step by step . . .

In a quiet corner of our foyer there sits a large, hand-woven market basket from the small Caribbean island of Dominica.  Few, if any, of the people who pass by that basket as they enter our home (including my own family!) know the history those intertwined branches hold for me.

I traveled to Dominica 25 years ago, to visit a missionary family who had spent years reaching out to the island people with God’s love and truth, His saving message of the gospel and His guidelines for them in His Word.

The culture in Dominica is dramatically different from my home in the United States.  Many people live in lean-to huts made from scrap pieces of cardboard or wood.  They wash their clothes in the river and lay them out on rocks to dry.  Weekly “groceries” are purchased at the village market on Saturdays, where local farmers bring fruits and vegetables to sell, and fishermen vend fresh seafood.  Others sell items they have crafted from natural materials, like the basket I still treasure!

The people of Dominica have very few material possessions, but they beam with passion and joy!  Many of those dear ones hike hours through the jungle to meet in a tiny building with no windows and no door, to kneel on a bare concrete floor, to pray for their own people and those who live on neighboring islands.  They long for others to know the Savior and for those who already know Him to be devoted to Him and growing in their knowledge and service for Him.

When Sunday arrives, those same dear people travel again by foot to gather in that same little building to remember the Lord – this time in extraordinarily fine clothing!  They treasure the opportunity to gather in JESUS’ Name and to remember Him in celebrating the Lord’s Supper.  They wear their fanciest outfits and arrive with smiles that radiate a palpable love for their Savior.

During my visit to Dominica, I joined a full-day excursion, hiking the mountain in the center of the island.  That hike pushed the physical strength of my legs and core to the extreme limit!  Ten miles in tropical weather, the first half of which was almost entirely uphill.  One step after another, up and up and up and up, with the help of railroad ties that had been placed in the side of the mountain to provide steps.

Our guide noticed me, lagging behind the others.  Being the smallest of our group (and likely the least physically conditioned!), he decided that I needed to take the lead.  Because of an embarrassingly out-of-place and rather large ribbon barrette in my hair – in bright pink, no less! – he affectionately called me “Pinky Tuscadero” and bluntly stated, “you need to set the pace for us or we’ll leave you in the dust!”  So, I sheepishly climbed to the front of the group and on we went. . . up and up and up and up!

During our hike, we passed through some dangerous places.  One, in particular, was called the “Valley of Desolation,” where tufts of steam sneaked through the surface from the volcano underneath.  It was vitally important to follow the guide’s footsteps exactly!  Any step off the safe path would have resulted in serious injury or worse!  One of our goals was to reach a truly amazing sight, the “Boiling Lake,” a huge lake that literally remained in a constant state of rolling boil!

But there were also amazing delights along the way.  When our canteens ran dry, the guide would point out places where water ran down the mountainside in the clearest, cleanest streams we had ever seen!  There were beautiful clearings where we could stop to rest and enjoy the freshest, sweetest grapefruits I had ever tasted.

We finally reached the top where there was a breathtaking view of the entire island.  Our group erupted with bright, awe-struck faces, pointing fingers, busy cameras, and a rousing chorus of ooohs and aaaahs!!!  But “Pinky Tuscadero” was collapsing on a nearby rock, wondering how on earth I was going to make my jello-legs function enough to get me back down the mountain!  I was SO exhausted that I couldn’t even enjoy the view.  (How sad!)

After some much needed rest, we managed to collect ourselves and begin the trek back down the mountain.  At the base, 5 hours after beginning our jungle adventure, we were treated with a little surprise.  We were able to swim in a clear, cool river that ran through a crevice in the base of the mountain, then warm up again under a shower of water from the hot springs.  It was SO refreshing and comforting to our aching bodies!

Even though it was excruciating at times, I felt surprisingly elated to have pushed my physical limits far beyond what I deemed possible – and to have survived!  I treasured the simple but important lessons too:  (1) follow the guide exactly, trust his leading, (2) appreciate his direction to find the best resources, (3) enjoy his provision of safe and comfortable places to rest and marvel at the view, and (4) know unexpected gratefulness for the surprises at the end of the journey!

dominica collage

The details of my trip to Dominica came flooding back recently.  For the first time in 25 years, I heard a lot about that precious island as it faced a direct landfall from hurricane Maria a few years ago.  My heart ached for those people and I stared into the darkness at 3 am, somehow stirred from sound sleep to pray fervently during the exact hours when the storm was passing over them.  That ache and those prayers returned this week as hurricane Dorian approached Dominica and its neighboring islands.  As my mind recounted the many pictures and places and people of the island, I thought about my market basket . . . and that arduous hike!

On many other occasions, in a variety of ways, the Lord has pushed my limits in the 25 years since I climbed that mountain in Dominica.  He has stretched me.  He has tested me.  I have experienced the greatest challenges and the greatest joys, all woven together.  My Savior has guided me through dangerous passages, provided for me in miraculously beautiful ways, and brought me to safe places where I can rest and marvel.

Hurricane Dorian is now steadily approaching our shores!  It is the first time since we moved to south Florida that the “spaghetti models” have been pointing directly at our stretch of the east coast . . . unchanging . . . for days!  Each new update seems to increase the size and intensity of the storm.  As we do our best to prepare, pray and watch, I find myself wondering, again, with fresh waves of concern, “what are we about to endure?!”

But I am reminded by the sweet people of Dominica that there is much less value in any material possessions we might fear will be at risk.  With the LORD’s help we can trust His sovereign plan for us, and beam with confident passion and joy that are contagious!

I don’t know what “mountains” we will have to climb over the next few days or in the weeks to come, but I know the One to follow!  Step by step by step . . .

“All the way my Savior leads me, what have I to ask beside?

Can I doubt His tender mercy, Who through life has been my Guide?

Heavenly peace, Divinest comfort, here by faith in Him to dwell!

For I know whate’er befall me, JESUS doeth all things well!”

– Fanny Crosby, 1820-1915 –

dominica step by step 2

#trustingJESUS  #mountainstoclimb  #Heiswithus  #throughthestorm  #Heleadsme  #stepbystep  #Histendermercy  #heldandbeloved  #whispersofrest  #mysteriouskindness  #lostinwonder

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