Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sunrise, sunset.

And the sun rises and the sun sets, and there is another day - how I described this last week to a friend....

Another delay, this time something to do with the propeller system not working exactly right (and I am not a mariner or an expert but it seems to me the propellers are pretty important) means we've made the six-hour sail to Gran Canaria, back to the shipyard where amazingly talented engineers and mechanics will fix whatever is broken and we can sail away.

For how long? Not sure.

I know what you're thinking - gee, must be rough being 'stuck' in the Canary islands! Well, let me paint the picture - We're a crew full of people living on a hospital ship, created to serve and to love and to bring hope and healing to the world's forgotten poor.  We're in a shipyard, on a Spanish, high-priced tourist destination island, on a missionary salary, with no patients. 

I'm not complaining - there are much worse places to be stuck, that's for sure!  However, I do want the picture in your head to also be realistic.  I'm not lounging around the pool all day every day with an umbrella drink in my hand.  I'm trying to navigate all the changes, the uncertainty, make contingency plans that may or may not see the light of day, and find joy through it all. 

So, as it always does, the sun rises and the sun sets and another day passes along.  Hopefully I will have more news to share this week, hopefully we'll get some solid direction and plans, hopefully Ebola will just stop... hopefully...

k


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thankful.

Hey friends, family, supporters, various blog stalkers...

No news yet, still hangin' out in the gray area but choosing to squeeze out every drop of joy and blessing that I possibly can.  Today I'm so very thankful for...  (in no particular order)

... The mail I had waiting for me upon my return.  That my mom still faithfully writes a letter every single week, and has for over five years!!


... A surprise care package!

... That I have been living in Africa, following my dreams and God's call on my life, for over five years. (5 year anniversary was July 21st!)

... Sunday morning cafĂ© time with Dianna and the lovely life-giving community that is found there.   I looked forward to it every single week last year, and we slipped right back into the regular routine last week.  Such joy.

... Fresh milk in the dining room.

... Art and photos in frames on the wall - makes it feel so much less like a dorm room and more like a home! 


... a friend's generosity in helping me frame the aforementioned art, and superglue magnets to the back of the frames, which she also so graciously gave to me. 

... the shopping trip with the aforementioned friend where the aforementioned art was purchased, including the perfect pizza restaurant with delicious coke and conversation.

... using the word 'aforementioned' as many times as possible.

... Gigantic fresh peaches in the dining room.

... Celebrating Natalie's birthday with a fantastic group and great food.


... running to McDonalds, sharing a McFlurry with a friend, and running back.

... getting back into the running rhythm and loving it.

... that the new Hillsong album is awesome, and will always remind me of my trip to Sweden and singing those songs in Swedish.

... Stacia and I are in the same lifeboat! (please ignore the fact I desperately need a haircut)


... that the weather in Tenerife is consistently 80 and dry.

... goats cheese and honey on twelve grain bread.

... the 'welcome back' notes on my door

... the fact that this magnet makes me smile and remember amazing shenanigans that happened in  London.


... Amazing words written by amazing friends.

... that people are pretty good natured about the fact that I totally and completely suck at birthdays (the whole card/gift/wishing them a happy birthday on the correct day part) but sorta try to make up for it in other ways.

... having the phone passed around to everyone when I surprise called the family last weekend.

... the heart and the pursuit of God of so many incredible people that I get to do community with.

... the awesome friends that agreed that this is an ideal way to pass an afternoon - see grass, will crash...
 
... the love that I have for the French language and the joy it brings me to speak it with friends, even through laughter at our mistakes and the silliness of the things I've written.
 
... speaking life and truth.
 
I could go on, but it's dinner time. :) Wherever you find yourself today, seek out the joy in it.  xxk
 


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Gray Area

Many times over the story of my life I've returned to a lesson learned way back in the beginning of the journey - Life is not always black and white.  Learn to live in the gray area.

That gray area, where the decision is not as easy as what is right and wrong.  Where I don't know whether I'm supposed to go here or there or left or right. When things just aren't clear, when I have to be patient and gracious with the ambiguity of the very lack of black and white

And here I am again. (still on my knees)

Due to recent reports from the region of West Africa on the threat of Ebola, Mercy Ships has decided to delay the departure of the Africa Mercy hospital ship from the shipyard  in the Canary Islands to Cotonou, Benin. This will allow Mercy Ships to monitor the situation in the region and assess the feasibility of a safe field service in Benin.  Don Stephens, Mercy Ships President and Founder, has reiterated that “the safety of our crew is the most important element in this decision.  Mercy Ships remains committed to our continued service to the forgotten poor in Africa.”

Part of me wonders how much more my heart can take.  A year ago it looked like we would spend this field service in Congo (a second year)... then it was changed to Guinea, a country with need that even other presidents in the region encouraged us to return there. A few months ago, due to Ebola spreading in Guinea the plan was changed to Benin.  My heart grieved for Guinea but jumped at the chance to return to Benin.  Then some old forgotten Saharan sand stirred up in the recesses of my Peace Corps memories and I battled through doubt and fear and dread at the return to the place that tried to take me out... and as it turns out only made me stronger.  I returned to the ship just less than a week ago so excited about Benin, about the promise and the redemption that was to come and the joy that would be found and the healing that was not just for the patients but for anyone and everyone on board the Africa Mercy, including me.

So now I find myself back in the gray area.  The news of possible Ebola in Benin on Thursday hit me in the gut like a bag of cement. I cried and walked around in a daze and cleaned and organized my room - as I do when things seem out of control and I need to feel like I can control something.  News this morning tells me that the suspected cases in Benin are negative... but it's still a real threat, with the region having such porus borders and no experience in dealing with this disease before. I don't know if we will go to Benin. I don't know where we will go if we don't go there. I don't know when we will leave, or what my job will look like wherever we end up going.  And my heart is grieving for Benin. And for Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea - and my friends there, and for my friends here who have friends and family there who can't go back for fear of their own lives. 

But in the gray area I can, and will, still hold on to that which I know to be true. He is still on the throne, this is not a surprise to him, his heart grieves with mine, and in the end, love wins.

So I will continue on, in the gray area; putting one foot in front of the other, my purpose to love others well and to bring glory to His name.  And as always, I remain grateful that I can feel... even when feeling hurts to the depths and I can't seem to stem the flow of the salty tears again and again... I am grateful that I can feel, because it means I am alive.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

On my knees.

One glance through today’s news headlines makes me want to simultaneously vomit, burst into tears, and rage at anyone and anything near me.

How can this be?
Syria. Ukraine. Iraq. Horrific injustice, innocents slaughtered by others who were once innocent and then programmed to hate and kill in the name of their god or their leader.  Kids killing kids, devastating hurricanes, cancer taking out those I love, and the ever present, lurking evil called Ebola fill my thoughts, swirling together and twisting in my gut and the tears pool in my eyes as I fight to hold on to that which I know to be true.
God is still on the throne.
Can I be really honest?  I want to rage against Him.  At the top of my lungs with my tears streaming and my anger boiling in my chest, I want to yell WHAT IS THIS? HOW CAN YOU LET THIS HAPPEN??
Then I let out the deep breath I have been holding and fall to my knees in repentance, gratitude, and worship.
He knows.  And His heart breaks with mine.  And somehow, He will work all things for good, He will redeem the years the locusts have taken, He is not surprised by these things, and in the end, love wins.
~~
I appreciate the concerned emails and facebook posts I’ve received lately in regards to the Ebola question.  I’d like to put one thing into perspective –
Ebola is horrific, no doubt about it, but it’s still infinitely more dangerous for me (or any of us) to get into any motor vehicle, or go swimming in the ocean, or any one of a number of seemingly harmless but statistically dangerous things that we do on a regular basis. 
I’m grateful I don’t have to be one of the decision makers in this organization, those people who have been having meeting after meeting, researching the latest information, in touch with a number of international organizations and governing bodies to best guide our direction and actions over the next few months.   Ultimately, I trust this organization and those making that decision – or I wouldn’t be here. 
~~
05 August 2014 Press Release

As its hospital ship, the 
Africa Mercy, prepares to leave for its ten-month mission to perform life-changing surgeries and train local healthcare professionals in Benin, West Africa, Mercy Ships continues to be acutely aware of the Ebola situation in the region. The organization is taking appropriate steps to protect its volunteers and staff. In April, Mercy Ships redirected its upcoming mission from Guinea to Benin out of caution for the safety of its crew. Benin has no reported cases of Ebola. 

The 
Africa Mercy is the world's largest civilian hospital ship, designed to operate as a surgical specialty hospital. It is not configured to provide the type of treatment required by Ebola patients.  In addition to having changed its itinerary, Mercy Ships has also implemented strict travel restrictions to the affected areas and will continue to monitor the situation closely, making programmatic adjustments as needed.

Founder Don Stephens commented, “The well-being of our patients and dedicated crew is our greatest priority. It is fundamental to our continued service to the forgotten poor in Africa. Our prayers go out for the countries impacted by Ebola. These are places and people we know well because we have served them in multiple visits over more than two decades.”
 ~~
Unless things change, we’re heading to Benin on Friday, and in the meantime I’m going to fully embrace the joy that is all the hugs and returning crewmembers, meeting the new ones, and settling back into this crazy place called home.  I really love my job and it feels so great to be back in it; to get to be a part of this incredible place that does amazing things every single day is such an honor and a privilege.  On Thursday night the speaker at our community meeting really did an fabulous job of reminding us all of our unique calling; of the millions and millions of people in the entire world who could do my job, many millions of whom could do it likely much better than I can, I get to be the one to do it. 
And that thought puts me right back on my knees in gratitude.
 
 
 

Friday, August 8, 2014

On Coming Home

It happens every single time I look out an airplane window and see the green beauty of Seattle just below me as we make the decent.  It happens every time I turn down the driveway to my childhood home in Minnesota.  It happens every time we hit the end of the road the cabin is on and I remember my mom saying who lives down this road? all through my growing up years. (the answer is Nana!) And it happens every single time I return to the ship after an extended time away.

The incredible feeling of coming home. 

It's the anticipation and excitement of seeing dear friends you haven't seen in a long time. It's the look of surprise and then delight from loved ones as they come forward, arms outstretched, to embrace you back into the utter and complete rightness of being in this place in this moment. It's the welcome home cards on the door, words of greeting scrawled across the whiteboard, captured moments in passing on the stairs or in the hallway.

There is so much to look forward to.  Exciting things coming in Benin, faithful friends to catch up with, new friends to be made.

I love this place so, so, so much.

~~

I arrived back on the ship yesterday and am so grateful and honored that I get to call this place my home. I read the ten letters from my mom that had accumulated whilst I was away and it will be a few more days before I can find my feet in the piles of work emails.  I can once again feel the ship swaying ever so slightly here in the Port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, as I've been spoiled by ten weeks on land.  This weekend I will do some shopping and some sightseeing and try to get by with my limited Spanish vocabulary, while next week it's time once again to pack up and sail.  I don't love sailing but I do love the color of the ocean way out there.

Love to all. K

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Catching up.

Non-stop: a great description of what the last few weeks have felt like.

Tomorrow I head back to my ship home, exactly ten weeks from the day I walked down the gangway for the last time in Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo. 

Congo seems like a lifetime ago.

In the last ten weeks I’ve slept in 22 different beds.  Take out the first four weeks, which only had two, means twenty beds in six weeks.   And I’ve been travelling with a carryon-sized bag only.  It’s been a huge mish-mash of schooling, touring, and working – exhausting yet exhilarating, a transient season that has been both strategically beneficial as well as just really good fun.

And I’ve been so incredibly, abundantly, radically blessed by the generosity of others.  I’ve only actually had to pay money for just a handful of those 22 different beds.  To the amazing friends (and strangers) who have offered beds, transportation, meals, showers, coffee, entrance to tourist attractions, and everything else I’ve been blessed with this season – thank you.   It’s been an incredible summer.
And now it’s time to unpack my carryon, settle back into a routine, and reunite with the community I love so dearly.  I can’t wait.  And this next season is really exciting, for so many reasons… to be written about in a different post on another day. For now, here are a few photos of the last few weeks of travels.