Sobbing, processing… (Please wait. WELCOME!)

This past week has by far been the hardest week on board the ship this field service. I was recently home to celebrate a friend getting married and then got knocked out reduced to bed by some virus that had me feeling off balance, feverish, tachycardic and in pain last week. With so much to process emotionally and mentally, recovering physically and juggling furiously (as we’re into the swing of ship life and full-on Ortho, plastics and Ponseti) that by today it had me feeling downright weary and on the edge.
This evening I sat in a crowd of people who were joyously praising God and my heart felt so weak and fragile. I see the miracles, I see the blessings, I see the incredible inter-cultural, multi-national friendships and the amazing stories of miracles and hope coming alive; and it’s wonderful. But my heart feels like it’s breaking into a million pieces and I’m barely holding it together.
I hadn’t quite been able to figure out what was going on…. until today. A number of things today contributed to an emotional climax/anticlimax:

1. Sitting and listening to Stef’s prayer of the promises of blessing we have already been receiving, and which we’ll receive in addition, because of the choice we’ve made to be away from family and serve others.

2. When our rehab team huddled together to share what they’re thankful for as our weekly Thankful-Thursday tradition, but especially today being the US Holiday, Thanksgiving. We each one tried to share what we’re thankful for with choked up throats and teary eyes. Many of our hearts were a complex mix of sad-to-to-be-away-from-home but thankful-for-the-connection-with-friends-and-family-back-home-and-for-shipmates-onboard.

3. Making it through one of the hardest days I’ve had in the hospital since I’ve been on the ship – new nurses, new therapists, new day crew; all needing to be trained on the job, to learn and find their feet with guidance and care as our Ortho block started to intensify -pin pulling, analysing Xrays, wedging of casts, discharges and getting 25 kiddos up and walking after having complex bone surgery. Translating 4 times over to get the message through. Respecting different cultures. Fighting my own sense of being personally responsible for the best care of our patients and to teach and train accurately. I was ok until I sat still on the floor of my friends classroom for our usual lunch date, sighed and then I almost burst into tears.

4. When one precious little 5 year old patient who’s been in pain and dopey, suddenly grinned, breaking through with a broad smile and started engaging and laughing and kicking his casted legs in the air in jubilation. My heart melted and broke as he mispronouced “Meeeshell” in an adorable French-Fon accent, repeating it over and over and over while reaching out to grab my hand.


5. The regular intensity of repeatedly saying goodbye. (Which is not ‘normal’ but also is in this place) Seeing off brothers and sisters-in-Christ, colleagues who are more like the soldiers you fought alongside in battle; not knowing how long it will be until ‘see you later’comes. It’s shattering.


And finally… When my sister-in-law posted this picture of my nephews on the other side of the world in Australia. About that time… I just sat on the floor (again) and sobbed.It is bizarre how you can be totally surrounded but feel isolated and alone. It’s overwhelming to have a years worth of so much new and amazing amd heart breaking stuff to process which is crammed into only 4 ship-weeks. We’re living a life where 1 day is like a week, 1 week is like a month, It’s just a lot to take in, make sense of, enjoy, and be thankful for. It is beautiful and it is not short of incredible, both the good and the bad. It is just alot. And that’s ok.

Since I came back to the ship I have definitely been rocked and shaken. By both the weight of living away from what I know in SA to be home and the beauty and privaledge of living here in this place that’s become home. I scarce can take it in.

But there are sweet moments which are blessings from Jesus which are also fragrances and proof to me of who He is. I have brothers and sisters all over the world now. I have supportive friends and family in SA who reach out, comfort, support and pray for me. I get to see glimpses of comfort, joy and promise when a timid, scared and in-pain patient suddenly breaks through and engages. I get to see Jesus and his blessings when people sing and dance in praise on a dock thousands of miless from their home. I feel Him in the warmth of a colleuges empathetic touch. I hear Jesus through the care and time given to me in a voice note from my dear friend back home, despite her own traumas. I taste Him in the delicious braaied chicken from today’s dinner-on-the-dock and most definitely in the Cadbury’s whispers my mom picked out for me to bring back to the ship. I know Jesus’ promises more when he orchestrates the right conversation with a friend who’s been having the same feelings – so that I know I’m seen and not alone. I see Jesus is the beautiful parents He’s made for my nephews. I experience Jesus in this place daily.


The truth is simple though, I, daily, should choose to lay down the things I hold onto; pride, busyness, perfection, control, loneliness, longing and FOMO (alongside moving acoss the world and the accompanying sacrafices) and seek to see Jesus more and know Him more. Then “everything will be added”, both here and into eternity.
Alexander Maclaren observed, “The present world yields its full riches only to the man who surrenders all to Jesus” (Expositions of Holy Scripture [Baker], 9:144).
When you give sacrificially to the Lord’s work, He promises to add to your account all the things that the Gentiles seek (Matt. 6:33).
Matthew Henry points out that we get into trouble because we read our Bibles by halves, looking for the glories of Christ and the Christian life, but not for the sufferings. But we must expect hardship and suffering, because our Lord Himself went through the same and He warned us of what we will encounter. Paul says, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).”
..but we receive so much of the pleasant with the suffering.
“But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” ~ Mark 10:30, meaning, if you give up anything for Christ, He promises that you will receive many times (Mark 10:30 says 100 times) as much at what we have at this time.
This evening I walked up the gangway and scanned back onto the ship to end off my day after the dinner-on-the-dock party and as the lovely automated lady said for the billionth time, “Please wait. WELCOME!”. A part of me chucked and I thought:  ‘Ok God, I hear you..’ I will wait for you and look for you and I will know that into your arms, I am always welcome to run; to sob, to process, and to just be held.’
I am not alone and I have the promises of a good good Father.

One thought on “Sobbing, processing… (Please wait. WELCOME!)

  1. “It is bizarre how you can be totally surrounded but feel isolated and alone.” Wow. Yes. So well put, Michelle. I so understand and you are definitely not alone in feeling this way sometimes. ❤


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