Hurricane Maria swept through the US Virgin Islands in late September leaving a trail of destruction in its path. I remember vacillating between praying for our friends and the people on the islands, and anxiously reading the latest news reports for a glimpse of what was happening thousands of miles away.
As the winds died down and we were eventually able to communicate with our friends on St. Croix, we found that everyone was safe, but there was quite a bit of damage sustained. And so, Cory and I made arrangements to go and help in whatever ways we could. We were able to convince our friends Mike and Suzi to join us on our trip and they were valuable assets. Not only in the work that they were able to do while there, but also as cookie eating buddies and great friends!
We got to fly in a tiny plane from San Juan to St. Croix and it was quite the experience! Mike was chosen to sit next to the pilot in the co-pilot’s seat and I sat directly behind the pilot. Watching out the front window while flying is a completely different experience than I’m used to. I do have to admit that I was pretty nervous during the flight, and when the pilot pulled out directions on how to land the plane as we were approaching the island, my nervousness was only enhanced!
This trip was quite different than the previous times we had gone. I don’t like to label it a “mission trip” because my heart’s desire was to just go to help and to love my friends.
And so, our first full day that we were there, instead of getting straight to work, we accepted an invitation to go to the beach with two of our friends from St. Croix. To me, it was an example of making sure we aren’t always being “Marthas” in the world and that we take time out to spend time with others and deepen relationships just like Mary did with Jesus. (Luke 10:38-42)
Needless to say, we had a great day snorkeling, exploring Fredriksted, and finishing the day off with dinner from the Chicken Shack.
Sunday morning we attended church at Church on the Beach. There is just something so refreshing about making things simple. Bring your own chairs, wear sunblock, and worship God in His creation!
After church, we went back to the YWAM base and dove into our work! One of our projects was the Poolside Room. The storm had blown debris, water, and mud into all of the rooms, and the kitchen was in a sorry state. We would need to demolish the kitchen, haul off all furniture that was ruined from water damage, wash the walls and ceilings, wash all of the furniture, and repaint where needed.
The Crucian room was another area that needed a thorough washing, painting, and general clean up.
Cory was of course tasked with fixing the internet and all that involved. We were able to bring most of the supplies necessary for that task, but that didn’t stop Mike and Cory from scavenging for network gear in broken houses that I can only imagine was filled with rats and centipedes!
We also needed to make a trip to Home Depot to (hopefully) purchase what was necessary to build the new kitchenette in the Poolside Room. The shelves were bare, but we managed to find cabinets that would work. Many of them had some damage, but they were all we had to work with and Mike was confident he could fix them up. (And we got them at a discounted price!)
We spent hours and hours and hours toiling away. Climbing up and down ladders, hanging wires, scrubbing wall after wall after wall, constantly dumping and refilling muddy buckets of water to wash with, and attempting to build a kitchen in a land where NOTHING is straight, square, or level. And most of all, sweating like crazy and being devoured by mosquitoes and no-see-ums.
And yet, I found the work very satisfying. I knew that every minute I spent washing walls was time that I was giving to the YWAM staff to be able to focus on ministry and other areas on the YWAM base.
After a week of hard work, the Crucian Room was waiting for its new bed and was ready to host others who will be coming to serve in the near future.
The Poolside Room is waiting on a plumber to come and finish the sink in the kitchenette, and just needs a new bed and the couches to be moved in before it’s ready to go! The internet was also wired and fixed as much as possible (there was still no power on the base while we were there, so there was an extra level of difficulty).
In the midst of all the work, we made sure to take time to join the YWAM staff in their weekly outreaches that they do. We visited Paradise Mills (one of the housing projects on the island) one afternoon to play with the kids. Suzi made a new friend who challenged her to step outside of her comfort zone and try new things (including balancing on fence rails and doing cartwheels).
Suzi and I were also able to visit the Lighthouse ministry to help hang clothing donations and give clothes and toiletries to the needy.
We reconnected with old friends, made a few new friends, and missed a few friends who weren’t there at the time. Sometimes it’s difficult to form relationships with missionaries in YWAM because you never know if you will see them again. I’m slowly learning that even if people are only in your life for short amounts of time, it’s worth that time to invest yourself in the relationship. We have met some amazing people and built some life-long friendships.
***And just as a little side note… The transportation while we were there was dicey. Most of the cars and trucks were either broke down when we arrived, or developed problems while we were there. We were thankful to be able to cram ourselves into trucks to get where we needed at different times throughout the week, but they could really use a generous donor who could get them some reliable transportation!***