Saturday, 25 May 2013

too big

Fire Drill Thursday: it happens every other week and sends us into mass count up mode as we account for every crew member, every patient, every translator, every caregiver, every visitor and even every passport carrying cockroach … it can take a while. Today was our first ‘at sea’ Fire Drill which means that we all have to find our emergency station on deck (as opposed to on the dock) and learn how to put a lifejacket on and what we’d do if it all went pear shaped whilst we’re at sea… that was all except for me, because there was one lonely patient left on the ward who needed some company… and more importantly because God had planned a moment of extravagance for us both.

These days I see less and less of patients and more and more of my computer screen. It’s ok and I love all the different aspects of my job, but sometimes I long for a bit of a deeper connection than passing hellos as I whistle through the wards. So today, during the drill, I got to chat to Thierno for about half an hour. My French isn’t well polished but somehow the simple sentences I pickled together, said it better than I think fancy ones could. They brought a childlike simplicity to the truths I was trying to express and as I did so, the enormity of what God has done these last 10 months sank in some more. It’s too big. The enormity isn’t just for Thierno and it’s not even just for all of the hundreds of patients who have walked up and down our gangway, it’s for me too. He’s removed some of my very own more subtle ‘tumours’ - those life sucking lumps of destruction that had sat themselves deep in my spirit – yep, He’s cut a few out of me too.

This is the heart of what we shared:
-          God is a God of the impossible – yep, that means nothing is impossible
-          God’s love is extravagant – endless, overwhelming, more than enough
-          There is nothing more beautiful than watching people love each other
-          Africa has taught me how to love and to put people above getting stuff done
-          My heart has never been this full … not ever… and he said the same about his with a huge ‘ugh!’ and disbelieving shake of the head

He stood with me and nodded over and over as we reflected on God’s goodness. He explained how he’d heard about the ship on the radio and how he’d made the 3 day journey to get here, he pointed to each of the 7 beds he had occupied over the course of the last 10 months. He shook his head in disbelief and his eyes shone with deep gratitude. I found myself thinking, ‘I don’t think he is a Christian’… and as the thought popped into my head, I realised how ridiculous it sounded. I’m not sure what label he would give himself, and I’m no longer even sure what a ‘Christian’ is, but He knows who God is and he knows how good He is – of that there is no doubt. I need to get rid of my labels. This man is beautiful. He displays a heart full of humility, love and gratitude. He knows what it is like to nearly die and he knows what it is like to be rescued. He knows depths and darkness that I pray I will never know… yet he knows the richness of new life and a freedom for which he has no words. He is a man full of hope and a man who has blessed me more than he will ever know. He is a man who shows me the heart of God whether he realises it or not. I asked him what his dreams are for the future.; good health, a job and a wife… will you pray for him with me?

I can’t wrap my head around it and I probably shouldn’t even try. It’s too big, too beautiful, too much…

God of the impossible, I love you.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

His banner over me

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

... this song has been circling through my head for the last week or so, and as I reflect on 10 months in Guinea, my heart swells as I thank God for all He has done. There’s thousands of patients who have had surgery with us – some very simple – some major – all covered with a love and a grace from a God who loves each one.
There’s stories that I can’t even believe are over – ones where God taught me so much about taking Him at His word; He really is a God of the impossible you know. As I think of Thierno who was with us back in September before he had his massive tumour removed, I remember the days when we really wondered if he would even make it to surgery. He was so weak and his tumour was sucking the very life out of him. I found an email the other day that was calling our team to a 24 hour prayer time for him. In it I had quoted the verse from Ephesians 3:20-21; Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
As I read it, my eyes filled with tears as I realized where we had come. Thierno is now back sitting on our ward having had some further surgery. He looks great. He’s had his ups and downs… but there is no denying that God has done more than we could have asked or imagined in this man’s life. Where he was weak, skinny and could hardly breathe, he is strong, sturdy and breathing with ease. He carries a shy smile and a confidence that suggests that he’s not just had his life sucking tumour removed, but the life sucking hopelessness has lifted too. As he sat with another patient a couple of weeks ago when she was going through some similar struggles, he encouraged her and told her to, ‘…take courage… they fought for my life’. When we work with people who don’t speak our language and even have to go through 2 or 3 different translators to be understood, it’s not always easy to know what has been communicated or what you have inadvertently miscommunicated. But what I love about this place is that love and hope translate. Our amazing Hospital team has poured out love on Theirno beyond measure – and he knows it. He’s felt it. He looks like someone who hope has descended on. He looks like someone who is believing again that he is somebody and that there are plans to prosper him and not to harm him. What a privilege.
I have heard time and time again comments from patients that say the same. Earlier this year one of our VVF ladies told one of the nurses how she was going to go home to her village and tell them, ‘what love looks like’ and just this week, a father of one of the kids who had ortho surgery told us passionately how although he hadn’t been healed physically, that through his daughters stay with us, he had been healed emotionally and spiritually. Now this is more than I can ask or imagine. These aren’t things that can be taught, these are things that are received deep in people’s hearts and it thrills me.
Our God goes to the ends of the earth to show us how much He loves us. As I reflect on the thousands of orthopedic, eye, vvf, maxillo facial and plastics surgeries that have taken place in this little boat of hope, it fills me with a deep down knowledge that there’s a God out there who loves me too. A God who showers out His grace, who lifts out the parts of me that have been tainted with untruth and that have sucked the life out of me and He fills them with life bursting truth. He’s a God who reminds me that He made me for a purpose and that in it all… His banner over me is love.
1 Corinthians 13 tells us what love looks like so well:
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. Love never gives up, Love cares more for others than for self, Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
doesn’t have a swelled head,
doesn’t force itself on others,
isn’t always “me first,”
doesn’t fly off the handle,
doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
doesn’t revel when others grovel,
takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
puts up with anything,
trusts God always,
always looks for the best,
never looks back,
but keeps going to the end.

I wanna love like that…. and I want to know that I am loved like that. I mean deep down in my heart, know that I’m loved like that Because it’s from that place that I can reach for the impossible… when I reach from a place of what I see or a place of disappointment at what I have or haven’t seen or from a place of human possibility, I lose courage and I lose hope. When I rest in this kind of love, I reach boldly and begin to believe again that my God is a God of the impossible.

Guinea 2012/13: I’m so thankful to you for all the many lessons you have taught me… I will hold your people in my heart as well as all the ways I have seen my faithful God of the impossible at work. May your nation be changed by the love that has been poured out and may it continue to bring life to your hurting and dry places. Thank you for all the ways you have breathed life into me…

…Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

(for the full song check out Matt Redman: Never Once)

His banner over you is love too you know… outrageous bucket loads of love and grace to you,  KWW

(looking forward to catching up with you during a 3 week break at home in June before we head to The Republic of Congo for 10 months in late July. Whooooooop!)