Friday, 21 June 2013


When I left the Africa Mercy & Guinea this February, I had a sense that I was leaving the party early.  I felt like I had unfinished business there, & I started to entertain thoughts of coming back to continue working with Mercy Ships.  Out of everyone, I was probably the most surprised by these thoughts, as I had only ever planned on working with Mercy Ships once.  I viewed my six months in Guinea as a stepping stone & a great way to gain some experience nursing in the developing world, after which I would move on to the next part of the plan.  But as I finished up my six-month field service onboard the Africa Mercy, I started to question that plan.  I knew I wanted to come back & work in West Africa again.  I just didn't realise how soon that would happen. 

The older I get, the more I am learning that life is fleeting.  How many times have you heard someone say, I can't believe it's June already, or, I remember that like it was yesterday.  Life is just a vapour.  Here one day & gone the next.  It's fragile.  It's a gift.  We've only got one shot at this thing, & I want to make mine count.  The mandate on my life is to work with the poor, & it's a calling I consider an honour & a privilege.

Which is why coming home was hard.  Is it good to be home is not an easy question to answer.  

Yes.  There are things I love about being in Australia.  It's great to see family & be able to catch up with friends.  The streets are not littered with rubbish.  I can order a flat white in any cafe.  I can eat Vegemite without having to defend it, & the English I speak is not met with blank stares.  & I'm blessed to be able to work & earn some much needed cash.  This season at home has had purpose & I am grateful for it.  However, my answer is also…

No.  The work I feel called to is elsewhere.  Friends have moved on.  My community has dispersed.  This place I used to call home looks the same on the surface, but it has changed.  Or maybe I've changed?  It's difficult to feel like you don't belong at home, but maybe it's for the best.  My heart lingers in Africa, & that is confirmation enough that I should go back.  

Being home for the past 4 months has given me plenty of time to reflect on my time in Guinea, & why I would choose to volunteer in Africa.  One thing that has been quite apparent to me is how Australians view health care as their right.  I hear it on commercials, & I see it at work, both explicitly & implicitly.  Fundamentally, I don't disagree.  In Article 25 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it states, everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care.  The problem is, the reality of what I've seen is quite different from this ideal.  In many parts of the world, including West Africa, health care is virtually non-existent.  And the health care that does exist is either sub-standard or not accessible to the general population because they are living in poverty and simply can't afford it.  So although I do believe that healthcare should be a right, the reality for most people on this planet is that healthcare is a dream.  Therefore I can only conclude that healthcare, for the few who do have access to it, is a privilege!  Being an Australian citizen qualifies me for free healthcare in my country, but I've done nothing to earn that right.  It was handed to me by default because of where I was born.  Where you live shouldn't determine whether you live… but more often than not it does.

Despite concluding that healthcare is a privilege, I still hold to the belief that every person should have access to healthcare.  Which is exactly why I'm compelled to continue working with Mercy Ships in West Africa.  Because the forgotten poor are just as valuable & just as worthy of healthcare as me & the next person.  Because God is with the poor & because caring for the poor is mentioned over 2100 times in the bible.  That's a lot of airtime.  God is not silent on the subject.  

Is the need overwhelming at times?  Absolutely.  Does that mean we give up?  Hell no.

"There is a continent - Africa - being consumed by flames.  I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did - or did not do - to put the fire out in Africa.  History, like God, is watching what we do."
- Bono.

My days at home are fast disappearing, but I am excited to return to the Africa Mercy & for the next field service in Congo.  I fly out of Brisbane headed for The Canary Islands (via London) in exactly one month.  A lot of people have asked me how I can manage to volunteer for such long periods of time.  My answer is two fold.  Firstly, I am in a season of life that allows it.  Single & not responsible for any little people, I am free to pick up & move to West Africa.  But I have also made conscious decisions to live unencumbered, so that I am financially free & hence able to spend long periods of time without a steady income.  I sold my car when I moved to London… & I have chosen not to invest my finance in property or something else that would hold me to any one place.  Sometimes those decisions are admired, & other times people think I'm unwise & foolish.  I suppose we all hold to different measures of success, & everyone is entitled to their opinion.  What's right for me may not be right for you.  Do I think there is anything wrong with owning a house or a car, or getting married & having kids?  Of course not.  I just don't think that would be the right decision for me in this season of life.  I prefer to invest my finance & resource & time in being able to work in the developing world.  I don't expect the same of anyone else… I am only responsible for me.  But if you do believe in the work I have been & will be doing with Mercy Ships, then I want to ask if you would consider partnering with me.  & it truly is a partnership, because I can't do it without you.  As I've said, working with Mercy Ships is a volunteer position, & I also pay crew fees to cover my food & board, which will be $600usd/month.  The whole organisation simply couldn't continue if generous people did not give financially to the work of Mercy Ships.  & the same is true for me.  I am only able to to go & volunteer for 10 months because generous people at home are willing to support that work.  If you can sponsor me monthly, or as a one off gift, that would be amazing & greatly appreciated.  Every little bit helps.  Just get in touch with me & I will let you know the easiest way you can do that.

Stay tuned.  I will keep this space updated with stories from my days on the Africa Mercy once I rejoin the ship in July.  

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