Monday, September 13, 2010

Flashbacks: Final Announced Update on September 13, 2010

As I sat in the van, driving to the airport an intense mix of emotions was flowing over my mind. On one hand, I had wanted to leave the Ship for a while, and on the other hand, I was already missing those whom I had said goodbye to. That mix of emotion continued through the flying to Barcelona, the long day in Paris (worst airport ever!) and my time with a friend outside of Atlanta. Now I sit where I started, but I sit a different person, with a redeemed soul, and a semblance of passion in my soul. As I look over the OM USA base, it remains the same, yet I am not the same. I have been touched by the lives that have come into my heart; a heart that has been ripped to shreds again and again. I sit here shy in the wonder of guy, and fearful of time passing my by, going much faster than I am. Tears fill my heart as I look upon the last two years on the Logos Hope, and I can truly say that I enjoyed it, no matter how much I wanted to leave at points.
The OM USA office is a place of wonderful solitude. Set in the backwoods town of Tyrone, Georgia, it sits outside of metro-Atlanta by a number of miles. The property is surrounded by woods, and the housing is high class as far as I can tell. It’s very quiet and reflective here, and it is easy for me to get caught up in my emotions. I see things that remind me of the start of my journey, places that I first met people I would grow far closer to, and my mind goes on a train seeing before my minds-eye the events of a long two years; the arrival in Denmark, PST, all the way to recent Africa. The events are the paper on which my story has been written, and the people are the words which make up this story. The ship has put so many wonderful people in my way, so many I will never see again. It breaks my heart to think of those who laughed with me, challenged me, loved me regardless of my many imperfections, and just spent time with me. I look back and see how lucky I was to spend time with people such as these. I look ahead and see the moments I need to cherish with those who are real.
I will spend the next few days saying goodbye to the Ship in my heart and preparing to move on to the next adventure in my life. I will go through processing talks with a mentor, and reflect on everything, preparing my heart to be steadfast in the face of temptation. The next days will be spent remembering how I have been blessed by so many people in my life, so many wonderful people, not just on the Ship, but in Michigan as well. I will never forget any heart that has made a true connection to mine, and I thank God that so many hearts cared. I will miss you, friends abroad, and I already do…

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Last…: Update on September 6, 2010

The past two weeks have been a strange mix of emotions for me. This will be my last blog written on board the Logos Hope, and it is a strange feeling to think that. There have been many lasts lately, and emotionally, I am somewhat at a loss. I don’t really know how to feel, since I am leaving so many awesome people and such a unique and cool opportunity and ministry, yet Michigan holds its share of wonderful people and opportunities, plus I am coming in with some new ideas, ideals, values, and passions. The past two years have been fantastic and incredibly challenging. I have changed a lot after getting on my own and discovering the world, and I pray I continue to change.
Two weeks ago, we said goodbye not only to the country of Liberia, but, for me, the continent of Africa as a whole. Africa was a blessing to me, even though it was the hardest place I have ever been. I have never been more challenged to see past my own stereotypes and prejudices, often failing to see the touch of God in every face that wanted something from me. I fell desperately short of treating the Africans how I would like to be treated, and was often cold and rude, yet I feel like the chances I had to get to know some, we both felt loved, especially with the kids. African kids are awesome, never doubt that.
So as we sailed from that place, I did my last week of sea watch on the bridge of the place I have called home the past two years. I steered a lot due to a broken Gyro Compass, and had a good time with a close friend on the watch. God blessed me with the week of peace on the open sea; one last week of sailing.
Upon arrival, the mix of emotions really took hold of my heart. This (Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain) was the last port I would ever sail into. My heart was so confused with joy, excitement and sadness. That was wiped away when I went to the beach straight after my work. The next three days were very busy with trips to the beach, and some more lasts for me. Friday was my last day of work in the I-Café and was a good day, but stressful due to a massive language barrier (they speak Spanish here). The next day was something incredibly unique for me, and was amazing, yet tiring. We had a concert-type event outside of the ship. It was a plaza outside in the middle of town, and for an audience of almost 1,000 people. Setting up took all morning, but was all worth it when the event got underway. We displayed all the different cultures on the ship, and I did one of the best Swing Dance performances I have done to date (I hope to get a video before I leave) for the huge audience. We challenged the attendants to look elsewhere for peace and joy at the end, and some had conversations.
Yesterday (Sunday), was my last day of significance on the Ship. By that I mean that I have off until I leave. Yesterday, we had a family program on board which was a lot like a school carnival in the States. 850 people attended the program, and I sold snacks to many of them, and did my last swing dance performance, maybe ever! It was crazy.
Last night, KC from Canada along with two others started the leaving train that includes me. They left at 2 in the morning, and yet again the strange feelings encompassed me. I don’t know how to describe it, as I wasn’t crying or sorrowful, yet I was sad. I will miss the friends I have made dearly, and already do miss many of the ones I have said goodbye to. The ship forces goodbyes so much, and it has been a heavy burden that will only be heavier in four days’ time.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sleepless Nights: Update from August 19, 2010

I have been writing a lot about children lately; how my time with them affects me, how they love, and other random thoughts. I have always known that I want to have my own someday, and raising a family is one of my dreams, but this past weekend put that dream closer to reality. I was on a team staying the night at an orphanage for kids who have been abandoned which also served as a refuge for mothers who have been abandoned which was a good hour drive outside of Monrovia, Liberia. There were around 15 kids that lived there ranging from infants to 12 years old, around 5 severely, mentally handicapped and there was one mother with triplets who had been abandoned.
It was a crazy place that, to be honest, I was not quite ready for it, mentally. As we arrived, the kids were shy and were made to sing us a welcome song. The place we were to spend the next 48 hours in was nicer than I thought it would be, at first. As you got to know it, it became less enamoring, but the hearts that the place housed became all the more wonderful. It was a simple building painted something like a school out of the 80’s or early 90’s with the bland yellow color and an ugly maroon shade occupying the walls. There was a TV there which was used every night when the generator was turned on, around 7 or 8 pm. One experience was the Liberian movies, which were like a bad High School drama production. We brought along a Veggie Tales movie to play for the kids, but I am not sure that they quite understood it fully, as a lot of the humor is very American. They liked watching it because they could tell it was well done though. The first night was occupied with dinner and getting to know the kids a little bit and a movie.
The next day was Sunday, and we had prepared a program for the kids for some point in that day. After a hot, restless night, I woke up to babies crying, which I would find out consistent ambience all throughout our two days at the place. As the day progressed and we played with the children, the Sunday “service” was called. We did our thing, or parts of it, and finished. The day continued and, as the team ran out of energy, the playing fizzled into naps and reading with the kids. That night, we got the front seat to another African movie, which was awful. Then we went to sleep, or at least I tried to.
The second night was worse than the first as it was just as hot, and I was too tired to sleep well. The bed I was on (we were very blessed to even have beds) gave me the impression that I was being invaded by a legion of bugs that wanted my flesh. I couldn’t sleep. The next morning I was grumpy, but the kids were not. They wanted to play, which is about all I could squeeze out of my energy.
Details aside, the trip was awesome, and the most touching parts were the attachment built by the kids to us, and to see how they appreciated us giving them attention. To see at least some of their needs met, not only by the things passed out, but also by the attention we gave them; especially the two of us men. God used us even though we were broke, even though we ran out of energy half way through and could no longer play with them that much.
As we prepared to leave, all the kids started to cry, which cut to my heart. I was too tired to cry, but my heart went out to those which I had developed a strong bond with. They were beautiful.