What is it about Eurovision that hooks us in? The outfits? The slightly unusual song selection? The politics of who votes for who? The chance to see if the UK will again end up with ‘nul points’? The chance to question why Australia is even in the competition? Well tonight it was about community onboard.Georgia and I had spoken about watching Eurovision a few weeks ago, then promptly forgot about it. So during this week, we reserved Mid Ships as it has a TV we can watch. It doesn’t have BBC, so I put a ticket request into IS to see if there was any way we could live stream. Georgia downloaded the sweepstake information and we printed of each countries flags at 19:45 – so at 20:00 we were ready! Stuart was so kind and connected a business laptop to the TV with a youtube link set up. Everyone put their hand inside a coconut and pulled out their country. I pulled out Israel, so I took my Israeli flag and sat back to enjoy the show. Alot of folk just came to see what all the fuss was about. After about 7 acts – we realised something was missing – Graham Norton. I have never watched Eurovision without his witty and sarcastic comments. Not wanting disrupt a working link – we waited a bit – but then we decided to try and get a BBC link to work. Hooray it did. How great to hear Graham’s commentary. It really made all the difference. Everyone laughed at his statements and all was right again. When our country came on to perform we waved out flags and cheered. Then the link started to lose connection. The whole time during the buffering – I just prayed that it would continue to work, asking God to keep it working – so that we could all enjoy this together. This seems like such an insignificant prayer to make – but I felt responsible for inviting everyone, for including everyone, for prioritising doing things together as a community. I wanted it to work not for personal reasons – but because I wanted everyone to laugh and be together. After that we didn’t have any further connection issues! God did not forsake us. As we waited for all the points to be awarded by each country we were kept entertained by the commentary – it was a pretty close call. In the end, it was Israel that won. The song entitled ‘Toy’ was about Women’s empowerment and social justice, and recognising that women are not possessions or toys. I was reminded God wants us to stand against injustice for women, children, the poor. In my head I was reminded of stories from the Old Testament where God did not forsake Israel. He was with them. He was with those who followed His commands to speak up for those who could not speak for themselves. I didn’t expect to get this revelation tonight. This encouragement to keep going forward.
Yet it was so fun, sitting in our living room, watching Eurovision, surrounded by folk from all over the world – all from a ship in Cameroon.
Robins are always significant. Always.
There are moments in my life, when I can’t quite believe I am where I am. Just after 16:00 today, Captain John messaged a few of us to see if any one wanted to take his 2 tickets for Gala Dinner at 19:30 this evening. They were unable to attend, but wanted to know if anyone was free. Normally, I would go through many thoughts in my head before saying ‘yes’ but then I thought why not. When I got the tickets from Captain John, there was a robin on the front. Of course there was. Robins are so significant. Even more so here. A British bird of the invite to an event here in Cameroon. My heart said Yes. `I just had to find a dress, thankfully my friend Georgia lent me one. The Secret Gala 2018 was held by the American School here in Douala as a Fundraiser. Mercy Ships were invited as guest of Peter the MD of MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) here in Cameroon who were one of the sponsors of the evening, alongside Brussels Airlines, CamAir alongside multiple local businesses. His daughter Ellen is also volunteering onboard and so it was great that she was at the table.
Alden, one of our British Second Officers and I went along as part of MS. It was really lovely that he was able to represent Captain John from the Deck Department, and I could be there to talk about the Hospital. Although we felt very underdressed and perhaps should have in black tie, it was so lovely to meet other people who are working here in Douala. It felt so surreal and formal, yet normal to stand there with him and talk with others about our lives serving onboard. The American School started in 1978, and so alongside Mercy Ships is celebrating 40 years this year. They have teachers and students from all over the world, and they richly benefit from the cultural diversity, much like we do. Many of the students are accepted into some of the best universities in the UK and US. They recognise the potential that the graduates have in what they can bring to the Business and Political fields that they end up in. Yet they have a focus on Social Responsibility and instill in their people the values of helping others, and finding a useful role in society. Wherever that may be.
We watched some students perform in dance and song, we listened to a local singer, we laughed at the Tombola where one of us won a wheelbarrow, beauty vouchers, hand soap and even my envelope which contained a children’s colouring in poster. We listened to song introductions and had to guess the film. The dinner was really wonderful, we spent a little while translating the menu, and my foodie heart was thrilled with the ‘Glace betterave’ or beetroot sorbet, steak and ginger ice cream. We even attempted the fois gras and duck heart…. How is this my life? It was such a memorable evening .
Kathy and I first met briefly while serving in Guinea 2013. Since then she has continued to serve short term, until last summer when we did on boarding together. It was then that we both realised Cameroon was our 5th field service onboard! She is a dear friend with the sweetest and kindest nature – but she has such a strength and passion about serving here, and aiming for excellence in how she runs the Lab onboard. I count myself very grateful that I get to work alongside her and learn from her. This year there has been a sharp increase in the amount of testing we do onboard, coupled with struggles with our supplies. Kathy has flourished amongst the trials and is quite remarkable. Here is a few of her thoughts, from an article that Mercy Ships wrote.
“Being in a behind-the-scenes profession, most of the public doesn’t get to see all the ways we serve our patients. It is really neat that both medical and non-medical people can come and see what we do and get a better understanding of what a hospital lab is all about. I love that we perform testing and hear stories from each of our surgical specialties and have a direct hand in helping them on their journey to healing. I also really enjoy working with professionals from all over the world and learning from them. We can learn so much from each other if we only take the time to listen”
“I really enjoy the challenge of coming up with creative (yet effective) solutions when working on a hospital ship. From overcoming supply shortages to finding a better way to process something, it is really fun to see all the innovative ideas that come from serving in such a unique environment. It also helps in prioritizing what really matters in what we do”
“I have always felt called to do humanitarian work overseas and somehow incorporate my skills as a lab scientist and Mercy Ships allows me to do both of these things. I have kept coming back to serve because I love the commitment Mercy Ships makes to the host country to help develop the healthcare system and leave it stronger than when we came”
This field service has been exactly like the ocean we sailed across to get here. The joyful crests when a patient gets to go home or when we make progress in the organisation, but also the crushing troughs when there is nothing we can do, or our supplies don’t arrive in time. Every day, trying to find our bearings in unchartered waters.
For almost 8 months, I have felt both seasickness and calm seas without even leaving the port of Doula. I have felt the extreme stillness of a flat ocean – where everything seems to make sense, where I can feel the sun on my skin bringing out my freckles, where the skies change from azure to crimson, where all of natures glory is showcased from the silver flying fish to the starry expanse above my head. Smooth sailing on this passage. All is well.
And yet, countless times, we have seen the weather change. So quickly that we hardly see the dark clouds rolling in – where we barely have time to batten down our hatches and prepare, where the salty air tangles my hair so that I cannot see, where every muscle in my body is straining just to keep me upright against the ships rolling, where the churning in my stomach makes question if I would even make it through the night.
Even those days I was in the Doldrums. Drifting. Drifting. Drifting. Cabin fever setting in. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. For any force on the Beaufort scale to propel me forward.
How have I survived this voyage. Sometimes I stand on deck and wonder. Looking out, for a change on the horizon. Then tonight I get that first glimpse of land, of understanding. It is because of my fellow crew. There is no doubt in my heart. It’s always been the crew. All hands have gone on deck. We have pulled together. For hundreds of years women were forbidden to sail, superstition or reasons of safety. Yet these women. These crew members who would complete their passing out parades with flying colours. With commendations for their dedication and resilience. Their intuition and deep down feelings about a situation. Their adaptability when circumstances take a 180′ turn from where was plotted as the next location. They improvise. They bring a sense of calmness. Because we work together, I have the privilege of seeing these women every day. The integrity that they show in the workplace but also in life onboard. Even thinking about the collective Mercy Ships experience represented, from countless field services in different countries, aboard several vessels in our history. Cameroon has clearly shown us our strengths and weaknesses in this maritime life that we have called to serve in.
How often have we read the verses from Jesus’ last few days on earth? We all know that it was during the time of Passover, Jesus had just been anointed with the oil from the alabaster jar and he washed the Disciples feet. We know about the betrayal that would come within a few hours, and we often read the verses where Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, that he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to the disciples. These words are powerful enough to think about, and yet that is not what has stirred me today. It was a verse that both Matthew and Mark found important to write down. ‘when they had sung a hymn, they went out the mount of olives’ (Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26)
Did you catch that? I almost missed it. Jesus Sang. Yes he did. Perhaps you already knew that. But it caught me. So I wondered what did Jesus sing? Some translations say ‘Hymn’ some say ‘Praises’ and some ‘Psalms’. The latter being the most helpful to me. After some research, it is likely that they sang a section of the Old Testament called the ‘Hallel’. Our Psalms 113-118. These were the songs that were/are sang during Passover. ‘Hallel’ is Hebrew for Praise, is where we get Hallelujah from. Jesus was raised a Jew. He would have participated in all thew Jewish celebrations. He joined with the Disciples. He shared with them – the fact that he was a man.
Yet there is something more. He is in fact signing about himself. He takes the focus away from the Lamb that was sacrificed in the Temple and replaces it with His body, and his blood. Psalm 116 ‘I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord’ v13. Then ‘I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord’ v17. Signing about his broken body bringing salvation for us all. Can we imagine Jesus singing these words. How about 118:22-24 ‘The stone the builders rejected, has become the capstone, the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it’ How can we rejoice – knowing what is about to happen in a mere few hours.
He sang to gain strength. He sang to fulfil the words in the Old Testament. Many reasons I guess. But I take from it – comfort.
Nate asked me to swap with him to lead the devotional at HLT today, so that he could lead the meeting. Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking alot about the vision God gave Abraham after listening to Pastor Ian’ sermons in Aberdeen. It felt very relevant to share here today also. I asked the question that Pastor Ian is asking – ‘What is going on in our lives for 2018? What is God’s vision for this year?’
Separation – leave all you know. My scottish identify. The religious past. What is our physical location? Yes we are all sitting in the deck 3 conference room – but are we spiritually moving forward. Scripture tells us to refresh our identity, and to move to a place of dependancy. Galatians 3:28 ‘If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise’
Vision – God have Abram a vision for the future. This propelled him forward. It was a promise he could hold onto. It would sustain him. God knows the future. He can be trusted to get us where we should be.
Abram was 75 when this happened. For 100 years he moved with purpose. He had a vision of enlargement. A vision of greater. A great nation. A family. Of provision. Increasing boundaries of influence. You will bless the nations. He positioned himself. Look at the verb words – set out, took, left. He believed in God’s promise. He went. But he had influence on others, Sarai, Lot and all the people he had acquired. He brought them into the blessing + vision. Who are we connected to?
Support/encouragement – In Genesis 17 God said some crazy things. You will be a 100. You will have a son. Abrams laughed. I love his honesty here. As Pastor Ian asks – what would our response be? I guess thats where the support comes in. Are we supporting each other to push forward? Or in fact are we like Abram, where we are influenced to go back to Egypt? Or do we truly trust Gods vision. Many times in my life, circumstances/relationships have almost stopped me from following a vision very clearly stated in 2008.
So my hope is that we would support each other.
If you remember, back in August, Ernest was one of the first patients that we saw. He presented even before the hospital was fully open. I still remember him coming to Radiology and taking his OPG as part of his pre-surgery assessment. Georgia one of our writers onboard shared his story. Here it is.
“Ernest’s eyes speak of a pain and sorrow beyond his 27 years. A facial tumor had been growing for over a decade, and he spent his young adult years hiding from the world, simply waiting to die. “I was making everyone uncomfortable, so I would just stay home in bed all day, alone with my suicidal thoughts,” he explains. When he heard about Mercy Ships, he knew he had nothing to lose. He said goodbye to his wife and five- year-old son and made the two-day journey alone. “Many men from my village have tumors, but they were too scared to come to the ship. They told me I would die,” he said. But he knew they were wrong … this was his only chance to save his life. By the time Ernest arrived at the hospital ship, he was dangerously ill, and his tumor was bleeding. Mercy Ships doctors admitted him for a life-saving blood transfusion.
When Ernest’s condition stabilized, he received what five billion people around the world are unable to access – safe, affordable and timely surgery. As Ernest recovered physically, he also recovered emotionally – changing from a withdrawn, sad man into a confident, optimistic man. His new outlook on life was reflected in the light in his eyes. Volunteer nurse, Kirsten Murphy, monitored him the first night he was admitted and witnessed his transformation. “I remember his persistence. I remember his new-found hope. I remember the huge grin that spread across his face post-surgery when he realized he was handsome!”
Now, Ernest returns home to be the man he’s always longed to be – the husband he feels his wife deserves and the father he wants to model for his son. “Before, life was very difficult for me. I can’t wait to go back to my village and show those who doubted that Mercy Ships has given me new life.”
“After more than 10 years of carrying a physical and emotional burden, Ernest is free! “When I came here, my life was already over. Now I have everything in front of me.”