Friday, March 28, 2014


Last week wasn't awesome.  I (Peter) was frustrated - okay, I was angry - on a number of fronts.  The other day one of the writers onboard asked if I would be willing to share a brief story about my time in Africa or on the Africa Mercy.  Writing it provided the perspective that I needed to shake out of my funk.  Thanks, Gracie.

Here it is:

How do you describe a changed life?  Where does one begin to express the depth of gratitude for a transformed heart?  Mercy Ships is about changed lives.  It is not what we do, it is who we are.  In the past seven years onboard the Africa Mercy I have seen physical, emotional, and spiritual transformation that defy reason and logic; miraculous healing, lives mended, hearts born anew, brokenness made whole.  My heart leaps for joy each time a Mercy Ships crew member impacts the life of those we are called to serve, in whatever capacity that may be.  Words cannot adequately express the glory of this process.

It is not these changed lives that I struggle most to describe, though.  It is my own.  When I first arrived in West Africa I was assaulted by experiences and sensations that I had no frame of reference for; physical destruction, ravaged bodies, trash-strewn roads, filthy water, oppressive heat, and a worldview and approach to life that was completely foreign to me – even after cross-cultural training.

Time, relationships, and the unrelenting love of those we come to serve have worked a gradual metamorphosis of my heart and paradigm.  The circumstances of life in the West and Central African nations that we serve is much the same as it was seven years ago when I first arrived.   However now I see beauty, opportunity, unfathomable joy…  I weep for the times that my vision falters and mourn the loss of a day spent doing anything other than reveling in the glorious adventure I am fortunate to be a part of.

Regardless of how long I stay or where I go next, these years will always be ones that I can celebrate as transformational.  West and Central Africa are not comprised of ‘developing nations’ to me.  They are where I learned that pain and joy are not mutually exclusive; to savor the lingering heat of pepper sauce at the back of my throat, and that plantains will sooth the burn; that many of my assumptions about the world and the teachings of Christ were, at best, narrow; to recognize the trickle of sweat down my back as a reminder of the blessing of this journey; the snap at the end of a handshake; the privilege of learning to see things from a new perspective; and knowing that I need to be transformed by Christ through those we serve at least as much as they need to be transformed by Christ through us.