Greetings from Cameroon!
It’s been a few years since I last wrote the family Christmas letter, and today I feel inspired to write one for myself. I am not really sure why. With the advent of social media, everyone gets to brag about their kids (and themselves) all the time. If you follow me at all, you’ve seen my “Transformation Tuesday” posts and my blogs about patients in Madagascar, Benin and Cameroon. Writing this will likely reach the exact same audience. So I suppose, I’m simply writing for myself.
Two years ago, I embarked on my first overseas flight with a racing heart. I was stepping into the future I had planned for so long, but I was so nervous. I knew it was exactly what I was supposed to be doing, but I felt so unprepared. As I got my first glimpses of financial poverty through experience with Mercy Ships, I also found richness of relationships. I was heartbroken by stories of hardship and tragedy, but also caught off-guard by beauty. Over the last two years I have seen miracles, incredible faith and courage, countercultural commitment, and a wealth that I envy. I have witnessed love make people whole again.
Let me put it in these terms. Your financial situation is not what makes you whole. Your health situation is not what makes you whole. Love is what makes you whole.
I attended a dress ceremony a bit ago here on the ship. This is when the women with longstanding obstetric fistulas (google VVF) and crew gather and celebrate their healing. The women are prepared for the celebration with a beautiful new dress and all the accessories. After they dance their way into the room of awaiting attendees, they each get the opportunity to share their testimony/give thanks. Most of them are similar. I suffered for X amount of years. I found out about Mercy Ships. Thank you to the doctors, nurses and God for my healing. AND I’ve never experienced love like this before. One woman testified, “When I came onto this ark, I met angels. Angels that took care of me and loved me day and night. I feel like falling sick again so I can come back.” Effective surgery healed these women’s bodies, but love—love made them whole again.
Do not pity the people of Africa. I pity us. We are people driven by lust (of everything) and exhausted by pursuit. We are relationally malnourished. There is no special plant or NGO to combat this famine. The sickness is in our hearts and minds. In a culture—like Africa— that acknowledges the very real presence of a spirit world, I see the supernatural take place. However, in a nation that avoids the mystical, I see more subversive tactics of the enemy. He whispers into our minds and plants seeds of deception that we nourish. It is no mystery to me why we struggle more with mental illness than most “poor” Africans I have met. We fail to admit that our enemy is real and unrelenting in his mission to destroy. And even worse, we fail to admit our need for an even stronger Messiah.
Very soon we will celebrate the birth of Jesus, but did you know that December 25th is not actually the day of His birth? It is the day that the Three Kings/Wise Men discovered him. Consider this. Our Savior is alive. Has been! But that is not quite enough. We need to find him for ourselves. This Christmas as you give gifts to others just as the wise men gave gifts to Jesus, remember that believing a Savior is at the other end of a bright star in the sky isn’t the point. Don’t just believe. Go find Him this Christmas; and give him the gifts of your heart, soul, mind and strength. He is the only thing that can save us from ourselves.
24 ‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
25 May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’ Numbers 6
And may LOVE make you whole as you seek Him above ALL else.
I wish you a very merry Christmas,
P.s. Just in case you actually wanted a summary of my year:
Did my first solo travel exploring Belgium and acquiring a taste for quality beer and waffles. Experienced Christmas culture shock when I came home from Benin. Went on a few dates. Put so much effort into connecting with a community. (It’s so much easier on the ship.) Got more involved at church painting, coffeeing, small-group leading, decorating, greeting, singing, praying etc. Spent a lot of time re-developing relationships with my sisters. Snow skied a LOT. Starting dating someone 🙂 Discovered that I really love a good telling of a true story. Attended my first music festival. Got really attached to a neighbor’s cat, Lionel. Wholly enjoyed small home improvement projects. Explored Acadia for the first time with my family. Came back to Mercy Ships and jumped into all the things that go on here in the hospital and in the community. I LOVE serving. Currently really missing peanut butter (it’s coming soon), fresh milk, hard cheese and…snow. It has been a great year!