A Boat, a Bible, and a Barf Bag to Go!
Picture Rose (Kate Winslet) tossed around on the Titanic while wading through a foot of water, wearing her long formal. That we me on our vacation, except our boat wasn’t that nice.
It didn’t start out that way. Months before Andrew and I had received a vacation offer from one of those timeshare places. We thought of it as our little miracle in the mail to help us celebrate our five-year anniversary on a tight budget. Then came September 11, 2001. People returned to church and began asking spiritual questions. I felt a deep impression from the Holy Spirit this trip was not to be a getaway as much as an opportunity to share the hope of Jesus.
If the Lord wanted me to witness, I was going to do it like a pro! I knew well-known preachers like Chuck Swindoll made a habit of sharing their faith on airplanes and I so could I. I boarded the plane armed with Josh McDowell’s proven witnessing tool, More Than a Carpenter. I was fully prepared for those questions I was sure would come from the seat next to me such as, “What message do you think God is trying to send us with these terrorist attacks?” and “Why would God allow something like this to happen?” I was ready. I had done my homework… and I had an aisle seat. It was not how I’d planned, but I made sure I held up my book as I read- just in case those in close proximity wanted to yell out theological questions over the roaring hum of the engines.
Maybe a soul was to be added to the Kingdom on the flight home? We unloaded our bags and headed off to tropical paradise with the ocean out the backdoor of our hotel room.
Not Exactly the Love Boat
Bright and early we boarded our ship and were greeted by friendly internationals handing out umbrella-topped fresh fruit drinks- for a price. It didn’t take long for us to discover we weren’t exactly on the Love Boat. In fact you could tell the ship had been repainted, rather poorly, after changing ownership. It was nearly half the size of other luxury ships in port and appeared twice the age.
We followed the sound of Calypso music up to the pool deck. There we relaxed by the pool which could have comfortably held a grand total of six. No live band, just a radio pumping tunes from behind the bar. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a Barbie and Ken couple, holding hands and too mushy-in-love to care about the ship’s flaws.
The love birds, we came to know as Darcy and Bob, sat next to us at our table for eight. I have to admit I was a bit intimated. As the formal dinner arrived Andrew and I held hands and prayed a quiet prayer. Two bites into my shrimp cocktail the gaudy dining room carpet came up to meet me. Nervous laughter and “ughs” filled the room. The waiter brought a round of Dramamine to the table… Dead serious. One by one we dropped like flies, until Bob was left alone with a table full of uneaten steak and fancy, unpronounceable foods.
That’s Me, Kate Winslet
As I opened the door I became Kate Winslet. That was me opening the door and being thrown forward, my hand holding up my long black formal and slogging down the hallway. I had to grab the sides of the walls to keep from falling and every few feet were barf bags kindly tucked behind the railings. Mist hit my face as I searched the deck for my husband. There he was. His head was out the window and jacket in his hands. The mess on his shirt gave him away. What we did not know at the time our nausea was coming from the two tropical storms and one hurricane stirring up the Atlantic. It was the height of hurricane season and the storms were tossing us and our little old ship.
He had to go. No matter how difficult the journey, my husband needed to get to our bottom-level room and change his clothes. The door to our cabin was open and shockingly three men hovered around a port hole. Water was pouring into our matchbox-sized room.
“We fix later… Too much water.”
“No, you fix NOW or ship sink.”
Andrew let the men continue to fight it out, hoping the ship would still float. At that moment all he wanted was not to puke on his fresh clothes.
Misery Makes Company
The waves continued to crash, so high they were splashing to the upper deck. Lounge chairs usually used for sun bathing were filled with sick cruisers wrapped in blankets clutching two-packs of Dramamine. Cruise employees (who appeared completely unaffected) handed out apples and sold magnetic bracelets. I was so soaked from the incoming waves one gal came up and asked if a shower “helped [the nausea.]”
Hours passed as we sat attentively watching the horizon in hopes of avoiding another “wave” of nausea. Bob and Darcy joined the masses. She was slumped over, dressed in jeans and an old sweatshirt while Bob helped her keep her balance. As she wanted was a place to land and the seat next to me was open.
Huddled in a blanket, apple in hand, Darcy’s face became serious. She leaned in closely.
“You know I’ve noticed you and Andrew praying at our meals. Bob and I used to do that too. I guess we just got away from it, you know. With Andrew in youth ministry and all I bet you must have strong beliefs.”
Darcy related how she had been reading through the book of Revelation to try and “get” why God allowed the September 11th attacks. A co-worker had been meeting with her before work to talk about the Bible. She shared her own story of religious confusion. Her parents had died. Bob’s family was religiously colorful- a Pentecostal preaching mom and a Satanist rocker brother and a Wiccan sister. Bob had had enough of religion altogether, but Darcy wanted something. She just knew she didn’t feel right going to church after a night at the bar on Saturday.
My mind raced. I listened and tried to recall what Josh McDowell would have said. Finally I told Darcy, “God doesn’t expect us to be perfect before He will accept us. As you and I both know, trying harder doesn’t get us anywhere. But when you commit your life to Jesus Christ, He will do the work of changing you.”
Darcy and I exchanged addresses and I encouraged her to continue studying the Bible. I felt honored to be a part of the process of leading her one step along in her spiritual journey.
The morning came too early but I could not have been happier to see dry land. We waved good-bye to the sand and sea and headed to the airport. I boarded the plane and found myself once again in aisle seat. God really does have a sense of humor!