One night, early in the trip, I was pouring my heart out to God, thanking Him for the incredible experience we were having, amazed and so, SO grateful for the way things were working out and for the opportunity to be a part of it, when the Book of Mormon phrase “….inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land….” (found in at least 18 different verses) flowed across the stage of my mind. I realized, with unmistakable clarity, that the phrase “prosper in the land” is not restricted to crops in the field or money in the bank.
“Teresa,” the Spirit of the Lord whispered, “you have been striving to do what is right [Notice he did not say I was completely successful in my efforts!] and I am taking care of you.” And take care of us He did. He took care of us in ways I cannot even begin to fathom much less completely enumerate. Though I cannot possibly count the all blessings we were given I am going to attempt to make a partial list.
We made it there and back, all of us. Fifty-seven youth, nineteen parents, and five OPA employees (81 total bodies), traveling in twelve separate vehicles, made it to the Oregon coast, interacted with the ocean, and, six days later, made it back, safe and sound, without harm or accident. Hallelujah!
“It’s going to rain,” I told the group in my pre-trip preparation meetings. “Plan on getting wet.” “You are going to be wet,” I told them over and over and over again. I was wrong. On the Oregon Coast, in late September, we had four days of sunny skies. Four entire days of sunny skies!!! Unheard of and unbelievable. On the fifth day, we had a light sprinkle in the early morning as we got up but when it came time to break camp the sun broke through again. At home in our Utah desert (right Amie!!) prosperity is usually associated with rain but “prosper in the land” can also mean dry skies, especially when one is camping.
The weather was great…..and so were the whales. Whales! In my pre-trip planning and praying it never occurred to me to ask for whales. Nonetheless, we saw them. Lots of them. Leisurely swimming close to shore, spouting plumes and long, glistening backs unmistakably announced their presence in the area. Thrilling. If I had been the one in charge, I could not have planned it better. Thank God for the whales!
Thank God for the students also. They were even better than the whales. Honestly. Right after seeing the whales, Ellen saw a seal bobbing in the surf. She turned and, grabbing me around the waist in a spontaneous embrace, said “Oh Mrs. Hislop, thank you! This just keeps getting better.” And it did….just keep getting better.
We dissected squid, made remotely operated vehicles and had live crab races at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, went on a behind the scenes tour and slept in the shark tunnel at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, toured the Heceta Head Lighthouse, Sea Lion Caves, and the Bonneville Fish Hatchery, and ate at Mo’s internationally famous restaurant. We also hiked to Wahclella Falls, walked in Devil’s Punchbowl, and explored tide pools at Marine Gardens and Seal Rock. Awesome.
The students were even more awesome than the events. Honestly. Repeatedly and individually they sought me out and personally thanked me for the experience. Better for me than their expressed thanks was their obvious enrapturement; they were delighted and that delighted me. It was a life changing experience for all of us.
Gabe, a retiring young man who struggles in school, found himself in van full of classmates who are high successful academically as well as socially. Those darling young people incorporated Gabe, pulling him in their circle much like an amoeba engulfs a morsel of food. He will never be the same. Marta, whose trips out have Ogden have been rare and whose interaction with the ocean nonexistent, kept saying “I cannot believe I am here. I cannot believe I am here.” Kale, a rather large and fairly awkward football player, giggled and giggled and giggled and giggled (and giggled) when I sat on him in his sleeping bag and Tim’s teasing “Blah, blah, blah” was his way of begging him to punch him in the arm, which I did and he loved. Grayson’s careful shopping for souvenirs for his family members warmed my heart as did the meticulous notebook Martha made, the extra lab work Allen did and the happy hug Karen gave me every time she saw me. Wakeley’s invitation to my Mr. Miles to join her in the squid dissection deepened my love for her and Yvonne’s invitation to my Mr. Miles to sit with their group at the restaurant cemented her place on my list of favorites. Jessup, who typically holds his hand over his mouth and has to be repeatedly encouraged to speak over a whisper, was actually yelling across the restaurant to his new friends. Victory!
We could not have done it without parents…and not just because they procreated 13-14 years ago. Seriously, the parents were marvelous, simply marvelous. “I feel the need to give you a hug,” Bill said..and this after he spent five days driving eighth graders around in the 15 passenger van he rented for the trip. “What can I do to help?” Julie and Brent repeatedly asked. Jonathon’s “Cobra Kai..No mercy in this dojo” van was a force to be reckoned with and his cooking a golden ticket to whatever field trip he wants to attend forever after. Van, Andy, and Carlye entertained us around the campfire---burning magnesium makes an awesome light show-- while Sharon and Abe entertained the kids. (THANK YOU Abe for being the “Plan B for Backup” whenever we needed a time filler!!!).
My OPA teammates were awesome as well. Amie, my boss, let me run the show, which is only one of her many outstanding leadership traits. Karole kept the raccoons out of the trailer. They may not have understood her gangster trash talk but the shovel in her hand made things pretty clear. Beth’s organizational skills were a huge blessing as was Jerri’s upbeat attitude. And Garey, who was initially a self-appointed Heceta Head Junior Ranger and later officially sworn in as an Army Corp of Engineers Junior Ranger at Bonneville Dam, kept me in stitches while winning my heart.
Best of the best was Mr. Miles, my 12 year old son and constant costal sidekick. Sharing the adventure with him was priceless, worth every second of preparation (there were LOTS of those) and every moment of stress (there were a few of those also) I experienced. With Andy’s help he erected our tent the first night and without anyone’s help he prepared our sleeping spot the last night. He put himself to bed on nights I was out late and prepared his own dinner every night. He ran me excitedly from octopuses to otters in the aquarium and stoically accepted the fact that he and I would not be able to sleep with the sharks. On the last night, concerned about the multiple drivers who decided to drive through the night rather than sleep at Imbler High School, I asked Miles to include a plea for their safety in his night prayer. “I already have,” he told me.
I thank God for keeping us safe. I also thank Him for the incredible blessings He gave us of which I am aware and the probably countless more about which I am clueless. Indeed He “prospered us in the land”. I know, from multiple experiences, that sometimes prospering in the land includes a lot more challenges than it did this week—it’s the challenges that help us develop faith—and I am so, SO grateful that this week the prosperity was the challenge-free variety. God is good. VERY!