Two years ago, I had never even heard of St. Kitts. Then, in August 2015, two incredible young men from this small island in the Caribbean stepped into our lives and into our hearts.

We met Michael and Josiah their first week in Crete when they came to our church one Sunday morning. Steve and I help lead the college ministry at Crete Berean and were delighted to welcome them to small-town U.S.A. It didn’t take long before they were coming over to our place for a home-cooked meal, a game of cards, or just to hang out.

Doane University students Michael Tross and Josiah Oyebefun.

Over the past year and a half, we’ve grown to love these young men and have empathized with them on cold, snowy days when we knew how much they were missing the sunshine, beaches, and their families back home in St. Kitts.

When we booked our family Christmas vacation in the Caribbean, we were so excited that the Celebrity cruise we selected would be making a stop in St. Kitts and we prayed that Michael or Josiah would be there at the same time. God’s provision prevailed, and Michael was able to go home for Christmas, and Josiah would be traveling there a few weeks later.

My mom Carol, who has also grown to love these guys who call her “grandma,” did not know that Michael would be there the same time we were going to be there. We decided not to tell her and let it be a surprise. And was it ever!!

We told my mom that we’d arranged for a private tour of the island that day. When we got off the Celebrity Summit, we walked down the pier told mom to keep and eye out for two people with signs that said “Rose and Jim’s Taxi.” As we all walked toward the meeting place, we saw Rose and Jim, and a third person, hidden behind a tourism sign. When we got closer, Michael moved the sign away from his face and my mom was absolutely shocked!

My mom, Carol, was absolutely shocked to see Michael at Port Zante in St. Kitts.

The look of surprise and joy on her face, was the best Christmas present we could have ever given or received. She wrapped her arms around Michael, took another look to make sure it was him, and said, “Michael, what are you doing here?” In Michael’s ever-so-calm and deep voice, he simply said, “I live here.”  It was a moment in time I’ll never forget.

Another thing I’ll never forget about our stop in St. Kitts was arrival in port that morning. Steve and I woke up early as the sun was just rising over the mountains. When we pulled back the curtains to our veranda on deck 9 of the Celebrity Summit, we saw the most amazing colors and scenery. We quickly threw on some clothes and shoes and went up to deck 11 to get an even better view.

The pictures really don’t do justice to the awe inspiring view as we sailed into port at St. Kitts.

Of course, we had made arrangements ahead of time for Michael to join us on a tour of the island by Rose and Jim’s Taxi Service. Rose was our tour guide and gave us a customized tour of St. Kitts, making stops not only at popular island attractions, but also at places important to Michael.

Rose gave us some of the history of St. Kitts as we drove along the shoreline and into the verdant rainforest which encompasses a quarter of the land the St. Kitts. We were amazed by the tropical plants and flowers and all of the different types of trees and wildlife.

We were told this tree was more than 400 years old.

The wide variety of tropical plants was just amazing.

Our first stop was at the Caribelle Batik Factory at Romney Manor. Visited by thousands each year (and occasionally the rich and famous), Caribelle uses ancient Indonesian methods of resisting dye with wax to create beautiful designs and fabrics. You can watch the video below to see how it is done.

The grounds there were absolutely stunning. Plush gardens, colorful flowers, and even a tree that has stood there for more than 400 years made the most incredible backdrops for pictures.

Mom and Mikey at Caribelle Batik in St. Kitts.

Our beautiful daughter, Meghan, at Caribelle Batik in St. Kitts.

We spent some time learning about plants like the traveler’s palm. Rose showed us how the plant can be stretched to provide clean water for weary travelers.

We learned all about the fabrics and batik designs before stopping in the store for a little shopping. We each found a traditional batik shirt and selected a few gifts for others. We entertain a lot and I found a gorgeous table runner and matching napkins that I thought would be great additions to our tableware and a nice reminder of time there.

We purchased a batik shirt for each of us and also bought a table runner and napkins to remember our time in St. Kitts.

We left Caribelle Batik and headed off on our next stop at Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park. Rose told us there were quite a few steps up to the top, but that the view was worth the climb. She was right.

Michael actually trains for track by running up these steps at Fort Brimstone. It took me awhile to get up all the steps, but the view from the top was worth it.

From the top, we had the most amazing view of the Caribbean Sea and the beaches below, along with the village called Sandy Point, where Michael lives.

Michael and Steve at the top of Fort Brimstone in St. Kitts.

We were even able to see the grass track where he’d practiced his sprints while in school there. Not long after we got to the top, rain began to fall, so we headed into the fort to look around as we waited for clouds to pass by. When they did, we returned to the lookout spot to find an incredible rainbow just below. It was a beautiful sight and I knew at the moment exactly why Michael and Josiah loved this land so much.

The incredible view from the top of Brimstone Hill in St. Kitts.

After that, we drove down the hills to Sandy Point where Michael lived. We were greeted at his home by his mom and sister who treated us to Caribbean cold drinks and a homemade rum cake that was absolutely divine. It was so great to meet them and see all of Michael’s track and field medals and trophies and where he grew up.

It was so great to visit Mikey at his family’s home where we could see all of the medals he has won in track and field.

Often when we visit a new place, we spend all our time at touristy attractions and rarely get an inside look at someone’s home to see and understand how people really live there. The Tross family had a beautifully decorated home and their hospitality was just amazing.

Michael’s family welcomed us into their home with open arms and the most delicious rum cake we’ve ever had.

After a short visit, we all went to a local restaurant to meet some others for a traditional Kittitian meal. We arrived at El Fredo’s Bar & Grill where we were greeted by the rest of Michael’s family, Josiah’s parents, and another young man named Davron who was planning to attend college in Nebraska and his family. It was so wonderful to finally meet everyone!

Most of the lunch group outside El Fredo’s Bar & Grill in St. Kitts.

The men all sat together at one table and the ladies at another and most of the young people gathered together, as well.

The dads.

Our daughter Meghan enjoyed lunch with Michael and his girlfriend, Rochelle, and Davron and his sister.

I ordered the meal I had heard the most about over the past year from Michael and Josiah — salt fish. The dried fish dish was served with salad and “provisions,” including a coconut dumpling, sweet potato, white potato, dasheen and yam. It was all delicious.

The salt fish I ordered was served with “provisions,” including breadfruit, green banana, sweet potato, white potato, dasheen and yam.

After lunch, Michael’s sister and girlfriend joined us and we went for a drive around the island and made a quick stop a one of the most picturesque places in St. Kitts where I was able to get a photograph of the mountains below with both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea in the same shot.

That’s the Atlantic Ocean on the left and the Caribbean Sea on the right.

Rose did a wonderful job showing us points of interest, spotting the popular free-roaming vervet monkeys, and stopping whenever we wanted to get out and snap and few pictures, like at this beach.

Mikey and his girlfriend, Rochelle, at the beach.

We’re hoping Mikey’s little sister, Calvinesha, will also be able to come to Doane University someday.

We enjoyed a leisurely drive around the island and then back to the cruise port where we said a fond farewell to Rose.

Rose was a fantastic tour guide!

On a side note, we would highly recommend using Rose and Jim’s Taxi Service if you are ever in St. Kitts. Rose has a wealth of knowledge and is just an absolutely delightful person to get to know. Their prices were reasonable and she was able to accommodate all of our requests which made for an incredible day in St. Kitts.

Back at Port Zante, which opened in 2005 to accommodate large ships, we had time to do a little shopping and look for a postcard.

We said our goodbyes, knowing we’d see Michael back in Nebraska in just a few short days.

Walking back from Port Zante to the Celebrity Summit.

As we walked back to the ship, after a full day in St. Kitts, I knew this would not be the last time we’d visit the island. Not only was St. Kitts one of the most stunning places we’d ever been, it was also home to some of the most caring and generous people we’ve ever met. Everyone from the taxi driver to the restaurant servers treated us like old friends and the relatives of the Kittitian college students we knew made us feel like family. In the end, we all agreed — it was the generous hearts of the people of St. Kitts that make this Caribbean island one of the most beautiful places on earth.

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