Tuesday, 24 September 2019

letting go

Well friends, the ship arrived 6 weeks ago and the adventure is fully under way. The port generously shuffled their potato and onion trade to another pier and made way for the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship to make a home. A couple of weeks ago, we welcomed our first patient on board and just like that, our ship started to look like a hospital again!
Having been here for the last nearly 6 months, we are celebrating the trust that is in the midst of being built and we are beginning to see the fruit of efforts all round. There are still bumps in the road and as we navigate trying to gather 75% of our patients from regions outside of Dakar, the work is heavy. The communication to a population of nearly 16 million was so ‘effective’ that we are actually finding ourselves with way too many patients than we can care for. Saying no is heart breaking and sometimes it feels like what we bring is far from ‘hope and healing’. It’s the harsh reality and somehow my hope is that at a bigger picture level, the great need will generate the attention it deserves and build momentum for a National Surgical Plan that will serve this beautiful nation in the long term.

We’ve been hosting various receptions here on board and have had our fair share of media coverage and here are a few photos from recent weeks.

It’s a Saturday morning and the sun is beating down. I stand awkwardly as the 42-year-old lady who made the 9 hour journey to the ship is tenderly parceled back up into the ambulance that brought her here. I see her sister silently sobbing behind the ambulance door so that her sibling cannot see her and as I reach my arm out to comfort her, I have no words. With such a short history, the aggressive facial tumour is stealing this lady’s life and there is nothing we can do. I imagine the journey here, less than 24 hours before, must have held some hope and I swallow hard, wondering why it has to look like this.

I’ve felt a bit tired of letting go recently. I’ve felt a resentment that comes from a grief of a relentless letting go of things I care for and for things I long for, for things I wish would happen my way. It’s ridiculous how life can become so full of me. What I want, what I need, what I think would be good. Personal things. Professional things. Letting go of plan A and navigating my way to plan B or C and sometimes even P. I’ve felt a bit mad in those moments and yet in the depth of that I have also heard God’s voice, ‘I don’t ask you to let go in a way that will harm you, I ask you to let go and trust the one who loves you’. Who would have thought it would be so hard to trust the King of kings? His whispers bring a peace and as I recount the things I need to let go of, I feel a wave of ease. It’s OK. I can trust my God. I’ve spent hours worshipping God in the literal and metaphorical storms these last months. I’ve heard the thunder crash and the rain come. I’ve rushed for shelter and I’ve felt the power of my mighty God save me. I’ve always woken up the next morning – literally and metaphorically again - and seen the calm. I’ve seen the sun rise with such beauty and I’ve sung with my whole heart, ‘Great is His faithfulness’.


But what about this? What about this lady? The answers aren’t quite as sweet or as comforting. The mercies don’t seem to be so new every morning. She’s on her journey home to die. You can’t make that one nice. I pray with my whole heart that somewhere on her journey to the ship this lady met with Jesus. I pray that she felt the warmth of his love and I pray that she felt him kiss her cheek and tell her that she is his precious daughter. I don’t know if she did, but I pray it. I want to fight for her, and yet at the same time I want to numb the pain of such extraordinary human suffering. It’s a different kind of letting go, but I feel God’s call to let go of this weight. I look up to the King of the universe and ask him to please take it, to please be with her and with her sisters’ silent tears that roll courageously down her face as she climbs into the ambulance and sets off for home on their own journey of letting go and to share of the hope they never found.

You can romanticise about this work all you like but all we are is a tiny drop in a very large ocean. It’s wonderful. Light shines in darkness and we add our drops of love in the hope it flows like a river through this nation. But the need is overwhelming and the only way to believe you make a difference is to let go. This isn’t ours to control. We have to let go. All we can do is trust and obey and add our little drop.

I don’t mean to sound so depressing! I love this place, I love this work. But I hate that it has to exist and I hate that injustice and greed have permission to roam the world freely at the cost of those who were born in a different place to me. I’m preparing to come home to work for Mercy Ships from home for a few months and in this new role as Country Director, we are figuring out what that means whilst the ship is in country. With a team of 400 on board who can more than ably do without me, I will work on some projects from home that I would never get around to here ‘in the field’. I’m delighted… but I’m fearful. Not of the future or of what life will look like, but I think I’m fearful that I’ll numb this pain and think about myself too much. I will enjoy the gift of friends and family and no doubt there are all sorts of needs that are hungry to be met there too. We need each other and it’s a real gift to embrace this season and I’m really very ready. But I’m scared of my own desire for comfort and perhaps – maybe -- that’s why it’s a little hard to let go… Jesus, save me from building a safe little cocoon and instead help me build more of a nest where I can let my heart keep breaking and from which life can soar from…

Throughout our period of preparation before the ship arrived, during long and challenging days, as well as before meals shared together, our team would regularly chant, “L’Eternel est mon berger, je ne manquerai de rien’ (The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want) and it meant so much. In the inevitable season of facing so much need and of yet another transition and the relentless letting go of relationships, trust built and fought for, dreams hoped for… this one will ring in my heart in the weeks and months to come.
Nature seems to get it so well and it seems letting go is actually a beautiful thing. I have not one single doubt that there will be many many beautiful things birthed in this season ahead. May there be hope, may there be joy and may there be glimpses of eternity hidden in the most unexpected of places as you put your trust in Him.

As Mother Theresa said, ‘I will not pray for clarity. Clarity is the crutch of the church. I will pray for trust, that your trust may increase’. 

Love always, KWW

The coast of Dakar

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