Sunday, November 21, 2010

Epic Boat Trip: Prayer and Reunion

We were kindly fed from one big bowl of rice with ramen noodles sprinkled on top, with a mug of syrupy tea apiece. Then, the kind woman showed us into a side room that had foam mattresses, pillows, and blankets spread across the floor. "Go sleep," she said.

"Where are my mom and dad?" I asked, but she just smiled at me and repeated that I should lay down with my little brother and sister. Apparently, we had reached the limit of our ability to communicate with each other.

I spent the next several hours in our little nest, watching the soft lamplight filter gently through the open door. Soft wisps of air puff up through the slatted floor. The adults in the other room talked softly in a language I didn't understand. I could not relax and sleep like my siblings, although I knew it would be easier if I could escape into dreamland for a while. Although the woman and her family seemed nice, a little part of me was afraid of the new place, and didn't quite trust our hosts. I was afraid of a stranger coming into our room and doing bad things, unmentionable things, to us while we slept. I was deeply afraid that I would never see my parents again. I thought about the dark waves, menacing sky, and scrambling passengers of the Baruku, but here my brain balked and wouldn't let me imagine the horrors that could await my family still aboard. I wondered how I could get my siblings and I back to Honiara, or if we would be stuck on this island, alone. I was too young to know about the network my parents had with other missionaries and Islanders around the country. Eventually, I just prayed over and over again a simple prayer: "Please, Lord, help my mom and dad and brother be ok. Please, Lord, help them to be ok."

Meanwhile, in Austin, Texas, a close friend sat watching the news as he drank his morning cup of coffee. Flipping through the channels, he stopped for a minute on the weather. "There is a hurricane system picking up steam in the South Pacific," the announcer intoned, as a map flashed up on screen. The man slowly put down his coffee, and started to pray.

I must have eventually dozed off, because the next thing I was aware of was dimly hearing a familiar voice in a familiar language from the other room. A silhouette darkened the doorway and I shrunk back, the nightmarish fears returning to my foggy mind in full force. The next instant, though, my mother had come fully into the room and was kneeling beside me, stroking my face and hair. "Oh, Mom, I thought you were ..."

"Shhhh," she said gently. "It's ok. You didn't need to be worried. We're here. Everyone's ok." I wanted to get up and hear the whole story then, but she kissed me back to sleep. Next morning, I awoke to brilliant sunshine and my parents and brother all no worse for the wear except for being tired and still a bit damp.