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The Case for Eating Missionaries
By: Lorenzo Dee Belveal
There are islands that draw missionaries like a magnet draws iron filings, and Roatan is one of these.
I don’t know why this should be true. Roatan isn’t the kind place where an inordinate amount of heavy sinning is going on. Except for some thievery here and there, the usual amount of lying, fornication and adultery, and an occasional murder, the rest of the transgressions really don’t amount to much. In view of this, I have always wondered why God keeps "sending" so many missionaries to a little-bitty old island like Roatan.
Make no mistake about it, the missionaries on Roatan are not here out of either choice or accident. I have checked this out with several of them, and to a man (or woman) they tell me that God sent them to Roatan. Every one of them says they "got a call" to come to Roatan, and "spread the good news," or "save the sinners," or something along that line.
I have undertaken to explain to some of these "servants of the Lord", that in terms of plain, visible, terrible sins, and wall-to-wall Godlessness, the south side of Chicago, the lower East Side in New York, and the French Quarter in New Orleans all make Roatan look like a small town Sunday School Picnic, by comparison. But the Roatan missionaries don’t want to hear about those other big-sinning places. They have their assignment!
"The Lord sent me here," they say, "and this is where I’m gonna be, unless he tells me to go somewhere else." While I’m not one to argue about how the Lord runs his business, I have to think that there is a point at which the ratio of missionaries to sinners reaches a saturation point. Beyond that, there just aren’t enough sinners to go around. So then, what are they going to do? Import sinners from Philadelphia, or St. Louis?
I raised this point to a Black Caribe seat-mate one afternoon when we were on the Norma Don packet boat, going from Coxens Hole to Oak Ridge. By actual count, there were three card-carrying missionaries on the boat - out of a total passenger list of about fifty. I consider this as being a clear over-abundance of missionaries, and I told my Caribe friend as much.
"Benito," I began, "why do you think we have so many missionaries on this island?" He said he didn’t know. "People on this island must be doing one helluva bunch of sinning, to deserve the kind of concentrated attention God is giving them," I went on.
"Aw, we’re not so bad," Ben replied. "Most folks on this island are pretty good - pretty nice - they don’t get into trouble…..What makes you think island folks sin so much?" he wanted to know.
"All these missionaries here on the island," I said. "This whole island only has about nine-thousand people on it, and I’ll make a bet this minute there’s a hundred missionaries right here on Roatan, now. Today! That’s one preacher for every ninety sinners - men, women and children. Ben, just what do you think these folks are up to, to deserve such close religious surveilance?"
"Nothin’", he replied. "Them missionaries ain’t here because there’s all that much sin goin’ on around here. They’re here because they wants to be here!" he declared emphatically.
"Ben, they tell me they are here because God sent them. No other reason. Now, what’ve you got to say to that?" I asked him. He eyed me through narrowed lids, then replied.
"I don’t believe God sent ‘em. I think they’re here because the weather is nice most of the time. They don’t have to work much, and they can live out of the collection plates they pass around every chance they gits."
We were sitting inside the boat cabin, and by now it was obvious that many of the other passengers were listening in on our discussion. Noting this, I decided to turn up the conversation - and the volume - to the next notch.
"You don’t think they are here because God gave them a "calling" to get down here and save a bunch of poor, ignorant sinners?" I asked, with a voice full of disbelief.
"Nope. I don’t believe it. I think they’re here just because they want to be here!"
I pondered this in clear puzzlement, while Ben sat quietly and looked out the porthole.
"You doubt their sincerity?" asked.
"I don’t know anything about that," he replied, "but I think they’re here because they want to be - and not because God sent ‘em." He declared firmly. I sank into quiet reflection for several minutes, while our fellow-passengers watched us out of the corners of their eyes, and the packet boat undulated gently in the small waves through which we were traveling. Finally I spoke again.
"Ben, I’ve heard it said that some of your ancestors used to eat missionaries. Is that true?
"I don’t know," he answered, "but I’ve heard it, too."
"Why did they stop?" I asked.
"Eating missionaries," I wanted to know.
"I don’t know," he told me. "I guess they found out it wasn’t civilized - or something. Maybe they liked eating fish or iguana or beef better. I don’t know about any of that kind of stuff."
"Well, I think it was a mistake!"
"What was a mistake?"
"To stop eating missionaries," I told him with obvious conviction.
"You mean that?" he asked quizzically.
"I certainly do!" I stated firmly, noticing that the other passengers who were eavesdropping on our conversation leaned perceptibly closer so they could hear better. "Ben, you tell me that you don’t believe all of these missionaries got specifically sent down here to Roatan, by God, to save heathen souls and spread the "good news" among the non-believers." He nodded his assent.
"Then what you’re saying is that some of these missionaries are fakes! They got no "calling" – they are just pretending to be messengers of the Lord. Right?" He nodded again.
"Ben, there’s a way to get this fixed." He eyed me closely and our audience tried to press even closer. "If we could get those Caribes in Punta Gorda to eat just one missionary, and then pass the word around that missionary meat tastes good, you would see the damndest parade of fake missionaries off this island you can imagine!……… Just one missionary barbecue, Ben, that's all it would take! All of those fake and phony missionaries, who don’t have any calling - no orders from God - but are just hanging out here enjoying the climate and getting out of working - will all be trying to get on the next flight off the island. You’ll see, Ben! No more oversupply of missionaries. No-sirreee!
"The only missionaries who will stay will be the 100% sincere types, who got their calls direct from God, and who have real faith in Him to protect and watch over them." Ben’s expression was one of utter disbelief, as he considered what I was proposing. A quiet mumbling was heard among the passengers who had been listening to my presentation.
The Norma Don slowed and pulled up alongside the Jonesville dock. People scurried to collect their children, boxes and bags, and prepare to debark. A bow-line was passed, and a covey of passengers began to file out of the after hatchway. Among the departing group was a thin, pale, grim-faced man, his look-alike wife and their neurasthenic-appearing teenaged daughter that was as pale as a tomato plant raised under a sun-shade. I had heard that he was one of the more vocal dispensers of the hell-fire and brimstone "message" that was calculated to urge his listeners into the "straight and narrow way." He had been an attentive listener to the enroute conversation between Benito and myself .
Now, as the missionary family drew even with me, he pulled himself up to his maximum height, and declared in his most resonant doomsday voice, "Mister Dee, I rebuke thee, in the name of Jesus Christ." Then he turned and escorted his wife and daughter out the cabin hatchway and off the boat.
I still think it’s an idea that might deserve some consideration.
Lorenzo Dee Belveal, Author