The past few weeks have been a mix of wonderful & difficult on board the Africa Mercy.
There have been a few patients that have really tugged at my heart. Because not only are they absolutely precious, they are the ones that we’re unable to help medically.
And it’s just as devastating as it was 5 weeks ago.
Everyone here on board wants so badly to treat everyone we see, everyone who walks/drives for hours or days to come see us, everyone who has put all of their hope in us being able to help them. But that’s just not possible. And through every one of these situations, God is teaching me that we’re not the ones who treat & heal them anyway…He is. That it’s not about US & the patient, it’s about HIM & the patient.
The absolute best thing we can do for our patients is to lay their healing at His feet.
That doing so is infinitely greater than anything we can do personally. After all, He simply uses us as a extension of Himself. We are not the ones who are treating & healing, He is.
But even still, it’s difficult to watch these patients walk away.
It’s difficult to watch the scans of these patients appear. Because you know as soon as you see the images below, that there’s nothing we can do here at Mercy Ships for this pathology. That it’s most likely cancerous & has metastasized throughout the rest of their body. That most likely, all we can provide is palliative care & spiritual support.
As I’ve said before, the amount of suffering these precious people go through is palpable just by looking into their eyes. No words are necessary to understand the pain they feel every moment of every day. To understand what they have to endure because of their medical abnormality & the lack of healthcare they so desperately need.
There’s no way to describe the emotions you feel when you meet these patients for the first time & look into their eyes. There’s no way to describe what happens within your heart, no way to prepare yourself for the feelings that will come over you.
You can’t help but feel like God is allowing you to look through His eyes, to see what He sees, to feel what He feels about His children.
That despite all the abnormalities, despite others deeming them cursed, that they are still His.
That they are nothing short of beautiful & precious in His sight, because they are.
The images you see above belong to 15 year old young man. As you can see, his large facial tumor has eaten away & destroyed a good portion of his facial bones, is now growing into his brain & is slowly crushing his trachea.
When I first laid eyes on this sweet young man, with his tumor protruding out of his nose & mouth, I had to fight back tears. Then as he sat down on the CT table, he shook my hand & thanked me for helping him. I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer.
As we proceeded with the CT & his images began to appear, my heart dropped & shattered into a million pieces. I knew then & there that we would not be able to operate. That there was far too much involved with this tumor. And as I saw the unfathomable narrowing of his airway, it really hit me…
Suffocation would most likely take his life. And soon.
How was I supposed to walk back in there & not completely fall apart? How was I supposed to appear hopeful to this young man, who is not too much older than my baby brother, knowing that this could possibly be my first & last time meeting him? To be able to make an impact, no matter how small, in his life?
Through the strength God reinforces us with. Through knowing & trusting that He has prepared us for these very tasks, even if we’re not sure how. Through praying for comfort & peace, not for ourselves, but for our patients & their families.
And my prayer for our time with those patients is still the same as it was 5 weeks ago…
I pray that each of us shined the Light of our Savior while in contact with those who were told “No”. That even though we are unable to help them medically, that we were sufficient in helping them spiritually. That us serving them, even if it was only for a short time, allowed them to see that they have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be embarrassed about, that they are not cursed & that they do matter…not only to God & our Savior, but to us as well. That we love them & accept them for who they are, with or without their abnormality.
That as Children of God, their abnormality will never & could never define them. That they are loved, cared about & just as important as any other.
I hope & pray that we provide those things for them.
I pray that each of us continues to learn that while we may not be able to help them medically, that we can still do what’s best for each of these patients by laying them & their healing at the feet of our Savior. That we can still support them, encourage them, pray for them.
We can still make a difference in their life. We can still love them as Christ loves them.
We were reminded in church tonight that God has chosen us for this calling. That we’re here because we were called to Jesus, not just Mercy Ships & Benin. That many times our calling is full of joy & suffering intertwined.
That Jesus believes in us, that we are capable of making a difference, not only in Benin, but in the lives of those around us.
Because even though our hearts break often while living out our calling here at Mercy Ships, all suffering has meaning in God’s Kingdom.
He can bring good out of anything…even suffering & heart break.
What a precious reminder that we are fully equipped to handle anything, as long as we keep Him as our center & lay everything at His feet.
We also had the privilege of having the founder of Mercy Ships, Don Stephens, & the board of directors here with us this past week.
Mr. Stephens is truly one of the most humble people I’ve ever met.
He was recently nominated for the Congressional Gold Medal & when congratulated on this enormous honor & achievement, he politely declined the recognition & averted the attention to the patients & volunteers.
“Thank you for mentioning the award, but you said that we deserve it…& I would push back strongly. The only thing we deserve is Hell, & everything else is grace. So we don’t deserve it at all & that’s why when we were nominated, we specifically put the focus on you. You are the hands & the feet, the ones that are making the difference in Africa. And if it will help us raise funds & recruit others to serve, then may God bless it & may He have His way. But it’s not about us, it’s about you & what you’re doing, & the poor that we are serving. It’s about Africa.
And additionally, I think mainly it’s about Jesus.” -Don Stephens
But it’s him who followed his heart & the call of our Savior to begin this wonderful organization. Without him following his dream to provide healthcare to those in the poorest of nations, we wouldn’t have this opportunity to serve in this way. Because of the work he’s done over the past 38 years, Mercy Ships has been able to directly impact more than 2.5 million people & provide services valued more than $1.3 billion.
So thank you Mr. Stephens, for following the call & passion God placed within your heart. We wouldn’t be here without you.
“Prayer in action is love, & love in action is service. Try to give unconditionally whatever a person needs in the moment. The point is to do something, however small, & show you care through your actions by giving your time. We are all God’s children so it is important to share His gifts. Do not worry about why problems exist in the world – just respond to people’s needs. We feel what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but that ocean would be less without that drop.” -Mother Teresa
Until next week…
– Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships. –