Fire Drill Thursday: it happens every other week and sends us into mass count up mode as we account for every crew member, every patient, every translator, every caregiver, every visitor and even every passport carrying cockroach … it can take a while. Today was our first ‘at sea’ Fire Drill which means that we all have to find our emergency station on deck (as opposed to on the dock) and learn how to put a lifejacket on and what we’d do if it all went pear shaped whilst we’re at sea… that was all except for me, because there was one lonely patient left on the ward who needed some company… and more importantly because God had planned a moment of extravagance for us both.
These days I see less and less of patients and more and more of my computer screen. It’s ok and I love all the different aspects of my job, but sometimes I long for a bit of a deeper connection than passing hellos as I whistle through the wards. So today, during the drill, I got to chat to Thierno for about half an hour. My French isn’t well polished but somehow the simple sentences I pickled together, said it better than I think fancy ones could. They brought a childlike simplicity to the truths I was trying to express and as I did so, the enormity of what God has done these last 10 months sank in some more. It’s too big. The enormity isn’t just for Thierno and it’s not even just for all of the hundreds of patients who have walked up and down our gangway, it’s for me too. He’s removed some of my very own more subtle ‘tumours’ - those life sucking lumps of destruction that had sat themselves deep in my spirit – yep, He’s cut a few out of me too.
This is the heart of what we shared:
- God is a God of the impossible – yep, that means nothing is impossible
- God’s love is extravagant – endless, overwhelming, more than enough
- There is nothing more beautiful than watching people love each other
- Africa has taught me how to love and to put people above getting stuff done
- My heart has never been this full … not ever… and he said the same about his with a huge ‘ugh!’ and disbelieving shake of the head
He stood with me and nodded over and over as we reflected on God’s goodness. He explained how he’d heard about the ship on the radio and how he’d made the 3 day journey to get here, he pointed to each of the 7 beds he had occupied over the course of the last 10 months. He shook his head in disbelief and his eyes shone with deep gratitude. I found myself thinking, ‘I don’t think he is a Christian’… and as the thought popped into my head, I realised how ridiculous it sounded. I’m not sure what label he would give himself, and I’m no longer even sure what a ‘Christian’ is, but He knows who God is and he knows how good He is – of that there is no doubt. I need to get rid of my labels. This man is beautiful. He displays a heart full of humility, love and gratitude. He knows what it is like to nearly die and he knows what it is like to be rescued. He knows depths and darkness that I pray I will never know… yet he knows the richness of new life and a freedom for which he has no words. He is a man full of hope and a man who has blessed me more than he will ever know. He is a man who shows me the heart of God whether he realises it or not. I asked him what his dreams are for the future.; good health, a job and a wife… will you pray for him with me?
I can’t wrap my head around it and I probably shouldn’t even try. It’s too big, too beautiful, too much…
God of the impossible, I love you.