Surprise Vacation

Historical Fiction–Gulf Coast Storms 2008

Molly Mae couldn’t believe her eyes as she looked out through the living room window, there was Max in the driveway, tying a big white ribbon on a RV and a boat.

Molly stepped outside and before she could ask, Max looked up grinning from ear to ear, “Happy anniversary honey!”

Molly gasped as she covered her mouth with her hands. She was thinking about the expense. Did he use all their savings? Did he take out a loan? She didn’t know what to say so Max continued to explain.

“Now that we’re retired, going to travel and take our time, do some fishing and whatever! I’ve been secretly saving money back through the years. You know from overtime hours and extra projects.” Then with a belly chuckle, “Invested in a fund and it grew a mobile home and a boat.”

“But Max, what about our plans to go to Africa and start a medical clinic?”

“We can still do that when we get back. Come look inside our new summer home, it has everything, even a generator if we need it!”

Molly sensed Max’s disappointment in her response. So with expressions of endearing awe, she smiled with amusement as she inspected his new toys. But in her heart she was saddened. She had dreamed of using her skills as a nurse and her husband’s skill as a carpenter to set up a medical clinic in Africa. It just made sense and the opportunity was available through their church mission board. Throughout the day she sent up prayers to God for wisdom. Molly decided to express her concern about not going to Africa after the evening meal. She prepared Max’s favorite dessert, fresh peach cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. While he was savoring every bite, Molly began her plea.

“Max I just want to say that I appreciate your thoughtfulness in planning a surprise vacation, but I prayed for months about the mission trip to Ghana and I think we should use the gifts God gave us to help start the medical clinic. We could postpone the vacation trip until September.”

“Excellent cobbler Molly!” Max gulped down the glass of iced milk, and then smiled as he leaned back in his chair. “I prayed about this too and I’m sure the Lord wants us to go on vacation now. We can do some real fishing and share our faith with the other campers, pass out gospel tracts and lead worship services. Besides, there’s another mission trip to start a clinic in Tanzania in October. What do think about that?”

“Now I’m intrigued by this ordained vacation. If you promise we can go to, where is it, Tanzapia.”

“Tanzania!” Max chuckled. “While we’re on vacation you can research Tanzania.”

Molly was still a bit apprehensive about the trip. She had her heart set on Africa for the summer but now it was camping and fishing in Missouri, Arkansas and Texas. For the next few days she watched Max methodically map out the drive to the campgrounds where they would be staying. As she observed his confidence, she was more at peace.

While on an evening walk, Molly quietly surrendered to God. Thank you God for good health, though 64, I feel like I could live to be 104 if you will. And thank you for Max, who tries to make wise decisions. Although, at times mistakes have been hard to live with. Even so, Father, make us a blessing to you and to others wherever you choose to send us.

Their journey from Kansas to Missouri through Arkansas and then to Texas was one beautiful lake after another. “Max you’re becoming an expert fisherman and chef,” Molly remarked as she flaked the grilled fresh fish on her plate. “It’s been wonderful to relax…enjoy the cool summer breezes coming off the lake. I feel like our Good Shepherd has led us beside the still waters.”

“And I feel like a boy scout sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows.” Max chuckled as he began to sing, “He’s got the whole wide world in His hands, He’s got the wind and the rain in His hands, He’s got the tiny little baby in His hands, He’s got you and me sister in His hands…” The amber glow of the crackling fire reflected the warmth of love welling up inside Molly for Max at that moment. After 40 years of marriage they felt like kids again.

After they had left Texoma, they set up camp in Corpus Christi, Texas. “Max, let’s look into leading worship services at the camp grounds on Sunday morning.”

While making inquiries they were told by the park patrol that a hurricane watch had been issued along the Gulf Coast. Max looked at the map and decided they should drive toward New Mexico. However, when they headed out they ran into congested traffic so they traveled as far north as possible to wait out the storm. Two days later, on July 23, 2008, a category One hurricane named Dolly, made landfall at South Padre Island and then the storm remnant moved across Texas toward New Mexico. Max was restless. He got on his mobile phone and called various churches about the aftermath. Molly got down on her knees and prayed.

“Molly, let’s go help the people in South Padre. The power is out…the church is damaged…”

Molly followed Max’s directives like a good soldier. They packed as much food, water and ice as possible in their mobile home and headed to South Padre Island. While Max helped repair a church, Molly delivered food and water to evacuees taking refuge in another church. After power was restored they worked several weeks cleaning up flood water and wind damage.

“Max do I smell like a dead tadpole? I remember the drainage ditch behind our house when I was a kid. It would fill up like a river after the spring rains and then dry up and leave little pools of dirty, smelly water with dead tadpoles. That’s what it smells like here now.”

“No, you’re beautiful,” Max chuckled. “You smell a bit like flood water, but after we finish our lunch break and you get the cleansers out on the floor you’ll smell like the cleaning lady.” Molly was not amused. She was borderline cranky. Her starry-eyed visions of nursing wounded storm victims had been replaced with down-to-earth cleaning muddy floors. When they had finished the cleanup and as they were preparing to head back home they heard news reports about Hurricane Gustav. Gustav, a category two hurricane had made landfall near Cocodrie, Louisiana on Sept. 1.

Max made inquiries to the local churches from his mobile phone and was invited to help with the recovery effort. “Max, I am so tired from helping here in South Padre, can we take a day to rest and pray for God’s will,” Molly pleaded. After the rest and affirmation from God they headed toward Houma, a town farther inland from Cocodrie, where many shrimpers and fishermen lived. They were assigned to a church there, which also had a school that needed cleanup from flood waters and repairs to the roof.

“We appreciate your help,” Charlie said to Max. “I’m no carpenter. I usually tow in fish on my boat most days, but lost my boat in the storm. No insurance. No boat. Got my family though. And my house is standin’. Got my church and the school. My son he needs the school to graduate this year. So got to get this here roof fixed.” While they worked on the roof Max and Charlie shared fish stories and Molly helped the ladies from the church clean up the floors and walls from flood water. This time Molly experienced a pleasing satisfaction when the annoying smell was replaced by a clean pine scent. When the roof repairs were finished she watched with amazement as Max revealed a new side she had not seen before.

“Are you sure you want to give up your new boat to this crusty old Cajun?” Charlie asked.

“I can’t think of a better place for it than here with you,” Max replied. “Anyway…it would probably rust out in my driveway… if I take it back to Kansas. Just promise to send some pictures of the fish you catch.”

While still in Louisiana, Molly and Max had become aware of another hurricane that was moving along the Gulf Coast and then on Sept. 13, Hurricane Ike had made landfall in Galveston, Texas. Many people had evacuated the day prior. Many people had lost their homes. And many never came back. Those who had insurance or enough FEMA money decided to stay and rebuild. “Heard about one family from a Galveston church. Homeless now,” Charlie explained. “They got FEMA money to rebuild the house, but no mobile home to live in while they rebuild.” After hearing about this, Molly and Max stared at each other silently for a long moment because they both new in their hearts what they must do.

Once again, they found themselves in Galveston, Texas to deliver their mobile home to the family who needed it. They were numb with joy as they watched the family accept their gift with tears.

“Just the week before the storm, I preached a sermon about how God always provides when we’re doing the work he has given us to do,” Pastor Cross said.

“Glad to be part of your testimony,” Max replied. “Let us know of your progress.”

On a bus back to Kansas, Molly snuggled her head on Max’s shoulder to rest awhile. “Max thanks for the vacation. So proud of you. Even though we’ve missed going to Africa…I feel better prepared to go later.” Molly drifted off to sleep as she quietly talked to God. Father, I’m so sad for all the people who lost their homes… Provide for every one of them…Thankful to have a home waiting for me in Kansas…life is all about you Jesus…now more than ever, looking forward to my forever home.

This story is a fictionalization. Any mention of historical events, people and places are used fictitiously and any likeness to actual events, places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

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