Happy Easter, friends! Isn’t it incredible that we get to believe that hope rises from dead places and that impossible stones can be rolled away? As I pondered on these words the other day, I was reminded once again what a privilege it is to be part of bringing hope and healing in this place. As I sit and type in my little cabin, I’m thinking of friends around the world who support me in all sorts of ways to be here and I’m forever grateful for each one. It’s difficult to know how to express that thanks – even to those a few feet away on decks above and below me. But I hope this little taste of life in our Hospital will fill your heart and come as a huge thanks for being a part of it.
Imagine having lost your baby in prolonged labour. Imagine having a hole in your bladder that means you leak urine – the whole time. Imagine being rejected by your family because, basically, you don’t smell very nice. Imagine living with the stench of stale urine that never ever goes away. Not ever. Imagine the hopelessness. Imagine thinking that this is forever. How would you feel? How would you heave yourself up from your sleeping mat on the dusty floor every day? Imagine thinking that you’re the only one – that there’s no one else who understands. It’s a story that we’ve heard told again and again during these last 7 weeks of Obstetric Fistula surgery on board. But the stories didn’t end there. Imagine finding out that there is a place where hope is born every day. Imagine hearing that there are people who can help… imagine stepping foot on our big white ship for the very first time.
And so these ladies arrive. We group them into a ward of their own – not to isolate them, but to give them a safe space so they’re not surrounded by children running around or people who have no idea what they have been through. They each share a living space for anywhere from a week to several weeks whilst they have their surgery and recover from it and what happens is simply beautiful. They share their stories. They realize that they are not the ‘only one’. They begin to hope. They begin to believe that life might get better. They begin to believe that their impossible stones might just get rolled away. People sit with them and hold their hands. They make friendship bracelets and they play Jenga. And in this beautiful place, a haven is created and a hope for a different future is born – and not only that – a hope for each other is born as well. A few weeks back, we had one lady who was not doing so well – she was in pain, still leaking urine and feeling generally pretty yucky. One of the nurses saw her crying and when asked why, she discovered that they were not tears of sadness or self pity but tears of joy. She said she was just so happy for the lady in the bed next to her who was now healed. How easy would you find it to rejoice when others rejoice… even when your deepest hope is not yet realized for yourself? Isn’t it beautiful?
And in amongst this haven of hope, the ladies sing. Most of our patients get to climb up to Deck 7 every afternoon for an hour or so of air and a glimpse of life beyond our windowless Deck 3. But since this special group of ladies aren’t allowed to climb the stairs whilst they heal, the nurses and translators have created a daily – twice daily – sometimes even more often than that – routine to keep them from lying in bed ALL day long. They just simply walk up and down the corridor and sing and there’s nothing like the sound of it wafting it’s way into my office. It’s eerily beautiful and I know in these moments it’s not just about the singing. They harmonise and sing words of thanks to God. It’s stunning in itself but something far bigger is happening than just that. As the ladies sing, I know that God’s Spirit is thick upon them. There’s safety, there’s acceptance, there’s love, there’s freedom, there’s healing for hearts that have lived with the deepest kind of rejection I could ever imagine and the hope that was born continues to grow. Whether they know it or not, Jesus is walking those corridors with them and breathing new life into them. I know He is. I can feel it. And I can see it written on their faces. Chains are being broken and it makes my heart soar.
We’re finishing up 40 something weeks of surgery in the Republic of Congo – almost hard to believe, but it’s true. We have 3 weeks of surgery left and then a couple of weeks of clearing up and packing before we hit the big wide seas. This year my plans are looking slightly different and instead of joining the sail, I’ll be heading home at the end of May for 3 weeks before I fly out to Guinea to be a part of our Advance Team. The team of 6 goes ahead of the Ship to prepare the way for the ship’s arrival… and I have to say, I’m pretty excited! For a while now, I have felt a bit of a tug in my heart because doing the job I do leaves me feeling a bit cut off from patients or the country we’re in a lot of the time. Sounds silly maybe, but it’s true! So this little heart is thrilled to go and help prepare the way – my role will be to help with the hiring process of nearly 200 local Day Crew whose jobs range from providing translation to cleaning, cooking and all sorts of other jobs that are vital to us successfully doing what we set out to do. As well as that, I hope to be able to set up some of the education that we’ll provide for local nurses and for the rest, my plate is open – I’m happy to do whatever we need to do as a team to prepare the way for the ship’s arrival. Others will be liaising with immigration to prepare for the arrival for hundreds of volunteers over the coming year, arranging things in the Port, spreading the word of what we do and who we can help and all sorts of other things that need doing before the Ship arrives. It’ll be interesting and challenging, I am sure... I look forward to living on LAND and with a small team… I look forward to open windows and crazy West African hustle and bustle… I look forward to a bit of independence and even perhaps digging up some French… but I know without a doubt, I’ll look forward to the day my floating home comes into sight on August 21st… cos I also know, I’ll miss it like crazy too.
I look forward to seeing some of you soon and in the meantime, here’s to believing that hope can rise from dead places and impossible stones can be rolled away… cos they really really can. Happy Easter!
Love always, KWW