Okay, so I always only talk about the positive and shiny aspects of the work we do, we after all proclaim to bring hope and healing. It is only human to gloss things over. Working so behind the scene – I feel like I need a roadmap to even find the scene - the reality and fragility of life was driven home hard for me recently… I will use bits of a nurse onboard the Africa Mercy’s blog to help tell the story.
During the morning shift, Anicette, one our babies, had passed away. She was in our infant feeding program. This program helps malnourished infants receive the nutrition they need in order to get them to a healthy weight for their age.
Following her from our last field service in Benin, the nurses knew her and her mother well. Having trouble digesting any of the formulas they had tried, it was thought she had a serious malabsorption disorder. This time when Anicette arrived on the ship, she was already quite sick. She had lost weight, despite her mother working with Mercy Ships over the last year. Several of the nurses had grown close to the mother and baby. Anicette slipped away in her mother’s arms around eleven in the morning. She was only fourteen months old.
During the shift prayer, there was a different feel. There was a stark reminder as to why Mercy Ships would always be needed. There was the cold truth of a young life lost in a ward surrounded by life changing surgeries, new bodies, and rebuilt spirits. In the back right corner of the ward, her body was behind a pulled curtain, still on her bed, awaiting her father to come take her and her mother home.
As the shift progressed, I watched as nurses came by to pay their respects to Anicette. Some would silently walk in and go behind the curtain. I did not even notice them except for the quiet prayer coming from their lips. A few of the nurses, as they stood there, remained silent. Others would stop by, go to her bed, and leave the room quickly, eyes wet with tears. An hour into the shift, I went behind the curtain. There she was. Wrapped in swaddling clothes, both eyes shut with a slight smile, she looked like any sleeping baby. A look of quiet peace was on her face, such a calm expression. As I stood there, I could not help but wait, subconsciously hoping for some sort of breath, some stir, some sign of life. But she remained still. I’ve seen older people die before, even family and friends, but this was different. How do you tell a mother who lost her baby death has no sting?
Continuing with my day, the shift went on smoothly. There was a couple new admits, but nothing pressing. All the sudden one of my patients began to have serious trouble breathing. She was quickly unstable. Within minutes we had all manner of doctors and nurses helping with my patient (they did an amazing job!). My Mercy Ships experience quickly felt like home again. Seeing death come after my patients is always terrible. But in the same room that Anicette was lost? On the same day?
Throughout his ministry, apostle Paul became well acquainted with death. Does death rule in the world we live in? Yes. Does it still have its sting? Of course. In Christ though, death loses its power. Death becomes of little significance. Paul goes far enough to say that, “we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” (Romans 8:23-24) He even says how his, “desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:23) Death may rule on earth, but it is not triumphant. Our victory over death was nailed to a cross two thousand years ago, on a rocky hill outside of Jerusalem.
When I started my shift on Tuesday, new life was on the ward. After shift prayer, one of the translators had pulled out the guitar. As he began to play, caregivers, patients and translators joined in song. Within minutes there were sounds of loud singing, shuffling feet, clapping hands, giggling children, beating drums, a strumming guitar, and behind it all the contagious spirit of joy and happiness.
Instead of running to help with an emergency, nurses were coming from the hallway to join in the song and dance. Where the curtain had been now sat Yaovi, playing the guitar. In the same spot where I was standing the day before, watching my patient struggle to breath, sat a set of African drums, played by one of our other translators. The room was bursting with life.
We might not always see God at work, but once in a while, just for a split second, we do get to see.
Please keep our crew and staff of our 15 offices around the world in your prayers.
Thank you for your faithful support, in prayer and in finances. Without your help I cannot be part of this amazing organization and get to live my dream.
May God bless you as richly as you bless me.