I believe that there is a strong possibility that my body has forgotten what it means to live on a ship. The gentle rock and sway that I wouldn’t have noticed when I left the ship last year, is now something that I definitely feel. I’m not complaining, and don’t feel sick, but I know that I’m not in a building on shore.Oh, yes, I should likely mention the fact that I am back on the ship. Saturday at 2:30pm, my parents and I headed out from their house with all of my luggage to the airport (I am eternally grateful to them for all the chaos of mine that they put up with). Sunday at 11pm local time, I walked up the gangway of the Africa Mercy for the first time in over a year. Overtired and DONE with airports, I walked in and felt at home again. A home where things are the same but different, like a shuffled deck of cards. The change in people occasionally leaves me more off-kilter than the jet lag, but I am finding a new normal and becoming closer with some people that were mere acquaintances last time I was here (or that have arrived since I left).
I am in a four berth cabin for now, and my roommates were both out when I arrived, so I had some space and peace to unpack into my little cabinet. (I still have not met my bunkmate, though we have both slept in the same section of the cabin for the last two nights. I have been in bed earlier than her each time) Unpacking the first night was a haphazard job more focused on emptying bags and finding clean clothing than anything else. After running upstairs to the computers in order to announce my safe arrival on Facebook (I wouldn’t have bothered, except it’s the fastest and easiest way to do that), I had a luxuriously hot two minute shower. All of my important “business” done, I climbed onto my top bunk, turned out the lights and attempted to sleep by 12 midnight.
It wasn’t much of a sleep, but considering how short it felt, I must have slept some. At 7am my alarm went off, reminding me I had less than half an hour before they closed the breakfast line-up in the cafeteria.
At 7:45am, the cafeteria emptied out and everyone crowded into the International Lounge for the regular Monday morning meeting. And suddenly we have all been launched onto an uncertain path.
In the last week, there have been suspected cases in Benin and Nigeria that are being monitored. Now to give a little perspective, Ebola has symptoms that are similar to a few other virus/bacteria/parasites that people can get in this part of the world. Which means suspected cases must be confirmed before we know that Ebola has indeed migrated to a new country or not.
In light of this news, the ship will now remain in the Canary Islands until the end of the month. We will sail out within 2-3 weeks, but the destination is now uncertain. We’re giving Nigeria and Benin a little time to show if there is a cause for concern or any further spread of Ebola to those areas. And our leadership is actively discussing the situation and our best response to it.
The fact is, we are not set up to treat Ebola. We are not a medical hospital, we are a surgical hospital. So we are waiting and considering contingency plans and countries. Life is now a little uncertain, where will we sail?
I have no doubt that we will be where we are needed, and where God wants us, no matter where we go. And so I will sail wherever management decides is safe and wise to go. The change in dates, though, causes upheaval. Plane tickets for those starting or ending their time with us are being changed, plans modified.
Pray for wisdom and guidance for those that make the final decisions for the ship. Pray for those dealing with the Ebola epidemic, and for the health and safety of the people of West Africa. Pray for those struggling with the uncertainty of this season, and for unity on the ship as we look to the future.