Greetings from Jamaica!
Todd and Sue Austin
Sue and I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your partnership in ministry. We would not be able to be here and would not have the opportunity to touch and change lives for the Kingdom of God without your help. We know you pray for us even as we pray for you. God’s blessings and peace on all your Kingdom work in the United States even as Jesus blesses us in the Caribbean!
We want to take a page or two to let you know what we have been doing and what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has been doing in Jamaica. We are the hosts for American teams coming to Jamaica on short-term mission trips.
Sue and I also care for the CSI Ministries’ (CSI) property in Jamaica and work with a talented group of Jamaican staff here at the house under our Jamaican field director, Mike Ginter. We are so grateful for his leadership in the last six months as well as the hard work and dedication of the Jamaicans working for CSI.
Many of them have been working for CSI 20 years or more and are fiercely committed to CSI. Pinto is our cook, Pearline our housekeeper, Eli cares for the grounds, Brad is responsible for our student support program, Patrick is our construction coordinator, and Anthony our chief security guard.
We also have several contract workers who are always faithful to come when needed including Harry Abe, Arthur, Andy, Devon, and Pinto’s son, Paul. We cannot tell you how thankful we are to work alongside such wonderful people.
We have busy seasons at the mission house! January through March are scheduled for teams almost weekly, and our job is to be available to drive, fellowship, and minister to the visiting Americans while they are here. This year we had seven teams in six weeks at CSI Jamaica!
Our teams this winter built several houses for poor and homeless Jamaicans as well as held retreats for spiritual growth for local Jamaicans.
We saw many lives impacted by the kindness of God as families split apart because of their living situations were able to come back together under one roof!
Just a few success stories: One lady we built for had five children living in three different locations. She was living with a friend and was only able to keep her baby with her. Once her home was completed, she was able to bring her other four children home. She is so happy that they are now a family again! We had two single gentlemen who each received a house this winter. One had been living in an abandoned car and the other’s house had collapsed a few years ago. We built smaller homes for these single men. I wish I could share the joy they have as they are living off the ground and have a bed of their own to sleep in. A week after his home was completed, one of the men went to thank the Pastor who had recommended him. He told the pastor, “I feel clean for the first time in years.” It is amazing that a 200 square foot space could make such a difference, but it does.
We always have a home dedication service at the completion of construction. We have had several Jamaicans give their lives to Jesus at these services. Follow up with the people is done by the recommending Pastors making sure these new believers are plugged into a church body. We are excited about our next busy season that begins in May. We have nine teams scheduled through August! When teams are in Jamaica, Sue and I are working about 14 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Pray for us! We are sometimes tired and want to treat the ninth team with the same love and kindness as the first team.
Jesus had so much more in mind!
Jamaicans are touched by the American teams, and Sue and I minister to the Americans. We have seen some awesome things happen in the lives of team members as we pray with them and allow God to work through us for them. There are usually two or three Americans on every team that we care for in a way that is more than taking care of their physical safety and needs while they are in country. We have several team members from the past six months we are now discipling via email, text, and phone. They came to Jamaica to build a house, but Jesus had so much more in mind! One team member is in his 60s and always had difficulty reading and understanding the Bible.
Because of this, he had pretty much given up on reading scripture. He also had never really prayed and was discouraged about not knowing how. I was able to spend some time with him and he now texts me every week with what he is reading and learning as he digs into the Bible and spends time in prayer every day! He is excited about his faith and what God is doing in his life. One of our favorite team members is a young lady from Indiana.
Pages of Stories
We have developed a relationship with her over the past few months and we talk weekly, encouraging her in her faith as she follows Jesus! I could fill pages with stories of those coming to Jamaica to help Jamaicans and God having so much more in mind for them. Many have rededicated their lives to Jesus, become more intentional about their own calling, and made decisions to be much more intentional about how they follow Him.
I have to be honest, I’m not sure why God would move us to Jamaica to meet and talk to people we lived less than 100 miles from in the United States. But the truth is, that is not how it works. There is something that changes in someone’s heart when they plan and pour themselves into a mission trip. There is a softening of the heart that occurs- an anticipation of God working in them and through them that would not happen if we just met up in Marion or Kokomo. And so we thank God that He is using us in Jamaicans’ lives and the lives of American team members.
Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed and to yeast put into dough. What is seen in these two examples of Kingdom is not instant. The growth of a seed and the work of yeast takes place over time. We are grateful that we get to add a little yeast to someone’s faith. We are so very thankful that we are able to plant a mustard seed of Kingdom into a team member or Jamaican’s heart. Pray that God would continue to bring people to us who have spirits of good soil, ready to receive the seed of the Kingdom, grow it, and produce a harvest! To all you who love us so well, let me be honest about something else. While we anticipated God would use us in these ways to impact Jamaican and American lives, we knew there was no way we could anticipate what would be hard.
In a Culture that is Not Our Own
We are Americans living in a culture that is not our own. We miss our friends and we miss our family- much more than we expected. We miss our church and we even find ourselves mourning for ministry that used to be. I miss sushi and other favorite things and places. Believe it or not, we even missed winter! We know you have been praying for us in these places. We know that without God’s grace we would not be able to bear up under all these losses. Pastor Mark Ellcessor used to say a calling to be a pastor was something you had better be sure of. All the difficulties and hardships faced as a pastor could be overcome with the conviction that God had called you. I’m pretty sure it is no different as a missionary.
A couple years ago, we sensed the Holy Spirit moving us out of The Compass Church and into a new ministry. God is giving us the grace to remain and work in this new field even through the hard times. Sue and I are closer than we have ever been in our almost 32 years of marriage. She is God’s gift to me and I am God’s gift to her. Our busy seasons are crazy busy, but there is also time to listen to God in a way I was never able to in the U.S. There is time to pray and to BE. There is time to read the Bible in ways and amounts I have never experienced, and there is time to grow in our own relationship with Jesus that is monumentally changing us, even renewing us by the transformation of our minds.
Pray for Us
All in all, we have much to be thankful for. We continue to thank God for all who support us through gifts and prayers. We absolutely could not continue without everything you do for us. We ask that you continue to lift us up to the Father that we would be strengthened and encouraged in the work He has called us to do. Pray for us that we would speak the message of the Good News of Jesus with boldness, and pray that He would stretch forth His hand to perform signs and wonders and miracles through the mighty Name of His Son, Jesus. Let us continue in partnership growing and spreading the Kingdom in the United States and the Caribbean- all for the glory of Jesus!