The Africa Mercy is in Benin.
This statement means so much more than just a ship arriving in a country.
We have now been in Cotonou, Benin for almost four full months but this blog has been in the works for much longer than that.
Two years ago, when I re-joined the ship as Sr. lab tech, we were supposed to leave the Canary Islands for a quick seven-day sail and arrive in Benin in late August. Perhaps you remember that things didn’t go as planned. Nearly two months of collective sail time, multiple trips to South Africa, two years in Madagascar, and one Ebola epidemic later and we are finally in Benin.
As I made the trip back around the tip of Africa, into Cape Town and on to West Africa I was overwhelmed with feelings of nostalgia. In some ways, it felt as though we had never left. I still knew Cape Town better than my home cities. I visited my favorite restaurants, hiked my favorite trails and enjoyed time in a city which captured a piece of my heart in 2014.
But as much as these things all remained unchanged, I am not the same person I was two years ago, and for that, I thank God.
So why has it taken me four months to sit down and write this blog post? I could say it is because I have been too busy, which in some regard, I have been. However, the honest-truth is that I haven’t wanted to face it. I haven’t wanted to process who I am and what I have experienced. I haven’t wanted to think about what it means to finally be in Benin.
But I cannot run from it any longer so here it goes, my top three lessons learned from the last two plus years…
God calls to this ship who he wants, when he wants, for whatever purpose he wants and I may never see or understand his reasoning but sometimes he shows us a glimpse of his plan and that is a beautiful privilege.
God has called me to this ship to be Snr. Lab tech whether I want the responsibility or not, and with that calling he has equipped me. It is only by his strength that I survive day to day. It is only by his equipping that I have managed to lead my team. However, in all this, he has taught me that being a leader doesn’t mean being the loudest voice or the strongest opinion. He has taught me that leading is listening and learning. And leading is confidence in his abilities and plan, not my own.
In that, God has given me confidence. Confidence in who I am in him. Confidence in who I am in the hospital. Confidence in who I am in this community and confidence in my relationships and interactions with others. This has manifested itself in many ways, the least of which was a drastic hair cut (maybe I’ll share more on that one day).
That seemed easy enough, right? Well unfortunately, it’s the lesson that has still not sunk in after two years onboard that I don’t want to face. It is the fact that God is in control of this ship and the patient’s and her crew. It is not until I relinquish control that he can show me just how powerful he is. He supplies all that I need to run the lab and he never fails me. It is not until I can trust him that I can let myself take a break from the stress that is the Africa Mercy and truly live in the grace, mercy and perfect peace that he offers.
I know that without the first three lessons I would not even be close to learning the last and I am thankful for the experiences that shaped those first few years of my time here. It seems strange to think that it has been years. It seems strange to think of the transformation I have experienced when I feel like it was just a few weeks ago that I was leaving the States for an unknown adventure. But I know I am not the same person.
Now that I am finally in Benin, I hope and pray that I am ready to be here. I pray that I am ready to face the spiritual battle that is so heavily raging in this country. I pray that I have trust enough to let God be in control. I pray that I have confidence, not in my ability but his, to lead and lead well. I pray that when I leave this ship, whenever that may be, that these lessons will stay with me.
It has been a whirlwind. Let’s keep going.
Welcome to Benin. Mikwabo!