It’s hard to believe that a week ago we were flying to Trinidad….and today we are returning to the U.S. Though it seems like we blinked and the week evaporated, it’s also quite amazing that we got so much packed in to the past six days. I’m sure that comes as a surprise to no one. :)
We arrived in Trinidad late Wednesday night, two days ahead of the marriage conference so we could get an early start to our 40th anniversary celebration. Unbeknownst to me, Paul had clandestinely planned a sweet overnight getaway to Grande Riviere Beach to see the leatherback turtles lay their eggs on the beach at night. One of the few places in the world that this phenomena occurs, nothing could’ve delighted me more. He thoughtfully booked Jen and Javed Bachew to be our escorts on this surprise tour, as he too remembered how traumatized I was two years ago when he drove a rental car on Tobago. :) So off we went on the grand adventure, which unfolded in spectacular fashion.
Arriving in time for a lovely beach walk, the smooth sand betrayed nothing of what would happen at nightfall, save the remnants of turtle egg shells (which had already been found by vultures, dogs, or other turtles digging them up in preparation to lay their eggs) strewn upon the sand. After dinner, we connected with our hired guide and went off to watch one of the most remarkable natural events we’d ever seen.
Like clockwork, the massive leatherback females came lumbering out of the water just after dusk. Dozens of them, emerging from their watery home to commence the hard work of insuring the propagation of the species. Each turtle finds the “right” spot for her and begins a 45-minute process of digging a hole in the sand with her back flippers, one flipper-full at a time, over and over again until she has reached the right depth (which is determined by the length of her flipper). On cue, she begins dropping her eggs in the hole, 50-100 of white, round, rubbery, larger-than-ping-pong-ball-size eggs. When she’s delivered her load, she carefully covers the hole back over with sand and. after “limin’” a bit, makes her way back to the water. It’s clearly very hard work.
We were spellbound. These beautiful reptiles were captivating for sure, but even more amazing was watching them do what they were designed to do. No “doulas” needed for these ladies. They just did their thing, as God has created them to do, and unless mankind causes their extinction, they’ll continue to do it for centuries to come.
We were super blessed by having a full moon under which to observe this amazing process, especially since no lights (except the infrared light held by the guide) were allowed. According to Jen and Javed, it was one of their best viewings ever. Plenty of turtles made their way right in front of our guest house, so we had easy access, and with the moon, we had plenty of light. God’s gifts are extravagant!! We loved every minute of the adventure.
At 4 am, a huge, unexpected, much-needed rainstorm arrived, wakening us from a dead sleep with thoughts that we were being bombed. Those tin roofs really amplify the noise!! We finally resigned ourselves to not getting back to sleep and walked the beach in the pouring rain. We were rewarded by getting to watch one mama leatherback who was still “limin’” on the beach make her way back into the sea. What a most remarkable experience!
Walking on Grande Riviere Beach
Our first turtle sighting, fortunately just before nightfall so we could capture her with the camera.
|Here she is in the glow of the infrared light, with a huge gelatinous salt tear running from her eyes. The guide explained that this is how they purge excess salt from their system.|
|After digging for about 45 minutes, she lays her eggs in this 24” deep hole.|
|Breakfast with Jen and Javed at the guest house prior to making the 2-hour drive back to St. Helena’s.|
Wow!! What a great experience. Back to the Trinidad-Tobago Urban Ministries (TTUM) compound early afternoon, we caught a nap before the conference began with dinner at 6 pm. TTUM hosted and underwrote the conference for the almost 50 couples who attended from all over western Trinidad. In the face of crumbling marriages, their vision is to strengthen and encourage marriages in their local churches. This was the second bi-annual such conference and all are committed to keeping the tradition going.
From beginning to end, there was a spirit of openness and receptivity among the attendees. One of the things we love about international work is that the conferees come hungry. They haven’t been over-satiated, over-resourced, and over-fed as many in America are. They eagerly listen, taking it all in, and don’t expect the talks to end before at least an hour and a half has passed. We welcomed their questions and continued conversations during breaks. In between sessions, we were booked for counseling. Our days were full in the best sort of way.
Saturday culminated with a beautiful banquet served at small tables with flowers, while music softly played in the background. Led by Cindy, the admin for TTUM, the team that put the conference on outdid themselves. Everything was thought of and carried out so well. Every couple who attended felt the “love” of being served and cared for.
At the banquet, we were surprised to be honored for our 40th anniversary. Ashoke gave us a kind tribute and all enjoyed the beautiful cupcake-cake made in honor of the occasion. It was a lovely evening.
The conference ended on Sunday after lunch, and according to Ashoke, the “vibe” was that people felt the weekend was very practical and life-changing. The consensus was to have it every year rather than every other. :)
All praise is His! We felt very met by Him throughout the weekend.
|Ashoke and Stephanie Bachew, founders of TTUM, are some of our dearest friends and ministry partners.|
The beautiful cupcake-cake for our anniversary celebration.
|We were humbled to be so lavishly feted by these dear brothers and sisters in Christ.|
A not-great shot of most of those who came to the conference.
After the conference ended, we drove to the little village of Campoo where, with our family missions team in 2001 and 2002, we founded a church. In a primarily Hindu and Muslim village, there was no evangelical church until this one and it was so encouraging to see that the church is still going. Though small, the band of faithful members continue to hold services and outreach to the community.
|Standing with the charter members of the church in Campoo, it was great to see them pressing on with the gospel.|
Paul preached Sunday night at church on the compound and then completely surprised me with a renewal of our vows at the end of the service. He had converted the audio tape recorded at our wedding to a CD and we stood face to face, hearing our very young, forty-years-ago voices reciting our original vows. I was blown away. It was a very sweet and memorable moment. He thought of everything!!
Monday, our last day in Trinidad, we drove with Stephanie and Ashoke and Diane to Maracas Bay to walk the beach and eat Bake N Shark. A tradition with the missions teams, we have nothing but great memories of each trip to Maracas Bay . . . and we now have more. On a picture perfect day, we walked the beach, found sea glass, and then, out of the blue, Paul fell to one knee, claiming injury, but recovering quickly, still on bended knee, he asked me to marry him again. Instead of re-proposing with a metal washer (as he had done back on Dec. 15, 1975—but it was only temporary, for those of you concerned, and quickly replaced with a beautiful solitaire diamond), he presented me with a gorgeous antique diamond ring. Happy 40th!! I was again blown away.
|Walking on the beach at Maracas Bay.|
After a yummy-beyond-description lunch of Bake N Shark (a Trinidadian version of fry bread, topped with freshly caught and fried shark, and then loaded with a large variety of condiments), Stephanie served “Tea on the Beach” for the ladies before packing up and driving back to the compound. A lovelier day couldn’t be imagined!
|The smile on Paul’s face tells it all.|
|Stephanie’s “Tea on the Beach” was a perfect ending to an unforgettable day.|
The grand finale of our time in Trinidad was having dinner out with both Bachew couples. Our laughter and talking was unabated for two hours as we confirmed how “in sync” we all are. It was a fitting ending to a great week.
|Stephanie and Ashoke and Jen and Javed are “salt of the earth” folks and we are so grateful to have them in our lives.|
The restaurant added to the celebration with this special dessert.
We rose earlier than the sun this morning in order to get to the airport on time, but she made her appearance in the eastern sky as we awaited our flight. Though we’ve loved all of our trips to Trinidad, this one is definitely in a league of its own. We hadn’t intended to be speaking on our 40th anniversary weekend originally, but several dates had to be changed in order to accommodate a postponed wedding (due to military deployment) and this is how it ended up going down. At first it seemed like it would be sacrificial to be serving on our 40th, but the blessing was actually ours. We’ll never forget the milestone anniversary we celebrated with the Trinidadian body of Christ.
Trinidad. The destination of many family missions trips. The place to which both Julie and Kari led college missions trip. The place where Paul found his “brother from another mother” in Ashoke Bachew. The place we had the privilege of planting a church. The place we overcame American inhibitions and boldly went door to door inviting children to Backyard Bible Club. The place we learned about “limin’” and slowing down. The place we fell in love with steel pan drums, worship that moves, doubles and roti and everything curry, and Bake N Shark.
And now the place we proclaimed the goodness of marriage to 50 couples, who celebrated our 40 years of marriage generously.
Trinidad has become a place of memorial for us and our hearts will always be deep for this beautiful Caribbean jewel.
|Our final sunrise in Trinidad on this trip.|