When I look in front of me, I feel anxious. It's that time of the year again when the field service is coming to an end. Stretched out ahead of us is only two weeks left of surgery time, then the operating rooms close. The hospital will be open for one more week and then whether our patients are ready or not, we discharge them home or into another's care for follow-up, we close our doors, clean and pack the whole hospital into a shipping container. We farewell our Day Crew (ward translators), whom we have worked with side by side for the past 10 months, never knowing if we'll see them again and then with the energy left, I must stand on the dock bidding farewell to the scores of nurses whom I have served with, loved, created memories and relied upon. Then, my home the ship, will be packed up and ready to sail away from Congo to the next country for maintenance.Just thinking about it I feel exhausted. This will be my fifth country to say goodbye to. As for saying goodbye to friends, did you know that crew are constantly coming and going multiple times per week? At the end of the outreach though it happens en masse, leaving a hole of emptiness in your heart for each beautiful person who crept inside during the last 10 months but has now left your reach.
This next outreach has suddenly changed location. The outreach was planned for Guinea but they have had a recent outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, a viral hemorrhagic disease. As of the 20 April the Ministry of Health in Guinea has confirmed 208 clinical cases, including 136 deaths in two separate areas in the country. In light of the disease and knowing how much traffic and movement of people we bring to the country (and many other things), the decision was made that the ship would not return immediately to Guinea, but instead head to the country of Benin. This change in decision has caused all sorts of reactions from crew members. Some crew are rejoicing at returning to their home country or near to their home country, others deciding to end their time with Mercy Ships early and not return for the next outreach since all hopes of seeing patients from 2012-13 outreach have disappeared before their very eyes. I am disappointed not to be returning to Guinea to see my friends living there and the many patients that I loved and cared for over the 10 months that we lived there. Please continue to pray for them as they contain this disease and their hopes for our arrival are dashed.
Benin was the country where my journey with Mercy Ships began back in 2009. When I think back to that time in 2009 it feels like another life time. I feel like I hardly remember who I was back then.
|The M/V Africa Mercy docked in Benin 2009|
|Have I aged?|
Between now and arriving in Benin I have a million things in front of me. There are several goodbye projects in the making, heartfelt words to be poured out on paper, captured memories to be printed and arranged, possessions to be organised and packed and a time-out holiday and visiting far away friends to be planned and arrangements to arrive home to Australia. I'll actually be back in Australia for almost three months, the longest time period since leaving in December 2010.
But for now the road ahead is downhill, not easy, but increasing speed, unable to be slowed and I'm already so tired. Please pray for me and those serving here with me. Pray for divine strength and energy for the last weeks. I want to give out and love to the very end of our time in Congo, to show our patients and Day Crew that we love and value them and what they have taught us over the last 10 months. I want to run to the end of this race in Congo and finish strong and not half-hearted.