It’s a bright sunny spring day here in England. The daffodils are swaying in the wind – sometimes found in tidy gardens and other times pickled beautifully along rural hedgerows. They kind of hold a smile and their bright yellow literally gleams at me and brings such joy. The cherry tree blossom is in bloom and the magnolias are starting too. The grass is a lush green and if you’re brave enough to go outside, you’ll feel the harsh cold wind carrying springtime birdsong. It is pure music to my soul in a season I had not imagined experiencing for the 9th year in a row. I’d literally boarded a train 3 weeks ago, heading for London Heathrow, when I saw the news that COVID-19 cases in the UK had reached over 200, which would mean I’d automatically get quarantined on arrival in Liberia for 14 days. It was a 3 day business trip which quickly got cancelled, together with the trips that were booked for Senegal and then the one that would lead me to Liberia for the next 6 months right after that.
There are so many things to process and the recurring thought in my mind is: what does it take for the world to stop? I am saddened at the answer that is in my mind – because I think it seems to only be when things become personal that we start to care and the alarm bells call us to stop. I’m sure that’s not the whole truth, but the world hasn’t stopped for the 1000s that are caught up in the horrors of war or for all those with their own crippling battles that isolate them every day, or for those who die because they don’t have access to clean drinking water, or to treatment for malaria or to access to safe surgery. The world hasn’t stopped for the thousands of babies that get aborted every single day. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be stopping. But why haven’t we stopped before?
I’m writing as one of the lucky ones. No one I know has been affected personally and so I have the privilege of pondering without the pain of loss. I acknowledge that immense gift with deep thanks and my heart breaks for those who cannot say the same whether that's right now or for many years. Perspective is an interesting thing and as I consider my own losses in all this, I cannot help but think of those caught up in lockdown on floor 19 of a tower block where the violence or addiction or abuse now knows no daylight ceasing and the silent cries of those suffering unimaginable pain.
As life takes on a whole new twist for us all, we are learning to take one day at a time. In the last weeks, I’ve been pruning apple trees at mum and dad’s – delayed because the rain of the last months has prevented anyone getting outside for long enough! The delay means that some of the tress are already sprouting buds and their tender new leaves are visible signs of fruit to come. I asked my mum, ‘do I even cut the ones with buds?’. ‘Yes’, she answered, ‘…they need it. It’s good for them’. And so as I positioned the shears, I boldly chopped away and let the fragile new sprouts fall to the ground. After all that growing, all that trying, that is it! And so it got me thinking of this strange season and the pruning we have all been called to do. No bursting schedules, consumerism curtailed, no personal contact except for those with whom you live, no driving except for essential journeys, a feeling of loss of purpose, perhaps. And yet, of course, He always has purpose.
I’m considering what I need to prune, even the bits that are showing signs of life – are they really what God has called me to for now? As I consider the words – ‘it’s good for them’ – I realise I need it too. We need it. It’s good for us. It makes me wonder what fruit it is I want to grow anyway and so I ask God to reveal the bits that need cutting away. What do I need to make space for? Is it the physical or emotional piles of accumulated stuff – hurt – memories - that need a bit of a prune? Would that make way for more joy, I wonder.
One of my favourite's
In terms of Mercy Ships work, I’m continuing to work from my home, going out for my once a day airing and keeping in touch with friends. I saw a real human today as I put my rubbish out and it was a delight! As Mercy Ships ponder and plan and figure out if we can pivot our programs in a way that will serve those who need them and how we can build our own systems and processes to prepare us for the future, I’m finding much grace is needed as we all navigate the unknown. I’ve also submitted forms to start working in my former ICU in Exeter and will await to see what that brings.
A bike ride away from home
I hope we learn from all this. I hope that we learn to stop and show some tender care even when it’s not so close to home. I’m really wishing we had stopped before now.
To those of you who aren’t up for pruning, or have even been brutally hacked away at already – this question isn’t for you. But for those of you like me, privileged to be healthy and safe, are you ready to do some pruning too? I heard a whisper in my heart the other day, ‘come to me for all that you need’ and I think some pruning will help me do just that.
Love always, KWW
by Charlie Mackesy