Friday, 19 October 2007

Frail flowers

‘Frail flowers of the field, Let us not reckon upon blooming forever. For there is a time appointed when we shall glorify God through weakness and suffering, and not by our earnest activity.’ C. Spurgeon

Oh dear, I have to admit I have been a bit of a frail flower these last few months! I know life isn’t all a bed of roses but I have to admit I am tired of saying I am tired and have kind of been waiting to update you all until I felt a skip in my step again!

Actually, the skip is beginning to return. After 4 months of heavy rain and grey skies I am delighted to see blue sky again. It’s amazing what a difference it makes to my soul. I feel like I have been in a winter slump, craving apple crumble and Toad in the hole! Monrovia is one of the wettest cities in the world (now they tell me!), so I guess it was to be expected. It intensifies the poverty here so much. People’s houses that are already falling down spring leaks in all directions, sellers on the streets struggle to sell anything,  malaria is at its peak, patients fight to get here on time for their surgery slot and daily life just becomes co much harder. Driving is an ever increasing challenge and I just laugh as I sweep around from one pot hole to another – it’s impossible not to hit a few. You can also guarantee that even if there were a dry couple of days, the rain would return in time for the weekend, so we have felt a little cooped up to say the least. There’s lots of things that drain me here – the high staff turn over has to be the biggest. So when the things that normally fill me up are taken away (like getting off the ship) it makes for a harder time all round.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! Never! I will always love this place and will never tire of seeing God at work. Sometimes, I get blind to it mind you. A friend pointed out the other day that it was only when she went home and started explaining what she had been up to and about some of the patients she had had the privilege of caring for, that she realised what an amazing place this ship is! Seeing blind people come onto the ship and walk out seeing is a daily event and sometimes I just walk past and don’t even notice the life changing stories that are going on right in front of me! We are so used to seeing patients with huge facial deformities, that it is easy to look past the miracles that are taking place. And that’s what they are. For some of these people, there was never any hope. They have lived for years being stared at and slowly finding it more and more difficult to breathe. And then there was hope… and a life about to turn upside down. Wow! I’m just realising it again. Just this afternoon someone turned up on the dock with a huge tumour around his eye. Some swift assessments, changing of surgery schedules and a CT scan later mean he will get surgery tomorrow. Pretty cool I’d say! After my winter slump I have been forced to realise once again that this place can get pretty tough without some sort of help from God. I’m getting that deep inner joy back again as I realise how good it is to be here, so good to be where I was made to be. I can’t believe I got to a place where I almost lost that excitement.

This is Joanna. She was brought to the ship at just 2 days old by her mother. She was born with a cleft lip and palate and was already suffering the usual stigma of such birth defects and her mother had brought her to the ship with the hope of finding a new home for her. One of our paediatric nurses did a beautiful job at taking them under her wing and encouraged her Mum, advising her on feeding methods and showing her that Joanna was a beautiful little girl. At 5 months, Joanna had reached a safe weight in order to have her cleft lip repaired. Unfortunately her surgery got cancelled due to some concerns of a heart murmur. However, a paediatrician came to the ship last week and after a thorough check over, declared her fit for surgery. So the surgery went ahead! Her Mum was delighted and you could see the changes in expression on her face as she saw her daughter with her new face.  Then Tuesday night came – over 24 hours post surgery – Joanna stopped breathing and her heart also stopped. We successfully resuscitated her and she was then ventilated in ICU for 4 days. It was a stressful few days. Lots of guilt going around, wondering if we should have even done the surgery. Anyway, to cut a long story short and by God’s flippin’ amazing grace once again… Joanna is doing ‘fine fine’ and went home today! Wow, wow, wow! SO good! You can see the love in her Mum’s eyes. These kinds of stories really do fill me with joy…and it’s that kind of joy that gives me strength.

I am really looking forward to catching up with you at Christmas. We finish surgery here in Liberia in 6 weeks time and leave a couple of weeks later. I will be sad to say goodbye to people who have taught me so much and shown me so much about smiling even when life is grey and cloudy but I am more than ready for a break. We will arrive in Gran Canaria in early December where the ship will go into dry dock and have its yearly health check. Then by the time I return, she’ll be in Tenerife for a few weeks before we head off to Sierra Leone at the end of January to start the next adventure. I will be taking on the role of Ward Supervisor from then. Scary but true! I would appreciate your prayers as I look forward to yet another steep learning curve looming ahead. I want to embrace it and taste more of that joy that I know comes from following in obedience. Bring it on!... but I know some rest is needed before I face that one and coming home and seeing you will be a big part of that.

As you can see it’s been a busy couple of months and as I read this little quote following on from the one above, I had to smile:

 ‘The path of trouble is the way home. Lord, make this thought a pillow for many a weary head!’ C. Spurgeon

Love as always, KWW