About two weeks ago our little Advance team got some whiplash as we heard the news that due to the Ebola in Guinea the ship will now go to Benin for the next field service. With just eight days to prepare we kicked into high gear securing visas, adding two more team members, attending last minute meetings, somehow finding time to pack and before any of us knew it we were on the dock saying goodbyes before the sun had come up.
Driving down the quiet and dark streets of Pointe-Noire towards the airport I started thinking about the memories of Congo I’ll always carry; New Year’s bonfire on the beach, picnic dinners on the beach, nights spent at Pyramid solving the world’s problems over honey and goat cheese pizza, trips to the Grand Marche to buy fabric, fried caterpillars, or material to make a jellyfish catcher, trips to the gorge, the beach and of course Citronelle.
I thought of the beautiful faces I’ve come to know as family and the time spent with them, of the hospital wards and the patients I met and the few that I’ll never forget (Ravette, Genifer and Isabel), the Day Crew who’s smiles I’ll miss seeing at the Reception desk and the sweet babies from the Baby Crèche.
My heart was full of thankfulness. It was a very good field service.
Now, as I look forward to this next year I am eager for what lies ahead. As our Advance team starts to make progress and check things off our long list it all starts to become a bit more real and exciting. Looking at the potential Selection Day sites and seeing the gate through which people might pass and be given their little piece of hope. Driving around town and seeing, or dreaming of, buildings that have potential to be the HOPE Center, dental or eye clinic and thinking about the many people who’s lives will be transformed. Hearing people’s excited responses to “We are with Mercy Ships.” Seeing businessmen visibly moved by the Mercy Ships presentation we give.
And at the end of each long day of meetings, hand shakes, business card exchanges, waiting rooms and e-mails, we’ve accomplished something, even if it’s a small thing, it’s still one step closer in getting everything ready for the Africa Mercy’s return to Benin. And yes, none of us planned on being here in Benin and there is a lot of extra work to do up front but none of us are complaining and none of us are stressed beyond the situation… This was no surprise to God and we can rest in the knowledge that there is something beautiful and special in Benin for Mercy Ships and the people we will love and serve.