On being here.

27 August 2016

I blinked and a week has passed, almost as if arriving at home in the car and realizing you have no idea how you got there.  It was a busy week, one full of meetings and planning and challenges and joys; also one of peace, which is truly the cry of my heart for this season.  I am so grateful.


During my time away in France this summer, I spent a whole lot of time evaluating the things that went wrong last field service and what I need to do to remedy the situation this field service.  One of those decisions was I must have a Sabbath day once a week.  One full day, where I don’t do any work and I don’t do any school work.  This was nearly nonexistent for me last year, and I committed to arranging at least one day per week that was free to do whatever my heart needed to do to find peace and be refreshed for the coming week.  Reading, listening to a podcast, running, sitting by a pool, going to church; it might look different every week, but I knew it had to be a day free of school and work.

Then we landed in Benin. And things got crazy.  And two days after arrival I’m already thinking I am going to have to work all weekend to catch up.  We had literally been in country two days and I felt behind; the panic of failure creeping in the back of my mind, with a to-do list a mile long and the desperate need to achieve overriding any other needs, no matter how urgent. 

Two days in.

I took a figurative step back and said whoa.  No way.  I am not starting this way.  This is not going to be this year.  It. Is. Not.

So the weekend came and I worked hard one day to catch up on things, and then I did it. I took a day off from school, from work, from the need to achieve and accomplish and cross off to-do list items.  It was glorious and refreshing and I found that Monday morning not only was I not behind, but I was exceptionally peaceful and productive.  It makes no sense, that one.  The rational part of me says it’s a waste of time.  But I’m beginning to learn that rational doesn’t secretly mean right. 


I went up to someone the other day and said “I’d like to have dinner with you, I want to hear your story.”  Truly, she lit up like a Christmas tree; she said really??? like four times and then said how about tonight? We had a great dinner and a beautiful conversation, but what stuck with me was the excitement she showed when I gave value to her, to our time, to her story.  Isn’t that truly what we are all hungry for?  Someone to tell us I see you, you have value, your story is important and I want to hear it. 

I encourage you to try it.  Be brave. They might say no.  But if their face lights up and they feel seen for the first time in maybe forever?  It’s worth it.   


On Thursday we went as a team to the screening site.  In the last few years we’ve changed our screening strategy dramatically; while huge screenings with 7000 people lining up like we had in Congo has its benefits, from a public health perspective, large numbers of desperate and potentially ill people in a confined area could be a recipe for disaster.  So now our screening team holds smaller screening days over a longer period of time, and they need a lot of help with security and patient escorts throughout the day.

We left the ship long before the sun began to rise; when we arrived at the screening site, the crowds outside the gate were already loud and rowdy.  We couldn’t see them but could hear them; the desperation clear in a group of people who had already spent days in line, sleeping in the rain, the mud, the tropical sun.  It took a lot of jaw clenching and focused concentration to keep the tears at bay.

Once the police had them calmed down they started to file into the compound.  I got to greet each second person as a friend and I were giving everyone who entered a wristband.  They were so eager, the grandmothers and the pappas and the mamas with their little ones.  Some cried at the sight of our pale skin but most were just relieved to be inside and a step closer to their long-hoped-for healing. 

Some we can help; many, many we cannot, and it’s hard to see the disappointment of those who receive a no shuffling out of the compound, their faces and hearts heavy and grieving the death of hope.  Please pray for them; for the multitudes we cannot help, and for the screening team who have to deliver the news.


I guess it should come as no surprise that I aced my last grad school module.  What module was it? Programme and policy challenges in low income countries. Yeah.  Like a transcript of my daily existence would probably be a suitable textbook.  In fact, I had to read very little of the actual course material, drawing upon my own experience proved much more fun and less tedious.  Now I’m struggling through Managing crises and disasters which I think I would enjoy if it weren’t for so many other things I’d rather be doing with my time. 

So I’m still managing to work and do school at the same time; I also will be leading a small group and I hope to spend some time learning the local language of Fon while I am here.  I am not sure why but something in me really wants to learn it!  It’s very different from Tcha which was the local language in my village; speaking of village, I do plan to go up there sometime in the next few months.  Someone asked me today if I had seen anyone that I knew from my previous time yet, and I replied no, but we’ve only been here a week!  

It’s so good to be here. Thank you for your prayers and support, I couldn’t do this without my funders and my friends and emails and family and letters and love.  Thank you, from the depths.  


On arrival. See me? ©Mercy Ships

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