Saturday, 15 December 2018

justice and love

If you only had two words to communicate in another language, what would you want them to be? 

Thankfully I’ve grown to beyond two words in French, but this last week I was deeply touched by two comments my teacher made. It feels like he never gives me much of a clue of how I am doing (and my marks are not always that impressive) and I can’t even count the number of times I’ve wondered if he’s secretly wishing he had put me in a lower class - such is the power of insecurity, comparison and my imagination. But this last week he made two comments that caused tears to well up in my eyes. They were just in passing as he was explaining something else but they stood out to me. The first was, ‘… as we know how much Kirstie cares about justice’…. and the second, ‘… and as Kirstie is often reminding us, what does love look like?’. You know, there have been times in these last 3 months when I have literally wanted to walk out of the class in a flood of tears, when I have thought the mountain is way too high for me and that it really would be OK to give up. We speak French 100% of the time in our class (and even at break times), to the extent where I spoke in English to my 2 classmates a few days ago and we giggled at each other’s English accents as we had no idea what we sounded like in English until then! It’s exhausting and sometimes it feels like I spit out absolute nonsense, a jumble of words in a fearful attempt to break the silent, inquisitive, and yet, patient stare of my teacher who is waiting for me to contribute something to the debate. So when I heard that he knew I like to fight for justice and that I often want to ask what love looks like, I could have cried. If I have learnt to communicate nothing more than my love for justice and the power of love, I am satisfied! I am learning so many lessons here, not least that I don’t need to be perfect and I’m learning that compassion doesn’t get lost in my misplaced pronouns or my confused tenses.  Phew. 

Here are some other lessons I’m in the process of learning (in French, when you are in the process of doing something you say, ‘en train de’)… so I like to think I am ‘on the train’ of learning’ - It’s a journey:

-      I’m never alone, even if I feel like it
-      It’s no coincidence that this school is surrounded my mountains. I can look to them and be reminded where my help comes from every day - the maker of Heaven and Earth
-      You never know what God might be waiting to say to you. Make space for Him
-      I can do nothing in my own strength. Don’t even try
-      Patience + Trust = Peace + Joy. Without those ingredients, you will never find peace and joy. Fear and control are the usual contaminates. 
-      ‘you know your mind is renewed, when the possible looks logical’ Bill Johnson
-      Sometimes you just need to go outside and look at the stars
-      Are my language skills for my own glory or His? If not mine, then failure is merely an act of learning and not a statement about my identity
-      The Kingdom of God is justice and peace and when I don’t discern those things, I mustn’t align with what I see
-      Live generously. It’s always worth it
-      Friends are extremely precious
-      Grace and love for myself. Loads of it. (the train journey for this one seems longer than others)
-      Above all, worship our all-powerful, sovereign God. Start everything from that place and it changes everything. 

The view from my bedroom

 I’m so grateful for this season of language learning, but more than that, the opportunity to ‘renew my mind’. It was when I was reading an article a few weeks ago about the impossibility of learning a language if you’re over 30, that I realised something. I instinctively closed down the article half way through. I didn’t want to fill my mind with that! I find science fascinating, but who is to tell me my brain isn’t capable of learning anymore? So often, we are trained to look through our human eyes, to see what we can understand, and I’m sick of it! What’s the point of saying I believe in a God who can move mountains and that I can do even greater things than Jesus did on Earth and then settle for filling my mind with what I can understand? I’m not playing that game, sorry! I am realising I was made for a different reality.  

It’s so good to be on this 'train of learning'. It’s really, really good. It’s a gift and one that is preparing me for what is next. Plans are still forming with Mercy Ships but for now, I will be patient and trust and believe that all these lessons, as well as the French, will be put to good use one day. 

Sovereign in the mountain air, sovereign on the ocean floor,
With me in the calm, with me in the storm… 
Whatever comes my way, I will trust you. 
All my dreams, all my fears, held in your hands.
All my life, all of me, held in your hands. 

(Sovereign, Chris Tomlin)

May your lives be marked by justice and love as we celebrate the Prince of Peace. Emmanuel. 

Happy Christmas and so much love, KWW

Sunday, 4 November 2018

eternity's love

I’m a little bit lost for words at the richness of this season I’m in.  Whether it’s the gift of time and space, for the peaceful pull towards His heart, for wisdom out of nowhere, for clear night skies when I feel delightfully small and am reminded that my God is infinitely big and infinitely able, for dancing snowflakes that tell me He cares about the details too, for the colours of autumn tumbling down the mountain side, for birdsong, for fresh vegetables that I can create all sorts of things with, for majestical sunsets, for faith filled friends, for the things that are starting to make sense in French, for all the rich opportunities I have…. I could go on and on. I’m so surprised by this season of joy. 

But on top of all that I just got to spend a few days at Taizé – a community of a 100 or so Brothers who seek justice and unity. It all started with someone called Brother Roger in the 1940s and ‘The story of Taizé’ is well worth a read if you want to know more. During the second world war where Christians were killing each other, as well as being moved by the disunity amongst Christian denominations, Brother Roger writes, ‘I wondered if a way existed by which one person might understand another completely. I made a decision to assume that way does exist… it needed to begin with myself, to commit myself to understand everything of every other person and it would involve constant return…. I would try and understand everything, rather than try to make everyone understand me… it would involve a lifetime of kindness and mercy…’. 

Brother Roger believed that everyone is sacred, especially those in need. He set up the community in the village of Taizé because it was extremely poor – he believed Christ was closest to the poor and committed himself to a lifetime of poverty. He started alone, knowing he couldn’t force others to see the same way he did. The community now hosts thousands and thousands of visitors every year – 90% of whom are in their teens or twenties. 

Why am I sharing this? I guess because this place really touched me. To see the commitment of these brothers, to take part in their times of prayer, to witness and to join the singing which felt like it came from Heaven and touched my deepest parts and to be reminded that my life is not my own. 

Here are a few of the beautifully simple songs they sing:

Jésus le Christ, lumiére intérieure, ne laisse pas mes ténèbres me parler. Jésus le Christ, lumiére intérieure, donne-moi d’accueilir ton amour. (Lord Jesus Christ, your light shines within us. Let not my doubts or darkness speak to me. Lord Jesus Christ, your light shines within us. Let my heart always welcome your love)

Fiez-vous en Lui, ne craignez pas. La paix de Dieu gardera vos coeurs. Fiez vous en Lui. Alléluia, alleluia. (Trust in Him and do not fear. God’s peace will protect your hearts)

Veni Sancte Spiritus, tu iamoris ignem accende. (Holy Spirit, come to us, kindle in us the light of your love)

Ubi Caritas et amour, ubi caritas Deus ibi est (Where there is charity and love, God is to be found)

After several years working away with Mercy Ships and in this season of abundance, it’s tempting to feel the draw ‘home’. I miss my little flat, the independence, friends, family…. all those things. But at Taizé I was struck as I reflected on my motives. What is my life purpose? Brother Roger talks of Christ’s secret: that He loved us first and that the meaning of our life is therefore, ‘…to be loved forever, to be clothed by forgiveness and trust so that you can then take the risk of giving your life’. One visitor to Taizé talks of discovering, ‘… the deep significance of reconciliation, that living force of hope called forgiveness – not just words, but the means God gives us to live together in peace and understanding’. Taizé has been described as a, ‘springtime for all who are searching for true life’.

And suffice it to say, I found life there. More so than in the entangled thoughts of what the world might ‘owe me’ for my work the last 12 years, or the comforts I might be deserving of, given the sacrifices I had made. It all feels like such nonsense. Tempting, but nonsense. The devotion of these brothers truly touched me. They live out a ‘parable of Community’, not to draw attention to themselves but to point to something beyond themselves. 

I want to live a life that reveals something beyond myself. I want to joyfully use my gift of life for others. I can do that anywhere and I will try. But the subtle pull towards home, which represents ‘comfort and ease’ (for me) is nothing more than that. I’m not saying it represents comfort and ease for everyone – far from it, so don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I just want to do what I was created for and not get distracted by other ‘good things’. I want to use my life well and this visit allowed me to reflect a little on what that might look like. 

‘If a trusting heart were at the beginning of everything, you would be ready to dare a ‘yes’ for your whole life’ (Brother Roger). Trust reminds us that we are not the ones who have to accomplish everything ourselves and it was a reminder I needed. 

Life in Albertville continues until Easter and after that my plans are still unsure. I am inspired by Brother Roger’s lifetime commitment to kindness and mercy. I hope to keep working with Mercy Ships, but for now I’ll stick with receiving these abundant showers of love so that I can take them wherever my Jesus leads. 

Love forever, KWW x

From my bedroom window

Saturday, 29 September 2018

cliff jumping

4 weeks in and I’m thinking how interesting it is that you so often feel the weakest in the places you were created to be the strongest! There’s an enemy out there who opposes the will of God and he does anything to make us weak. I’m realising that this language learning thing is about so much more than just language. It’s taking so much courage to literally jump off the cliff everyday and it takes every ounce of my introverted spirit to interact ALL day long, to create opinions about things I don’t care too much about and to put all the theory into practice. 

I’m not unhappy – far from it – but I’m very aware that I’m on a journey. I need to overcome a lack of confidence and believe in myself. The fear of getting it wrong or the fear of sailing out into the unknown is real and it makes me want to stay on the safety of the shore. In those moments, I forget the goodness of God and I try to stay in complete control. I wait to hear the cheers that help me feel believed in before I make the jump – but I realise, I need to believe in myself. And it’s hard. Sometimes I’m not sure I can do it. I want to learn quietly in my own room and not out there where everyone can see and hear me. They might realise that I’m stupid after all! It’s a journey of self discovery; I don’t believe that I’m stupid – but somehow I fear, that maybe I am. Control and fear keep me silent and I have to generate the courage to jump off the cliff again and again. And I do. I’m jumping. But it’s taking all I’ve got. I’m realising how much I need to believe in myself so that courage would simply flow… I want to stop making myself small. But for that I need to let go of control. I need to trust that it’s going to be ok. 

Proverbs 31: 8&9
‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and the needy’.

It’s a braver journey than I had realised and I’d only do it for Him, for them, for the ones who need a voice. Something deep inside me believes that I was created to speak up for the ‘poor’ (I don’t like that word as most of the people it refers to are so rich in my eyes… but that’s another story…) and so I have to jump off this cliff. Everyday. I will not be made weak where I was designed to be strong! Give me strength to believe in myself, clear away those repeating lies. The ones that tell me people think I’m incapable, the ones that somehow get lived out and end up with an ugly twist of self prophesy. I want to believe in myself. I want to be all you made me to be. I need you to be strong where I feel weak. 

I’ll keep on jumping. I’ll do it for you and I’ll do it for them. I’ll do it for eternity, so that I, in turn, can believe in others. So that armies of those who have been silenced by poverty would rise up and be heard and believe that they have a purpose in this world too. May their passion erupt, may their joy and hope be complete. May the world be lighter because of it!

Proverbs 31: 25
‘She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come’. 

May it be so. 

Let my life be a song, revealing who you are… *

Courage and peace to you. Believe in yourself. 

Love always, KWW

(There's no doubt that it's a gift to be learning these lessons in such a beautiful part of the world….)

* from the song ‘Salt & Light’ by Lauren Daigle

Oh the beauty of the King
You make righteous those who seek
You have written and redeemed my story

Let my eyes see Your kingdom shine all around
Let my heart overflow with passion for Your name
Let my life be a song, revealing who You are
For You are salt and light

Oh the love that set me free
You bring hope to those in need
You have written and redeemed my story

Let my eyes see Your kingdom shine all around
Let my heart overflow with passion for Your name
Let my life be a song, revealing who You are

For You are salt and light
You are love's great height
You are deep and wide
A consuming fire

You are salt and light
You are love's great height
You are deep and wide
A consuming fire

Let my eyes see Your kingdom shine all around
Let my heart overflow with passion for Your name
Let my life be a song, revealing who You are
For You are salt and light
You are salt and light
For You are salt and light
For You are salt and light

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

back to school

I feel like I might be in Heaven but then again, school starts tomorrow morning so maybe not!! I’m in Albertville, France for 7 months to master (in my dreams) the French language and it is breathtakingly beautiful. Just like that another new beginning has started. 

The more I’m away from my beloved bateau, the more I realise taking a break was the right thing to do. I’m still uninstalling the ‘must keep busy’ mode from my mind-set but instead of the constant planning that I had become accustomed to, I’m having the most wonderful opportunities to explore and be OUTSIDE. It’s one of the things I missed the most; fresh air, walks, bike rides, beautiful views, birdsong, silence, breezes, the scent of flowers…. all these things make my spirit come alive and it is such a gift to be here. 

(note the snow capped mountain poking through!)

It feels like an utter privilege to have learning French as my focus for now and it’s giving me time to take care of myself a little better too. There are certain things that I notice I now have time for (like using my electric tooth brush or reading the news) versus feeling too busy on the ship to even consider these things most of the time! How ridiculous that the whirl had got so whirl-ish.  

Coming to France has been a secret dream since I was about 17, I think. It’s one of those laid down dreams that I thought would never happen – I remember leafing through magazines wondering if I could become an au pair or pick grapes in a vineyard and learn to speak French. Even so, it’s scary and it can be lonely. Arriving wasn’t exactly a joy! Honestly, it felt like ANOTHER time I had to be brave and feel alone. To be grown up and just put one foot in front of the other and believe I am where I am supposed to be. On Monday we had a test and as I sat at my desk and the paper was placed in front of me, I truly considered telling the teacher I had tummy ache and needed to go home! What a ninny I am. 

Changing seasons are never easy and I still have bulging tears in my eyes when I see a Mercy Ship video. I will never tire of seeing hope born. I feel immensely thankful for the beautiful summer I had at home. I enjoyed family and friends and the fresh air and sunny days so much and as the days are starting to get shorter and cooler, I am beginning to want to hold on to these beautiful months I had. And then I remember that I will soon get to see the leaves changing colour and even see some snow – things I have missed so much these last years. And so just like you can’t hold back the seasons, you can’t in life either! You have to metaphorically let go of the sunshine on your back and look forward to the new vistas that will come as the trees shed their leaves. Just like I can’t pick up the leaves and stick them back on, I can’t pick up all the beautiful things I am having to let go of and put them back on either. If I did, I would miss out on autumn colours and making snow angels and who would want to do that?  

My pencil case is ready and my heart will surely catch up. I’m here to learn a language, which I hope to be able to use to express rich and unconditional love to future friends and colleagues. 

Seasons come and seasons go but I’m a firm believer that it’s never ever the end of the story; the best is always yet to come. 

Bring it on. Love always. KWW

Wednesday, 20 June 2018


I’m home and it’s feeling like a dream. A week on and I’m finding myself overhearing all sorts of English accents and wanting to somehow connect with them, ‘where are you from? I’m from England too!’ and then I realise, I am IN England. I’m home.

It wasn’t 48 hours since I’d left Cameroon for London before I was on a plane to Africa again. I’d said my goodbyes on my most precious floating home and my pre-grieving was done. It didn’t mean leaving was easy, far from it. My heart has expanded these last years and I’ve never known people with such capacity to serve or been engulfed in such love myself or swept up in showers of such immeasurable and unexpectedly beautiful gifts day after day. Leaving felt like a courageous step and yet there wasn’t a hint of doubt in my soul. It brought a quiet peace, a passport of hope and promises of greater adventures to come.

Part of my handover to my successor included an ‘Assessment trip’ and hence the reason I was on my way to Senegal for a week. Our task was to build relationship and to gather information that would inform program design for the ships’ 10 month Field Service in August 2019. I’ve come to realise that one of my greatest pleasures in life is building trust. Funny isn’t it?, But it’s the essence of why I think I enjoyed being a nurse for all those years in ICU. Faced with numerous people often on the brink of death, walking through their biggest nightmare, trust became a precious commodity. If I could use any love or kindness or gentleness, or any whisper of compassion that would allow them to trust me or to trust the team in a way that would bring them peace, then I felt I had won. And I found it immensely satisfying.

And so here I was once again, embracing a week of meetings with those from the Ministry of Health, Hospital Directors and anyone with influence in the world of surgery in Senegal. I loved it. I love not only the privilege of discovering a country we haven’t been to (at least, not for 20+ years), of explaining who Mercy Ships is and our desire to walk alongside, to provide surgery, to strengthen the skills of those working within the surgical system; but I also love the privilege of feeling God’s heart for a nation, of building for eternity. I love seeing and feeling and I love dreaming with my God. And I love building trust.

It was our final meeting on the Friday afternoon and my plane was just a few hours away. We met with 2, obviously Muslim, men. They worked for an organisation who were partnering with Miraclefeet, an organisation who we have also partnered with in the past… and a relationship I have also enjoyed building trust within. It’s essential for us to build sustainable programs that will last long after we have left a Country and so part of our role is to figure out what is going on already. We don’t want to tread on anyone’s feet or naively do harm and so the unravelling can be quite a task. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle and sometimes if takes several weeks or months to find the pieces and to wonder where our programs will fit in, if at all. Sometimes we never even find all the pieces at all but our job is to look and these guys were key.  We talked about our clubfoot program and about the opportunities to work together and augment what they are already doing. It was an honour, but what struck me most was the hearts of these beautiful men. I felt angry at the injustice of how much of the Muslim world is portrayed and my heart was moved by their immense compassion. They shared a fierce passion for justice and before I knew it, I felt our hearts collide. God’s vision, right there. Hope and redemption for bent feet in this nation.

We parted with tears in our eyes. The trust journey had begun and to say I’m excited to see what God will do is a mere glimmer of the deep joy I feel. It won’t just be tangible hope and new life for these kids, it won’t just be for their families either, but it will be in the hearts of the team, the mercy shippers, the locals, the onlookers, the neighbours, the Ministers… it will be redemption far beyond what we will ever know. The seeds were sewn and oh, what a sweet and utter privilege.

And so now I’ve been home for just over a week and it feels like I’m learning to walk again. It felt easier, somehow, to dart from one thing to the next. It felt easier to walk in the experience and competence I had found. But God’s call is higher than that and I’m in the midst of figuring out what trust looks like for me and my next steps. I’d like to run, that’s for sure; there are dreams and hopes I’d rather run into than slowly amble through. But that’s not how it goes and anyway, I can’t miss the beauty on the way. England teaches you a lot about trust – you can open your eyes to grey and drizzly days and long for something different, or you can enjoy the adventure of a new day and wonder at what it will bring. For now, I will nestle myself into home, into blowy cliff top walks and enjoy the, hard to articulate, ease and beauty of being ‘home’.  I have a sense that everything has been leading to this moment and that this moment too, will become part of what is needed to equip me for the next steps. Trust.

I feel the refining, the sense of laying my identity down, the thrill of the free fall and yet the fear of what landing might look like or what others might think.

I’ll trust my Daddy and there is no better. I’ll trust Him with full hope, full love and without limit. I’ll rest in the warm shadows of the unchanging goodness of God.

Trust. To build it. To feel it. To receive it. To give it. It’s an immense privilege and I’m hungry to build some more.

Love always, KWW xx