I left Benin and arrived in England just a few short days ago; carrying two suitcases, and a heart full of memories, bursting with love and thankfulness at all that has happened in the last 5 years
My head is a mixture of emotions – I am so excited to be home and spend Christmas with my family for the first time in 5 years. But equally I feel some grief that, after 5 years, I have left what was my world, my life, and my passion. Yes, the day has been and gone when I have walked down the gangway of the Africa Mercy for the last time, and my feet left African soil for the last time as I walked up the gangway of the aircraft to take me home.
5 years ago when I left England to serve on Mercy Ships, I was happy just to be a Mercy Ships anaesthetist, to serve the patients and the crew and make the Africa Mercy Hospital a better place. I didn’t particularly have a heart for the poor or a love for Africa, yet I have grown to love this diverse, rich and beautiful continent, and to have a deep compassion and admiration for the courage of her people. People (billions and billions of them) who lack the basic requirements for healthcare, millions who sink further and further into poverty because of the out-of-pocket expenses required to pay for surgery; children who are 7 times more likely to die after surgery than they are in the West; and healthcare professionals who can’t do their jobs because of lack of resources, even basics like electricity and water – yet day by day they get out of bed and try to do the best they can. These people have left a deep impression on my heart.
I saw this quote recently on Facebook,
“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.”
This quote describes very accurately the people who I have lived and worked with for the last 5 years at Mercy Ships. And if the written citation, and the cards I received on my departure are to be believed, then the quote accurately describes me. At some point during my early years on board, a friend gave me a small banner that I kept on my cabin wall, which said, ‘Dream Big for Africa’.
Thank you to everyone, who has joined me in whatever way, to ‘Dream Big for Africa’. To all those who have trusted me and sometimes with seemingly crazy ideas, and walked alongside me. I am very proud to have left processes in place that have improved the quality of care the Africa Mercy Hospital provides for thousands of patients undergoing transformative surgeries, and to have published medical papers on our results; I am honoured to have led a team of friends and colleagues to develop a reputable training program that seeks to strengthen the surgical ecosystem from grassroots to governmental level in the most impactful way; and to leave a legacy of safer surgery in Madagascar and Benin through our nationwide ‘checklist training’ (which reduces mortality after surgery by up to 50%); and is working to create national surgical plans with the ministries of health.
I kept the ‘Dream Big for Africa’ banner in each cabin I occupied, and also on my office wall, where it was accompanied by two quotes from Nelson Mandela,
‘Education is the greatest weapon you have to change the world’
‘Everything seems impossible until it is done’.
Thank you for being part of Big Dreams that God placed in my heart to do and that he made possible. You have been part of something amazing. In fact, the new Mercy Ships video, starts with me saying exactly that, ‘You have been part of something amazing….’
Yes – YOU. The video is thanking supporters like you and I echo those thanks.
I am truly honoured and privileged to have been called by God and equipped by Him to play my part in something amazing. Your personal support, in so many varied ways, has made it possible. I am so truly, very grateful for each and every one of you for this opportunity, which has not only transformed the lives of patients and healthcare professionals but also my life as well.
If you’d had told me before I came to Mercy Ships, of all the amazing things that I would be a part of, I’d have said ‘Impossible!’
But as Nelson Mandela said, ‘Everything seems impossible until it is done’.
I have just said farewell to Africa, but I hope it is not forever. For now I lean into the future, to all that God has prepared for me. I am so aware of God’s love and faithfulness as he has stood beside me and provided for me over 5 years. Through the high high’s and the low low’s of my time on board, never once did I walk alone. And I don’t doubt His same faithfulness goes with me in the next season.
So, as we celebrate this Christmas, the love of God made manifest in a baby, let’s remember the impossible miracle of a virgin birth. God made man, to be Emmanuel, God with us, known by us. Yet another impossibility? Maybe, or maybe not? THANK YOU for joining me on my journey, and I pray faith and courage, hope and love over your ‘big dreams’, and ‘your impossibilities’ and that you would know Emmanuel, God with you as you walk forward into your future in 2017.