It’s a hot day, warmer than the ones of the last 2 months and I’m realising I’ve been lulled into thinking I didn’t need to break a sweat here. The fresh breezes have dropped, the air feels more humid and the rains are on their way. The roads are lined with stalls selling mangos – more varieties than I’ve ever seen - sitting in pyramids that look like they might topple over, and as I sit in yet another dented taxi, the street children cup their hands at my window and ask for something small. I want to smile at them but always feel this tension that a smile might give the hope of money and whilst I’d be happy to give, it’s not the answer. I have heard many people outside of Senegal ask why we are coming here – isn’t it so much more developed? There are paved roads and supermarkets and some nice fancy private hospitals, sure. But access to surgery is complex and you can’t make a judgment from a quick google search or from the impressive 3 lane highway that runs from the airport to the heart of the city. What percentage of the population can pay the tolls and use it anyway? Spend a few hours in this huge bustling city, listen to the stories of the locals, step beyond Dakar, and it soon becomes clear; the need is real.
I arrived here on April 14th and it’s been a busy 2 months. It’s an immense privilege and I find myself doing things that make me want to pinch myself. Be it a couple of meetings at the ‘Presidency’, or many many days spent collaborating at the Ministry of Health or even the chance to celebrate the Queen’s birthday at the British Embassy! It’s fun, but aspects of this journey are hard. My heart arrived full of desire to build trust, to collaborate, to find mutual understanding. In some areas it’s going well but in some I’d say it’s a big struggle right now and that makes me sad. When you want to serve and pour out love, that’s just hard to swallow and I wonder why they put this softie in as Country Director. As I was reflecting on the challenges of building trust with people who don’t know us, who come from different backgrounds and even those with different goals, I was reminded once again that at the end of the day, all we can do is love. It’s love that unites us all.
Surprise birthday celebrations for me!
My hard days far out number the easy ones but the depth of love interwoven through them all is a precious gift to my tender heart. As a team, every Thursday morning we gather and share all the ways we feel God has ‘winked’ at us throughout the preceding week. Thankful Thursday is medicine to the soul and food for the faith required to continue climbing the mountains before us. We have 3 huge big ‘magic whiteboard’ sheets on our lounge wall that capture the moments that have filled our hearts. So often we have been met by people who just want to help us and encourage us. Sometimes we meet people who have worked here for years and I marvel at the commitment and faith and pure endurance to battle systems which are sometimes slow and heavy. There is one pastor who we have connected with in particular who blesses me so much. His quiet humility, his love for God, the sense of the Spirit that He carries and his solid faith that continues to believe for his nation, touch me every time. And sometimes it’s the opportunities to swim and sink our teeth into a crusty baguette. I am thankful and reminded so often that at the end of the day, we have been met by love in countless ways.
In the last few days, our Patient Selection team started a 4 week trip around Senegal; it’s time to spread the word that an opportunity to have free surgery is coming. A team of 4 have embarked on a journey that will take them to each of the 13 regional capitals to begin building relationships with key people there before the patient registration weeks start towards the end of July. If you’re interested in finding out more you can take a look at www.mercyships.sn where all the specific related information for Senegal can be found. Pray for them and for all our future patients.
Other members of our team have embarked on interviewing 400 or so of the 1500 applications from those wanting to join our team of local volunteers. It’s coming together! 3 new vehicles have arrived and are out of the Port (that’s big!) and all sorts of other plans are coming into place. We are on a constant journey of letting go of our own timelines and learning to trust that things will work out. The balance between blind trust and what wisdom looks like isn’t always clear, but…. we are learning. We have 2 renovation projects for our Dental Clinic and HOPE Centre (which will house around 250 patients and relatives before and after surgery here in Dakar) that need to be ready in 8 weeks, for example, and no work has yet begun. I won’t bore you with the details but a certain number of somersaults and hoop jumping has already been done and there are a few more back flips to go before we can sign contracts next week. But at the end of the day, all we can do is love, right?
I wish I could get that right and not be so focused on my lists and to just let go… to let go of all sorts of offence and injustice and of plan A or plan B. Just keep on loving. Just like the One who loves me unconditionally, day in day out, regardless of my attitude or heart. At the end of the day, the answer to anyone wondering why we are coming to Senegal is simple. We are coming as an expression of God’s immense love for this nation. To a nation that is around 94% muslim, to a people who are in need, to people who need hope. When I look at it like that, I wish I could steer the ship home and pour out some love there too. Lack of access to surgery is huge and something we so desire to help, but we all need love wherever we may be.
I’m so thankful to have been met by love and I so desire people to feel they have met with love when they meet with me or with one of my incredible team.
May you be met by love too. Love always, KWW
From ‘met by love’, United Pursuit:
There is none, none like you
Who can know my heart like you do?
For all creation sings your song
I will join with time, declaring your glory…
want to keep on trying
We can run straight into your arms, unafraid
‘cause every time we meet you, we’re met by love
And we can lift our hands to Heaven. Full of faith
‘Cause every time we worship, we see your face