This week we came to know the meaning of this tightly knit community in a closely packed van. Our church (led by Pastor Clinton at the Harmony House) was invited to attend a harvest festival at Belcarris Church in Banana Ground about an hour and a half from Harmons.
Each quarter, Jamaican churches hold harvest festivals to praise God for His bountiful produce and to raise resources for the community in need. Members of the churches traditionally bring fruit and vegetables locally grown, but now the majority of the donations are “sweeties”. We donated Quiet Creek’s bread baked in Harmon’s newest earthen oven.
When the evening of the harvest service arrived, our family walked out to the gate to be picked up by the van. When the four of us opened the door, we saw finely dressed church members packed into the ten seats available. The nineteen of us squeezed together sitting on each other’s laps and on the van floor.
Jamaican roads tend to be narrow with huge pot holes; fortunately none of us had any extra van space to bounce around as our pastor jogged back and forth missing bicyclists, canyons, and goats. Quickly it became hot in the sardine can; we opened the tinted windows and let in the fresh Jamaican breeze and sunset. Zipping by terraced yam and cassava farms, we admired Banana Ground, it having a very different landscape than our hometown of Harmons.
Jamaican schedules tend to be as random as the rainfall. Twice the departure time had been changed and when we arrived the service was in full session, so we quickly found seats. Up front upon a tile mosaic was a collection of fruit and baked goods. Elder Reid spoke from Galatians 6:1-9 thanking God for providing local nourishment throughout the year. Seven people from our church (including my mom) sang “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood. They were accompanied by an unplanned keyboardist who almost threw them off key. Additional lively hymns and prayers resonated over the harvest.
Then people were invited to purchase the fruit and baked goods making two lines on either side to pay. People were grabbing, pushing, yelling and altogether going crazy! Luckily we made it without injury ending up with a box of bananas and a few bags of oranges. We waited outside sharing bananas with our friends. When everyone was finished we piled back into the van. Many fell asleep wedged between mothers, fathers, and children with a true understanding of a healthy, compact community.