Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Not Just Another Day

Today I spoke about Mercy Ships to two very different groups of people. The first was a group aged about 70 and above. They welcomed me in to their annual Ladies Morning Tea with arms wide open. In fact they had waited two months for me to arrive home from the ship so I could come. They had eager faces to listen as I looked out over the crowd of about 100. I was met afterwards with many hugs, not from strangers but now friends, who shared my joy and passion.

The second group was aged about 12-16 years, plus older leaders. They were full of young energy, innocent questions and a longing to be heard. There were several African girls in the room who had grown up in Australia but knew which African country they had come from. I looked over their faces in the crowd and wondered what they would think of my presentation. When I speak about the ship, I always hope that I portray what I love so deeply about African people, not just that the majority of them are poor and have little access to health care.

After I finished speaking and it was time to go, many girls came up to talk to me or say thanks. Every single gorgeous African girl in that room came up for a hug and to say thanks for what I was doing.

 I walked away from both speaking engagements with a huge smile plastered across my face. It’s not every day that you get to speak to a big group of people about the thing you feel most passionate about. They were two very different groups but both received with hearts wide open.

Being home is full. It is full of shifts at the hospital, where I am remembering how to nurse in Australia. Not much has changed in the last four years, for which I’m thankful! It is full of wedding preparations, which has also included a few hours of very enjoyable but tough gardening. It is full of visiting friends and discussing life changes while drinking coffee. It is full of spending time with my friend’s kids and loving the stage of life that they are in, nursery rhymes and all. It is full of staying fit and healthy and trying to enjoy the cold weather. It is full of time with the family, in front of the fire or around the table sharing a meal. It makes my heart full.

When my alarm goes off at 0520am tomorrow morning, I know I will want to press snooze a million times to keep sleeping. I will try not to gag as I swallow my breakfast at such an early hour, for I know my reward will be seeing the sunrise over the hill as I drive to work. It reminds me each time that God is with me. He has not forgotten me. He knows when I sit and when I rise. He perceives my thoughts from afar. He knows that my heart is breaking over the devastation of the Ebola virus in West Africa and He has promised that He hasn’t forgotten those suffering with it. I would love to be there, easing pain and suffering, but I know God has me here, for this time. And although my heart is breaking, it is still full.

Photo credit: Ruben Plomp

Sunday, 10 August 2014

It Brings Me To My Knees

This morning at church a family got up and told us the story of their son who was in a horrific accident earlier in the year which badly burnt his upper body. It was one of those stories where the story teller could not keep from choking in emotion, triggering the tears of those listening. They spoke of the heartache and trauma of the ordeal but how clearly God’s hand was working in the situation. Even though God continues to heal and walk this road with them, they still feel the continuing pain of their beloved son as he now walks this path of recovery.
I couldn’t help but sit there and think of each of our plastic surgery patients who come to the ship with such disfigurements after terrible burns. Many of these burns happen from the open fires that are used for every day cooking. If the family has money there can be hospital treatment for the burns, but as the baby, child or adult grows and the burnt skin contracts it pulls the limb into an often unusable position.

Each of these patients have their story of horror and pain. We marvel at many of them who have miraculously survived such horrific ordeals. It is such a joy to be able to operate on these patients and give them back mobility for everyday life. You can see the story of Lucrech and how his life was transformed.

Even though I’m not currently on the ship, I think about it every day. Not just because my friends who have been holidaying between field services are returning and posting photos and not just because I’m back in the nursing workforce in Australia with a huge pile of paperwork to complete, but also because every day I’m hearing and reading on the news about the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Yesterday I watched a very interesting clip by the Vice President of Programs and Government Relations for Samaritan's Purse, giving an update on what is being done and how to move forward to see it ended. Unfortunately there is no easy answer. Even with 200 billion dollars given by The World Bank, hundreds of people will risk their lives to see this deadly disease put to a stop. I have spent 10 months in both Sierra Leone (2011) and Guinea (2012-13) and walked away a better person for the people that I met and looked after. People such as these:

What can I do but pray that their lives are spared and the disease contained and put to an end?

Mercy Ships has issued a statement on the Ebola situation. The country we sail to next (Benin) has not had a known Ebola patient, so we will continue with the current plan.

I’ve seen a small boy dying of a haemorrhagic illness and it was horrible and heartbreaking. To think of this happening all over these three countries brings me not only to tears, with an ache in my heart but to my knees to beg God for mercy for His children. Join with me?


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