They ate a delicious dinner of prawns sauteed in garlic and lilikoi, purple sweet potatoes and zucchini from the garden. Someone handed her a coconut full of orange liquid, squeezed from an orange ball that Lexy had watched Vicky pick off a nearby tree. “Mmmm,” somebody said.
“Great dinner everybody who helped,” thanked Kenny. There were several nods of agreement. The silence as people ate gave testimony to the delicious food. Lexy was one of the last ones to finish eating, as she was unfamiliar with the textures and foods, and she chewed more cautiously and slowly than the others.
Colette and Hannah got up and started cleaning up the kitchen area. Every family took turns with the chores, so nothing was ever too much for anyone to handle.
Alexis watched while Ken and Justin put out the fire. “How was your food?” Alivea Malia asked her, sitting down next to her on a tree stump.
“Really good!” answered Alexis, meaning it, although she’d taken her time and had been a little reluctant to eat all of the different foods. “It’s a lot different than pellets,” she told Alivea Malia.
Vicky shook her head. “I can’t believe people survive on them,” she said. “Why would they do that?”
“It’s easy,” Lexy answered immediately, as she cautiously tasted the orange-colored juice.
“But not as nutritious or tasty,” said Joshua, or was it Simon? Lexy couldn’t tell the twins apart yet. “From what I’ve been told,” he added.
“People had to eat pellets because everybody started getting sick from the food they cooked. It was mad cow disease, salmonella, and crazy viruses developed from eating meat of animals fed a certain type of genetically engineered food, which contained hormones that somehow caused a virus that was resistant to all medication and antibiotics. It got really scary and became too risky to eat any food, as it was all genetically modified in some way. So… here come these pellets made of food ground up into powder and pressed into capsules. The powder was sterilized to kill any virus and probably any vitamins too. It became the safer way to eat. And then the only way,” Judd explained in a windfull.
“Thank God my parents brought me here to live!” joked Ronnie.
“You wouldn’t be living if Mom and Dad hadn’t brought you here,” said a slender woman with shoulder-length dark hair.
“Why not?” Alexis asked her.
“Because,” Jenna answered, “when my mom got pregnant with Ronnie, they had population control. Each family could only have one child and mom wasn’t about to give up Ronnie, and right when she found out she was pregnant, she met John and Kira.” She paused. Alexis was waiting for her to go on. She looked puzzled. “So J.J., you know, John Justus, the pastor, and Kira were searching for a place to live peacefully, because martial law was being enacted everywhere in the fight against terrorism.”
“Then J.J. had this dream,” Ronnie added. “Hey J.J!” he called to the man with the big brown eyes, who kept his hair short. “Can you come over here?”
J.J. walked over. “Hi!” he smiled.
“We were just telling Alexis about your dream,” Jenna told him.
“The dream, yes,” J.J. began. “Psalms 91:1–I know it by heart now. While I slept, God showed me a Bible and it was open to Psalms 91:1. In the dream, I gave the Bible to my wife, Kira, who showed it to some friends. Every time I saw the Bible, it was open to this page. Psalms 91:1 was on the top. A pregnant lady with a little girl on her lap was crying. Then her daughter gave her a Bible, and of course,” he paused for dramatic effect, “it was opened to Psalms 91:1. So when I woke up I reached for my Bible and read the verse. It says,
‘He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I confidently trust!’
I knew I had to find the ‘secret place.’ I didn’t really understand what the dream meant, exactly. But I prayed about it.”
“The next day we met Gina and Paul,” said Kira who had sat down next to J.J.
“Gina and Paul are Ronnie’s and my parents,” explained Jenna to Alexis.
“Oh,” she said, nodding her head, hoping to hear more.
“And Gina was pregnant,” J.J. remembered. “It hit me really hard when I was introduced to them. She just showed up in my church out of the blue. I knew she was the pregnant woman I had dreamt about. And when I saw her little girl come out of Sunday school, it was confirmed to me that she was the woman in my dream.”
“This was about 2014 or so,” said Kira. “Population control had just been enacted, and we had a few members of our church and from other places who were planning on having a second child despite the new law against it. When J.J. told me about his dream, I felt it was my mission to find a place where we could help these families live in peace with their children.”
“Noah and Suzanne Martin had just told us about Suzanne’s brother Wynn who lived in California and had found a map their father had hidden of the Pacific Ocean. He wanted to take a voyage out to sea and find an island he believed his father had told him stories about when he’d been a kid,” explained J.J. “It all seemed to be coming together, all of the pieces of the dream. Maybe the island was the secret place–my mind was racing and I felt like I was being led by the grace of God to this place.”
“We ended up meeting Wynn and his wife, Lauren, and about 20 other people from our church–let’s see, Ken and Colette Joyes, Suzanne and Noah Martin, Drew’s parents: Jake and Debbie Williams, Cathy Cress and her mom and dad–they live in another part of the island now–well, we all took the journey and Wynn was right, the island was here and here we are,” Kira explained. “Through Wynn, who went back and forth a lot at first, many of us you see here today were able to come to this place and be saved.”
“Like me,” said Alexis. “That’s amazing how you had that dream,” she said to J.J., thinking about her own vivid dreams she’d been having.
“I know,” he said. “God is powerful and he has a plan.” She smiled at him.
“Do you ever miss being there?” she asked.
“In Florida?” J.J. asked. “Not me. I have everything I need right here. My son, Isaiah, and Suraya, my daughter, he pointed toward them where they were sitting with two others about their age. “My wife, my friends, clean air, good water, sun and good food.”
“I just miss the people I left behind,” said Judd sadly.
“Who?” Lexy asked him.
“It’s a sad story. I’ll tell you someday,” he told her. She sat in the quiet night, thinking about the stories she had heard, also missing her mom, her friends and Dan, and even her dad. They were silent. Alexis gazed up at the stars, awed by their numbers. Juli pointed out a few constellations.
“That’s the Big Dipper,” Juli said, pointing at the sky. “It’s like a big spoon.”
“I see it!” cried Alexis excitedly.
“Here, look with these.” Judd handed her a heavy black object with two circles at either end.
“What is it?” she asked him.
“This is the tool for seeing the eyes of the world.” He took the binoculars from Alexis and held them to his eyes, pointing them at the dark sky. “I believe, Alexis, that these stars are the eyes of every person in the world, in a spiritual sense. I imagine I’m looking for a certain set of eyes. Did you ever get the feeling of connection, just by looking into someone’s eyes?” he asked her.
“Not really, and most people wear eye protection at home, so you never really see their eyes exactly,” she told him.
“It’s a knowing, an instinct deeper than words could decipher,” he said, pausing to look at her with his dimpled smile. “I’m babbling, sorry,” he said sheepishly.
“I’m interested, really!” Alexis urged him to continue.
“Here, your turn.” He handed her the binoculars again and helped her align her eyes through the eyepieces. “See?”
“Wow!” She was awestruck. The millions of stars mesmerized her with the sheer vastness of the sky. She was touched as if by something higher than herself. Alexis had no words to express her feelings. She gazed at the stars for a long time before giving the binoculars back to Judd.
“Here you go,” she said. “Thanks for letting me use them.” She noticed the letters ARA carved into the top of the box he placed the binoculars into.
“What’s ‘ARA’?” she asked him.
“It’s the initials of one I left behind,” he said sadly. Alexis nodded, sharing his pain, without words.