Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us
... this song has been circling through my head for the last week or so, and as I reflect on 10 months in Guinea, my heart swells as I thank God for all He has done. There’s thousands of patients who have had surgery with us – some very simple – some major – all covered with a love and a grace from a God who loves each one.
There’s stories that I can’t even believe are over – ones where God taught me so much about taking Him at His word; He really is a God of the impossible you know. As I think of Thierno who was with us back in September before he had his massive tumour removed, I remember the days when we really wondered if he would even make it to surgery. He was so weak and his tumour was sucking the very life out of him. I found an email the other day that was calling our team to a 24 hour prayer time for him. In it I had quoted the verse from Ephesians 3:20-21; Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
As I read it, my eyes filled with tears as I realized where we had come. Thierno is now back sitting on our ward having had some further surgery. He looks great. He’s had his ups and downs… but there is no denying that God has done more than we could have asked or imagined in this man’s life. Where he was weak, skinny and could hardly breathe, he is strong, sturdy and breathing with ease. He carries a shy smile and a confidence that suggests that he’s not just had his life sucking tumour removed, but the life sucking hopelessness has lifted too. As he sat with another patient a couple of weeks ago when she was going through some similar struggles, he encouraged her and told her to, ‘…take courage… they fought for my life’. When we work with people who don’t speak our language and even have to go through 2 or 3 different translators to be understood, it’s not always easy to know what has been communicated or what you have inadvertently miscommunicated. But what I love about this place is that love and hope translate. Our amazing Hospital team has poured out love on Theirno beyond measure – and he knows it. He’s felt it. He looks like someone who hope has descended on. He looks like someone who is believing again that he is somebody and that there are plans to prosper him and not to harm him. What a privilege.
I have heard time and time again comments from patients that say the same. Earlier this year one of our VVF ladies told one of the nurses how she was going to go home to her village and tell them, ‘what love looks like’ and just this week, a father of one of the kids who had ortho surgery told us passionately how although he hadn’t been healed physically, that through his daughters stay with us, he had been healed emotionally and spiritually. Now this is more than I can ask or imagine. These aren’t things that can be taught, these are things that are received deep in people’s hearts and it thrills me.
Our God goes to the ends of the earth to show us how much He loves us. As I reflect on the thousands of orthopedic, eye, vvf, maxillo facial and plastics surgeries that have taken place in this little boat of hope, it fills me with a deep down knowledge that there’s a God out there who loves me too. A God who showers out His grace, who lifts out the parts of me that have been tainted with untruth and that have sucked the life out of me and He fills them with life bursting truth. He’s a God who reminds me that He made me for a purpose and that in it all… His banner over me is love.
1 Corinthians 13 tells us what love looks like so well:
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. Love never gives up, Love cares more for others than for self, Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.
I wanna love like that…. and I want to know that I am loved like that. I mean deep down in my heart, know that I’m loved like that Because it’s from that place that I can reach for the impossible… when I reach from a place of what I see or a place of disappointment at what I have or haven’t seen or from a place of human possibility, I lose courage and I lose hope. When I rest in this kind of love, I reach boldly and begin to believe again that my God is a God of the impossible.
Guinea 2012/13: I’m so thankful to you for all the many lessons you have taught me… I will hold your people in my heart as well as all the ways I have seen my faithful God of the impossible at work. May your nation be changed by the love that has been poured out and may it continue to bring life to your hurting and dry places. Thank you for all the ways you have breathed life into me…
…Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
(for the full song check out Matt Redman: Never Once)
His banner over you is love too you know… outrageous bucket loads of love and grace to you, KWW
(looking forward to catching up with you during a 3 week break at home in June before we head to The Republic of Congo for 10 months in late July. Whooooooop!)