Saturday, 19 May 2007

New House

I’ve got a new house! And I don’t even have a mortgage! There’s so much that has happened in the last couple of months but the biggest excitement has to be the arrival of our new home and work place, the Africa Mercy. After 8 years of sitting in a dockyard in England and lots of broken deadlines, it seems almost unreal that she is now docked in the berth opposite to where I am sitting right now. The Africa Mercy will continue the work that has been taking place on the Anastasis for the last 29 years – it’s time for her to retire. The Africa Mercy isn’t quite as beautiful to look at but is bigger than the Anastasis. Not only can she house over 100 more people, there are 6 operating rooms compared to 3 on the Anastasis. As I walk up the dock and see both them both docked opposite each other I am really reminded of the enormity of our God. SO big! SO mighty! Who would have thought the idea of a hospital ship would take off and find 400 crew working in so many different capacities in West Africa? Mercy Ships continues to blow my mind and remind me that it’s about something so much bigger than me. It’s exciting as we move from one ship to another. There’s still so much to do and I find myself fighting the frustrations of some who thought the Africa Mercy was going to be perfect. Life ain’t like that eh. There’s things we’ll miss, there’s things that we’ll have to adapt to, there’s a huge amount of work to be done before surgery begins in 4 weeks, but the constant reminder of seeing these 2 big ships docked together acts as a beautiful picture of God’s grandeur and our need to focus on Him through all this topsy turviness.

And just for the Brits (I’m sure you’ll embrace this opportunity to talk about the weather)… it’s raining! The sun sets and rises pretty much at the same time every day, the whole year round which makes it a little boring. In an effort to compensate, the weather is enjoying some craziness right now. It’s the beginning of rainy season and I have already experienced a few soakings when I’ve been caught out and about! The rain mostly confines itself to the evenings and nights but not always (if only England could learn that trick eh?). There’s also regular lightning shows that light up the whole sky and is sometimes accompanied with some clattering thunder as well! More reminders that I live in a world so much bigger than me with a God who is so much more powerful than little me. I love it! Before the rain comes, the winds begin to blow as if to warn you something big is about to happen! Market stall holders scurry around trying to shelter their goods and I look on in amazement as people’s tin roofs struggle to stop the water from getting in. It’s just part of life here and I wonder how much home flooding I could take.

In amongst all the excitement here and successful patient stories there’s also the nitty gritty of what it sometimes means to be a nurse. There’s busy days, patients who don’t do as well as you’d hoped, patients who go home without the perfection they had hoped for. Even in these situations I have to hold on to the fact that God brought these people to the ship and have to believe that it may not have been just for the surgery. That He had a higher purpose. There have been beautiful testimonies from people who have felt loved for the first time as they have spent so much of their lives feeling rejected. I remember one message from a man who was leaving after some facial surgery. His writing was poor, but the message was clear, ‘Thank you to the nurses. I know that Jesus loves me’. Beautiful stuff. There’s death too. Just a couple of weeks ago a 6 year old boy died after his discharge from our ward. He had just had a simple hernia repair, there had been some post op complications but he was doing well. Then, out of the blue, we heard he had died. Too sad. My mind is completely baffled and whilst I’ll never quite get my head around why it had to happen or the pain I saw and experienced at his funeral, I trust in a God who is bigger than me. Bigger than all of this. With purposes higher than I can imagine or ever understand. Someone who I know sees the bigger picture.  

There’s lots of fun stuff I’ve been up to as well. There’s been lots of ‘the last Anastasis’ events. Like the last movie shown on a big screen on Aft deck. I loved sitting out on a balmy African evening on movie night! It always felt a little surreal sitting there, on the edge of some West African country with ‘life’ going on a few hundred feet away and me there with a bowl of popcorn watching the latest blockbuster! It’s definitely a special experience that I’ll miss. Check out the photo of the last Anastasis lifeboat race! It was fun! There have been lots of beach trips and goodbye outings too. Many of the nurses arrived in Ghana last June and came for a year so they’re all about to leave. Aaaaaagh! It’s one of the tough things about living on board and I do find it pretty draining. I’m trying to learn not to hold onto people too tightly, to enjoy the privilege it is to get to know some amazing people and share precious times but to remember in it all that it’s not about any of that. I thought I’d done the uncomfortable bit last year when I had to say goodbye to everyone at home. So now, just as I was getting cosy I realise that God is asking me to get uncomfortable again. Stripping away anything that might let me think I can do life on my own. Having some very precious friends leave is just one reminder to me of how much I need God, I need His strength and His love so that I can carry on and keep getting to know new people and show His love to people even when I am tired and my insides are shouting out, ‘give me a break!!’. Our Chief Medical officer, Dr Gary Parker who has also been on board as a maxilla facial surgeon for the last 20 years is a wonderful example of someone who relies on God for all these things. It only dawned on me a while back. I was wondering how someone who had worked in the same job for so long could still express such enthusiasm for his work, such love for his patients, I honestly have never met anyone like it. So when he was talking to us as a crew about the need to rely on God and the truth that we just can’t do this by ourselves, I had to stop and listen. Humanly speaking, we just can’t be the kind and loving people we would like to be. We need something bigger than ourselves.

So there we go folks! I’m popping home for a couple of weeks on June 1st to go to a wedding, it’s a great excuse to catch up with friends too, though 2 weeks is just too short so it’ll be a whirlwind I am sure. Whether I get to see you or not, I am so grateful for your love and support. When I return it’ll be time for my role as ICU and Recovery Manager to fully begin so I will certainly appreciate your prayers. For now, I will say bye bye, KWW xxx