To Trinidad with Love

Ashoke and Stefanie Bachew are dear friends and ministry partners.

In 2000, we made our first trip to Trinidad.  We had launched "Family Missions Trips" at Grace Chapel the previous year, taking a multi-generational group of 23 to Haiti to work with "Hope for the Children of Haiti" (a wonderful ministry founded by Marion Austin), and decided to team up with Trinidad and Tobago Urban Ministries (TTUM) the following year.  Since then, we have lead numerous family missions trips to Trinidad and have loved partnering with them.

Ashoke Bachew and his wife Stefanie started TTUM over thirty years ago with a vision to evangelize their beloved homeland.  We fell in love with them that first missions trip! Their story is remarkable: Hindu-born and raised, Ashoke became a Christian when he was 14 years old, responding to the gospel message given by a group of short term missionaries who held a Backyard Bible Club in Ashoke's village.  He was kicked out of his home by his dad at that point, who was none too pleased with Ashoke's decision to follow Christ. That was 46 years ago and a lot has gone down since then. They have had a fruitful ministry which has produced many church plants, revival crusades, outreach concerts, and the development of a camp (“Victory Heights”) as well as a retreat center which houses their current church.  They have also sponsored a steel pan band that has presented the gospel through music.

In the midst of all that, they have raised 4 children, all of whom are following Christ and are raising up the next generation for Him.

Javed and Jen Bachew worked closely with the marriage conference.  Javed is Ashoke's oldest son.

So, when we received an invitation to return to Trinidad to do a marriage conference, we were thrilled.

Somewhat uncharacteristically, we decided to "play before work" and flew into Trinidad several days ahead of the conference for some R&R.  Having never been to Tobago, a little island not far from Trinidad, we headed there, and spent three days exploring that beautiful place.

That part of the trip was a bit of a mixed bag, to be honest.  We rented a car, having no idea that driving would test our marriage and threaten our lives.  The roads: narrow, winding, and terrifying. The drivers: fast, crazy, and terrifying! I can honestly say that we saw very little of the beauty as we drove, so fearful for our lives were we.  I'm not exaggerating.

We finally arrived in Castara, a little fishing village in Tobago, and we spent two nights there.  Our first night was a bit consistent with our drive that day. The hotel would have been fine had the manager remembered to equip the room with a much-needed fan and mosquito net, but lacking both of those essentials, we had a pretty miserable night.  We walked across the street to another hotel for our second night and fared much better.

We did have a great time swimming, snorkeling, walking the beach, and finding the mother lode of sea glass.  We met some fun people, ate some great food, and loved discovering a new place. And we did relax.  Overall, good days.

Eating lunch in Castara on the island of Tobago.  It was much prettier than this photo captures.

We flew back to Trinidad on Thursday night in time for the marriage conference Friday through Sunday.  We were so impressed that TTUM completely underwrote the expense of the conference, making it free for all to attend. It was held at their retreat center (which our teams help build through the years!) which made a perfect setting for the couples.

Ashoke kicks off the conference Friday evening as 40 couples eagerly gathered
for TTUM's first marriage conference.

Our time was packed once we got started.  We were either teaching or counseling on Saturday from 8 am to 10 pm and then again on Sunday from 8 am to 3 pm.  We loved every minute of it.  Many of the couples were first generation Christians who didn't have great models of marriage in their lives and many were in the throes of raising children while struggling to make their marriages vital.  Sounds familiar, yes?

The retreat planners did a great job of putting the weekend together.  We were especially impressed with their Saturday evening "date night."  The beautifully-set room with tables for two made for a very romantic setting and the perfect set up for our talk on sexuality. This taboo subject was very well received and broad smiles were on many faces Sunday morning.  :)

A special dinner was prepared for Saturday night's banquet and was enjoyed by all.

The conference ended on Sunday with our final talk, followed by a time of sharing.  It was encouraging to hear many share about how God had met them that weekend. At least two couples said that God had saved their marriage at the conference.  How exciting is that??

Most of the couples were present for this photo taken at the end of the conference.

The final highlight before we flew home on Monday came Sunday night.  In honor of Ashoke's 60th birthday, the church had planned a big surprise party for him at the church.  So though Ashoke had invited Paul to preach that night, he was pre-empted by this wonderful celebration of Ashoke's life. The service was very thoughtfully organized and featured music, musicians, and messages that honored both Ashoke and the Lord. A birthday feast followed, and tribute after tribute was given to Ashoke, affirming the many ways God has used this man's life of faithfulness for kingdom purposes.  What a privilege to be part of this milestone event honoring a man we esteem so highly.

"Brothers from another mother" is the description of these two. Ashoke and Paul have very similar temperaments and really understand/appreciate/love each other.

We flew home just 24 hours ahead of Derek, Julie, and Nathan, who were arriving for a five-week stint in the states.  We counseled 10 of those hours, and also spoke in Springfield, MA, to a moms’ group for "Couples Night Out."  That was a great evening, hosted by our friends Mark and Caroline Funchion.  Only the sand in our suitcase reminded us that we had been in Trinidad less than 48 hours earlier.

Mark and Caroline Funchion hosted the couples' night  connected with the moms group Caroline leads.  She did a beautiful job on the dessert night.

And so the sun set on our mission to minister to marriages in Trinidad.  Talks are already underway regarding next year's conference.  We can't wait!

We have agreed that if we return to Tobago, we'll take public transportation.

Sunset viewing from the beach in Castara, Tobago.