Wow, what a trip! God is so awesome and faithful when you pray according to his will. Before we left, we were all praying that God would bring people into our path we were supposed to talk with and minister to, and He did. Not only that, but he got us where we needed to be, when we needed to be (sometimes with only moments to spare). And such beauty! We were able to watch the sun rise over the ocean in Belize Friday morning and set over the ocean in Guatemala Friday night. It was really cool to have one-on-one time with the other teachers – I talked quite a bit to Jenna, Tori, and Kathy while we were on this trip – for longer and about deeper topics then I ever would have been able to during our normal week.
But back to the people. While we were in Punta Gorda, Belize, we were about two blocks away from the ocean. On the way to the beach was a cool little restaurant and shop that was closed by the time we got to Punta Gorda and ate dinner. But we were able to go by for a late breakfast the next morning, which was amazing. When we walked up to the front porch, we saw a rather extraordinary lady sitting on the top step. She was white, with gray hair, probably late 50s/early 60s. She had a tongue piercing, a tragus piercing on the inside part of her ear, and a mountain of dreadlocks piled on top of her head. After introducing herself as Jill, she said she had hosted a huge event the day before, so there wasn’t much left to serve, but the staples she had left were wonderful. Tori, Nicole, and Kathy got hummus wraps,Jenna and Sheena had omelettes, and I had a barbecue chicken wrap that tasted like a small bit of Texas. While we were waiting for our food, her husband came in the back, and Jill tells us he’s arrived. I’m kind of expecting an equally crazy-looking white guy, but in walks Emmeth, a super dark Creole dressed in bright cotton pants and a matching shirt with no sides. He tells us how drumming is his life and passion, and he goes around performing and giving lessons all over Belize. I wanted to take his drumming class, but we didn’t have time. Instead, we had an impromptu jam session with him and one of his students.
Later on that day we went to the market to walk around. On our way there, we saw an old man with a long, white beard and a Harley-Davidson hat drinking a beer and smoking what almost looked like a corncob pipe. He introduced himself as Rotten Ray, apparently a name he had picked up in his time as a biker. We stopped to ask if we could take his picture and struck up a conversation. He said he was from Portland originally, but he had been in Belize for 12 years and wasn’t going back.
On the second water taxi trip, from Belize back to Guatemala, we met Dr. Deborah Bock, a lady in her late 50s with bright pink lipstick and the most radical views on feminism I’ve heard outside of my college theater department. She was traveling through Central America doing research for a book she’s writing on a female Indiana Jones-ish character. We heard a bit of her backstory too – how her father always told her she was just as good as any boy, how she worked her way through college and medical school then traveled the world giving free medical care, how the only things that ever impressed her were kindness, sincerity, and intelligence. We sat behind her the whole two hour boat ride back, and I just watched her, hair being blown into countless impossible knots, but with her arm over the side, soaking in every bit of the experience.
On our way back from Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, we rode in a van with a really cool lady named Jessie. She didn’t seem much older than we were, but she turned out to be 32. She was a grad student in biology, and she told us about the research she was doing with a treatment for brain cancer, and how she was traveling alone through Central America, with no real schedule except her fly out time, taking everything in and taking the time to just slow down and talk to people as she went. She told us about how she had left her Mennonite upbringing because it was so closed off and judgmental of other cultures, how she was living in New York, and how she loved encountering all the mish-mash of different people and ideas. It was so cool just to get to talk to her and hear a completely different, yet refreshing perspective on life and culture.
Finally, there was Carlos. We met him on the street outside our hotel in Puerto Barrios as we were headed down for dinner. He had the clothes on his back and a backpack, and he was sleeping on the street every night. He told us about his daughter, Africa, who had leukemia and was being cared for at the catholic hospital there in Puerto Barrios. He and his family were from Belize, but he had come to be with his daughter during her treatment. Every night he would sleep outside the hospital so that he could be there if his daughter needed him. But from the beginning of our conversation, he had this aura of freedom around him, and he kept saying how no matter what happened, God was getting him through. Every time he thought the situation was impossible, God would show up and make it happen somehow. We hadn’t said anything about who we were or that we were Christians, and he’s just pouring out this story about God’s providence in hardship. When Jenna asked him about whether he believed in Jesus (because as in the US, there are many people that believe in God, but not Jesus), he got this big old smile on his face and said, “Oh yeah, Jesus is my best friend. He’s the one who’s with me every day. We talk all the time, and He helps me get through all of this.” And you know what? Skeptic that I am, I believed him.
The common thread that ran through every person we met on that trip was passion. Emmeth had a passion for drums and teaching. Jill had a passion for cultural preservation. Jessie had a passion for embracing other cultures and the individuals who were a part of that culture. Deborah had a passion for gender equality and humanitarianism. Even Ray, a man and his beer, had a passion for staying in Belize and never going back to Oregon. And it got me to thinking – do I have as much passion for my Creator and First Love as they do for so much less? Is my sold-out heart spilling over onto random people I meet on the street, or in a van, or on a water taxi? Am I like Carlos, bubbling out to random people on the street my story of the things my Savior and best Friend has done for me? To be honest, the answer is no. So the next question becomes, “What am I going to do about it?” That answer doesn’t come quite so easily. But it needs to be answered.
What have been your experiences with God-incidences? Do you think that your passion is clear to the world? If not, what are you going to do about it?