Saturday, January 31, 2015

Here, There, and Everywhere

We got to fly with MAF on this last trip.  I got to fly in the copilot seat!
In my position as Field Security Officer I have had ample opportunity to travel.  Many of you have likely followed some of that on Facebook.  I have posted quite a few scenic photos.  Madagascar is, indeed, a beautiful place.  What I have not been able to show you are photos of the thousands of people that have come for various screenings.  I do not feel comfortable whipping my camera out and taking pictures of those who have come seeking help, many of whom are ashamed of their conditions. 

What I can do is tell you that it has been a roller coaster of ups and downs.  I get to see nearly every patient that walks through the gates at each site.  One aspect of my role is to have command presence and ensure order.  On very few occasions have I had to even raise my voice, largely because the Malagasy people are very respectful.  In addition to keeping lines straight, the flow logical, things calm, and dealing with the infrequent dispute, I get to banter, offer a smile to those who are clearly suffering, and do my best to have Jesus shine through me.  It is such an incredible joy to see many walk away with a yellow card to visit the ship and call out in Malagasy: "I'll see you in Tamatave"!

On this last trip I also got to learn some new Malagasy phrases (not an easy language to learn) and horse around with a couple of little boys who were tired of waiting in line with their mom.  It was also the first time my Malagasy security translator/partner had been on an airplane.  He was giddy, and it was so awesome to see. 

It's not all 'ups', though.  One of the most difficult parts is telling people no.  Often it is the screening team to whom this unpleasant responsibility falls.  Sometimes, however, we have to close the lines because we have too many people and it becomes the role of security to turn people away at the gate.  It requires one to be polite but firm.  To be frank, a certain amount of callousness/emotional detachment is necessary.  While it is something that I can do - and do well - it is heartbreaking and draining.  Perhaps even more difficult to bear, however, is seeing the crestfallen look of those who waited in line with hearts full of hope only to learn that they have a condition that Mercy Ships cannot treat.  It is not due to a lack of clarity or communication on our part.  What we can and cannot treat is disseminated through various media channels prior to our arrival.  But when you hear that there is a hospital ship providing free surgeries and no one has been able to help you...

I continue to be grateful to be a part of what Mercy Ships is doing to bring hope and healing to the poor.  Our organization isn't perfect.  I don't always like it.  But what we do is incredible, and the lives changed over the years stand as a testimony to what a committed group of people can do through their efforts and the power of God.  Thanks for being a part of our journey.