Tuesday, February 24, 2015

To the bus riders.

Hey bus rider!

Get excited! Today one of your dreams will come true. This very day you will be on the Africa Mercy. A moment that you have thought about over and over. After you walk up the gangway into reception and from then on your life will not be the same. Your life will contain another landmark; pre/post Mercy Ships.

Journeys take time. This one will take a minimum of 8 hours. With this time today remember how you got here. The first time you heard about Mercy Ships and the Africa Mercy. Whatever you have left behind it has prepared you for what you are getting ready to experience.

You have been brought here fore this specific time of your life. Every person serving has been brought together because of their specific talents, abilities, personalities, faith and experiences. This conglomeration forms a community that you will see is one in a million.

I must warn you about a few things. You will be asked four questions; what's your name, where are you from, where are you working and how long are you staying? Watch out, because before long you'll start asking the same questions.
Dutch Blitz, it's a game and it's played often.
A toastie is a hot sandwich that is toasted in a press.
The two minute showers, you can do it...
The laundry room, don't freak out, just ask somebody they will be happy to help.

Experience as much as you can handle. Not one bit more. We all have limits and only you know yours. Mercy Ministries happen weekly, HOPE center visiting times happen daily, friendship moments happen hourly. Being away from home can be hard enough so don't overextend yourself by trying to do more than possible.

All crewmembers have been where you are. At some point in time they were the newest person around. That could have been last week or 26 years ago. You're not alone. If there's a question just ask somebody around you. Next time the bus pulls up it will be filled with more new people. The newest additions to your ship family. When they're walking around looking like they're lost it's because they are.

When you see somebody having a hard time or simply a bad day, encourage them. We all need encouragement at some time. You can be the person to make their day brighter. It doesn't matter if its a patient, room mate or co-worker. When you're having a great day, share the excitement! Dance if you want to. Joy is something to be shared with everybody!

Last but not least. You're awesome!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Reading & Remembering

Today the power went out.

I had taken my boss to meet the bus at the gas station, she was going to the ship for a week, and came back to the house. With no airport arrivals the rest of my day was empty. I wasn't quite sure what to do.

It's the first time I had been in the house with nobody around and nothing to do. Last week I was busy learning the ropes of working on what we call the "Tana Team". Tana is short for Antananarivo which is the capital of Madagascar. Madagascar is Madagascar, it's not the Africa that many of us with Mercy Ships has come to know. Dropping people off at the airport at midnight and getting up at 5 or 6:30 leaves for long days and short night. Last week 3 short days were spent on the ship and I was able to meet with my wonderful friends there. It was great to see them all and be back in the place I've called home. I paid my bills yesterday, the bank account is empty now. Waiting for the donations to come in for next month. The ship is going to South Africa in June for maintenance and my job in Tana will be finished. What will I do? There are some positions on the ship that I'm interested in. My Mercy Ship e-mail is acting up, I wish things would work themselves out so I can contact a few people.

My brain never shuts down. All these things and many more have been going in and out of thought during the time I've had between arrivals, departures and going to the city center to get paperwork processed through customs and immigration. Each day as I sit in front of my computer scrolling through Facebook and checking e-mail my anxiety level rises. Trying to figure things out and plan for an unknown future. It happened again for 3 hours until the power went out.

After cooking some food I finally sat down to read. I knew there would be a lot of down time so there's a stack of 5 books to be gone through. My reading style is not your average. I make my way through the pile reading a chapter or two of each because I've found if I rush through a book it doesn't sink in. I thought I'd share with you a little bit of what I gleamed as went through today.

7 : an experimental mutiny against excess
Jen Hatmaker is going through a 7 month process of fighting against greed, materialism and overindulgence by attacking a different section of life for 30 days. Food, Clothes, Spending, Media, Possessions, Waste & Stress

  • She's talking about possessions and makes this comment
  • "I have no idea what this means, but my hands are opening. I know my next phase of life is not going to look the same. I'm scared. Hmm When I first typed that, I accidentally spelled sacred. Perhaps those have always been the flip sides of a coin. Like my friend says "Obedience isn't a lack of fear. It's just doing it scared." "
  • Exactly!!! I'm scared. I don't know what God's up to. I have to take each day one at a time.
Donald Miller is telling a story about knocking down the old walls to create a healthy mind, a strong family and a satisfying career. And it all feels like a conversation. 
  • Talking about 3 things that he's learned about relationships from swimming in a pond
  • "To be intimate I'd have to jump" "Then it occurred to me what it was. I wasn't afraid to jump in or swim or to feel the sudden coolness of the water. I was afraid of change. On the dock I was warm and dry and in control. I knew once I jumped I'd be fine. I'd enjoy swimming around. But it was still a change" After jumping: "I felt better in the water than I had on the dock. I thought about that, then, about how much I fear change, even change for the better. I thought about how many lies there are in fear. So much deception. What else keeps us from living a better story than fear?"
  • I'm seeing a trend here. I'm scared of the unknown.
John MacArthur provides a collection of scripture readings and prayers.
  • Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. Ephesians 3:17-18
  • "Nevertheless, we come with a deep sense of spiritual poverty, marveling that we can be so loved and lavished with such grace when we are so often forgetful of your goodness and so prone to self-indulgence.  Lord, we thank you for that endless forgiveness that comes to us, and we praise You for having prepared for us a glorious eternity.
I need to share a patient story with you before I go any further.
After three days of walking and another four hour journey in the car Sambany showed up on the doorstep of the H.O.P.E. Center carrying one of the largest tumors we have ever seen. 

Knowing the risks, the medical team and Sabany reached a decision, they would go ahead with surgery. The night before he went into the OR Sabany said, "I know without surgery I will die. I know I might die in surgery, but I already feel dead inside from the way I'm treated. I choose to have surgery."
After 12 hours of surgery the 16.45 lb tumor he carried for nearly a third of his life was finally removed. When he awoke after his surgery he said, "... I am very happy, because I am saved. God helped me to become like this. God saved me."


Sabany was living life everyday in fear of when he would die and I'm worried about my future? His surgery was while I was on the ship last week. All day people were praying for him. At dinner people were asking if there was any update. Many people were going to bed and the O.R. was still busy in surgery. When I was finally making it down to my room after midnight I stopped by D ward. One of my friends was working and I wanted to hear what the status was on Sabany. Lucky me I got to look in and see him there. Just over an hour after surgery I could see his chest breathing. Incredible. Over ten people donated blood to keep him alive during the long surgery.

I need to remember people like Sabany. I need remember where the Lord is there is freedom. I need to remember that there is no fear in love. I need to remember obedience isn't a lack of fear. 

Obedience is love, where the Spirit of the Lord  there is Freedom.  

Finally I sat down and made a list. A tangible list of things that I will pray for everyday. My days can't be wasted worrying about these things. I'm praying that the freedom in these decision will be given from the Lord. One day at a time I will present them to Him. One of my tangible things is finances. If you would like to help check out my Support Page.

(oh yeah. After dinner we realized that the neighbors had power. So we went over to the electric meter and at the push of a button the lights came on. The power outage was only at our house. That's okay, His ways are not our ways)

Sunday, February 1, 2015


It’s 6:30 PM Missouri time January 30th. I've been traveling for about 30 hours. The plane has just passed Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Three countries that have been devastated by the Ebola Epidemic. As my flight continues to head south and cross the Equator we get closer to S. Africa and my final destination of Madagascar. The ship has retreated there after focusing in West Africa for several years. 

I have been silent on my blog over the last month, refusing to talk about the main thing that I continue to think about. The subject, why I am on a flight returning to work with Mercy Ships? Very few people have come out and asked me. It makes me wonder if people knew all along that I would be returning so fast or if they were being respectful of my silence. To be honest the why has been hard to pinpoint. Many many things have been rolling through my mind the last several months as I considered returning.

I made a decision. Almost one year ago I made a decision to leave the ship. It would be three months before I physically left the ship, but the decision was made in late February. There were two choices to pick from. To simplify it; stay on the ship or go home. There’s much more that went into the decision though and I will try to show you part of the battle that was going on in my head.

1.) Stay; stay on the ship, my home of two and a half years. The place that I met numerous people that had become my friends and more specifically my ship family. People from the Netherlands, Liberia, Tennessee, Australia, Oregon, Georgia, the U.K., Sierra Leone, California. To say that and just read it as words is simple, but it’s much more complex than that. They might not be my blood family. A mother that birthed me, a father that raised me, a brother that I argued with, or grandparents that I loved visiting. Instead they were the ones I went to when I was having a bad day, those that I looked up to and wished to become more like. A counselor that encouraged me to become the man that God designed me to become. People that taught me so much about loving other people that it will never be able to be put into words. A group of people that I celebrated a new year with by renting out a house and swimming in the ocean even though it was 11:30 PM and pitch black. 

But with this community also came uncertainty. I hate uncertainty. I’m a planner, an organizer a man that likes to control his future. In December 2013 I made a decision that if I did stay on the ship I would move into a different position. I loved working in the Ship Shop.  I didn’t know what the new position would be, but I knew that God was leading me to be stretched into something else after serving as Retail Manager for a year and half.

2.) Go home; a home that I’ve left and returned to over 5 times. The family that raised me, the church that taught me about God and who He is, the friends that I had so much fun with growing up, the town that I know like the back of my hand. More than just home though. America, a place that I could go and get a job, make money, and support myself. I had already spent two and a half years relying on God for finances by supporters, it was time that I went out and made it out on my own. That lesson had been learned now I was ready for the next lesson, independence.

I can see the decision I made now. I chose to leave community and purpose for independence and money. It was time for me to go out and make a name for myself. Start a career that had been stalled, get the 401k to where it was supposed to be and get those roots established to start a family somewhere, who knows where. 

I left Mercy Ships and the day I got in a Land Rover and went to the airport to leave a hole the shape of the Africa Mercy was left in my heart. It hurt, I cried as I said goodbye to all of my friends. That place that I learned about relying on God, loving others and being obedient to what He asks of me.
Things went on with my life. 

The job I found in New Mexico worked out. All my belongings were packed into my car and I went to set those roots, be independent and make a name for myself. The summer was good, there were 1,500+ people on campus everyday and we were busy all day and all night. Everything was good. Then the summer was over. The 1,500 turned into 150 on the weekends and life calmed down. There was a lot of time. I was out in the mountains and I had time to think. Too much time to think. The quieter it got on campus the more God began to ask me if I was being obedient to His plan. I hadn’t. I started reading the book Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels about Jonah, his decisions and God’s grace in our lives. It was over I couldn’t do it anymore. I had to return to His call on my life. Return to Mercy Ships and see what He had in store for me. I would have been on a plane the next day, but it wasn’t that easy. I was over, my plans had to become His plans. His plans had to become me waiting on him to open the door. My control had to be placed in to his hands and become trust. I started to see that there’s a difference between faith and trust.

Never in my life have I had to trust God more than I am now. I feel this statement everyday as my mind battles for a plan. I don't know. I don't know how long I'm supposed to be serving with Mercy Ships again. I don't know when any income is going to come in next. I have no clue where I'll be in a year or 5 or 10. I don't know.

I just know I can't do this on my own. I ask that you continue to pray for me. That daily I would seek the Lord and what He has planned for me.