Like finding a needle in a haystack, or a diamond at the bottom of the sea, the mystery we were hoping to solve seemed all but impossible. Robert had visited Roatan in February 2009 on the same mission trip that first brought us here. While visiting in the Colonia, he had visited a home where a young girl and her mom were making tamales and recorded their work in photos. They had given Robert some tamales. He in turn had pictures to give to them - someday. This November, seven-and-a-half years later, Robert's friends from his church visited Roatan and brought a small photo album from Robert with the hope of locating the mystery girl and giving her the photos. Robert didn't know her name and the friends didn't know where she lived. Their visit was short so the photo album was left with us on the chance that we might know or find this mystery girl from a seven-year-old photo.
Because we know how eager to please so many of the people in the Colonia are, I was not eager to start the hunt. I could picture asking "do you know this girl?" and well-meaning people would take me on a hike up and up and over, only to discover that the person in the picture and the person I was meeting were not the same. A wild goose/girl chase was what I was imagining. At Bible study the other night, I decided to start my hunt with people who don't mind saying "no" to me - the kids. The first of the kids I asked was Carlos. He looked at the pictures of the girl and at her mom and said "That's my cousin, Lorane and Alba, my tia (aunt). Believe me, I was really skeptical, so I also asked his sister Karla, and she confirmed - it was Lorane and Alba and she added "they live close to our house." I was beyond amazed! We agreed to meet in the morning at their house and go from there.
We can't really imagine how Robert just chanced upon this family. Carlos led us up and over on a rock and tile trail. We had to go through another property with a gate, under the floor joists of a house, and more up before we arrived at the house. But when we saw the mystery girl smile to welcome us, we knew - it's her! Lorane (Loraina) is a beautiful 19 year-old now. She lives with her mom (Aunt Alba), brother and older sister and her sister's two little ones.
Lorane's reaction to the photos? Her eyes showed her amazement and her smile showed her delight! She eagerly showed her sister and her brother her pictures from when she was younger. All were excited for her. Aunt Alba was off visiting, but was called home. It was really a special time with lots of giggling and explaining. Lorane did not remember the man in the photo at the back of the book - Robert - but she still makes lots of tamales. The old outside mud cookstove that she had used to cook Robert's tamales was gone, but had been replaced with an outdoor metal cookstove.
We chatted and questioned this shy girl about herself. She finished grade 9 (compulsory education in Honduras is from grade 1-9) but has not gone on to colegio although she would like to do this. She does not have a boyfriend or plans to find work. She is Christian and when reminded about Robert, agreed to pray for him. We enjoyed checking out the photo album and packet of gifts one last time before we left. We stayed long enough that Lorane's dog stopped barking and sniffing at us. Then it was time to reverse the trip from Lorane's house, back to the road. As always, the going down can be a bit more challenging than going up. The photos back toward the house didn't get taken - I was concentrating on keeping on my feet and maintaining a bit of dignity.
And so, the needle in the haystack wasn't impossible to locate. The hidden diamond at the bottom of the sea was found in the humble mystery girl Lorane, cousin to friends we have known since we've lived in Roatan. Robert's pictures have been delivered and shared eagerly. I think the only link we are missing, is Robert's return to enjoy more tamales - and partake in the trek up to make a visit. I'm sure he'd be welcomed! Thanks Robert, for providing us with this adventure and opportunity to meet a new family.