Carol and I had the blessing to spend a couple of weeks recently in the rainforest community of Nahiku on the narrow Road to Hana. Most people traveling this famed road would not even know they were in this community unless they took the dead-end Nahiku road that would take them by the historic Nahiku Church just before reaching the coast and turning back to drive the 10 miles to Hana.
The only stores or cafes in Nahiku are 3 or 4 small roadside pullovers on the Road to Hana like Coconut Glen's snack shop or a small Thai Cafe with two picnic tables situated under a huge banyan tree around mile marker 28. They are exclusively designed for tourists. Then there is the Nahiku Market Place, a tourist stop with restrooms, 4 small outdoor cafes, and an actual souvenir shop all huddled under huge trees and vines just before mile marker 29. The Marketplace has the only cafe around Nahiku that opens for the locals at times other than tourist hours. The tourists come between 10 and 3 everyday.
Every morning, rain or shine, between 6am and 9am I would hike for a few miles on some trail in the area, or briskly, and cautiously, walk the Road to Hana, stopping only to take pictures of some flower, plant, or insect, or to just admire God's amazing creation.
Being a former Coffee-holic I still struggle from time to time with the temptation to fall off the wagon and sip a steaming cup in the morning. Walking by the Marketplace one morning I saw the Cafe was open and gave into the temptation to grab a cup.
Standing around outside were a few locals, and a couple of the always present unshaven, unshowered college-age backpackers who looked like time-travelers from the 60's. When I walked up they all stopped talking and just looked at me. It was clear I was a tourist (the longhorn shirt probably gave me away), and was out of place this early in the morning. I also was the only one there whose hair wasn't in a ponytail and who didn't have a string of shells around his neck. They weren't unfriendly just... well... waiting for me to leave, so I walked inside for my coffee.
I was met inside by a young man behind the counter with bright intelligent eyes, a ponytail, and a friendly smile. With his sort of “surfer dude” persona he fit the stereotype of a twenty-something in this area. He held his hand out across the counter and said, “Welcome, I'm Benjamin!” I shook his hand and responded, “Hi, I'm Larry.” He pointed me to the coffee, I served myself and came back over to pay. I noticed, as I paid, that his t-shirt said, “Know Jesus, Know Peace, No Jesus, No Peace.”
I consider myself to be open to the reality of God working in ways that don't fit my preconceptions, and I believe I am not inclined to prejudice or judgmentalism... but... my thought was, as I paid Benjamin, that he probably just grabbed the t-shirt in a dark room without knowing what it said. I even thought about politely asking him if he believed what his shirt said. But I just walked out and went on my way...
I happened to be walking by the Marketplace on the morning of my last day. I had only been in the Cafe that one time the week before. As I walked by I noticed the door was open, and I heard Benjamin call my name, “Larry, hey Larry, where you been?” So I walked across the road and stepped inside the small cafe.
Benjamin held his hand out again and then introduced me to one of his friends standing by the counter. He asked me where I'd been, so I told him that I had been walking some other trails and that I hated to leave, but this was my last morning to enjoy the beauty that surrounded us. As I said it a look of concern came over his face. He said, “Larry, I can't let you leave without sharing the greatest truth with you. A truth I found seven years ago when I moved to this area to get my head right. It changed my life. It is the truth of God's love for you and the sacrifice that Jesus gave on the cross because of that love...”
I deliberately listened without saying a word. He went on seeking my reconciliation with God out of sincere concern for my soul. He was finally interrupted by a friend who walked through the door. This friend wore only shorts and a string of shells around his neck. He and the girl that was with him had driven up in a beat-up old mini-van to say goodbye to Benjamin since they were leaving the area. They grabbed hands and called each other “brother”. He introduced us, and I openly explained to Benjamin that I was a believer. Then the fellowship began... a 53 year old Christian from Texas, and two young “surfer-dude” Christians from the west coast.
My soul was and still is churning with guilt, thanksgiving, and awe. Guilt for my prejudice, judgmentalism, my lack of overwhelming concern and love for the souls of others, and grief that after all these years it seems I have learned so little. Thanksgiving that someone was concerned for my soul. Thanks Benjamin. And in awe at God. He is amazing. He loves and works with people in places that are outside our own little worlds. And I am oh so glad He does. Looking at myself, and my sin in the context of this experience, it is more amazing to me that God would save a stuffed-shirt like me than a “surfer-dude” like Benjamin. “Oh wretched man that I am...”
Picture: I went back and took this shot, and wanted to take a picture of Benjamin, but he was already off and it was my last day. If you read this Benjamin, please e-mail me a picture of yourself so I can post it.