As I tilled the land, I thought, Work as though you are working for the Lord. For hours, this reminded me to selflessly serve. But like the blisters growing on my hands, I couldn’t ignore my mounting frustration.
Why aren’t they working? I thought. I was getting seriously irritated.
Mercifully, noon rolled around, and we headed to lunch. Over the course of the meal, I determined to let go of my frustration. Just as I finished lunch and got ready to go back out to the field, God revealed something crazy to me. Through two CCCD staff members, I learned that one of the farmers had just had his appendix removed, and the other farmer had chronic back pain.
Wow! This was an “aha” God moment for me. I discovered that, because I listened to God’s still small voice telling me to go farm, he used me to bless someone else.
Listening to God turned out to be a theme for the rest of the summer—and even beyond my time in Jamaica.
At the beginning of my time in Jamaica, I thought I was being called to become a pastor. God had put ministry in my heart, and being a pastor was the most logical way to accomplish that.
But during that summer, I interacted with many individuals who had little access to adequate healthcare. They told me stories about their family members and friends who passed away from preventable illnesses. I’ve always enjoyed the medical field, problem solving, and working with people. I’m strong-willed and a team-oriented leader.
It took being in Jamaica for me to realize that I could go into ministry and not be a pastor. At first, I thought about becoming a speech-language pathologist, but God closed that door and redirected my path once again. When I returned to Iowa, I started to sit in prayer and decided to not ignore the direction God had been whispering to my heart all along. I’m now a pre-med student at the University of Northern Iowa, with hopes of becoming a physician. I see the hurt that people go through and want to be the one helping them out, both medically and spiritually. And I’d love to train and equip other people with resources.
I’m continuing to try to listen to God’s voice so that he can bless others through me. I’ve been blessed, too, through deep and meaningful friendships with the people at CCCD. I pray that someday I can use my medical training to serve the people of Jamaica.
Would you or someone you know like to volunteer with RCA missionaries? Through Cultivate, 18- to 25-year-olds can serve for a summer or a year to see God at work around the world. Visit cultivate.rca.org to see a list of sites.
Hailey Holven is a member of Grace Reformed Church in Waterloo, Iowa.