A few months ago, my mom asked me if I would like to accompany her on a trip to trace the unique heritage of our family. Her offer was even more enticing when she said that she and dad had enough miles saved up to get our plane tickets for free.
I’m a smart girl – I know a good deal when I see one. And so, with the blessing of my husband, I jumped on the opportunity to go to Turks and Caicos islands in the Carribean where my grandparents were pioneer missionaries in the early 1960’s.
All I can say is thank God they weren’t pioneer missionaries to the Arctic because this trip would be far less appealing…
In October of 1961, my grandparents, Jim and Betty Cooper, packed up their four young children and moved to South Caicos. It is a small, primitive, yet beautiful, island in the Turks and Caicos chain.
Immediately they established their ministry, building a church, conducting backyard Bible clubs and inviting the islanders into their home as a part of their family.
My grandfather also travelled to other islands within the Caribbean, establishing himself as a gifted preacher and teacher. To this day, my grandfather is well known, loved and remembered in the islands.
When in the islands, Poppy Jim realized that his job would be much easier if he had a small airplane so he could get from island to island with a little more ease. So, he prayed for a plane and God provided. Once he owned the plane, he taught himself to fly it. This man was nothing short of extraordinary.
And if he was extraordinary, then my grandmother was the saint by his side. When people hear that they were missionaries in the Caribbean, the first response is often, “Wow – they really suffered for Jesus, huh?” usually said with the utmost sarcasm. But this was no resort life. They had no electricity, no running water and sometimes very little food.
I have my grandmother’s diaries from those years and every other day she writes about someone being sick. The years were not easy – life was difficult. But they loved their work and so they persevered with their calling.
My grandmother found 1,000 different ways to prepare SPAM, she served alongside her husband, a man she calls my darling over and over in her pages. I admire my grandmother, who went to be with Jesus ins 2004, very much.
While in South Caicos, my mom and her family lived in this house. I hope it’s still standing. South Caicos got hit pretty hard in the hurricane a couple of years ago so I’m not sure if it will be in tact or not – but I do hope. Incidentally, have you ever seen more beautiful water in all the world?
There are so many stories to tell about my family’s Caicos years. I will probably write them out a little bit at a time over the next few months. For now, though, I leave you the words of my grandmother, written on Friday, May 1962 when they had run out of food and were waiting on the supply ship to bring new rations:
Oh-I’m hungry! We haven’t eaten since 11:00 am yesterday. We had some instant coffee in our suitcase so we had coffee and then took off to the beach for a “sea bath.” And I mean a bath. We went in the sea and we also brushed our teeth with the salt water. Then we took up our watch for the little green Crusader (supplies would arrive on this)-she became most precious for she held our food.
Jim finally arrived about 10:00 am and it wasn’t before 12:30 before we got our food.
Finally we ate. Peas and rice, canned beef, bread and hot orange Crush. I never knew realized that hot drinks could taste so delicious. Ah- food. We were about sick with hunger.
Today I will be in Provo, snorkling and Snuba-ing (we will dive down about 20 feet). Tomorrow starts the quest into my heritage. I’ll tell you more later.