It’s a sweet evening, here in Guinea. The sun is setting behind pastel-tinted clouds as I sit in the humid, warm evening trying to catch a breeze and swatting away the mosquitos’ incessant whine humming around my ears. I’ve captured my first bit of solitude since Tuesday morning; I passed on dinner out tonight as lingering stomach upset and non-stop extroverting leave me feeling the need to remain behind. Breathing deep, I finally have a free minute to reflect.
Back on the ship, it’s the big night of goodbyes. I would have been one of them, except for this trip; I don’t get to be a part of praying out the two dozen or so long-term crewmembers who are walking down the gangway for the final time in the coming weeks. I’m sad to miss it, but know I’m exactly where I should be.
It’s been crazy, which is really the only thing you can completely count on in a trip like this. Plans have changed constantly; my schedule has so many things crossed off and put elsewhere and other appointments added that it’s almost illegible. We started out with a bang, meeting the Prime Minister, and it’s been one thing after another since then. Today was a holiday in Guinea but that didn’t stop us from a few hospital tours and a working lunch; the afternoon was filled with report writing and analyzing and figuring out how and where I could squeeze in a few more meetings.
And I love it. This work, telling people about Mercy Ships and explaining what we do and why we do it; the expansion of our training programs since our last visit and how our deepest hope is to leave a lasting impact for every tribe and tongue and life in this beautiful place. The puzzle of people, the thrill of discovery, the challenges of culture and infrastructure and technology and the unknown, while it can be frustrating, is somehow oddly exciting and invigorating at the same time. The people have been incredibly welcoming and accommodating and generous, as is the standard for African hospitality. Most have heard of us, or have visited the ship or know someone who has, but the excitement they show when we explain our return in 2018 is heartwarming and encouraging. I’m only sad I won’t be sailing in on that big white ship to their welcoming arms.
Some things have changed since our last visit; buckets to rinse your hands in bleach water are everywhere, shaking hands is no longer a regular greeting especially in a hospital setting, and the traffic seems to have only gotten worse. Some things haven’t changed; the need for healthcare is great, the need for training even more so, the hopefulness in the conversations about our arrival is palpable. I’m so honored to be here, to bring the news of our return and to start laying the groundwork for what is sure to be an incredible field service.
To all those who getting their goodbyes tonight, know I'm praying from afar and grateful to have shared this season at sea.