We started Sunday by going to Cayman Islands Baptist Church, where Pastor Randy von Kanel, the pastor of the church and at the same time President of the Cayman Islands YMCA, was leading the service and giving a very ecumenically open sermon about Holy Communion. Several of the board members of the YMCA were present at the service. The church was almost full, more than 400 people.
After church we are invited to the Lighthouse at Breakers Grand Cayman for brunch and meeting with more board members.
To my left side is board member Will, President of the Cayman Chamber of Commerce and at his side his wife. Further up the table Romulo, Antonio from LACA, Mrs and Pastor Randy von Kanel, Greg Smith, the CEO of the YMCA and Ramona from Transylvania in Romania. She has been 7 years on the island and working as Event Manager at Ritz Hotel. She helped us with so many practical details and made our stay so comfortable and interesting (and cheap!) Thank you!
It is Sunday, so after Board Meeting and brunch, we visit the Turtle farm and the turtle above is 75 years old! The younger ones we were allowed to pick up from water, and below you see Antonio proudly getting to know one of them better!
Romulo also enjoyed these animals, and it seemed that the enthusiasm was mutual. From the turtle farm we were taken to the pool with dolphins and we were invited to jump into the water and play with the dolphins for an hour. A magnificent experience, I have never experienced such closeness with these strong and intelligent and very friendly creatures, they seemed to enjoy the fellowship with us and their coach was assisting us all the time. Photos were not possible, since we were all in the water, but we could of course buy a set of photos professionally made portraying all of us in energetic collaboration with the beautiful dolphins. These photos are either on paper or on a disc, and since my thin Mac Book Air has no disc player, these revelations have to wait till a later time when I am back in Geneva again. But we enjoyed it so much.
The sunny, warm Sunday is slowly floating into an afternoon of tropical, warm light and some good photo opportunities are displayed in front of us at the seaside, two local boys in eager activity as fishermen. It is a dream like atmosphere, and life is enjoyed in or very close to the Caribbean Sea, or preferably in the shadow somewhere.
We are mentally entering into a farewell mode, and it is with gratitude and joy that we take in the last hours of a beautiful Sunday in Paradise,
Fishing has results and the catch of the day is slowly brought from the sea and put in the basket of the proud boy from Grand Cayman. I hope that he will enjoy the family feeling of the local YMCA in the near future. I said that this is a Sunday in paradise. Talking with the local leaders they smile and nod their heads. It is a good place to call home, but paradise? There are other sides to this society, as it is everywhere, and the presence of the YMCA is needed and it is welcome. Challenges are lining up and it is exciting to listen to the plans and the dreams of the board members and staff of the Cayman YMCA.
The ocean is almost flat and calm, just a tiny little breeze to comfort warm visitors to this little island in the sun.
Exotic birds are walking everywhere, and we have already got to know Sting Rays, turtles and dolphins and enjoyed their company.
We talk with Greg about all the potential of the YMCA here, riding horses on the beaches, kiting on the sea, cricket and base ball are among the popular activities for young people.
Carl above here is a local hero, an excellent athlete on olympic level, and working for the YMCA since October last year. He is showing us around the after school centres, which are places of high interest for the YMCA, and of course there is
ice hockey going on on the tropical island, but since the high temperature is a real challenge, we are talking about ice hockey on roller skates!
The sun is coming closer to the horizon and the light is changing into pastel colors of tropical spring.
Ships are departing for unknown destinations, maybe she is heading for the Panama Canal?
Strangers in the night, exchanging glances, strangers in the night…..
Sunday evening, hamburgers at the seaside, a cold glass of orange juice, Romulo and Greg with the sunset behind them. We know that on our way to the airport tomorrow we will first be on Daybreak TV at 06.45 and then visit the Premier of the island, but still this feels like a good moment to summarize our experiences and express our feelings and gratitude.
Sunset is coloring the sky in beautiful colors and shades of grey/blue/yellow as we are summing up our visit to Cayman Islands. Greg is giving us a beautiful and warm farewell speech, and we respond in the same way. Friendship is growing, shared visions both for the island as well as for the Caribbean region, for Latin America, for the global YMCA. Shared faith, we are all grateful for the blessings we have experienced together and we share a deep Christian faith, a conviction that we are all serving the Kingdom of God in our small ways, and this Kingdom is being extended through the smiles and laughter of kids and teens and young adults on Cayman Islands and throughout the world. We feel a good warmth inside, and it is more than the tropical, Caribbean sun that is warming us.
We promise that we will all help one another, that we will stay in touch and we know that we will meet again around the next corner. YMCA is growing, and it is always growing locally. Now YMCA is growing on Cayman Islands, and we can only wish our friends sailing wind and lots of courage and inspiration.