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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Joy to the WORLD

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Do I miss home? Yes, I miss home a list a mile long.. but if I had to choose one truth that has been evident to me the past month it is The Lord does not make mistakes, His timing is perfect. What a honor to be part of something this big! I am humbled by the lessons I am learning and the undeserved grace so freely given to me. "In his heart a man plans his course, but The Lord directs his steps." (Proverbs 16:9) Let me tell you, our God is in the healing business. I have witnessed His hand all over this ship and this country. I have seen the lame walk in our orthopedic ward. I have seen the blind see after decades of darkness. I have seen healing abundantly. But fixing their physical appearance is only a bonus when compared to the change in spirit and the hope they carry with them.

People come to us from all over. Some after days of travel from villages unheard of. Some from under bridges where they have lived in shame with what they are assured is a curse. Whatever each story holds, these people come.. they come to us in desperation and they find acceptance and hope in our Savior through the love we pour upon them. No, we can not create world peace or fix every broken situation across the globe. But when I whisper Jesus loves you in African language in the ear of a orphaned child I have to believe a seed is planted. Coming together we can do our part to change individual lives.. and the difference made in the life of one child is worth the battle. It takes us all to make this thing happen- from the surgeons to the engine workers, from the deck hands to the nurses and everyone in between.
  As much as we desire to take away all the pain, we can't fix everyone. I have seen healing, but I have seen heartache. How do you tell a parent you are unable to operate because the tumor is cancer? How do you explain a new baby is not going to make it? These are some of the questions we are faced with. Some of the situations we not only have to resolve but find a way to make sense through a cultural and language barrier. One thing is made sure of before any patient sets foot off of this ship no matter what the situation and that is they have an Almighty Father who loves them. They leave here with an everlasting eternal hope and they know they have brothers and sisters from all over the globe lifting them up to the One who created their soul. I can not wait to tell you the stories of my patients! To tell you of the growth and change we are blessed to be a part of where we are inscribed on their hearts forever.

This months theme is "Emmanuel, God with us." It has truly been a Christmas of celebration that we have a God who is by our side. Complete with traditions from different countries all over the world coming together to worship the King of every nation. This month has been full of worship, fellowship, love, laughter, and so much more. I have had a very Merry Christmas with my crew family and patients and even exchanged gifts with family at home :)  I hope Christmas was merry in bright in Texas and wherever you may be spending it! I may long to be home with my people but my heart is here. I am joyful in my journey and beyond excited to see what else the Lord has prepared here in Congo for the remainder of my service here. Keep the prayers coming! 

Blessings from AFRICA!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Always Enough

Your love is peace to the broken

Faith for the widow

Hope for the orphan

Strength for the weak

Your love is the anthem of nations

rings out to the ages

And You're Always Enough for me

-Casting Crowns

This song has been my motto the past few weeks. How true is it that His love is always enough. It is meant to be shared with those around us and let them know not only that it is enough but it is abundant, free, and always available. Surgeries are coming to a pause for Christmas and the patients in the ward are on the road to recovery and home to a completely different life. I was privileged to watch one of the legendary Dr. Gary Parker's surgeries the other day. He is a brilliant surgeon and a compassionate servant of the Lord's army. He has been on the ship for over 20 years bringing hope and healing to the souls of Africa. He spoke with me during the surgery about the patient he was operating on telling me their story and how excited they were to have the procedure. He knows his patients and their stories because he loves them like Jesus does. The mind-set and teamwork of all the crew may seem foreign to most of the world because it is exactly opposite of what we are trained to think like in the society we live in. It amazes me how well the community works together since we work with the same people we live with and do life with everyday. But on the other hand, I shouldn't be surprised because every heart is in one accord with the same goal.

To be quite honest I have had a really rough week which was a huge turning point for me. Just a little background about this field service here in Congo.. This is the first field service in history Mercy ships has had the opportunity to come to central Africa. So, while this is an amazing door opened to reach more hungry souls, it is a learning experience for everyone in so many different aspects. We are not seeing the usual number of patients since there is not a relationship built here with the people yet but we have to start somewhere. None the less, God is moving and He is bringing the right patients and whether we see 50 or 500, the difference made in 1 life matters. We all understand that this is the beginning of a new chapter for Mercy Ships and we are very excited to be here! That being said we are over staffed with nurses and there are times we are called off or do different jobs here on the ship. No one could have prepared for this, better to be over prepared than under I'd say. I am proud to say I have been a cashier, a barista at Starbucks, a stocker in the ship ship, and have checked inventory in the supply room to name a few. All of which will go on my resume (haha) and I am happy to help out in any way I am needed. Last week I found out that the wards are going to get quieter over the holidays since we are not doing surgery for the week of Christmas so with the 1 week "vacation" and another week working in the ship shop as a cashier, I felt a heavy burden of not being actually needed here. That led to questioning if I should be here or not during this time. Should I leave and come back when I am needed? So many thoughts consumed my mind that I had to talk with my supervisor. Last Friday I went to her office and asked her if there was anything else I could do or if it would be more beneficial for me to go home and come back when nurses are needed to give other nurses opportunity to love on the patients and do what they came here to do. We discussed the issue and decided that would be a good idea if I was ok with it. And I was. In my mind for days I had a list made of reasons: 1. My sweet brother comes home from Afghanistan this month 2. Christmas with family is important to me and I have never spent it away from them 3. We are very over staffed with nurses 4. I can always come back when I am needed. So it was settled all on that one day. I was taken off of the schedule and I contacted my travel agent to change my flight to December 15th, TODAY, (the only flight left before Christmas). That meant I only had 8 days left here. Everything was great! Or so I thought..

The next week was an absolute emotional roller coaster. I could not decipher the devil having a hay day with my feelings and The Lord's guidance. Again, my thoughts were chaos. Everything worked out to go home so if God didn't want me to I'm sure it wouldn't have.. and He can still stop me I'd love nothing more than a neon sign with the way He wants me to go.. Christmas is going to be great and surprising family is going to be so exciting.. I cant wait to see my brother.. All of those changed to- I am quitting, jumping ship, failing at the mission I set out to do.. What are the people watching my story going to think when I come back 7 weeks early?.. I read my letters from home and felt like a disappointment.. I had been already counting down the days so what if I am just homesick and made a life changing decision because I miss home.. I dont feel finished here.. I prayed so hard and sought godly wisdom. NOTHING was making me feel better for long enough to matter. I would have a little peace then anxiety and fear. All I desire is to be smack in he middle of where God wants me and I was so unsure of where that was. There was only one thing to do- I needed to talk to my Mama Dena. So, Thursday the 12th of December I called her and dramatically blubbered out the whole situation. She wisely advised me to ask for more time, my decision was made to quickly and I needed time. So I woke up this past Friday morning and went to what was my last shift in the hospital feeling exhausted from not sleeping all week and nervous. I spoke with my charge nurse telling her how I felt and that I was sorry to be so frustrating I just wanted so badly to do the right thing. She was not frustrated at all with me. I told her I would be fine with staying and helping another area out that needed help since there are too many nurses, I have dental experience from other mission trips when I assisted a dentist, my friend told me the dental team may be short. She told me that she would pray with me and then I should go have some quiet time and we could go from there because it was a Friday and I would need to figure out flights and etc if I decided and was able to stay. She prayed for me and as we walked out of the ICU back into the ward someone said "hey the dental team is looking for you." I ran out into the hallway and no one was there. The dental team works off ship and would be gone all day so I ran upstairs and out onto the gangway. There, walking up the steps back onto the ship was the lead dentist and my friend. He said "hey! I need an assistant until February! If you are interested you can have as much or as little of the time you want!" That instant I knew where I was supposed to be. All fear and anxiety left my heart and mind and all I could say is "YES!" I proceeded to do check with HR, email my travel agent, and thank God for answered prayers (not in that order).

Everything worked out for me to stay and I couldn't be more at peace. I am glad to have gone through the trial I did in order to change my perspective and give me a fresh appreciation and excitement for being here. I am reassured that God's will for my life is not to be carried out by anyone else but was designed specifically for me and I should live in the moment and stop trying to control every aspect of life. I am reminded that the season we are in is not going to last forever so we should embrace every opportunity and soak up every ray of warmth in each smile, hug, laughter, sunshine, and any blessing that is put in our path. I am THANKFUL for His sovereignty and guidance. I am grateful for His goodness. I am no longer counting down the days to come home I am forgetting time and plans and living in the moment and loving the people in it to the fullest. Until this turn of events, I look back and realize I was looking at things in the wrong perspective. I saw myself as a nurse to be used for the building up of the Lord's kingdom. Which is not wrong.. just misconstrued. I am not just a nurse. I am an original masterpiece with many talents and gifts (including nursing) to be used for the building up of His kingdom. I also only thought about what The Lord wanted to do through me to help others I never thought about what He wanted to do IN me. A wise friend told me "McCall, when you are unsure about which direction the Lord is leading you, go back to the last thing He said." That made a lot of sense to me. And the last thing I was completely sure about was Him leading me safely to the Africa Mercy. Today at church in the hospital I held my little sweet 6 month old patient who was raising her hands to the beat of drums and voices of praise and I worshipped our Savior and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I am right where I belong. So, with a new excitement and an eager heart to love life I will be starting my new job tomorrow! Thanks Dr. Lara for the experience. I know days may come when my spark may not be as bright but on those days I have my certificate hanging above my mirror that says "Thank you for 5 weeks of service". When I see that, I smile and think "nope, I'm not done yet" :)

"For you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you."  Ps. 9:10