If you have ever been afraid of the dentist, spending a week in a dental clinic would either be your cure or your worst nightmare. Thankfully for me, I like dentists and I have no problem with the sight of blood. For five days this week I volunteered in a local hospital to work with 4 dentists who are in Africa with Logos Hope. 2 are from the USA, 1 is from the UK and one from Fiji. All treatment and medicine in the hospital is completely free, so people flock to the clinic to have their teeth fixed. Sadly most people need to have a least one tooth extracted, as they are in such a bad state. I had the privilege of working alongside the dentists, providing them with the tools they need for the job. After each dental treatment the dentists take time to pray with the patients before sending them on their way.
While the ship was in Bermuda, my colleagues and I asked for donations for school supplies – pens, notebooks, pencils, erasers etc – for school kids in Africa. Today I had the chance to distribute the gifts that the people of Bermuda had donated. First we shared with the kids where we came from, about the ship, and then the Gospel. They were all very receptive to what we had to say. Then they all lined up and each of us gave them one item of stationary to help them with their studies. We also gave some more tools to the teachers and for each classroom, these included an atlas, a bible, scissor sets, highlighters, a blackboard and wall charts. Though these donations will not last for very long, we hope that we have shown that God loves them and cares for their needs, and that they have listened to the message of hope that we have brought.
No electricity, no running water, mud hits with thatched roofs and two unique languages. This is the church that I visited yesterday morning. The pastor of this church was a truck driver before he was saved, and felt called to pastor a bush church. The church itself was several miles down a crazy dirt road – quite a distance from the city. The people here enjoy a simpler living. They grow produce and sell it at the market at the junction with the highway. The pastor encouraged them saying ‘Think about where you are. You are not in the city, you are far away in the bush, yet God has brought people from all over the world to visit you this morning – he has not forgotten you’. I was introduced as the senior pastor of the group and we were praised as wise white people. I made sure to take some time during my ship presentation to remind them that we are all regular people, and we are from many nations including African nations and we all have the same Holy Spirit inside us. Another in the team shared a message, and yet another shared her testimony. After the service they gave us many gifts of coconuts, cacao, and oranges. It was an amazing experience.
“It will be a new experience” I thought as I cautiously signed my name. Whenever I’ve been stopped on the street by a charity organisation, I’ve tried my best not to be rude – but I do my best to avoid them. Now I would be the one asking people to give.
A month ago, the leader of Corporate Services onboard – the work division comprising of finance, IT, AV, Business services and service desk, a very work orientated department – set us a challenge. We are always so focussed on internal ministry in our jobs that we rarely are directly involved in our Father’s work in this world. He showed us that many school children in West Africa do not have pens and books, and that classrooms have no equipment. We were to put together a stand to facilitate people giving towards packages for school kids, teachers and classrooms.
I was sceptical. It would take away from my work time. It would add extra stress to my team. Yet I convinced myself that this plan was the way of Love, the way of our Father. So I had my team add two screens to the stand – one with a looping DVD of pictures of the dilapidated classrooms and the other for connecting a laptop. But that was only the beginning of the challenge. We were asked to assign time from our team towards running the stand. I would not. I simply encouraged them to sign up themselves. One of my team members put her whole heart into it. She was often there nearly pleading with people to give. I didn’t volunteer.
Many, many people gave. The number of packs for students, teachers and classrooms amazed me and I began to look ahead to walking into those schools and giving out the packages. Another port arrived. I decided I need to assign some team time, so I assigned one person one hour on the schedule (which was filling up) – but I knew I couldn’t ask someone to do something I was not willing to do, so I signed myself up.
I talked with my Father beforehand – asking Him to influence people, rather than me. At first it was scary, asking people if they would like to give. Maybe they would buy one less book for their family. Many passed on the opportunity and I politely allowed them to continue, but many people took the slips to pay at the book fair. Maybe it’s best that they pay for the donation somewhere else – then I don’t know how many people really gave, but I think it was quite a few. I was really encouraged by the experience and would do it again. I really look forward to arriving in port and visiting these schools and seeing the smiling faces.