January 25, 2012

Sand Dollars: Green Ones

Jim,” Mala called out as he walked in the door from the clinic, “you have to come and look at this.”
Entering the kitchen where he’d heard Mala’s voice, Jim ignored the open refrigerator and let out a soft whistle. “Just as pretty as ever,” he grinned at her.
But Mala wasn’t in the mood for flirting, even with her young husband. Her eyes were big, near tears as she motioned toward the open fridge. Jim, the engineer-turned-dentist, looked questioningly at her, then bent over to peer inside.
“Well,” he said slowly, “it appears to be working. Light’s on. Motor’s running. Sides feel cold. What seems to be the problem?”
“Jim,” Mala said again, and this time there were tears in her eyes and in her voice, “it’s empty!”
“Ohhhh!” said Jim. “So that’s the problem.”
An Exercise in Faith
Jim and Mala had agreed to serve for three months to run the clinic after the previous dentist had to leave suddenly. They weren’t there as regular church workers, and they didn’t expect to make a lot of money. But they thought there would be enough to eat. The friend who persuaded them to do this told them they would earn what they were worth and would be fine, whatever that meant. Naively they had agreed on that basis.
2012 1503 page26There were a lot of pluses to being on St. Vincent: nice weather, good food, excellent snorkeling (rated third best in the world), and it was only 200 miles from Mala’s family on Trinidad.

But money wasn’t one of the pluses. The clinic was highly respected, but most of the people who came didn’t come with anything to pay. Jim and Mala were always feeding others. In fact, neighborhood children were often spotted peeking through the bushes to see what Mala was fixing. She would laugh and invite them in, sometimes almost a dozen of them.
Many visitors also came and enjoyed staying with the young couple for days at a time. In fact, at the moment they had two couples from Mala’s hometown enjoying their honeymoons by staying in their home, eating their food, and using their car to get to the beach.
Not that Jim and Mala minded all that, but the money had run out a few days ago.
Let’s Go for a Swim!
Jim looked into the fridge one more time. Yes, it was cold, and the light was working. In fact, it gleamed beautifully off the empty shelves and unobstructed walls.
“Jim,” Mala whispered, “we don’t have enough to eat ourselves, let alone feed all these others.”
“I know, Mala,” Jim sighed, looking out the window. “But God sent us here, and He has sent them here to us. He will provide. I just know He will somehow.”
Then, looking out the window again, he said, “It’s only 4:00 p.m. Let’s get everyone together and go snorkeling for a while before dinner.”
The little Nissan Sentra bulged under the load of six adults and four or five neighbor kids who crowded in for the ride to Indian Bay. Once he was in the water, the pressure seemed to drain away from Jim’s body and mind. Huge schools of fish twisted and turned, mixed, and separated again. The sun flashing off the different angles of their scales made the entire school change suddenly from silver to green to gold. It was breathtaking.
Jim had all but forgotten the empty fridge when Mala pointed down to the reef below. Sick! he thought, looking down. “Who would dump their trash in a beautiful place like this?” He kept on swimming.
Suddenly Mala was beside him again, pulling on his arm and shouting something into her mask. She kept pointing down at the “trash” by the reef.
He couldn’t understand what she was saying, but he dove down 15 feet to have a look.
Suddenly Jim blinked and looked again. That wasn’t trash. It was $100 bills—five of them, floating lazily on the bottom, gently moving back and forth with the currents.
At that point Jim’s mind forgot to tell him he was 15 feet underwater. He had been on a diving team for years, and his lungs weren’t screaming out yet. He sat on the bottom and numbly picked up the bills. He was so sure something was wrong that he actually tried to rub the ink off them. He held them up to the light streaming down from above to see if he could pick out the metallic stripe. He even pulled on them to see if they would tear.
Finally, convinced they were really $100 bills, he pushed off and rushed to the surface. Mala had thought it was money, and that was why she kept trying to get him to go look. But she hadn’t dreamed it was this much money. Quickly she tucked it away and began to swim toward shore.
“I’m going to have another look around,” Jim said. “I’ll be in shortly.”
Carefully he began a naval patrol search pattern over the area. For 15 minutes he swam back and forth, back and forth. During that time he picked up three more $100 bills.
Back home he and Mala went in the bathroom and shut the door. Carefully they washed the bills out in the tub and laid them on a towel to dry. Then they went into the living room and told the other two couples what had happened.

What Do You Think?
1. When has God provided for a real material need in your life in an unusual or unexpected way? Remember it briefly.

2. Of course, not all stories have such happy endings. What are some factors that make each situation unique? What do these tell us about God?

3. If you had to reduce the moral of this story to one sentence, what would it be?

4. What Bible promises are applicable to such stories as this?

“Right!” one of the men laughed. “You’re telling me you were just swimming along and found $100 bills floating in the water and picked them up?”
Jim walked into the bathroom and brought out the towel. The two couples quit laughing, and their mouths dropped open in amazement. One of the men picked up a wet bill and looked at it. “I’ve never seen this much money in one place in my life!” he said with a low whistle.
With much rejoicing Mala and Jim bought the food they needed for that night. Under Mala’s careful management that $800 lasted them the rest of their time on the island. They never had to turn anyone away, and when they finally stopped in Trinidad on their way home to the United States they still had one bill left.
Eyes of Faith
More than 100 people had been snorkeling in the quarter-mile-wide Indian Bay that afternoon. No one else had found a single bill—and no one had reported losing any, either.
How did that “trash” get there? And what had kept it there? Jim and Mala feel it was God’s direct answer to their prayer. They believe we serve a God who still multiplies loaves and fish, keeps oil and flour from running out, or floats some big bills down with the sand dollars and lobsters.
Several years later Jim and Mala Trott went back to St. Vincent as regular missionaries, where they served almost six years at the Adventist dental clinic. That process is also a miracle story, but we will have to save it for a later time.
Homer Trecartin was planning director for the Office of Adventist Mission when he wrote this. He has since accepted an assignment to serve as president of the Greater Middle East Union Mission. This article was published January 26, 2012.