We have finished the first half of our Field Service in Benin. Many people have finished their commitments on the ship and left, a lot of people went home for the holidays, and there will be over 60 new volunteers coming over the next couple of weeks. We have approximately 100 people staying at the Hope Center on most days, and it will likely become 110-120/night soon. The time has flown by. I’m so sad it’s halfway over.
The Hope Center manager Martha (my boss) wants to know within the next few weeks if any of us Facilitators will stay for the next Field Service in Cameroon. They need 5 Hope Center Facilitators next year because we are going from a 120 bed facility to a 200 bed facility which is also twice as far from the ship and will be more difficult to coordinate drivers and appointments, so I feel like I could be very helpful. Also, it’s pretty crucial for at least one Facilitator to be someone who is returning to train the new people. Additionally, in Cameroon they are planning to do more surgeries and medical capacity building in a 10 month period than ever before, but this can only happen if they have enough volunteers to make it happen.
I am praying about this decision. I know that when I made the choice to come to Mercy Ships as opposed to a shorter, cheaper, what I thought would be a more fun, but less productive volunteer opportunity to South America, I did it because I felt like I was truly needed and could really help Mercy Ships to do so much for the poor people in Africa that we serve. I am so grateful I made that choice. Yes, it cost a good chunk of my savings, yes it took me away from my mom and nephew, and that was a big sacrifice, but it was worth it. If I serve one more year, I won’t be able to help my mom and brother with Wyatt for another year, but I think they are doing okay without me. In order to serve another year, I have to have a lot of faith that God will provide as I will need more financial support than I have had so far this year in order to do it. I have a few people who have supported me this year who are amazing, and it means the world to me that they have sacrificed to help me serve the people of Africa. There are so many people who have been a missionary for 10 or 20 or 30 years, living completely on support, but for me, just the thought of asking for support makes me feel sick. So yeah. Pray I will have faith and that I will make whatever decision is the right one.
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This month was pretty crazy and hectic for me, but very fulfilling and awesome. I planned a weekend trip for 12 of us to the super cheap mansion on the beach, 2 Murder Mystery parties, 2 surprise birthday parties (one including a scavenger hunt I made for her, and one I actually baked a cake that turned out pretty well), and another birthday thing for my roommate Anna. Then we moved onto the ship right before Christmas, and needless to say, I was not prepared and worn out and had not thought about gifts for anybody.
The murder mystery parties were amazing, especially the one at the mansion. If you have ever thought about doing one, do it. (Just make sure you do one without scripts where you improve and decide what you need to do and who you need to talk to.) We have gotten ones for $30 that you print everything yourself, and it’s pretty cheap split 12-20 ways like we have done every time. Even better, if you want me to host it for you, I’m in.
The highlight between all the birthdays was the surprise birthday party we had at the Hope Center for Caroline and Samsdine (our infant feeding baby who just turned 1). It was so fun to include him and his mom, and he loved the cake. I absolutely love this baby. He has been with us almost 2 months. He has gone from around 9 lbs when we got him to up to around 16 lbs now even after repeated bouts of malaria. He finally has his Surgical Screening appointment on January 3rd. We are told he is probably big enough for his Cleft Lip surgery but will need to gain more weight before the Cleft Palate one can be done. The selfish side of me would be okay with this because he would be staying with us for a long time if so, and my days without like an hour of Samsdine time a day would be sad. But really I am praying they can do both at once because that would probably be a lot better for him to only recover from one bigger surgery, and he and his mom could go back home up North to continue their lives sooner.
Currently out of the 100ish people staying at the Hope Center, 36 of them are Ortho kids, meaning they are young with a lot of energy, have their legs in casts, will be staying here a few months, and they are hyper and crazy and often drive us crazy by the end of the day. If you go outside and sit down to play with one kid, they all jump all over you. I have actually had to be concerned about Samsdine’s safety when I hold him or play with him because they will try to sit on top of him or they will run up behind me and wrap their arms around my neck and choke me. It’s chaos. They all barge into our office while we are working or open the door over and over and yell things to us that we don’t always understand. So then we have to somehow get 10 kids out of the office and lock the door, and when you do that they bang on the door over and over and over and scream so loud. They yell our names or Yovo (white person) or the words for nail polish or balloons or games or whatever they want. And it’s very difficult to try to get them to behave when you don’t speak their languages. Needless to say, it’s fun, and the kids are so cute, and I’m so lucky I get to help them, but 13 hour days at the Hope Center can be a little exhausting. But I absolutely love it. I love this job. I love the ship. I love knowing I’m making a difference. This has been an amazing month and an even better year.