Thursday, 9 April 2009

The final countdown

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh! I can’t believe it. I can’t believe that I’m now in the final countdown… I’m leaving Mercy Ships in a week. I can’t believe it!

So just to bring you up to date… I had a great few months at home over Christmas. I caught up with lots of different friends from different bits of my life and it was just so nice! Whilst I was at home though I had a constant nagging in me and I knew that it was time to decide whether or not to have a break from Mercy Ships. I have finally given in and am due to leave on 19th April. It feels so right to come home but it’s also so hard to say goodbye. Thank you to all who have so generously supported me since I left my job in July 2005 (crazy how time flies!). I simply could not have been part of the amazing things God does through Mercy Ships without you. I feel privileged to have been able to show love to so many people who have so little. Whilst I know I need a break, I also know that this isn’t the end of me doing stuff like this. My heart comes alive here, and as I was at our surgical screening a few weeks ago and saw the thousands of people lining up for a consultation in the hope of getting an appointment for surgery, my heart was wrenched once again and my eyes filled with tears in the face of such overwhelming need. I really hope as I come home I will never forget this.

It’s been a busy few months since coming back in January. The ward is fuller than ever and we’re doing more surgeries than we have done before. At the moment we’re doing orthopaedic, maxilla facial, ophthalmic, gynaecological, general and plastic surgeries. It’s exciting to see – though on tired days I am challenged as I wonder whether it is all about numbers of surgeries or whether we should be focusing more on the relationships we are building with people here. There needs to be a balance of course, but I can’t help wishing sometimes that everything would slow down… it makes me sad that the pressures of proving our efficiency to large donors translates as having less time for people. I know God can still work of course and I know this side of Heaven life is never going to be perfect, but please pray that God will always be at the centre of all that goes on here. ‘…one thing I ask, is that your light in me, would shine ever brighter…’ song by Mia Fieldes. I hope I never forget this.

I had a great weekend just gone with a couple of precious friends – we took a 9 hour bus ride (which actually took 12 hours with a few minor breakdowns) to the north of Benin to Pendjari National Park. We got to see Elephants, Baboons, Hippos, Monkeys, Antelopes… and lots more… it was really fun! We stayed in a little hut which was part of a hotel, but was in the middle of nowhere and it was just so beautiful! The sky was pickled with stars, the mango trees completely laden with fruit and the fresh gentle breeze – oh, such a nice escape from the ship! Today (Easter Sunday) I took a boat ride through the mangroves and found myself in a little taste of paradise! Through the mangroves, I found myself on a lagoon where a Belgian couple have set up business, complete with decking, canoes, a little sailing boat and yummy food. It was just so nice to enjoy the peace and hear birds sing and see flowers! Stuff like that speaks loudly to me of who God is. Africa…such beauty… I hope I never forget.

So what next? I’m going to be doing a 9 week course with a Christian organisation in Lancaster from May-July and after that I don’t really know! I’d like to work back at the RD&E but it’s early days yet so I don’t have any plans, only ideas. Sometimes I wonder how I get myself in these positions – I’m kind of nervous to go somewhere new again but I really do know God has plans for me during the course too. I am looking forward to being ‘fed’ spiritually and having time to re-fuel... and trying to remember that God is strong when I am weak… brave when I am not (I hope I never forget) – (another Mia Fieldes song!).

Well, I look forward to catching up with you again soon. I guess there’ll be a break (an even longer one!) in the stories of ‘nursiekirstie’ for a while but I know here will be more in the future. For now it’s goodbye to the warmth of West Africa, goodbye to the puzzled faces of little kids as they try to scratch the freckles off my arms, goodbye to the zillions of mango stones littering the streets (and back to gum instead), goodbye to a place that I thought I was coming to serve in and then found out that it was as much about my personal journey as about me serving others (God is always so upside down isn’t he), goodbye to the tear jerking sight of the VVF ladies singing down the hospital corridor as they begin their dress ceremony to celebrate their successful surgery, goodbye to the precious smile of a mum looking down at her baby with a newly fixed cleft lip… and goodbye to many, many beautiful friends from all around the world. Ow – it hurts so much… but it’s ok!

‘Life is meant to be an adventure. When we cease to reach out and stretch ourselves, something in us dies’. It’s a quote that inspired me to be brave and come here and it’s a quote that will continue to challenge me to seek more of God’s plans for my life... I know there’s nothing better.

Bye for now, love always, KWW