Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stokin' the Fire and Stirrin' the Pot

"That's not fair” - three words that push me to the brink of unbridled cynicism and heartless rejoinders.  I missed the memo that said life would be fair.  I'm not sure but I'd wager a guess that more than a couple of terrible things have happened in your life that weren't 'fair'.  I bet you didn't even do anything do deserve them.  Oh wait, that would have made them fair.  Silly me.

Point(s) of clarification: I am not talking about "Can you help me to understand?" or "I'm really struggling through submitting on this but I'm working on it."  I am also not talking about conversations with God.   If there's anywhere that it's safe to vent our frustrations about a lack of equity in our lives it's with God.  Of course, He won't let us stay there but at least He knows exactly the right way to guide us forward.  What I AM talking about is short-sighted, blinders on, earplugs in unwillingness to remove ourselves from the center of the universe and remember that it's not all about us. 

Now this gets tricky.  I could very easily slip into goading you to ignore injustice in your life.  However, unfair and unjust are miles apart from one another.  The latter is a violation of the truth of God and grieves His heart.  We are commanded to take a stand against this, although we rarely do because it requires sacrifice and courage.  The former is me not getting my way, which we often take a stand against because it requires very little risk – just some fit throwing.  Sometimes we grown-ups (I use that term loosely with myself) are pretty darn crafty about how we throw a fit, too.  We are much more subtle, conniving, and vicious than wee ones.  We would probably be better off to just stomp our feet and scream a bit because that is harder to mask as righteous indignation or some sort of heroic quest against the vile oppressors, who are generally our loving brothers and sisters in Christ, that we do battle against with rumors, defamation of character, and passive-aggressive behavior (to name just a few of our favored weapons). 

Okay, my soap box is starting to get a bit shaky under my feet so I should probably step down.  I’m not sure that I’m solidly on the road to edification with this.  I just wonder if sometimes we need to hear it straight before transitioning to ‘how do we move on from here’.  The reality is that I say or act “it’s not fair” more often than I’d like to admit in my own life.  People like to get their way, myself included.  What I have begun trying to do is examine my heart when I’m ticked off by an unfair situation and see if: my expectations are unrealistic, my desire to ensure my ‘rights’ is clouding my judgment, I’m taking on someone else’s offense, I’m just generally tired and grumpy and looking for something (or someone) to take it out on – basically am I just being a selfish three lettered beast of burden and covering it up by decrying the ‘injustice’ of it all. 

Most of the time I just need to get over myself and find something worthwhile to spend my energy on.  It is amazing to me, when I actually do this, how large a capacity for ‘unfair’ I actually have.  Shockingly, I find that I actually grow closer to the heart of God, am less of a jerk to be around, and actually have some level of true humility cultivated in my life.  Those of you who know me well will, no doubt, attest to an urgent need in my life to “get over myself and find something worthwhile to spend my energy on” more frequently as evidenced by my regularly being a jerk and a significant lack of true humility.  If the only person that listens to the admonition I’m giving here is me, I’m sure God will consider it a win.  Isn’t it funny how the stuff we struggle with is the stuff that sends us off the deep end when we see it in other peoples’ lives?  I’ve got this funny feeling that somebody said something at some point about specks and planks.  Nah, must be indigestion. 

Monday, February 20, 2012


We had an incredibly successful screening this field service.  We estimate that around 4,000 people came to be seen.  However, things did not seem that way in the beginning.
Part of the line outside the stadium screening morning.

Having learned from the tragedy of the first screening in Sierra Leone last year we carried on with something that we employed at the second screening that went so well – an overnight security team.  Once again I had the privilege of being a member of the Advance Security Party, as our Ship Security Officer dubbed it, as the leader of A Team (I love it when a plan comes together).  There were twelve of us in total split into two teams.  We left the ship at 14.00 on the 31st of January to prepare for the screening the following day.  We arrived at the stadium screening site at around 15.00 and immediately set up the command post (dumped a bunch of gear at the top of the steps).  We got straight to work stringing lines of caution tape to demarcate lanes of patient flow.  The wind was kickin’ pretty good and the runs were long between objects to tie to.  One of the members of A Team devised a method of securing the lines with rocks as anchors.  It worked great.  After performing a number of other tasks to get things set up as much as possible before we lost daylight, we got together and made a plan for posting watches at the different security points.  The Ship Security Officer made the mistake of giving all of us radios, which we misused frequently cracking jokes and generally having a good time. 
As the night wore on some of the guys got a bit of shut-eye but most of us stayed awake the entire night.  We had a few people in the line in the late afternoon and it was great to be there to get the line started and set expectations right away.  Forming a good line early on is one of the most important tasks in ensuring a safe screening.  Also, a couple of nurses from the ship came to the site at 22.00 to start pre-pre-screening (yes, I intentionally put two pre’s in that) the patients in the line so that the ones we couldn’t help didn’t have to wait all night.  We only had a couple hundred people in line at the most at that point.  A few trickled in through the night but things were pretty slow.  An emergency coffee run was made by one of the team members around 02.00.
A sleep deprived J.D., me, and Tim around 07.00
screening morning.

At about 04.00 people started pouring in.  The line grew incredibly fast and our preparations the night before started to pay dividends.  We strung more caution tape as necessary and interacted with the patients in line.  We had a great time overall.  The day shift security team arrived on site at about 05.00 and made their way out to the lines after a lengthy briefing.  The fact that screening went so well and the day shift folks were bored most of the day is, in large part, a tribute to the work done by the night shift crew, a group of people that I am proud to have worked with.  That being said, the work that we did, while important, was only a piece of a very large puzzle.  There were a lot of folks putting an immense amount of time, planning, and effort into getting thing organized and the entire day was very much a team effort, including the Stewards Department.
Grace came out a bit later on in the morning and worked as a patient escort for the day.  She thoroughly enjoyed her time, especially after having had to leave the first screening in Sierra Leone early on when we evacuated the site because of the continued tension in the crowd. 

I left the site at around 09.00 when it was clear that things were going off without a hitch.  Thousands of people will receive physical healing and feel the love of Christ during our field service here in Togo.  This screening was a big part of that.  I will endeavor to post some patient stories over the coming months so you can see some of the lives that are changed during our time here as the story continues.  - Peter
One of the patients that we will soon provide surgery for onboard.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Snow Flakes that Stay on Your Nose and Eye Lashes

Name that tune?  I'm sure most of you can but for those that are struggling it is 'My Favorite Things' from the Sound of Music.  Don't worry, I'm not giving up my day job.  Dara thought that some of you (especially those that don't live on the ship with us) may be interested to know what each of our favorite place on board is and why.  The reality is that most good ideas I have come from her.  The bad ones are all mine.

Anyway, here are the answers:

Xavier - my favorite place is deck 7 because I like to ride my grey toy motorcyle, swing, and run because I'm not allowed to run inside the ship.  Editors Note: for those that are unaware he is referring to a section of deck 7 that is a 'weather deck'.  It's sort of a big balcony.

Malachi - my favorite place is my cabin.  I like it because sometimes we get to watch a movie for family movie night and sometimes Dad lets us watch soccer.  I also like it because it is where I sleep.  In my cabin there is a living room with a table, couch, freezer, TV, microwave that tells time, and refrigerator.  There is also a telephone diagonally across from the TV.  My room is closest to the door out of the cabin.  My room has two beds close together with a curtain in the middle.  I share my room with my sister, Grace.  It also has a cabinets and shelves.  My brothers' room is accross from mine.  In their room there are bunk beds and cupboards.  On the other side of the living room is mom and dad's room with one big bed and cupboards.  The end.

Elijah - my favorite place on the ship isn't on the ship.  My favorite place is the dock.  It is my favorite because there's a spot at the end where there are some hospital mattresses stacked up under some tarps that I get to play in.  It is also one of the few places that you can run.  On Thursdays after dinner we do Running Club.  That's where we run laps back and forth on the dock to see how many we can do.  We keep track of them and see if we can do enough to finish a marathon before we leave the port.  There are also lots of rats, lizards, birds, and bats. 

Grace - my favorite place is the Youth Room.  I like it because it is a place where teenagers can have fun after school or do their homework.  Also, you have to be in Junior High or High School to go there so my brothers can't come in but Eli will be able to next year.  The Youth Room has two couches and a TV.  It also has two computers that we can use.  There is also a game cupboard.  The room isn't very big but it's nice to have our own space.

Peter - there are a number of places that I really like but one of my favorites is my fire locker.  I guess I just spent enough time in a fire house that it feels comfortable and safe, if that makes any sense.  I go there occassionally with Xavier, who also loves it, and we have fun hanging out.  I also go by myself once in a while if I just need somewhere to think or pray for a couple of minutes.  It isn't a terribly big space (probably about 10' x 20') with a green painted steel floor.  There are 8 sets of bunker gear and SCBAs with some open space in the middle.  There is also a bit of a foyer that has spare SCBA bottles, axes, extra hose (apartment bundles), and some other equipment.  I'm holding out hope that we'll get some diamond plating and bricks one of these years (not very likely) and a fire engine would be nice, too, although driving it around narrow ship corridors and parking it in a 10x20 space could prove problematic.

Dara - my favorite place is the bow.  It is my favorite because it is only open for regular crew (not the Deck  crew) when we're sailing and sailing is my favorite thing to do.  It is so peaceful to just look out over the open ocean, see sea turtles, flying fish, and dolphins.  It reminds me of the glory and majesty of God's creation.  It is also awesome when we have worship times on the bow.  It's almost like a campfire sing-along (sans campfire and smores).  What I mean is that we're outside gathered together around someone (or a couple folks) playing acoustic guitar signing worship songs.  Sometimes there's also a djembe (African drum) or two.