Ndank Ndank moy diap gollo ci niaye – slowly slowly if you want to catch a monkey in the forest!
We were a little taken aback as a Country Engagement Team when we realized that both the team in Senegal and Liberia had learned this proverb this last week – independently. In Senegal, we had been waiting for a meeting and our translator was teaching us in Wolof and making us laugh (and us making him laugh too!). My desire for control and to push my own agenda and timeline still struggles to fully accept the message this phrase carries, but somehow it felt timely.
I have noticed an extraordinary beauty during this 3 week trip to Senegal in which we’d been charged to re-engage with the Government and our local partners in view of our desire to return and finish the work we have started in 2021. I always feel alive when I am on this continent and bouncing from one crazy adventure to the next, but I suspect escaping from lockdown in the UK and the isolation of living and working alone for the last 8 months made the contrast all the more stark. As I was driving through one of the highway tolls from the airport, the cashier said to me, ‘Is Mercy Ships back? Why did you leave? We need you to come back!” – it’s a response we have heard multiple times during these last 3 sweet weeks and it touched my heart once again. There was something about the joy and the freedom with which his words were carried and his genuine desire to welcome me that touched me deeply. As I pulled away, I asked God what it was that made these people so beautiful? I have missed this pure joy so much. Immediately God replied, ‘Control! At home (UK), everyone is trying to control everything and it steals your joy and brings sadness and stress’. I recognized the heaviness that I feel weighing down so much of the world, and I wept. It was like God was doing a surgery within me and removing a desire for control and replacing it with a renewed trust in Him. In His plans, in His timing, in remembering that the only thing that is important in this life is the Kingdom. I could feel the joy returning. What is the point of trying to control anything? I was confessing for myself, but also for my family, for my country, for our organization. We need to let go – by trying to push our own agendas and timelines, we simply hold God back. Our each and every step must be led by the Holy Spirit.
And so as we face different challenges, all over the world, let’s go << slowly, slowly if we want to catch that monkey>> Let’s trust that God really is King of the universe as we root ourselves in Him. May the King from on High speak to you about all that you need to let go of as you renew your trust in Him.
It was a whirlwind 19 days of a trip to Senegal and as a team, we have been so blessed. Our team included Eliphaz Essah who was following up on the Food for Life (FFL) program that was forced to finish so abruptly in March. He also continued with plans for a new FFL course that will start in February 2021. He left with a full heart – feeling the blessing of meeting so many participants who were putting their teaching into practice, helping them overcome obstacles and encouraging them to keep on going. Joan Kotze and Becky Handforth joined me, together with one of our former Day Crew, in our quest to re-engage with the government and many of our local partners. We were met with hearty welcomes, open doors and we left each meeting feeling so encouraged. I remember praying in early 2019 as we set off for trust to be built and for relationships to be established and it has been a privilege to see and hear the fruit of that. We have many many friends here now and Mercy Ships is received with love. We heard testimonies from both those who had received surgery and training and it filled our hearts. The very lovely Commandant Badgi who is the Port Harbour Master told how one of his relatives had a large facial tumour removed and of the transformation she has experienced. I reminded him that we could not have done our part, if he had not done his and facilitated a prime berth space for us. I think we both had tears in our eyes as we shared. Our God is so good.
The message is clear: we are welcome back and people so
appreciate our desire to deliver the promises we have made to patients and
health professionals who await training. We visited Hospitals where we have
donated equipment during these last months and they too told of how blessed
they have been. The one and only Christian Hospital here in Senegal shared how
they had received a prophetic word many years ago about God’s abundant
provision and they felt that Mercy Ships were a real representation and
fulfillment of this promise.
There are few Christians in Senegal, but we had the honour of re-connecting with one doctor who has a dream to establish a Christian nursing school in Senegal. She said when she visited our HOPE Centre (our pre & post op accommodation facility for those living far away) and saw the abundance of the love being showered out in that place, she thought to herself, ‘ils sont les preparateurs’- meaning….. these people are preparing the ground for the people of Senegal to receive the good news. Isn’t that a beautiful reminder? Our work to strengthen the local health system, to improve access to surgical care, to embrace each one we meet in a holistic way through all our programs, is ultimately about the Kingdom. Nothing else matters. The upcoming Food for Life course planned for February will hope to include some of our former patients as participants. The story of transformation is endless and I am so in awe of the fresh and creative ideas that God is birthing as we continue to serve Him here.
During our stay we have seen the number of COVID cases in Senegal slowly rising and yet they have been hailed as one of the top 24 countries in the world in the way they have handled this pandemic. The incidence is minimal compared to so many other countries in the world. Please be on your knees for this nation, that it would be spared a second wave, that God’s love and light would shine through, that His will would be done and His Kingdom would come. Pray for wisdom as we continue to make plans for our return, for God’s timing, for God’s protection and for Him to open the doors He has for us. There is still uncertainty ahead of us, but we trust God with it all and we look forward to seeing the ship arrive back in the Port not too far from now.
…and so back to that guy at the toll on the highway – because, most unexpectedly, I passed through the same toll 5 days later and as I wound down the window to pay, the guy greeted me and said: ‘Bonjour Kirstie d’Angleterre!’. I was totally perplexed and was slow to realise…. this was the guy from the time before and I guess I must have given him my name! There with his encouraging banter and telling me again how Mercy Ships need to come back. As I drove away, still perplexed that this guy had remembered me (admittedly, there aren’t many white people driving Mercy Ships vehicles around at the moment…), I had another encounter with Jesus. He said to me, ‘If it amazes you how much a stranger knows your name, how much more do you think I know your name? The one who made you…. I know your name. I know what you need. I see all that is on your heart. I will provide for you. I know your name Kirstie.’… these whispers were subtle and I could easily have missed them, but there is something that is hard to describe that makes the air crisper on these kinds of trips. Less distractions, more situations that feel impossible, less control, more dependency on Him. There is intimacy with Jesus.
There are things on my heart that I long to see so much and in these moment I find deep hope. As we each find ourselves in what has been a crazy year, we have to surrender, we have to admit that we cannot control anything and we have to acknowledge that there is a God who knows our name.
Ndank Ndank moy diap gollo ci niaye...
Happy Christmas to you my friends. May you know the joy of renewed trust in the one who was born to bring you hope and everlasting joy.
From Seasons by Hillsong:
I can see the promise
I can see the future
You're the God of seasons
And I'm just in the winter
If all I know of harvest
Is that it's worth my patience
Then if You're not done working
God I'm not done waiting
You can see my promise
Even in the winter
Cause You're the God of greatness
Even in a manger
For all I know of seasons
Is that You take Your time
You could have saved us in a second
Instead You sent a child