A year ago today I left Mercy Ships surrounded by a cloud of darkness and uncertainty. The months that followed are well documented in my previous blog posts. However, I then stopped writing. God had delivered me from the darkness but I still couldn’t see where the story was going, but oh was He writing a good one!!
In fact, He is writing a story that is too good not to be true.
This is a sorry I don’t exactly know how to tell because I don’t know where to start. Technically it begins when I was a small child but I will start in 2013.
If you have been following my blog all this time, you will remember that back in October, 2013, I went to the Republic of Congo to work as a lab tech onboard the Africa Mercy with the organization Mercy Ships for three months. This was the fulfillment of a desire that was first planted when I was very young; however I had always wanted to serve onboard for a longer period of time. In fact, at one point I thought I would be on that ship for life, but God had different plans, better plans.
Once onboard, I found out that the senior lab tech was ready to head back to the US and was looking for a replacement to sign up to work long term. It took me a little while to realize that this was what God wanted me to do because I was afraid of taking on the responsibility of running the laboratory but eventually I agreed.
At this point, the ship was scheduled to go to Guinea for the 2014-15 field service. I had heard so much about the country since the ship had just been there the year before. The crew spoke of it with joy and enthusiasm and conveyed a love for the city of Conakry and the people of Guinea. I could not wait to experience this place and its people for myself.
Devastatingly, Ebola broke out in Guinea in late 2013 and by March of 2014 the World Health Organization officially declared an outbreak of the virus which quickly spread to the neighboring countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone. In the months (and years) that followed, the virus ravaged through these countries and cases spread even further in West Africa. It was not until June of 2016 that all three countries were declared Ebola-free. According to the CDC, the outbreak had over 28,600 cases with 11,325 deaths.
Needless to say, Mercy Ships decided in early 2014 that it was not safe to go to Guinea for the upcoming field service and when I arrived for the long term training my initial field practicum was in Haiti working with Nehemiah Vision Ministries. In July of 2014 our group of 30 new Mercy Shipers flew to Port-au-Prince where we were greeted by a very cheerful, upbeat, southern girl from Mississippi named Anna. She and her cousin Oliver were interning with NVM for the summer and we spent the next two weeks working with both of them to breakup and plant fields – by hand.
In those two weeks, a friendship was formed with this girl from Mississippi and I stayed in touch with her in the years that followed. I joined the ship in August 2014 and spent two years in Madagascar before heading to Benin in 2016. By this time I had convinced Anna to come and work with Mercy Ships for the 2016-17 field service in Benin. Throughout the course of those 10 months she and I became very close friends and the following September, after my time with Mercy Ships was finished, we decided to attend a re-entry retreat and road trip around the US together. Her other cousin, Henry (Oliver’s brother), met us in Colorado after the retreat and took us climbing before Anna and I continued our road trip.
We are now up to October 2017 – thanks for sticking with me.
After we traveled up and across the US, Anna and I ended up in Tennessee on her grandma’s farm because Oliver was getting married there in a few days. I was scheduled to fly back home to Maine the next day but I was convinced to stay an extra week and crash the wedding of a kid I had met in Haiti three years before and had not spoken to since – but the more the merrier, right?
I stayed and was put to work to help get everything ready for the wedding. (I was also wholeheartedly welcomed, and found a joy that I had never experienced and the passionate love of Christ truly surrounded me, sustained me and satisfied my every need and desire).
Two days into wedding prep, I was sitting across the breakfast table from one of the bridesmaids, Rachel, and found out she had just flown in from Guinea. This of course sparked my interest and we began chatting about our experiences in Africa and I told her this same story about not being able to serve in Guinea but still wanting to. She asked what I did onboard the ship. I told her I was a lab tech and I got the blank stare and pause I have grown very accustomed to because most people do not know what a lab tech does so I continued to explain the job.
Her response took me by complete surprise. After I finished explaining, she simply said, “No, I know what a lab tech is; my team and I were just praying yesterday for God to send us a lab tech because we are building a lab but need somebody to help set it up.”
I was speechless.
I had left the ship, gone on the retreat, found healing but still didn’t know what God had planned next for my life and here in front of me was an opportunity to go back to Africa, to the country where this all started, to work as a lab tech.
This is when the story gets really good…
I left the farm the week after the wedding and began to pray about Guinea. I arrived home in Maine but still felt like God was calling me into a season of rest so I told Rachel that as much as the opportunity seemed amazing, it was not the right time.
In the following few months, God continued to give me rest, provided for me and restored my love and joy for Him and others. It was an amazing period of my life where I could spend as much time every day with Him and fellowshipping with others. However, by December I felt like it was coming to an end and I began to pray about Guinea again.
During those same months, I also kept in touch with Henry. For some reason, I just couldn’t shake this feeling that there may be something more there. By December, I realized I was interested in him but had no idea what was going to come of it, but I had booked a ticket back to Tennessee for Anna’s birthday so I surrendered it all to God and trusted that wherever He took me I would go.
I arrived in Tennessee, back at grandma’s farm, and back to the place where God had restored my joy. I realized it was time to come out of rest and felt Him pushing me towards Guinea. I e-mailed Rachel and began to process of applying for WorldVenture.
I arrived in Tennessee, realized I was very much interested in Henry but still had no idea how he felt. A few days later he asked me out and we started dating. I came home to Maine and felt God telling me, “This is the story I am writing.” Henry and I are now engaged.
I am now writing this from Guinea. It is my last day here. A year ago today I left Mercy Ships and flew into the darkness of the unknown.
Today is my last day in Guinea, a country it took me 4 years to get to. I have spent the last three months here setting up the framework for a medical lab that will open in the near future.
I have spent the last three months in the city of Kankan, a city where mango trees line the red roads letting me know daily that yes I am in Africa and yes it is beautiful. I have spent the better part of the last four and a half years in Africa but today marks the end of this chapter of my life.
This weekend I will travel back to the US and in a few months, I will marry Henry. Only God knows if and when we will be back to this continent and He does know and I trust Him to keep writing a good story.
If I had gone to Guinea back in 2014 I never would have been in Haiti and I never would have met Anna and Oliver and I never would have been on that farm in Tennessee to find out about this opportunity and I never would have met Henry. God’s timing is always better than mine.
In a few days I once more will be flying into an unknown future but I know God is writing it and I know He is more than enough for me and I know He has written every detail of this story and He will continue to write mine and Henry’s story because this is a story too good not to be true.
Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.