If you were to ask me a year ago if I would ever be interested in teaching community health in Africa, I would have said “No I’m all set. I don’t really like teaching.” Well God has a funny way of taking my words and flipping them COMPLETELY around. For example I told my coworkers, Emily and Sue, “I would never live on a ship” and “I would never go to Africa.”…. Right. I have MANY examples of statements like these but for the sake of space I’ll hold back.
August 19th marks my one-year anniversary of being on the Africa Mercy. There have been many amazing things that God has taught me during this time and also many amazing relationships built.
One friend that helped ignite this passion for health education was my dear friend Ellen. God forced us to be friends by putting us in the same cabin and in the same bunk. When you live in a 6x6 space you end up getting to know each other very well, whether you want to or not. Thankfully we ended up wanting to. During those first few months living together, we both slowly opened up to each other and ended up becoming best friends. She use to come in and tell me all about the passions and desires that God had placed on her heart with educating the women of Africa. I was so excited for her to pursue these dreams but never would have imagined that God was planting seeds, in my heart, at the same time.
(Wilson and Ellen)
During our sail from Spain to Togo I was pouring myself into finding out about Burkitt’s Lymphoma. During this time God was softening my heart and opening my eyes about the needless suffering that his children were going through. After arriving in Togo God continued to pour water onto that seed. This education thing was no longer something I had to do but something I needed to do. But how?
One Sunday while at the Fishing Village Church, I was praying and pleading with God to show me how I could make this community health thing a reality. I told God I had NO experience, no teaching skills, no resources, and knew no other language besides English (and even that was questionable at times). But even with all these strikes against me and with all these weaknesses I was willing to do my best and be used by Him. ‘God use me. Show me what to do. Here I am Lord, use me.’
As I opened my eyes after praying, I looked up to see the whole church congregation sitting in front of me. ‘Ding!’ Sitting right in front of me was the classroom God has prepared. The church.
1 Peter 4:10~ Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.
(Some of my Fishing Village students)
The week following this insight, Ellen and I were talking about how she was going to start to teach English up at a church in a village called Agoe. I then asked he if I could come and do some healthcare stuff. She quickly agreed.
And so it was started. Every Saturday that I had off, I would go up with Ellen and Wilson to this little church in Agoe. In time I saw that teaching such a large group about different healthcare was difficult. At this time I just so happened to be taking an online class about international medicine and they had a whole section about teaching Community Health Workers. They wrote out how to not only teach people but to find people with a passion for learning and teaching health care. The next Saturday I went to the church and prayed and asked the 25+ women to be praying to see if this is something that God had placed on their hearts. At the end of that day I had 8 people raise their hands to take on this healthcare challenge.
I started going to the church during the week and meeting with this smaller group. I was able to get more in depth and they were able to ask a lot more questions. After every lesson that we did during the week two of the students would then present that same lesson to the class on Saturday. God is so good!
Once the Deeper Life church (Agoe) was up and running I also started going to the Fishing Village Church and teaching there as well. There were times I felt so unqualified and other times burnt out. Sometimes I would start to teach and I would see an ocean of blank faces. So I would stop, pray, and then try a new method. Each week I would show up and see these blank faces as I talked about a specific health issue but one at a time you would see their eyes brighten with understanding. Yess!!! They get it, they understand!! God you are so good!
Week after week I would get together with these church members and quickly grew to love and trust them. Not once did I leave there without feeling more joy and love then when I came. My time with these brothers and sisters of mine will be forever etched in my heart.
(Students from Deeper Life Church)
In February as I embarked on this community health adventure all I could think about was how I was going to “Help the people of Togo” but as I contemplate these past 6 months I see how God actually used them to teach and bless me.
Last weekend we had our closing service for the Fishing Village Church and then today we had the closing service for the Deeper Life church in Agoe. I can truly say that I will miss all these friends that I have grown to love. They have truly showered me with love, joy, and grace. Please keep these two churches in your prayers!
I also want to take this time to lift up my wonderful friend and translator, Vicky. Wow! Her presence in my life has been nothing but a blessing. I met her while she was working on the ship as a hospital translator. I instantly liked her and when I asked her if she would like to volunteer her time to help me teach health care she quickly accepted. Her kindness, love, joy, and selfless attitude has been so admirable. She is truly my sister in Christ and I am so excited to see how God will use her for His kingdom. Please be praying for Vicky.
**We will soon be setting sail from Togo and going down to South Africa, to get some engine/generator work done. Goodbyes are never easy but God showed me last year at the end of Benin that even though you are separated by distance that the friendships still continue on. To all my Togolese friends I pray blessings upon your life may God use you mightily as you trust and obey him. Until we meet again!
A matter of belief
3 years ago