a week and a half in, and of course (like most new places that you start to get comfortable with), it feels like ive been living on this boat for a couple months...i actually know my way around a little bit better, i have friends to sit with at meals, and im actually beginning to learn my way around town a little bit. like a really little bit. needless to say, each day has its own adventures :)
i want to write about all the excursions that ive been on over the last few days exploring around, but that isnt really what my heart wants to tell you about tonight. or right now anyway, it may change by the time i finish writing what im thinking about...
so when i first started looking into mercy ships and getting to go to Africa, i had some pretty big dreams (day dreams, if you will). i had high hopes and expectations of getting to go to Africa, living on this amazing ship and going to the front lines, saving the lives of the poor and downtrodden (however you spell it...), with heroic sacrifice and stories of getting to help people recieve their sight again...the lame who were carried into the hospital would be walking out of the ship after surgery with me by their side, embracing me with a big African smile and thanking me in broken english for how i had changed their life.......in my mind, i would get to the ship, and i would be important. people would hear my stories and read my blog, and raise their eyebrows at how much i had done on my trip, and the great things i had done with my life. i had significance because of all i had done, and i would feel like a hero. i'd be in the limelight.
so i get here, and i am immediately immersed in a community of people on this ship of people who have been doing this for years, and years, and years. they have done thousands of surgeries, pulled thousands of teeth, taken out thousands of cataracts, fixed cleft palates, removed tumors, and helped people to walk for the first time in their life. people that have given up everything: their practice, western comforts, family, relationships, a normal life, to serve the poorest of the poor in the middle of west africa. nurses work tirelessly, sometimes through the night, the dentists pull anywhere from 60-100 teeth per day, per dentist. its hot, and humid, and rainy, and muggy, and smelly. these people are amazing. they are doing what God has called them to do in obedience, and using their skills to change people's lives.
continuing on...so i get here...not much certification. not much experience. more than ready for the importance and the heroics though (i can assure you). where is my placement? the galley. the kitchen. really?? easily the least recognized and least glamorous position on the ship. (now when i say "placement", its not all that that do by any means or stretch of the imagination- but when people ask me what i do on the ship, i tell them i work in the galley). i cut the meat, peel the ginger, pick worms out of the lettuce, wash the mangos, mop the floors, and whatever else may be on the menu for that day. when i first got here, i was trying to think of any way that i could get myself out of having to do this insignificant, un-limelighted job that i had been placed in. how was i suppose to have the heroic experiences that i had dreamed of for so long? i wanted to be featured on the mercy ships website holding the hand of a boy who used to have a giant tumor on has face but now looks normal! how was that suppose to happen while im CUTTING THESE ONIONS FOR BEEF STEW? but, in the midst of my minor temper tantrum, God spoke to me more than clearly-"james, was i not the one that made the way for you to be here? was i not the one that ordained this entire trip, this entire experience? did i not provide all of the money and funds (PLUS some) in order for you to be sitting where you are? do you think i am somehow letting your time here accidently slip out of my fingers? you are exactly where you are suppose to be. i love you, shut up."
something like that.
what have i learned here so far? that God is not impressed with heroism. he is not impressed with people who feel really important, or who have significance in the eyes of everyone around them. he just wants our obedience. the maxillo-facial surgeons, just as much as the galley workers, have been commanded to be obedient in the areas that they have been placed. period.
i am beginning to learn that i am going to have PLENTY of time with the patients, PLENTY of time doing ministry, and more than enough time to do about a thousand other things available for crew to get involved in on the ship. i just pray that God would continue to show me exactly what i am suppose to be doing with that time, and to be obedient to every.single.thing. he tells me to do, and to not be afraid to do a job that will get no applause, no thanks, and no recognition, and to do it with obedience and joy in my heart. i cannot believe i have the honor of getting to be apart of this amazing ministry and most of all, that i have the honor of getting to serve such an amazing God. thank you Jesus for being so patient with me.
more to come very soon about some adventures ive gotten to go on recently. but for now, its time for bed. getting up in a few hours to starting making lunch for about 500 of my infinitely hungry crew mates :)
love you all. please keep praying for me. i need Him so much.