Sunday, March 27, 2016

Alleluia.

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Goosebumps rose up on my arms as the first chords of the hymn rung out on the piano.  I was immediately taken back in time to my youngest Easter Sunday memories; the new dresses and the white hats and the Easter Lilies and the choir processional up the long church aisle, regal in their ceremonial robes, following after the Cross that was no longer a sign of death and despair but of hope and life.  I didn’t understand that then; not really, to the depths that I understand it now. Back then I just couldn’t wait for the fourth verse so the trumpets would begin to play; heralding in the joyous good news that He is Risen, indeed. This morning as we sang this ancient hymn together, I half expected the trumpets to join in.  And they did, if only in my memory and my heart.

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly king, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

Our heavenly king, over all tribes and tongues and nations.  There are two services I love more than anything here on the Africa Mercy: Christmas, where we sing Silent Night in several different languages; and Easter Sunday, where crew members say He is Risen in their mother tongue. It’s so beautiful.  He is Risen, it’s the same astonishing miracle proclaimed in Spanish and French and Fon and Arabic and Hindi and the dozen or so other languages represented here and the thousand represented among believers across the globe. Alleluia means praise to God, in any language.

But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured; Alleluia!
Now above the sky he’s king, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

My heart aches for all the hatred in the world.  All the hurt, the desperation, the anger… I can’t even put words to what I feel.  My heart longs for unity, for love, for peace.  And here on a ship in Madagascar with friends from all over the world I get a glimpse of what God meant when he said it is good. Creation.  Not what we have done with it, but what He intended it to be, a joyful family coming together in grateful awe and thanksgiving and worship.

Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
Praise eternal as his love; Alleluia!
Praise him, all you heavenly host, Alleluia!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia!

I know across the planet today there will be millions who will sing these words or those like it; my prayer is that they would ring true, that somehow hatred would be replaced with love, violence with peace, despair with hope. May these words not just be Easter Sunday memories but believed, carried out of the building not just as a catchy tune but as a banner and a proclamation that this is what we were made for.  Hope. Joy. Truth. Together. 

Alleluia.  



Lyrics from Jesus Christ is Risen Today, penned by Charles Wesley in the 1700s.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

No Reason to Panic.

As most of you know, I am passionate about transforming healthcare in Africa.  I’m passionate about helping people.   In a few conversations recently I was asked something along the lines of “what do you want to do?” and my answer was help people… do something that means something… bring life and hope… make a difference.

So almost a year ago I was accepted to the University of Liverpool Masters in Public Health program – an internationally known program at one of the world’s top universities.  I want to be able to help people even better, develop the knowledge and skills to have a greater impact and build world class programs.  As I said in my blog back then, I really wanted to do it… but only if it was right, and best, and blessed by God.  Because if it isn’t? Working a demanding job and being in grad school at the same time while flying all over the place, if it wasn’t right… well, I wasn’t interested.

The first fleece was getting in – which I did. The second? Getting the first year funded. Which it was. 

So I’ve spent the last eight and a half months balancing graduate level studies with a crazy job/crazy life.  And? I have really, really enjoyed it. I love learning. I love challenging my intellect and stretching my understanding and opening my mind to new possibilities and ideas and ways of doing things.  It has come with plenty of challenges; namely, my social life has dwindled to nearly non-existent.  But it’s a sacrifice that I think is worth it; I’ve been able to apply what I have learned very quickly and already we are seeing some of the fruit of this endeavor!

So I mentioned the first year got funded.  Well… not exactly. The first five modules got funded, which often takes people a year.  And they call it an ‘annual payment plan’ – which to me, means, yearly.  So I had it in my head that I didn’t need to worry about coming up with another big payment until July.  Well, just a few days ago I was going through paperwork and planning out how my study schedule will line up with the projects and programs we are developing for Benin next year, and saw the line that said second payment is due before unit 5.  Which I will start in May.  So that got me a little bit nervous, but with still two months to go I wasn’t panicking.  No reason to panic, right?

Well… I got a bill yesterday. And they tell me it is due on April 7.   Like, three weeks. And it is for $8,200.  Oops. Gulp.

No reason to panic.

I’m appealing to the university for the date – it clearly says it’s due before unit 5 which starts for me in MID-MAY but as of now they have yet to respond.  And the due date in fact doesn’t diminish the fact that soon, whether it is in three or nine weeks, I will owe the University of Liverpool over $8k. 

(The third payment, of the same amount, will be due before I start my dissertation research, April of 2017)

Last year I had one donor give half the amount, and a few other generous donors cover the rest.  It was so easy and smooth and it was like, why on earth was I nervous?  So I am telling myself the same this year.  Except the donor who gave half will not be giving this year.  (no reason to panic).  And most of the other generous donors were anonymous. So I don’t even know who to ask!

So, I’m inviting you all into this – my ask is this – will you consider helping me fund my Masters in Public Health, so I can keep helping people, better?  I don’t need it to be able to help people, I know that.  I just want to use the gifts and abilities that I have to the best I can and right now I really believe that includes this – feeding my intellect, my thirst for knowledge, my hunger for more ways and ideas and credibility in the field.  If I were to want to do this thing that I do with any other organization, an MpH is usually a base requirement. 

Feel free to pass on my request to anyone else who might have means and a special love for education.  I’m desperately debt-averse and am not interested in taking out loans.  (it took a whole lot of work to get to be debt free... and I am a volunteer... gracious donations cover my living expenses only)  Donations can be made to my Mercy Ships account (banner on the right side of this page or link below) and those are tax deductible for you but I do have to pay taxes on that ‘income’ so not all of it will go to my schooling.  I also have bank accounts in WA and MN states and am happy to email bank transfer information or addresses of helpful friends/family in those places that can make a deposit for me...  I also have paypal... I can also give you the information for the bursary of the University of Liverpool directly.  So there are options. And if you don’t like any of those, but still want to support me in this endeavor, please do just contact me and we can figure something out.

I know there is so much need in the world.  I see it every single day.  I know you all see gofundme requests and donation letters and more and more need in the world and everyone wants to have your money.  All of that is real, and hard.  I see it.  I know it.  I wish I could help everyone, too.  And I am doing what I can do.   

Thanks for your consideration and please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions!


Love and gratitude, Krissy
link to my donor page: http://mercyships-us.donorpages.com/crewmates/closek 


My view this morning as I watched the sunrise and repeated to myself, 'no reason to panic, no reason to panic'

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Crazy life.

Crazy is the word.

My life.

Crazy.

And it’s been a hard year.  The way my job responsibilities panned out this year it’s been a nearly entirely different experience over previous years here with Mercy Ships.  The previous two years were full-on creative and groundbreaking; I love the challenge of pioneering. This year the projects I oversee have continued to grow and so has the team, now the challenge isn’t to create things but to keep going with excellence and more people....  And that is very different! But what we are doing is incredible and I love being a part of it.

If you haven’t kept up with what I do for work, check out my work blog – https://mymercy.mercyships.org/blogs/45

You will find a few stories there of what me and my team are up to… I’ve really enjoyed writing them!

Since coming back from Cameroon I’ve really been trying to step back and breathe a bit.  I’m here on the ship for six weeks straight, which is the longest chunk of time I have been on the ship at once for this whole field service.  Most months have me going to Tana at least once, sometimes more than that, plus my new years getaway and a trip to Cameroon have left me living out of a suitcase and constantly trying to play catch-up.   So this is a very welcome six weeks, where I actually put my bag away and have tried to put some rhythm back in my life – like running, and sunset dinners, catching up for real on emails and projects that have been constantly delayed, and time to catch up with friends.  It has been very welcome.  

I’ve also been plugging away with my masters degree program – a lot of work, but I really really enjoy it!  And I’ve learned so many things that are immediately beneficial to my work here.  Highly recommend the University of Liverpool program!

So, just thought it was time for a little update after the last several posts have been a bit gritty.  I'm planning a few weeks in Europe in June/July, no solid plans yet! Will be very happy to take a little break.  Then I start year eight in Africa, year five in Mercy Ships, back where it all began - in Benin.   Plans are falling into place as to what programs we will be running there!  It should be a great field service! 

Thanks, friends and family and followers - I couldn't do this without you all! 


xxk

Saturday, March 12, 2016

This place. My heart.

It’s remarkable how you can forget.

You live in this place that is filled with hope, healing, before-and-after pictures that bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye.  You share meals and share stories and make coffee and answer emails and fill out forms and teach your students and wash the plates and the pots and the pans… and in all that you can know you are doing a wonderful thing but not realize the gravity of it until the moment.

The moment when you hear “I don’t have any details, but they are resuscitating a 5 year old girl in the OR.”

And you gasp as you remember.

We don’t just change lives.  We save them, too. And sometimes we don’t.  And it’s really not up to us. 

And the managing director makes an overhead page and begins to pray and every single person stops what they are doing – they stop the emails and the teaching and the serving and the cleaning of plates and pots and pans, so we can unite together, this beautiful place of hope and healing, of tongues and accents and faiths; we unite together in speaking life and hope and healing over this little girl, and wisdom and strength and peace over the operating room staff; we unite together to fight to keep that little girl with us for just a little bit longer, and a little longer after that.  We fight together for her to experience the joy of healing, the joy of returning home without the tumor that defined her for so many years, for her family to know what it’s like to live free of shame. 

And slowly you return to your routine of emails or forms or students or dishes or patients but it’s still there, in the back of your mind.  Then a bit later you come together and as a family you hear that the little one has gone to be with Jesus.  And you also hear there are over 5100 patients who we could not help this year.  And your gut twists and turns with the injustice of it all; with the pain, sadness, and with the acknowledgement that somehow, regardless of these things... God is.

And we cry together and we pray together and then we sing together… how great is our God, He is mighty to save, blessed be your name.

This place.  My heart.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Weight of Need.

Sometimes the need in front of me is so great I can hardly keep it together.  

It’s deep in the center of your gut; it’s like all the feelings and emotions and hope and despair are turning your insides into jello. Your jaw clenches as if that will hold the tears behind your eyes instead of letting them escape into being seen.  The weight of need presses on your chest; you can feel your heart aching and your breath comes in little gasps and you fight with all you are to not let your face reveal the chaos going on inside.  The smile must remain; the looking, the eye-to-eye contact without flinching or turning away or letting anyone see what the chaos of seeing injustice and despair and hopelessness at the same time as seeing resilience and hope and joy does to you.

I’m no stranger to need, to poverty, to going without, to hospital conditions that make my stomach retch and my blood boil.  Seeing those things a hundred times doesn’t make the one hundred and first time any easier.  I’m glad of this; I never want to become one of those hardened aid workers that is unaffected by the reality they live in, so I can say as painful as it is I am glad I can feel because it means I am alive.

But it doesn’t make it easier either.  As I reflect on the last few weeks, on visits and people and places, I feel the weight of need… and honestly, I don’t get it.  I don’t get how God can see that kind of thing every single minute of every single day and not do something about it.  I don’t have the answers and I can’t explain it.  And I also don’t have to get it. But I do know that he knows, he feels every emotion that I feel and he sees every need and knows the number of hairs on every head of every person I met and treasures every tear I cry for that place and those people. 

What we do feels like a tiny drop in a really big bucket.  It is. But the thing I continually need to remind myself of, with all my tears and hopes and power and courage and strength, is the unfailing truth that eventually, no matter the size of the bucket, enough drops will eventually fill it.


And the sun rises on a new day.