A few posts ago, I was sharing journal entries from a trip to Roatan, Honduras last summer. I never got past Day 4. Out of the blue though, I got an email from a friend considering moving there, and it brought back a flood of memories and feelings. I decided to go back to Roatan by way of those journal entries and pick up the story.
Day 5. Our intestines are rebelling. Half the team is sick, but the work is still getting done. The pump house is beginning to take shape with the laying of block for the walls. Mike has had the kids in the Colonia whitewashing a wall across from the play yard where we’ve been gathering them for stories and games. It will take three coats by the end of the day, but tomorrow we’ll get all their hand prints on that white wall.
I’ve stayed back with Bailey who isn’t feeling well. She’s got a combination of affected intestines and homesickness and has just started taking a three-day course of antibiotics prescribed by the travel clinic back home in the event of any GI “troubles.” We rest and read our books, the windows open. A warm breeze makes the white cotton curtains fill with air like sails at sea. Just outside, a woman washing laundry calls out in Spanish to someone across the yard. In the kitchen, Andrea and Elmer are chopping onions and potatoes for tonight’s meal.
Bailey is missing her sisters and brother. She misses her home too, the one we just sold before coming here. She knows that when we return “home,” it won’t be the home we know and that makes her homesickness worse. Her longing for home makes me think of our friends who have left home for much longer than we have, who made their home here to serve the people of Roatan. I mentioned Henry and Francis on Day 1 of this journal when they met us at the airport, but Mike and I had met them years before on a previous trip, back when their story here had really just begun. It’s a great story, and worth recording to remind myself what a great adventure it is.
The story starts on a cruise ship. Henry had retired from a good job in a good town. He was married to the wife of his youth with a quiver full of grown children who had blessed Henry and Francis with grandchildren. Ahead of them was a good retirement. They’d worked hard, raised children, and now anticipated the rewards of their labors. They’d planned a Caribbean cruise and sailed off to enjoy everything a cruise affords: great food, relaxation, sun, adventure.
Their ship made port for a day at Roatan, just off the mainland of Honduras. Curious tourists that they were, Henry and Francis made their way off that ship to a taxi. They got in the taxi and told the driver they wanted a tour of the island. They didn’t want to see the typical tourist stops, though; they wanted to see what the island was really like. They wanted a feel for what every day life looked like here on this beautiful jewel of an island. So the driver, who happened to operate a successful tourist business on the island and knew the island like the back of his hand, did just that. He showed them the real thing, the good, bad and the ugly.
I think Henry and Francis would both say that fateful day on Roatan ruined them forever (ruined in the best of ways). They indeed saw a beautiful island, with its glistening shoreline and tropical trees, but they also saw its people. And they just couldn’t shake the images they took in that day; the small children carrying large containers of water up steep, muddy slopes; the houses pieced together from scraps of metal; the poverty.
They couldn’t shake those images even after returning home. Their hearts were stirred. And at the age in life where most people stop taking risks and instead settle into a safe routine, they did the opposite. They decided to sell everything and move to Roatan. They wanted to bring water to Roatan, clean, drinkable water. They also wanted to bring hearts ready to share the living water of Jesus Christ.
They’ve been doing that ever since, two ordinary people who said yes to an adventure and allowed God to use them to bless others. I’m thankful our adventure this week intersects that of Henry and Francis. And I’m thankful Bailey has been a part, GI upset and homesickness and all. Sometimes it takes a trip here to really see Jesus. Home and routine can often obscure his work, independence and plenty of resources can make him fade to the background. But here you can find Jesus everywhere because he always seems to be where the suffering is. He is constantly ministering to the downtrodden, using hands like Henry’s and Francis’s, and even like Mike’s, Bailey’s and mine.
Here in the room where my daughter lays thinking, trying to digest more than her heart and intestines can handle, Jesus is here too. Roatan reminds us that Jesus cares for the poor and suffering and us too. He’s not just using us to help care for people in need, he’s caring for us too. He shows himself to us here, and we are blessed even if we’re also afflicted in some small way. Here in this quiet room with its fan spinning and curtains waving, he gives rest to the weary and restores souls. For this moment, home is right here because he’s right here.