Read an Excerpt
Soul Surfer Series
By Rick Bundschuh
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2007 Bethany Hamilton
All rights reserved.
Bethany felt a jolt of nervous excitement as the airplane's tires hit the runway in Los Angeles. Then she glanced at the bundle of nerves sitting in the seat next to her and grinned. If there was anyone who understood how she was feeling at that moment, it was Holly Silva. They not only surfed together and trained together, they also survived cliff-hanging rescues together. And that was a bonding moment if there ever was one.
"So, what do you think?"
Holly gave her a shaky grin. "Guess I was having a hard time believing this was for real, until now."
"Yeah ... I still can't believe we're finally on our first mission trip," Bethany said, filled with awe as she scanned the other excited faces on the plane. The usual suspects were there: Malia, Jenna, and Monica were craning their necks to catch a glimpse of Bethany and Holly who sat a couple of rows behind. They spotted them and waved wildly, causing them to laugh.
"All of us in Mexico. This is going to be crazy!" Bethany shook her head.
"Good crazy, right?" Holly asked tentatively, and they both laughed again as Bethany continued to look around.
Black spiky hair gave Kai's location away as he gabbed with his buddies, including Dano, a large teenager with cool tribal tattoos. A giant heart to match too, Bethany thought, remembering how hard he had worked on the fund-raisers.
Kai said something that brought a roar of laughter from the guys, and Bethany couldn't help smiling to herself. Not exactly your typical church youth group, she thought. But then, that was kind of the cool thing about their group.
None of them were exactly typical.
Oh, there were some like her who came from strong Christian families, but the majority of teens peering out the windows of the 747 at the orange lights flickering from the "City of Angels" were from homes where the name of Christ was more likely used in a curse than in praise.
But that didn't seem to stop them from reaching out to God—something she could totally identify with.
Kai and Dano had been drawn to their group by the wild and crazy game night Sarah and her staff had put together, but they stayed because somewhere along the way they found out Jesus was for real.
Bethany smiled to herself, remembering how blown away they all were the day their miracle financial gift appeared, allowing them to go on this mission trip.
After countless car washes and even after her crazy idea of a surf-a-thon with inflatable toys, they were still such a long way off from what they needed that a lot of them wondered if the mission trip was really going to happen. And then God showed up in his perfect time to make it possible.
No one had any doubts after that happened that God was behind them on the trip—or that he was paving the way for something good to happen.
The Fasten Seat Belt signs turned off overhead, and she and Holly, along with everyone else on the plane, scrambled for their carry-on bags.
"Okay, everyone, stick together and meet us at the gate!" Sarah, their youth director, called out before she followed her assistants, Mike and Gabe, off the plane.
"I wonder what it's going to be like," Holly said as the group fanned out along the boarding tunnel. Bethany glanced over at her. Short, trendy hair, just a touch of lipstick (a recent victory in her makeup battle with her mom)—Holly looked cute and sure of herself, but Bethany knew Holly was just as nervous as she was ... if not more.
"Guess we'll find out soon enough," Bethany smiled, trying to sound more confident than she felt.
"Ghettos aren't pretty, that's for sure," Jenna said.
"I hear some of the stuff we're going to do is pretty harsh," Malia said as she slung a backpack over her shoulder.
"Great!" Monica said, giving her new manicure a worried look.
"Well, I'm game," Bethany announced.
"When aren't you game?" Kai teased, looking over his shoulder as they entered the terminal. "Car washes, surf-a-thons ..." He glanced over at Dano and winked. "No telling what she'll come up with for us to do in Mexico."
"Be afraid," Holly said with a mischievous grin.
"Very afraid," Bethany added, and they all laughed.
Thirty minutes later, they were piling into the three vans idling by the curb in the early-morning light. Sarah, Mike, and Gabe were in the drivers' seats.
In spite of the all-night flight, Bethany found her mind racing, wondering about the week to come. Unlike her friends, whose heads were already bobbing back to sleep as soon as the vans hit the interstate, she had slept through most of the flight. She was used to traveling at odd hours for surf competitions.
She turned and squinted out the window at the California scenery flashing by. She thought about Sarah's description of some of the work they would be doing in the ghettos that lined the deep hills and gullies around Tijuana: building small houses, bathing children from areas without running water, playing with orphans, and handing out food and clothes.
More scenery flashed by as Bethany stared out the window and thought about Jesus' words: "When you help them, you help me." She thought how cool it was that Jesus wanted the world to know how much he loved people who were, for the most part, forgotten or ignored.
She knew God had given her a heart that wanted to reach out to people. She just hoped she measured up now that she was in the position to help.
Bethany suddenly sat up straight as the Pacific Ocean came into view. "That's Trestles!" she said excitedly, elbowing Holly. "They're holding the nationals there this week."
"Wha—?" Holly mumbled groggily.
Kai cracked an eye open and asked, "So, why aren't you there? Or is that a sore subject?"
"Not too sore," Bethany admitted with an unconvincing grin.
"All things work together for good, right?" Malia said with a sleepy, but warm smile. Bethany glanced over at her, remembering their surf trip in Samoa.
"Yeah ... if I had qualified, I wouldn't be on this trip."
"Could've saved us a lot of work," Kai said, grinning at Dano. But Dano was still sleeping soundly. Soon the others fell back to sleep, and Bethany continued to watch the California coastline as the vans continued south toward San Diego and the Mexican border.
By the time they reached the United States-Mexico border, most of the kids were awake. The border crossing went pretty smoothly, but the sudden change at the border from the US side to the hardscrabble town pressed up against the edge of a large steel fence shocked many of the kids into silence.
It seems like we've stepped into another world, Bethany thought. With no trees and with cement everywhere, it looked so barren. But almost immediately they entered the busy city traffic of Tijuana.
"Whoa! This is nuts!" Sarah said about the crazy traffic. Cars zoomed around her on both sides, while she tried to keep up with Mike and Gabe in the vans ahead. She glanced in the rearview mirror with an exasperated sigh.
"Hey, Sarah, maybe you should let me take over from here," Kai suggested.
"Or me," Dano piped up. "I know all about nuts."
"Uh-huh," Sarah smiled, trying to keep her eyes on the road.
"Yeah, they're real experts," Bethany added, trying to keep a straight face as they bantered back and forth.
They flashed past dozens of tiny eateries and stands that sold anything you could imagine, from fresh spices to wild-looking guitars to jewelry, clothes, and beautiful pottery. People were everywhere. Color was everywhere. Bethany spotted an enormous fruit market and felt her mouth water.
"If we get the chance, I'm so there," Bethany said.
"Look at those cool skirts!" Holly said.
"Where?" Monica asked, practically trying to crawl over Malia and Jenna for a peek. The girls groaned in unison and then laughed.
"Monica, you're too much," Jenna chuckled.
"What? So I like clothes. What girl doesn't?"
"This isn't exactly going to be fashion week in New York," Bethany teased as the vans turned down an old dusty road, slowing to a stop in front of a slightly crumbling but tidy-looking two-story building.
"Not exactly Kansas either, Dorothy," Kai said under his breath as they all took in the iron bars on every window. A wild-looking dog peered at them from the side of the dusty, dinged up SUV parked next to the building.
"Wow," Bethany said, feeling her nervousness return as she looked at the poverty around them. She felt her spirits rise again at the sight of a friendly looking couple exiting the house to greet them.
"Okay, gang, let's go meet our hosts," Sarah said with a smile as she pulled her keys from the ignition.
"Come on, Toto," Bethany called over her shoulder to Kai as she, Holly, and the other girls scrambled for the door. Dano's laughter followed them out of the van.
Eddie and Maggie Passmore were about as nice as you could get, Bethany thought as Maggie pulled away from hugging her and Eddie grabbed her hand in a warm, energetic handshake. She'd been the last in line for the welcome, but they didn't seem to have lost their enthusiasm.
"So, are you ready for the tour?" Eddie asked with a broad smile.
"Oh, she's ready," Kai said dryly as Eddie led them into a large room filled with a mismatch of used sofas and chairs parked on a worn but clean carpet.
"Our strategy room," Eddie provided. "It's not exactly the Hilton, but it works."
"What made you pick Mexico?" Bethany asked as he led them out of the main room to the lower part of the dorm that held the office and a kitchen large enough for visiting groups to prepare meals.
"I first visited here when I was a teenager," he replied, glancing around at the group. "Probably about Kai and Dano's age—you two are about sixteen, right?" The boys nodded. "It really got in my blood. I mean, no matter where I went after that, through college to being a youth pastor ... I just couldn't get these people out of my mind. The next time I visited with Maggie, God opened the doors for us in such a big way that there was no doubt where he wanted us." Eddie smiled and shook his head, giving Maggie a look that said it still amazed him.
"Let's show them where they'll be sleeping," Maggie said with a smile of her own as she led the tired but curious group upstairs.
The upper part of the dorm was divided into two large sleeping areas; one for guys and one for girls, with shower facilities for both. Duffel bags began to drop around them like flies as Bethany and the girls rushed to claim the bunks they wanted. They laughed, hearing the commotion from the boys' side. They could hear Mike say, "Come on, guys, age has priority!"
"How much you want to bet Dano gets whatever bunk he wants?" Bethany grinned.
"If I was as big as a giant, I know I'd get the bunk I wanted," Holly said as she flopped onto her bed. "I feel like I could sleep forever."
"Me too," Malia yawned.
"Not me," Monica said. "This neighborhood makes me nervous."
"Getting your nails done makes you nervous," Jenna said, and Monica threw a pillow at her.
"Well, there's no way I can sleep yet. I'm going to see if I can find Sarah," Bethany said, rising from her bunk.
"Don't volunteer me for anything crazy until you, like, ask me first," Holly called after her as she headed for the door.
"That goes double for the rest of us," Malia said, getting nods of agreement from Jenna and Monica.
"Are you talking to me?" Bethany said as she blinked innocently and then hurried to shut the door behind her before anyone could respond.
Chuckling to herself, she jogged down the stairs, turned the corner, and almost ran right into Eddie as he rounded the corner from the opposite direction. They both laughed.
"Almost a head-on collision," Eddie said, grinning.
"Oh man, you aren't kidding!" She glanced behind Eddie. "I was looking for Sarah. Have you seen her?"
Eddie nodded. "As a matter of fact, Maggie took her on a tour of the neighborhood."
"I was going to ask her if we could go running tomorrow morning."
"You mean your whole group?"
"Well, probably just us girls," Bethany said, then chewed on her lip thoughtfully. "Or at the very least, me and Holly." She grinned inwardly. Sorry, Holly!
"You're a surfer, right?"
"Yeah," Bethany nodded shyly. "I kind of like to keep up on my training." She left out the part about running helping her nerves over the mission trip.
"Nothing wrong with that," Eddie said amiably. "I used to run myself—though it's been a while." He patted his stomach, and Bethany smiled.
"Tell you what: it's not that great of a neighborhood for you girls to go running in alone. But if you really want to go, I'll come around 6:30 a.m. and run with you."
"Really? You don't mind?"
"Maggie will thank you; she's been after me to get back into running. I'm still carrying around all the stuff I ate at Christmastime."
"Okay then, it's a deal," Bethany said happily.
"I'll set the alarm on my watch."
"Don't forget the time change. And I'll bring the stick."
"A stick? What for?"
"Ah, if you're going to go for a jog around here, carrying a stick with you is a good idea."
"For muggers?" Bethany asked worriedly. Holly might forgive her for an early morning run, but not for a mugger.
"Yeah ... the four-legged kind," Eddie laughed. "The stray dogs around here can sometimes get a little too close for comfort."
Bethany nodded casually, but her mind raced. What have I got us into now, Holly? she thought with a twinge of doubt—not just about the run—but the whole trip. Then she remembered her dad's words just before she got on the plane: "Just trust in God and let him lead you, Bethany. He's the best father any of us could ever imagine having."
Eduardo shot up from the pallet he had been sleeping on and looked around. It was dark, but he knew if he reached out his arm he could touch the cot his mother and sister slept on, knew that the other two cots his four brothers shared would be just beyond that. He put his hand to his chest, feeling his heart still racing from the dream. And what a good dream it was!
He had been running down a beautiful soccer field. So much green! He had never seen that much green in one place. He grinned to himself, remembering how he scored a goal for his team and how good it felt when his teammates thumped his back with congratulations. His smile faded as he recalled searching for his father's face in the stand filled with people.
For just a moment, he thought he'd spotted him when he saw a man stand up and begin to walk toward him through the crowd. But people kept getting in his way, and no matter how hard Eduardo squinted, he couldn't make out the man's face.
Eduardo shivered but resisted the urge to crawl onto his mother's cot. If his brothers woke up and saw him there, he would never hear the end of it. They would say he was loco to dream that he would do anything other than rummage through other people's garbage. They would also say that he was a baby to call out to a father he had never had.
Eduardo grimaced and curled up on his pallet again. He wasn't a baby. He was five years old—old enough to know better than to wake his mother, and old enough to know he needed some sleep before he had to get up and go to work again.
Still, he thought as his eyes began to grow heavy with sleep, it would have been nice if he could have seen that man's face. It would be nice to at least pretend he had a father.
Excerpted from Crunch by Rick Bundschuh. Copyright © 2007 Bethany Hamilton. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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