At the beginning of the year I sat on Deck 8 drinking tea and watching the moonrise, quietly but clearly I heard God say, “Kristin, I called you to Mercy Ships. I did not call you to a country.” Little did I know just how much truth there was in that word and that it was preparing me for the months ahead.
After the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Mercy Ships determined we could not go there as planned for the 2014-15 field service. We changed direction and our Advance Team came to Benin. Then just at end of Advance, when everything was being wrapped up and finalized for the ship’s arrival and ten month field service, Patrick Sawyer collapsed at the Nigeria International Airport and Ebola was two hours away from Cotonou. The Africa Mercy’s departure from Las Palamas was delayed due to technical issues which gave the leadership time to evaluate the Ebola situation and what impact it would have on our mission.
Finally, after weeks of discerning and praying, Mercy Ships made the decision to postpone our Benin field service. We are not equipped to treat infectious disease, we are a specialized surgical ship, and our Selection Days draw thousands of desperate people… the risk of Ebola crossing the border is just too great. And while I completely understand and agree that this is the best decision, my heart still breaks. I still grieve.
This last week, on the day that the ship was originally due to arrive in Cotonou, we informed the President that we cannot come to Benin at this time and are continuing to monitor the situation with the hope to return soon. The next day began a long list of phone calls and meetings to inform and undo all that we’ve done in the last four months. My new checklist is posted on the wall and there are a lot of empty boxes to fill in over the next few weeks. There are contracts to suspend, containers to re-export, vehicles to ship, and so on. And it’s all ten months too soon. Well by my plans at least.
A favorite verse of mine, that continues to prove itself true in my life, is Proverbs 19:21: Many are the plans in a man’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. And yet again, this is true. We planned many things, first Guinea, then Benin, and then there was Plan A-E and now we are on Plan F. But though it’s trying and difficult and sad and frustrating and my heart feels like it’s in a blender, I know all these plans have been part of greater purpose and that all our hard work has not been in vain, even if we can’t see the fruit of our work in full, I know its there.
As I’ve met with my contacts and shared the news with them, I’ve seen their smiles turn and heard their heavy sighs of understanding and disappointment, I’ve seen their eyes water and heard the same, “I understand, its just so sad.” And really what else is there to say?
I was reminded recently that God doesn’t need Mercy Ships in Benin rather He chooses to use Mercy Ships and we are blessed because of that. He is the creator and initiator of transformation and restoration, not us. This means the Africa Mercy will dock where God wants to work through us… where His perfect plan intersects with our vision and mission to bring hope and healing to those in need. This is the Beautiful Big Mighty in store for Mercy Ship’s next field service.