Sunday, September 23, 2012

I bet you were wondering what my toilet looks like...

Hello friends.

 This is a picture of my bathroom.  The view from this particular angle is the first thing I see in the morning.  When I get up, it is pitch black in my cabin.  We have an inside berth, which means no windows, so it's just as dark at 9am as it would be at 3am, which takes a little getting used to.  After hitting the snooze button exactly once, I draw back the curtains and scrunch like an inchworm to the foot of my bed.  Slowly, hesitantly, like a snail coming out of its shell, my leg stretches down, searching in the darkness for the rickety metal ladder that hangs from the side of my bunk.  Having found a solid foothold (-ish), I ease myself to the floor, feel about in the inky black for my towel, and walk by memory and feel across our homely cabin to the bathroom.  I usually don't run into any chairs.  Now, the bathroom light switch is not actually in the bathroom.  It is mounted, rather, on the side of our cabin wall, to the left of the door.  So, partly to help myself wake up, and partly to avoid disturbing my somnolent room mates, I play a little game with myself.  It's called try-to-flip-the-light-switch-and-then-hop-in-the-bathroom-and-close-the-door-before-the-light-actually-flickers-on.  You get bonus points if you don't slam the door.  I think I've legitimately won possibly five times since I started keeping track.

Over the subsequent grooming process, I draw a veil.  I am a lady, after all.  Do you remember how in elementary school we were taught that good people don't keep the tap running while they brush their teeth?  Well, here on the ship, we apply that rule to all water-related activities, including showers.  I'm becoming rather adept at it, I must say, although I don't think I'll ever be able to keep the two-minute shower rule to the letter.  After opening and shutting various drawers in the half-light of my cabin post-shower, I venture forth to the cafeteria for breakfast, and whatever lies beyond.  Someday soon, I shall have pictures of my classroom to share.  (Above, you will find a picture of my bunk.  That's piglet resting by my pillow.  The natty curtains cover all but an eight inch gap at the foot of the bed.  The usefulness of such thick curtains in an otherwise open room more than makes up for their undeniably ugly pattern.)

Life on the ship moves on in its now-familiar pattern of school, meals, meetings, impromptu worship sessions on the deck, zumba classes, movie nights, and so on.  On Wednesday, I went to a crew debriefing where the physical therapy team was showing how they can use a series of gradually altered casts to bring club feet into normal position.  I think it's called the Ponseti method.  Of course, sometimes you have to have a small operation and cut part of the Achilles tendons to loosen the foot up, but most of it is surgery free.  Then, after the last set of casts have come off, they teach the patient a sort of squatting exercise that they can do to keep their feet from reverting back.  Isn't that cool?  For a few minutes, I considered looking into medical school, just because I think it would be neat to be able to help people walk like that.  Ah, me... So many cool things to do and only one life in which to do them.  Maybe I'll fit it in after my kids have gone off to college.  They have scholarships for old ladies, right?  (And considering that I'm not having kids anytime soon, I'm going to be a very old lady.  Maybe they'll put me on the news.) 

I know that not everyone who reads these blog posts is someone who prays (if this is you, I am glad you're here), but I would like to share a few prayer requests for those of you who do.  There's no huge emergency (that I know of), but none of the things we do that are really worth doing are easy.  Sometimes, a slow and steady wearing down of the soul can do more damage in the long run than any sort of crisis.  Also, if you pray with me about these things, it's like you're here with me helping me do something good in a very real way, and who doesn't want a chance like that?  So every once in a while I would like to share some prayer requests with you so that we can pray together.
Here they are:

1. Please pray for my students, that they will have a vision and a purpose for their lives here.  It's not easy being a teenager on a missionary hospital ship.  While these kids have seen more of the world than I've ever seen, there's still a sense that they're missing out on normal things like highschool sports and being able to drive off with your friends and just hang out.  They see the sacrifices they've made to be here, but since they're not actually doctors or deck-hands, or cooks or receptionists, they don't get the satisfaction of doing something that makes a difference.  It's like buying a car without actually getting to drive it.  Sort of.  Anyway, I just want them to know that they are valuable people and there is a purpose to their being here.

2. Please pray for God to send some more volunteers our way.  I don't work in Human Resources, so I don't know specifically what kind of jobs we need filled.  I think I heard something about needing more nurses at our last community meeting.  If you know anyone who'd be interested, feel free to direct them to the mercyships website (

3. We currently have openings for patients in all areas.  It has been a while since the Africa Mercy has come to Guinea, and many people still may not even know that this medical care is available to them.  So, if you could pray that God would bring people here who need to be here, that would be good.

4.  This may seem a bit silly, but as my grandma used to say, you can't have your 'gets' if you don't know your 'wants', and I want some friends.  It's not as if there aren't people on the ship who know me and with whom I have hung out and watched movies and stuff.  But at home there are people who can tell when something's bothering me and who would bug me until I told them what it was.  And then they would do something sweet for me to help me feel better (or, conversely, would give me a metaphorical thump on the back of the head and tell me not to be an idiot).  It would be nice to be teased and hugged and invited to things again.  And I know that at least 75% of the people here are struggling with the same thing.  Maybe you could pray that we'll all stop waiting for each other to make the first move (in a friend way).

5.  Oh, and there are some elections coming up in the next few weeks here. Please pray that they will go well and that the country can continue to stabilize and grow.

Well, it's 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon, and I have miles of lesson plans to write before I sleep.

I sure do appreciate you all.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Screening Day

So, Screening Day was last week.  This is the day when Mercy Ships officially opens up for business, as it were.  We rented a huge building (called the 'People's Palace') and in a jaw-dropping feat of organization and planning, saw some 4,300 people with various health concerns, which resulted in 800+ appointments made for life-changing surgeries.  The people we could not help (and anyone with a basic grasp of mathematics can tell that there were more than a few) were escorted to a tent where volunteers offered to pray with them before they went on their way.  For some with terminal conditions, we will be providing hospice services over the next nine months, visiting homes and helping people adjust to the knowledge that their condition has a name and a grim course to run. 

Because Mercy Ships is awesome, my Jr. High and High School students got to be part of this amazing event.  For six hours, my students and I got to color and play soccer with the kids who were waiting to be seen, pass out bottled water and sandwiches, and escort people from the incredibly long line that snaked out of the yard and down the street to their first interview with our medical personnel.  One lady that I spoke with said that she had been waiting in line for more than nine hours.  It was amazing and heartrending and mind-numbing and gratifying all at once, and I am glad I could be part of it.  The students did a great job.  They jumped into the work whole-heartedly.  I was inspired. (This picture, by the way, was taking by the Mercy Ships official photographers, since it would be in pretty poor taste for all us westerners to be snapping pictures of people as if we were on vacation.  If you look carefully, you can see me serving cookies somewhere in the middle of the crowd.  Two of my students are also passing out snacks in the upper right corner.  You can tell it's us because we're wearing our snazzy blue Mercy Ships Academy polo shirts.)

To tell the truth, I'm kind of having a hard time putting the day into words.  It was all so big and I'm so small.  There were so many people there, and every one of them waited in the sun and the rain (yep, it's still rainy season here) for hours so that some impossible dream might come true for them.  And for many, the answer was no.  But for others, a great miracle began.

And you know, small as we are, each one of us had a part in that miracle.  Because a logistical masterpiece like Screening Day doesn't happen without tons of small folk doing a million little things that add up to something enormous.  We have an impressive God, who instead of instantaneously restoring 800+ bodies with a snap of his Great and Holy Fingers, works to bless countless hearts by asking His children to help each other in the ways He has gifted us to.  I know for certain that my heart was stretched and blessed by the people I met at Screening Day, African and Western alike. 

Pretty awesome.