It’s the strangest thing to look out the window and see absolutely nothing.
It’s early, the first sunbeams have yet to make their way to this side of the globe. I’ve become used to the rocking; to the unending movement, never still, always swirling and rolling and flowing our way over the sapphire blue to our destination far beyond the horizon.
I feel so small.
As far as the eye can see, rocking, rolling, white-capped water; they say it’s teeming with life, but the evidence of that has been mostly hidden from view. A few whales have made themselves known; in the early days sea birds would soar around us, but they’ve disappeared now as we’re cruising both along and away from the land mass of Africa.
The first ribbons of light have begun to appear on the horizon; somewhere out in the beyond is Congo. I remember, with fondness, stepping out in faith and courage to bring great ideas from the dimension of mystery into reality, running our first training courses and mentoring programs; stumbling through the unknown with grit and perseverance and a few tears but a lot of joys.
That little program has grown; from a few part-time investments alongside our surgical programs to now a large, stable, solid program with full-time staff and international recognition. I love what I get to be a part of.
And we are cruising towards Benin; the country where it all started for me, my first experience with Africa and her beautiful culture and people and heart and passion. It wasn’t just an experience, it was a becoming; seeping into my blood and bones and skin until I could no longer separate myself from it. While I’ve loved my time away, and wouldn’t trade it for anything, there’s a longing somewhere deep in the marrow of my existence that needs red dirt caked around my toenails, pounded yams and peanut sauce filling my belly and the enveloping community of ‘we are all family’ that pervades the African spirit.
One of the hardest things that I faced when I was first in Benin (as a Peace Corps volunteer, 2009-2011) was seeing so much that I intrinsically knew was not okay, but not being able to do anything about it. The baby born with a cleft lip that was abandoned. The way that midwives treated the women in labor and the way they handled the newborns. The broken, rusty, dirty instruments and equipment used in the healthcare setting. These things didn’t sit right with me but I couldn’t do anything about it; now I’m returning, and I can. What an honor.
So we’re just over halfway there; in another few days we’ll enter the harbor of Cotonou; there will be drums and dancing and celebration and joy as we begin ten months of service, bringing hope and healing, to her people and her health system. May the words of our mouths, the meditations of our hearts, and the works of our hands be pleasing to the One who knows both their deepest needs and our deepest desires, and can bring them together in a glorious symphony of new life this year.
May it be so.
Photo: ©Mercy Ships