Polly and Tinka’s Gift

Every Christmas at 7:00 a.m.Laura and I get an amazing gift from a family that we came to love while serving as missionaries in Jamaica. Polly and Tinka save their hard earned money and buy a 5 minute cable and wireless phone card and “surprise” us with a call. It is always great to pick up the phone and hear a familiar sing-song Jamaican accent say “Good morning Mr. Key!” In the hectic five minutes that follows we pass around the phone to each other on both ends catching up on family, neighbors and our dear friends in the Jamaican church we called home.

An apprehensive and excited family of four landed in Kingston Jamaica in late January many years ago. Having left the snow bound northern cold we had shed our coats and gloves at the Indianapolis airport to be slapped by heat and humidity that seeped into the plane as soon as the doors opened. This was the first of a long string of new experiences this optimistic missionary family was going to continually encounter for the next six and one half years. It wasn’t long until we begin asking the question “what did we get ourselves into?”

On Sunday’s arrival we left our new home in the hilly countryside walking the road to the nearby Clonmel church. We joined the stream of worshippers dressed in their Sunday finest, ladies with elaborate hats, little girls with rainbows of hair berets, men and boys encased in suits and ties oblivious to the tropical heat. We didn’t exactly blend in, standing out like four white specks floating in a sea of ebony faces. It was a relief to be greeted at the church door by a smiling couple unfazed by the spectacle of giggling kids swirling around the foreign visitors; Delores and Patrick Leamy – Tinka and Polly to friends and family. This meeting started a great friendship and working relationship through joys and tough times. We always experienced the love and patience of a family that knew how to offer unselfish hospitality with patience and delight.

Through the years the Leamys were our resource to understanding the Jamaican culture and customs that made little sense to us. “Why do Jamaicans call us “jake” and what is the big deal about cricket and why would anyone sane drink Malta?”  We introduced them to ice cream floats, helped start a craft business and extolled the superiority of baseball. They looked out for our children and we are the godparents or their oldest granddaughter LaJay.

This relationship was a gift from God. As I look back on the years in Jamaica many projects completed now need repair, scenic vistas are fading memories but the relationships made are still close to my heart. When the occasional chance comes visit Jamaica the spectacular beaches aren’t nearly as enticing s as worship service with a loving church family at Clonmel church, moments walking the road with old friends and a meal enjoyed in the small living room of Polly and Tinka overflowing with grandkids, loving friendship and hospitality.

Jesus came long ago to earth just to pursue a relationship with each of us. He gave up a perfect heavenly home and the perfect love of a father to be born in a war torn land of hardship, fear and sorrow. He came to seek and to save paving the way with His sacrifice so we could be adopted as a member of His family. Jesus valued His relationship with us so dearly that in His last prayer before going to the cross He asked “Father I want those you have given me be with me where I am and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (John 17:24) Jesus stressed relationships when He commanded us to love one another, to bear each other’s burdens, to mourn with those in loss, to build one another up in love, forgiving repeatedly when wronged. He wants us to value others even to the point of thinking of others before ourselves just as He did Himself.

The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day in the time of Jesus. These learned men were the keepers of the law and fanatics for ceremony, showy displays while being judgmental and aloof concerning other people. In Matthew 23 they challenged Jesus by asking what the greatest commandment was. Without hesitation the answer came “Love your God with all your heart…and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself”. It’s about relationships, first with Him then with others!

This Christmas I encourage each of us to follow Jesus’ example by making this time about relationships. The world tries to make Christmas about things, the gifts, toys and decorations. We become so busy at Christmas that missing opportunities to offer unselfish hospitality with patience and delight blow by us as we hustle from one commitment to the next. Our resources are consumed by gifts that fade and need repair before the next year’s advertising blitz assaults us again. Spend your time in shared activities and the making of memories of significance. As time marches on and you reflect on Christmases past it will be the relationships experienced you will hold as warm memories close to the heart.

I would love to hear from you this Christmas and spend some quality time just visiting over some cookies and tea. Call me any time except December 25th from 7:00 – 7:05 a.m. because at that time I am enjoying my gift from Polly and Tinka.

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This daily devotion is written by John Key

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