Sunday, 12 January 2014

New job (but no raise)

Since my last post, my job here on the Africa Mercy has changed a couple times.  That’s partly because I’m rubbish at keeping this blog up to date, but also I’ve had numerous roles recently.  After I finished up on the plastics dressings team, I covered the Local Nurse Education program for five weeks.  Cross-cultural education has many challenges, the language barrier being just one.  It was certainly a steep learning curve for me, but a challenge I relished.  I enjoyed the opportunity to partner with local nurses & share knowledge.  Performing specialised surgeries is great & it’s what we do, but it only helps an individual at a specific point in time.  Education will last beyond when the ship is in this port.  

I have recently joined the Patient Screening Team as Assistant Screening Coordinator.  I am responsible for helping to select appropriate surgical candidates for the specialties Mercy Ships can do.  At the beginning of December, I joined a team of eight on a two-week screening trip to the Interior of Congo.  We set up screenings in Oyo, Ouesso, & Impfondo, hoping to find around 300 potential patient’s.  The numbers are important, but they don’t tell the whole story.  Every number has a name, and every name is a life, individuals with their own story to tell.  When we talk numbers, we must not forget about the one.  It really was an honour & a privilege to represent Mercy Ships, along with seven others, as we looked for surgical candidates across Congo.  The first of our Interior patient’s have begun to arrive at the ship, & I can’t wait to see them on the wards.

As I find my feet on the screening team, I am realising just how tough it can be to work out who we can & can’t help.  Searching for & finding new patient’s is exciting, but I also find myself on the forefront of our limitations as an organisation, the vast need that exists, & all the people we have to turn away with a disappointing no.  I often find a pile of photographs on my desk, & as I sift through the referrals, there are many conditions that Mercy Ships is simply not equipped to help with.  Saying no often means saying no to any form of treatment, which is heart breaking really.  Back home, there are at least some options available, or a different specialist to refer to.  But working on a ship in Central West Africa, we are constrained in our scope by the medical staff & resources available to us.  Sometimes no is harder to say, but still the right choice to make.  As said by a visiting surgeon, anyone can operate… the wisdom is knowing when not to operate.

The other day I was thinking about my new role & the thought crossed my mind, what if this is not what I'm meant to be doing?!  Not that it's a bad job.  It truly is an amazing opportunity to be on the screening team... it just doesn't look anything like what I thought I'd be doing.  I like nursing & especially Paediatric Emergency, but now I sit at a desk assessing referrals & organising surgeon screenings.  So here I am, doing a job that is almost completely non-clinical, & yet I'm convinced that this is exactly where I'm meant to be!  Maybe that’s what Proverbs 16:9 means when it says man makes plans, but God determines his steps.  I wasn't sure why I was coming back to Mercy Ships last year, but maybe this is it!  Maybe God's plans just look nothing like mine.  

I very easily measure the value of what I am doing according to whether it lines up with my plans or what I think success is.  I realised recently that I had been measuring the value of my work according to a clinical standard I wish I was at, or job security I wish I had, or specific experience I wish I was gaining.  So when my work here doesn't line up to those expectations, I question what I’m doing.  The problem is, I'm measuring by the wrong standard.  I should instead be considering the purpose & motive for what I do.  What am I busy doing each day & what is the gain of that work?  Does it help others & Is it honouring to God?!  The truth is, this looks very different from what I thought I’d be doing, & yet I’m sure this is where I’m meant to be.  From the outset of this year, I am learning to let go of my expectations of the future, & instead submit & trust in God's plans.  


  1. Lovely words, my friend. You are such a blessing, both where you are and where you're not. Thank you :)

  2. Your honest questions and reflections of faith are so refreshing and encouraging, my friend! . Thank you for sharing! :-)