When we arrived at 4 am at the Atlanta International Airport, the ticket agent wouldn't let us on the plane, because we didn't have a visa to stay longer than the 6 weeks that the Saint Lucian government allows for visitors. Cynthia prayed while we tried to figure out what we could do. After talking with his manager, he decided he would let us through and let the Saint Lucian Immigration decide, and he didn't even charge us for our luggage, which I expected to be $160! He said we may have to change our return tickets until we have extended our visa with the government. Getting to the immigration in Saint Lucia, the officer again raised his eyebrow and had to talk to a superior, but then let us through. At customs, the security officer wanted us to declare all our luggage contents but after finding out that Merle was working in Barbuda in October doing hurricane repair for Samaritan's Purse, he let us go through without a hitch! Yesterday, Guy received a text, and exclaimed, "It's a miracle!" He said our visa was finished and ready to be picked up today! He said that he didn't know how long it might take and still doesn't know how long they will give us. We asked for 6 months. Thank you for your prayers! God is opening doors!
We arrived on Saint Lucia less than a week ago and are learning so much - new people, new foods, new sights, and new ministries. Green banana salad, breadfruit, fresh papaya, and mango are right out of the yard! The temperatures are moderate with the highs generally 85, with a breeze, and the lows 75. The humidity is a bit high, so it can be warm and sticky in the house without the breeze. There isn't air conditioning at home, though the stores have it. We have a fan to cool our room at night, with the door open. It is nice to hear the crickets at night and birds in the morning, but the local karaoke spot plays loudly until 2 am. The fan helps drown that out, too. Internet is a bit tricky and seems spotty, but working. We haven't been bothered much by mosquitoes or no-see-ums, and Merle is rejoicing!
On the trip back to the base from the airport (2 hours away, without stops) we stopped to buy fish at a small market (there was a blue mahi mahi on the counter for sale), tried unsuccessfully to get money (as I had forgotten to put in a travel plan), and stopped at a roadside stand to get fresh bread with cheese, as we were hungry. It is a popular spot, and the people collected as the bread was being baked in a rustic oven. It was delicious bread- similar to Bosnian bread! The music playing was kind of Jamaican sounding, which I loved.
Guy, from Cameroon, and Marylin, from Saint Lucia, are in charge of a pioneering Youth With A Mission (YWAM) base. They have been here a number of years and have had several Discipleship Trainings (DTS) in the past, but need additional leadership to provide more. We can assist them on their base, by leading Bible studies on campus, assist with ministering to a local boys detention center, feed the homeless, and help to teach the Alpha course in a local school. The Boys Training Center is kind of like a reform school, and has about 10-30 boys. The younger children are from abusive situations and in foster care, if they can’t find homes for them, and the older boys may have stolen something, or some other crime. Their 7 year old son, Asaph, is home schooled, with which I can help, and do some cooking. Merle sees repairs needed everywhere he looks, and has already been repairing toilets, as the building is a bit run down and in need of lots of attention. This picture, below, is on the way back from the airport on the southern end of the island, which takes two hours or so to get back to the base, to Gros Islet on the northwest part of the island. About halfway back, the sun was set and the city lights of the beautiful Dennery overlook on the east side of the island were shining for a photo op. They had country western music playing and apparently have dance contests with winners going to America, the big dream of many Saint Lucians (just like Bosnians)! How America's influence affects Saint Lucia is evident from the common saying here, as Guy said, "When America sneezes, we catch a cold."
Traveling about on the island isn't easy, as your instinct is to stay on the right, but they drive on the left, and the traffic is heavy on windy, bumpy, narrow roads. It isn't for the faint of heart. I hang on, pray for safety, and look the other way in treacherous situations. When we were delivering some shoes to someone on Sunday, we went up into a neighborhood on a hillside, where I snapped this beautiful view, except for the wires!
We visited the very northern end of the island, where the surf is very dangerous. The Atlantic side (behind us in the photo below) is uninhabited except for horses grazing, but will become very expensive land when a road is put in for access. The Caribbean side of the tip of the island has very expensive homes with infinity pools and lovely views, of course! The view from the balcony at the base overlooking our yard is lovely (below), as you can see the marina (Merle's favorite) and some of Rodney Bay. There was a Regatta on Saturday, and we could see a bit of the racing boats.
We have been to a funeral, church, learned about the heavy traffic, especially on the evenings on weekends, participated in kids' club with about 30 kids, and learned the price of groceries - twice as high as in America, but you have to eat. Affordable menus are challenging. Thank you so much to those who give and allowed us to receive our regular
paycheck in December! We need it! We can walk into town to get some groceries, but not too many, as we have to carry them home! Transportation may become an issue, and we are considering our options.
At the funeral of the mother of one of the volunteers, we were the only white faces in the crowd, which was the same at church. At the graveside, we sang old hymns, which I knew, but found out that a 33 year old lady did not know them! At church, we did know two or so of the number of songs we sang. It was a long service, as we celebrated communion. We left after three hours, though the sermon was only beginning.
A gift of LEGOs was a hit, and Asaph and I played Scrabble, which is great for learning to spell, to add or understand multiplication, and is my favorite game. He won his first game!
I ate a grapefruit, but it made my fingers affected (swollen and tingly) from peeling it. The bananas are wonderful, and we had some delicious mangoes. They don't eat many green vegetables, because they are expensive, but I am not sure I can do without some at least. I was so happy to find American crackers, which are my favorite thing! Striking fish, large cinnamon sticks, cocoa sticks, and bags of big bay leaves are available. December is the
Christmas season and everyone seems to love it. We heard "Oh, Come all ye Faithful" and "The Twelve days of Christmas," among others, in the little mall and grocery store.
We made it to the beach on Sunday afternoon, but only walked along as the surf was very strong and Merle did not want to leave our things on the beach to get into the water. We saw the sun set for the first time, as the hill behind us usually prevents us from seeing it. We are learning to enjoy new things at "Simply Beautiful Saint Lucia," their motto. Please continue to pray for the power of the gospel to transform lives, Guy, Marylin, and Asaph, the influence of the YWAM base, us, and others who serve. To God be the glory!