Systemic Sorrow

There is a sorrow welling up in this community that has placed us all on the edge of an emotional cliff and we might just be one goodbye away from becoming an inconsolable puddle of emotions.

In a community where every friendship has an expiration date and every home a lease agreement, we have managed to hold on to Madagascar longer than expected.  God’s provision led us to this country in October of 2014 after months of waiting and delays due to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.  His grace let us stay here an extra year.

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The result of this extra year means we are that much more invested into the lives of our patients, our day crew and Tamatave as our home. One can never get used to the aching that occurs when over and over pieces are torn away from the heart.

In the last few weeks we have said goodbye to patients and family members, some of whom spent a good portion of both field services on this ship.

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©2016 Mercy Ships Photo Credit Justine Forrest; Dyllan with Grandmother

We are saying goodbye to our local day crew who are some of the hardest workers I have ever seen and who have become cherished friends.  We are saying goodbye to crew members who are finished serving onboard the Africa Mercy after years of service.

We are saying goodbye to home – a place that has our favorite restaurants and hidden beaches to escape the stress of life. It’s a place that has memories both good and bad of two challenging yet rewarding years of life.  It’s a place full of exquisite beauty in nature

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and in people.  And it’s a place where God is working and moving even though our time here is done.

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©2016 Mercy Ships Photo Credit Justine Forrest; New OBF ladies waiting for surgery at the HOPE Center

Tonight we are also saying goodbye to three rock stars.  We are honoring and saying goodbye to our Mercy Ships Academy graduating Class of 2016. This is a class of three individuals who are going to take this life by storm.  It’s a class that has a vision and perspective of this world far beyond the eighteen years they’ve seen – a class of true world changers.

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Photo Credit: Walter Pretorius; Mercy Ships Academy Class of 2016

©2016 Mercy Ships Photo Credit Justine Forrest;

In a community where friends, families, coworkers and counties are constantly circulating around a revolving door I’m not sure I even know how to begin to convey the exhaustion that is brought on by not only an incredibly long and trying field service but also the emotional drain of so much sorrow. In the book “Call of the Wild,” Jack London writes

There was nothing the matter with them except that they were dead tired.  It was not the dead-tiredness that comes through brief and excessive effort, from which recovery is a matter of hours; but it was the dead-tiredness that comes through the slow and prolonged strength drainage of months of toil.  There was no power of recuperation left, no reserve strength to call upon.  It had been all used, the last least bit of it. Every muscle, every fiber, every cell, was tired, dead tired.  And there was reason for it.

“And there was reason for it.”

These words could not be more true. So I ask you to take a minute to pray for our crew that we will find rest and comfort in our Sovereign God who holds all things in his hands and in all things works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest – Matt 11:28

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sudden silence

Goodbyes suck.

They are part of life, especially here on this floating village in which people come and go every other day and the moment you get attached to someone he or she leaves being replaced by someone else who doesn’t know what the person meant to you in the first place.  After saying goodbye to a bus full of people this mourning a friend put it like this (or almost) – It’s like that group of friends that go off to war together and actually do make it back alive.  They have all these shared memories and emotions but eventually old age catches up, people die and you are left alone surrounded by strangers who don’t care about the times you survived hell together.

I’m not saying this ship is a hellish warzone (although sometimes it is close) but when the bonds that are formed in such close, trying community are suddenly torn apart there is a mourning process involved and I think it is harder on the other side of the bus window.

Leaving this ship is leaving life.  Those who remain onboard welcome in new people and start the process of building new friendships, creating new memories.  Those who leave watch as life goes on without them and others are seemingly unaffected.

Suddenly surrounded by the silence and isolation of what was once a normal life you begin to crave community even if it means being awoken by your neighbor’s alarm clock through paper-thin walls.  Nobody quite understands what you went through or are going through.  Nobody laughs when you joke about ship problems.  Nobody cares that you took longer than a two minute shower or just found an amazingly strong magnet.  You begin to believe that nobody cared about you at all and if life goes on so easily without you were the friendships even real in the first place?

Perhaps that was just me but when I drove away from this ship almost a year ago exactly not knowing when I would be back and almost certain that when I did the family would have changed it was one of the most difficult transitions I have ever experienced and I was only onboard eleven weeks.  Yes I was home for Christmas last year but all I wanted was to be back.

So to all of you who have recently returned home, are in transit or are about to leave this life and reenter into what the world considers “normal” know life may go on here but you have made a difference.  You have impacted lives.  You have followed God’s call on your life and you will be missed.

You will all be missed.

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