Bendu burnt her entire face while reading over firelight. The top of her head is completely wrapped in guaze, protecting her recent skin graphs that will allow her to blink her taught eyelids, leaving only her right eye slightly exposed so she can see enough to fumble towards the bathroom.
Bendu recently graduated high school. When she is finished with "her work" (i.e. she leaves the ward) she plans on going to college and becoming an accountant. She is 24.
Last week I was thinking about how strange it is to be human. We identify ourselves by the image that is reflected on a shiny piece of glass. It's how the world sees us. We spend time and energy presenting an outward presentation of the inward man through our choice of clothes, make up hair, ect.
This outward presentation effects most things. It effects how people treat us. It effects how we are classified and defined. It may boost or hinder the opportunities given to us. It will be the basis people's formation of first impressions. Wrong or right.
And yet, this is not who we are. We know we are more. There is something inside the shell. A life, a soul, filling what will one day return to dust.
It's something we place so much security in and we often take for granted. But it's a fragile security. A car accident, a fire- our outer shell could be forever marred and our presentation to the world forever changed. And yet, who we were would remain unchanged.
When you first see Bendu, she can be hard to look at. Her scars and burns are rather grotesque.
But her dreams, her hopes, her likes, her dislikes, her emotions, her needs, have not changed at all. She is still Bendu and when you sit by her bedside and chat with her, you encounter her.
One of the biggest things I have realized being here this year is that we are all equal, regardless of our place of birth, how much or little we have, we share the same universal humanity.
And we are all children of God. He loves us all with the same love. We all drink from the same fountain of grace. We are equals. Who someone is, how much money they have, what they have accomplished, where they come from, or what they do should have no impact on how we treat them. To treat someone better or worse because of any of those reasons is as superficial as treating Bednu differently because her face is burned. It's wrong, and it's certainly not what Jesus preached while on earth.
While this has been a wonderful year, I would be lying if I painted a lilly white picture of ship life. I have struggled with many things.
Perhaps the biggest things I have struggled with is the consistency on the ship of treating people of status and affluence significantly better "normal" people. Being a respecter of persons which the new testament so clearly teaches against.
We have changed the names of the wards from Joy, Hope, and Peace, to the names of major donors. We have plaques all over the ship dedicated to people who have given large amounts of money. The Bible so clearly states to "Not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing". Jesus told his disciples not to do things to be seen of men like the Pharisees.
And I have yet to find a wall on the ship dedicated to the faithfulness of God and His provision. That plaque hasn't been hung.
It's not that I don't get; it takes a lot of money to run a hospital ship.
And it's not that I don't appreciate major donors; I do. We are all part of the same work; we all have the same goal; we are on the same team. It's just that I equally appreciate the Koontz family. Peter and Dana Koontz sold their house and car and moved onto the ship with their three children. They now live in small cabin and Peter and Dana sleep on a fold away bed in the family room. Peter is a Godly, faithful man who has the difficult and non-glorious job of over seeing the daily feeding of more than 400 hundred people.
I appreciate my bunk mate Michelle, who left her jet setting well paid job as a software designer and went to nursing school for the purpose of serving in medical missions. She exchanged living in a spacious house for sharing an 8 by 6 foot space with me for a year.
And I appreciate Eric, one of our ward translators. He is Liberian and has nothing by our western standards. He makes 5$ a day (a large amount for a Liberian), 25$ a week. One morning a mother and her baby did not have the 60 LD (one us dollar) needed to go home. When Eric over heard her conversation without a moment's hesitation he reached into his pocket and gave her the needed money. Eric who has nothing himself.
If Christ were to determine who gave the most, I think He would choose Eric. But I promise that Eric's name will never be on a plaque on our walls.
Jesus saw the widow give a very small amount of money) and said she gave more than others who were boastfully giving much larger amounts. His value system was different. He cared more about people's heart's than the superficial outer layers.
If the widow and the rich givers came to our ship, they would not be treated the same.
As a goal, I hope to never be impressed by people. By their status. By their appearance. By who they are. By who they are not. I want to learn instead what it is to love others.
As Bendu poignantly reveled to my heart, who we are does not lie in the superficial. We should never treat others like it does.
I'm glad for Bendu Jesus never will.