Mace and I board the boat, walking down a flight of stairs, and into a freezing indoor bunk room. The team is already inside discussing where everyone will be sleeping for the several hours we have. I need a moment to just be alone, so I let Mace go ahead of me, and I crawl out of sight into one of the lower bunks.
After a few minutes, I grab my backpack and jump up, heading lightly towards the back of the room with everyone else. Brylle shouts over at me, "Hey Chantel! You'll be bunking right below me. Between Mom Beth and Mace."
"Thanks." And I crawl into my lower bunk, push my backpack against the wall, and lay down again. As much as I'd fully like to just go to sleep, I can't get Leslie off my mind. How could something so "noble" make me feel so sad? Shouldn't courage feel better than this?
Mace lightly touches my back. "Do you want a blessing?" he asks. I roll over, and he and Preston are both looking at me from their lower bunks across from mine. I nod.
Mace helps me up, and I follow him and Preston across the room. I am thinking we are headed to a sideroom, as the bunk room is growing louder with more people packed in. However, Mace stops and motions towards a cardboard box sitting between two bunks. "Have a seat," he says.
I look at him quizzically, and then sit down. Preston steps to the other side of the box, and they both place their hands on my head. I can feel the boat rocking beneath me. This moment is far too surreal.
The blessing reassures me that God supports the decision I have made, and I will receive a number of blessings as I continue on, even long after this trip is over. That's the interesting thing about God - He never tells you what to do, even though He knows the path for your future. He let's you choose for yourself and find out.
Well, I am on the boat. I am going.
Afterwards, Mace asks if I would like to go upstairs and talk. He ushers down the aisle of bunks towards the exit door, encouraging me to lead the way. I thank Preston and he heads back to his bunk, while Mace and I walk quickly to the exit door of the bunk room. There is no distinct handle on the door, so I push and pull one side, and then push and pull the other. Mace reaches around me and pops the door open. "Remember, doors are hard," he says, and we both laugh.
We go upstairs and walk around the landing until we find a private spot on the railing. We lean over the side of the boat, looking out into the black ocean and the black starry night. We stand in silence for awhile. Then Mace asks, "What do you think about all this?"
I tell him that I feel okay. I'm sad that I'm missing Leslie's wedding, but I'm okay. I'm ready to move forward in our adventure and go to the island!
Mace smiles. He tells me that he was trying to remain unbiased the whole time, and he was inspired by the loyalty I have towards my friends, but he is very happy that I chose to come. He says, "I feel like our journey is at just the beginning. We are only going to witness more miracles."
We continue looking out over the water.
Then Mace says, "Chantel, I want you to know that out of all the people I have met in my life, you are one of the top 3 that I respect the most." He tells me that though I've been through a lot in my personal life, I come out fighting every time, and that's the type of person that is needed on a trip like this.
"Thank you. That means a lot to me." I tell him.
The horn above us blows a couple times, and we know that means we are sailing off. Mace and I look at each other with raised eyebrows, and then I pull out my phone to text Leslie and tell her I'm going to Tacloban. She immediately replies with her encouragement.
Then Mace and I head back downstairs to get in as much sleep as we can. Though we first tell each other hushed jokes across our bunks and get each other laughing, before finally winding down for bed.
I can feel the boat rocking with the waves as it moves across the sea. Unlike the waves that destroyed the island just days before. Thunderous. Violent. Dangerous. People running for cover. Others being thrashed into the water. The torrential waves demanding their remains.
Now the waves are are gentle and peaceful. Rocking us slowly to sleep. Calm. Rhythmic. Bringing in arms ready to serve. Goods ready to repair. A ship full of courage.
We'll see which holds the greater power.
Upward and onward,