18 hours earlier:
We received a last minute email inviting us on a tour of the Mercy Ship. It had arrived in Guinea the previous week and greeted the city by inviting its sick and wounded to be screened on September 3rd. In something straight out of the GOSPELs, over 3000 diseased, deformed, crippled, tumored, burned and blind people descended on the People's Palace for their chance at healing.
I wasn't able to be there, but many of my friends and colleagues were. One of them had the task of escorting out the ones who couldn't be helped. She said she cried disappointed tears with them the entire day. Many of them would return to the end of the line and try again. One mother brought her baby for help to my friend *Tammy who told me she could literally see the baby's exposed heart beating. They couldn't help her. She left.
The Mercy Ship is a floating hospital staffed completely by volunteers. Every sailor, crew member, nurse, surgeon, doctor and specialist pays to be on the ship, high profile surgeons even flying in to help for short periods. Some of the crew have lived on ship for years with their families. This particular Mercy Ship, the "Africa Mercy" is set up to perform plastic surgery on burn victims, orthopedic surgery on children with deformities, cataract surgery, hernia surgery, and tumor removal. They have created an extremely organized system that allows them to reach and help thousands of people in West Africa.
My Man and I walked aboard the ship the day after receiving the invitation. We were immediately led to a cafe to visit with crew members. And by "cafe" I mean a Starbucks. There, I talked with people from all over the world who live and work on the ship. The chef of the ship told us how he had been a restaurant owner turned musician who toured the country living the party life...until JESUS captured his heart. He worked in California at Teen Challenge and then ended up aboard the Mercy Ship.
This wild JESUS lover full of humility and joy still looked a little like a rock star.
(That's what HE likes, you know. Loving HIM, worshiping HIM in our own weird, wonderful style. HE doesn't just like it---it is HIS way!)
We went to a meeting room where the Captain of the ship briefed some diplomats, the press and a few oddballs like me about the work of the ship. He showed us before and after photographs of people they had helped. Blind people given their sight. Crippled legs were straightened. People who were so deformed with tumors and injuries that they looked inhuman, were given faces and smiles and restoration. My heart was full--I thought of JESUS. Believe me, I know HE heals miraculously. HE does it every day. But as I watched this, I also felt the joy of the LORD when HE chooses to use people to heal others. There is something so glorious about human beings being allowed into the healing work of GOD.
The photos ended and the Captain spoke again. It was then...there, with all those "important" people and swarm of media and oddballs that he said they had come to Guinea...
in the NAME of JESUS.
My eyes filled up. Do you remember the scene in "Elf" where someone mentions Santa to Buddy and he screams with surprise and excitement? I wanted to do that! I wanted to yell, "JEEEESUS!! I know HIM! I know HIM!!!"
I love this wild GOD. I love HIS wild followers. This is where making the KINGdom of GOD a matter of talk, a matter of doctrine and matter of theology prove to be so failing. It's a matter of power! Following JESUS is a life. It is a reality--it's so much bigger than words. It's life. It's the kind of life that takes you from drugs and parties to cooking for people in West Africa. It's the life that takes rich surgeons from lush homes to Conakry, Guinea to open blind eyes for people who have nothing.
And I thought the latte would be the best part of the day...