Thanks so much for your prayers - they were sorely needed these past weeks! Our family is now settling into our new home in Gracias, but getting here has involved an incredible series of trials and adventures!
In mid-September we visited Gracias (after attending the annual missionary conference in the nearby city of Siguatepeque) to locate a house to rent. Although houses which will work for our large family are scarce here, we did find a nice little house on the edge of town. It will be "cozy," but it will work for us as we search for land upon which to build our permanent house.
After locating the house, Trish and the kids were excited to head back to the island, say our goodbyes, and finish our packing. We returned to the coastal city of La Ceiba, from which we fly to the islands. Unknown to us, however, while we were off in the mountains, there had been turmoil on the island. The airlines had raised their prices, so the islanders staged a "strike" (in the states, we would call this a protest), dragging old boats and other debris onto the airstrip to disrupt the airline business, as a show of their displeasure. For a time there were no flights to Guanaja, until the government stepped in to resolve the situation. The resolution kept the higher ticket prices, but decreased the number of flights from about 6 each day to 6 each week! As a result, it became necessary to reserve tickets a week or more in advance. Not knowing this ahead of time, we were stuck waiting a week on the coast before we could actually fly back to the island to pack. Fortunately for us, our good friends the N----s, (from our home church in Maryland) are now living in La Ceiba, and they managed to put us up (or put up with us?) for the week we were stranded in their city.
Finally though, Trish and the kids flew to the island, and began the work of packing our personal belongings, stowing the ministry items, and making the Community Center building secure for the time it will be vacant. The weather had been exceptionally rainy during our month away, and our computer was hesitant to boot up when we returned. We found that if we kept the computer plugged in and powered up, with fans running on it, it would eventually dry out enough to start up. Unfortunately, the power was out a significant amount of that first week, so we had only occasional access to the internet for information and communications. It was during this time that Hurricane Wilma made a sneaky advance upon the island of Guanaja!
Those of you who follow these things may have noticed Wilma; a category 5 storm which was heading directly toward Guanaja, but was predicted to turn north before actually hitting the island. The storm did turn north, but not before coming within 110 miles of us! Trish and the kids evacuated the Community Center building (we were living in the upstairs of this 3 story tall wooden structure right on the beach at this time) for several days, staying in a small cement motel about a block away. After several days of severe wind and continuous rain - and very frequent prayers - the storm passed and the packing was able to continue. Although the house/Community Center was absolutely soaked, remarkably only one packed box got wet - a major blessing!
Because Hurricane Wilma disrupted the boat schedules, we found that we would be delayed an additional week on the island, before we could load our boxes, furniture, and dogs onto the Lady Carminda and send them to La Ceiba. During this final week on the island, unbelievably, we were threatened by yet another storm, Hurricane Beta! Thankfully, this storm didn't come close enough for us to experience much severe weather, but it was close enough to cause us to use some of our time making the "just in case" preparations, and it was certainly close enough to frazzle Trish's already strained nerves just a bit more! For the future, Trish has decided to declare a one hurricane per month limit for herself!
All of this severe weather had further reduced the number of flights to and from the island. As the date neared for the departure of the cargo boat, a decision had to be made - would we go as passengers on the boat, or hope to be able to get a flight? Sigh. Sadly, we chose the boat. At this point, Trish, Russell, Rachel, David, and Josiah (a family friend from Virginia who came down to help us move) were still on the island. Everything seemed fine as we loaded our stuff onto the town truck, had it hauled to the dock (6 truckloads), and wrestled the dogs into their crates.
But the weather turned foul, and our 6 - 8 hour boat trip actually lasted 11 very long and stormy hours! We left the island at 8pm, and sailed overnight. The cargo ship doesn't have berths for passengers, although the crew does pass out mats so people can lie on the floor. With the airline situation restricting travel so much, the boat was amazingly packed with people. As the weather got rougher (and rougher) we each had to make a choice - stay inside where it was stiflingly hot and dry, packed in like sardines and likely to be seasick, or stay on deck, soaked with rain and chilled through, but at least somewhat more likely to refrain from seasickness (or at least, having quick access to the rail, to feed the fishies). Trish and David chose to stay inside, the others stayed out all night. We have delared it a toss-up as to who had it worse . . . outside soaked and freezing, or inside dealing with the stale air and the smell of . . . um . . . the results of seasickness.
So, that's most of the story. We made it to La Ceiba safely. Somehow, in my newsletter, I neglected to relate how absolutely terrifying the trip was. I was sitting in the kitchen of the boat, and every now and then the cabinets would open and pots and pans would shower down, or the refrigerator would suddenly roll across the floor. I was praying continually for hours that our lives would be spared . . . but by the end of the trip I was too numb to care, and I just prayed that one way or another this nightmare would end!
Allen met us at the dock and took over as our stuff was unloaded from the boat and loaded into a big truck for the 6 hour drive up to Gracias. The kids and I crashed at our friends' house for a few hours, getting showers before finally getting some sleep. But by noon, we were in the van and heading on up the road to Gracias.
I'm thinking that our upcoming move ought to be a piece of cake. ;-D