30 Jun Remember when?
At 5:00 am on the day we had to leave Honduras, the kids and I and two precious friends piled into a busito and headed north toward the coast. As we whizzed by small towns, banana trees, and men on bicycles carrying truckloads of wood, someone kick-started our storytelling tradition with the words, “Remember when…” Long car rides are great for remembering when, even if you’re all smooshed into a busito carrying 15 people across Central America. I loved hearing from my people all about their memories of Silver Dollar City, the beach, what they loved about our house in Georgia, and the funny things they did that they never told me about. The heat, the road noise, the wind from the open windows, and the chitter chatter from the back all add character to a new story the Lord is weaving into the one’s he’s been writing with us, a new story that someone will kickstart one day with the words “remember when…”
Remember when we had to leave Honduras in a hurry and so we smooshed into a busito and drove to Belize?
We arrived in Honduras on January 19th and entered the country on 90-day visitor’s visas, with the intension of applying for residency during our first 90 days. We weren’t able to file as planned, though. We just didn’t have enough money. In the months before our move to Honduras, we had created a budget and raised funds, but it didn’t take us long to figure out that we were underfunded. It was a rookie mistake, a first time missionary miscalculation. At times Dean and I lay next to each other late at night and wondered if our rookie mistake was really a misstep, but then something like this trip to Belize is woven into the storyline and we are certain we’re abiding in the shadow of the Almighty.
Before we had to go to Belize, we were able to get a 30-day extension on our visas in April. Dean and I made the trip to San Pedro Sula to make the application to immigration. We left before sunup, and I’m glad because it was a long day filled with copy-making, lines, and waiting. Praise God, we walked out of the immigration office that day with 30 more days to pray and ask for guidance about what to do next.
When May 14th rolled around and we were still short on funds, we knew that plans had to be made for a trip out of the country. I spent a quick minute teetering on the edge of panic, in part because we were so confident that this trip would be unnecessary that Dean was in the States attending to some business. I was certain I was going to end up carrying 11 children by myself across the ocean in a banana boat headed for Belize. I had heard rumors that the boat is nicknamed the Vomit Rocket. Dread began to envelop me as the hours of that Sunday night ticked by. Here’s the thing, I really want to be that girl that was praying and telling the Lord, “I trust you, Lord, Your promises and Your plans, whatever they are,” but there was a moment in the night on May 14th when I was that girl praying, “Please, Lord, no.”
I woke up on Monday praying. I was done asking why and peace had replaced the dread from the night before. That’s one good thing about being awakened by prayer. When my eyes opened, my friend Lisa immediately came to mind. It was a little odd, actually, because we hadn’t chatted in long while. There with my head still on my pillow and Lisa’s family floating around up there in my mind, I remembered that she was involved in some mission work in Belize, and since I was thinking about a little boat trip to Belize anyway, it made sense that we should connect. I shot her a FaceBook message that went a little something like this: “I know this is going to sound like a strange request but I’m needing a little help in Belize.”
When I told Lisa what was going on, she put me in touch with some friends of hers who flung open their doors, set the dinner table, made up the spare beds, and said, “Come on over”, all for some strangers from Honduras. So we did.
A well-timed, seriously divine, post on social media gave me the idea to try to rent a van instead of taking the boat. Dean had rented a van before from a lady who lived right around the corner, so I gave her a ring. I got to thinking about what it would be like to drive across Central America by myself with the kids, so I asked the owner of the van if she had a driver available, and she did! All the details quickly fell into place, and soon the van and motorista Don Jorge were confirmed. The more the merrier is how we roll, so we asked our friends Ellie and Marta to come along with us, too. They said, “yes”, of course, because going on an 18-hour car ride across Central America with 11 kids smooshed into a busito sounded like the most fun ever. By the time we crossed the border and entered Belize, I was certain that God had something important for us there. If we had been able to apply for our residency, we would’ve missed it since we wouldn’t have needed to go to Belize in the first place.
Have you ever been to Belize? It’s cooler than a pack of peppermints. Your car will be freshly fumigated for diseases as you exit Guatemala and enter Belize, but don’t scratch your head too long about that strange happening or you’ll miss the tailgate, complete with pickup trucks, coolers, lawn chairs and cases of beer, all going on in the parking lot of Belize’s Border Control. It was quite the sight, especially after spending all day long in the busito watching banana fields and sweet Guatemalan villages pass by.
Heads up, it seems a tad unusual for a woman to travel with 11 children across Central America without her husband. God’s hand was upon us, and it all worked out for His glory, but we were detained at border control and customs for a minute or two or 120. I don’t know what they thought we were up to, but they kept saying, “We’ve just never seen anything like this before.” I am truly glad they are careful when it comes to the safety of children, especially given that there are some horrible things happening to children in this world. Eventually they determined we were on the up and up, gave us the entry stamp on our passports, and let us in. Make sure you have a little money on hand in case you need to tinkle. It’s about $0.50 a person, which adds up when you have a big group. Ellie was guarding the little ones while I was detained, and she didn’t have any cash on her. Thankfully a nice gentleman paid the $5.50 so our people could “go”, because the potty guard wasn’t letting anyone through with no money, no matter what.
We hit another little snafu as we exited border control. It seems you cannot drive in Belize without purchasing their insurance policy, even if it’s after 9 pm and there is nothing open. We had to drive around town looking for someone to sell us insurance before we could head to our destination. I met a guy in line at the liquor store who knew this guy who sells the insurance. I know it sounds odd – that I was in line at a liquor store. It’s uncharacteristic of me, I know, but that’s what was open, and I needed to ask for help. I still can’t believe we did this, but when the guy I met in line at the liquor store told me he knew a guy who sold insurance, I thanked him so much, got back in the van, and we followed him down the dark streets of Belize to a stranger’s house. The stranger wasn’t home but there was this other guy who said could meet us back at the liquor store, so we were able to buy the insurance. I filled out the forms, paid the guy about $20, and we were on our way again. I recommend learning the words to the Fruits of the Spirit song before your busito adventure. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all needed in abundance, my friends.
We arrived in Camalote around 11:00 pm. Our phones no longer worked once we crossed into Belize, and there was no where to find WIFI, so we couldn’t call for directions when we couldn’t find our way. No worries though, we pulled into the only place we saw that was open to ask for directions, and they unstacked the chairs and invited us to sit a spell while they called the camp director. I kept looking at Ellie and thinking, “Oh my, her parents entrusted her to us and within just a few months we’re hanging out in front of the One Barrel Bar.” The owners were the sweetest and in no time the director of Camalote Camp was there to show us the way. Even though it was almost midnight when we rolled into camp, the staff met us and fed us and made us feel welcome. The beds were made, the AC was hopping, and I fell asleep in utter amazement of what the Lord had for us there. The body of Christ is the only way to describe our experience. We met so many Jesus loving people and experienced God’s lovingkindness is so many unexpected ways during the three short days we spent in Belize.
There’s much more to share but this post is already long, so you’ll have to come back for part two. I always hate it when bloggers do that, but now I get you long-winded bloggers and your two parted posts. Sometimes the story is just too good to skip parts to make it fit in one post. Glory be to God for getting us to Camalote Camp.