Dirty feet, the smell of trash and fish, random children jumping in my arms, walking everywhere, African fabric, delicious street meat (sometimes you see the whole butchered animal lying there), constant sweating, overloaded taxi’s, way too much horn blowing, the kissy sound (this is done to get ones attention) lots of cheerleaders (yells, kissy sound, thumbs up) when I run, bartering in the markets and lots of marriage proposals… these are just a few things that constantly remind us, we are back in Africa! However I think my biggest reminder is the “love at first sight”… Just on my 30 minute run this morning, I was informed by about 13 people, they love me. This is something that happens to everyone, all the time, here in Africa. I’ve decided it’s because of one of two reasons; it’s the only English they know OR it really is love at first sight. I’m going with the latter one, although, most would probably assume it’s the first. Either way, I’m flattered every single time I’m told, “I love you” and with a big smile on my face, I always say “I love you too”.
That was a bit of pointless information, but I said all of that to say, WE ARE BACK IN AFRICA!!! We arrived in Pointe Noire, Congo this past Friday. First of all, let me say, this was HUGE for Mercy Ships. This is the first time we have been to Central Africa. It’s a whole new ballgame for us and we are very excited about it. Second of all, since this was such a ground breaking, history in the making moment, Don Stephens, the founder of Mercy Ships, was on the dock, waving to the ship as we pulled in to the dock. This was his first time in 35 years to do this. For myself, and I believe for all the other crew, it was quite an amazing moment. Not only was it amazing to be back in Africa and our first time in Congo, it was amazing to see, Don, standing there waiting for us. He’s not too shabby if I must say so myself.
As you can see, it was a lovely day! 🙂
We are now 4 days into our 10 month field service here in Congo (it feels as though we have been here much longer). Everything is getting setup, put back together and it’s all falling into place quite nicely. Yesterday we had our Day Crew (local people we hire to work on the ship while we are in the country) orientation and it went very well. We welcomed over 200 Congolese crew to our home.
Today the Day Crew started working and it’s been so great! I was a bit overwhelmed when I was given 6 additional people, who do not speak the best english (yet!!) to put to work and train, but my team is definitely the ‘A Team’ so it went really well. I am so excited to be working with these guys for the next 5 months. I think it’s going to be a lovely adventure together! 🙂
More exciting things we have coming up:
- August 28th – Our massive Screening Day!! We have been told to expect about 4,000 people. Every crew member on the ship goes out to help at this event. Everywhere I go in town, I see fliers of the Screening Day.
- September 2nd – Surgery begins once more on the Africa Mercy! This is very very exciting because our home just isn’t the same without the patients. Deck 7 play dates will be back in action! 🙂
Alright, now here is some of my heart…. I miss home. I miss my beautiful niece and my handsome nephew. I miss my Kevin. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss my job. I miss my house. I miss my kayak. I miss grass and I miss the smell of fresh cut grass. I miss cold milk (we drink warm, boxed, ‘Milch’). I miss having time alone (until you live in THIS community, you will never understand the depth of that statement). I miss my big, comfy bed. I just miss home… Some days all I want to do is pack my bags, jump on a plane and go home. Some days I feel like I can’t handle another day on this crazy ship I have chosen to live on. Some days I just want to be hugged by the people who love me most. Some days (actually, everyday) I want to go pick up my niece and nephew and take them for a day at the park. Some days I want to quit because it just doesn’t feel worth it anymore. Thankfully, there are always more days with little and even big, moments, random cards stuck to my door, bear hugs, smiles, encouraging words, emails, texts, phone calls and many other things to remind me of why I’m here and to replace my ridiculous, sad tears with smiles, joy and confidence in knowing I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. I’ve recently, finally, grasped a hold of the fact that this isn’t going to last forever. As much as I want to be home with everyone and everything I love, this amazing part of my life isn’t going to last. I’m not always going to wake up in my tiny little bunk to Romina bringing me coffee in bed before we start our work day of loving, serving and taking care of the people of Africa. I’m not always going to be able to walk out my front door (which is actually called a ‘gangway’ ) and see the beautiful country of Congo. I’m not always going to have sweet babies in my arms who want nothing more than for me to cuddle and tickle them just so they can then take a nap on my shoulder in return. I’m not always going to have my insanely crazy and awesome ‘ship family’ which includes, Romina (RoRo), Michael (Lil Brotha), Marije (Boula Boula), Steven (Woody), Jeremiah (The Harv) and our crazy, Uncle Ken, together every day. I’m not always going to have the opportunity to love on patients, in Africa, on this crazy hospital ship we call home. I’m not always going to have to drink warm, boxed milch. I’m not always going to be in a place where God is so vividly evident in everything I see and everything I hear. I’m not always going to be in a place where the people I’m trying to love on and help are the ones actually loving me and helping me far more than I ever could them simply for just being themselves. I’m not always going to have this opportunity to give up my entire life for 9 months to come to a place where all I’m asked to do is be apart of bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor of Africa. This is why I was determined to take hold, with everything in me that this isn’t going to last forever. Because I have grasped a hold of that truth, this adventure is even more amazing! Yes, I still deeply and sometimes painfully, miss my life back home, but…. this isn’t going to last forever 🙂 Soon, my time here will come to an end and when it does, I have my beautiful life back home still waiting for me. 🙂 But for now my focus is on each moment I’m in, not what’s to come, not what has happened, but on the now. I’m living in each moment and enjoying every second of this adventure, even the moments that aren’t so pleasant. I don’t want to miss out on anything 🙂 You would think with the following quote tattooed on my left side, I wouldn’t be struggling with this right now. haha!
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We only have today. Let us begin.”
– Mother Teresa-
There is one last thing I would like to share.
I crossed the Golden X!!!!
The coordinates (0.00°, 0.00°) are the point where the world begins and ends (equator and prime meridian cross). In the maritime world, someone who has yet to cross the equator is known as a Pollywog, and then once they do cross they become a Shellback, but we crossed the equator and the prime meridian AT THE SAME TIME. So as og August 5, 2013, I have the distinct title of, Royal Diamond Shellback, Lisa Hart!