On the ship, it's always interesting (and often beauitful) to hear what made someone decide to live on a hospital ship in West Africa.
I just had to write a prelude to my book (yea :), detailing just that. This is how I got here. ANd I'm glad about it.
I've had a interest in missions since I was a little girl. For example, in third grade, my best friend and I had to make a video about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Our choice was missionary (the video is really funny...Hollie was the missionary and I was the 'native'. While I am praying the sinners prayer, I begin picking my nose..classic). A missionary had come to my third grade classroom and talked about the work she did in Africa. It had sparekd my interest.
I choose nursing as a career because I was interested in medical missions. I didn't know where or how I would serve, but I knew I wanted to help people. I graduated from Bucks County Community College in May 2005, with an associates degree in nursing. Attending community college allowed me to graduate with no debt, which was important if I wanted to do mission work. My job at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia didn't begin until September, giving me the summer off.
That summer, God was moving in my heart. I realized, if I wanted, the next 40 years of my life could be planned. I was a nurse. I could make money. I would be helping sick children. It was an admirable job. But something in me was terrified. I knew I wanted more, but I didn't know what.
In July, I went through a two week period where God lead me to fervently read through the entire New Testament in. As I read, I heard the Spirit of God whispering in my ear, "Do you really believe this?" The words on the pages were radical. They talked of investing into eternity. Of not storing treasures or obtaining accolades on earth, but through faith, living as a stranger and pilgrim on the earth.
Words come so easy. And so many Christians use words. I wanted the world to see what I believed.
It was challenging. I knew in my heart, that God was calling me to live outside of the carefully delineated life pattern prescribed to the average 20-something (you know, get a job, a nice car, a spouse, a house, a few kids, ect...). And regardless of how I searched, I couldn't find the picket-fence-2.5-kid promise anywhere in the Bible.
All summer, my former youth pastor, Rob Paoletti, had been telling about Mercy Ships. His friend, Scott Harrison, was a photo-journalist on the ship. He recommended I checked out his blog. After blowing it off all summer, I finally Googled "Mercy Ships," and found Scott's blog.
I'll never forget that moment.
As I sat in front of my computer, I wept. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Kids who were unnecessarily blind. Adults with huge facial tumors. Women leaking urine from old birth injuries. No one deserved to live like that. The after photos made me cry harder. The transformations that took place were astounding. And they weren't just physical. You could see the hollowness in their eyes replaced with joy. It was beautiful.
A month later, I went to New York City to see the exhibit 'Mercy', by Scott Harrison. I came home that night, and told my parents I was going to live on a hospital ship in West Africa. I hadn't worked a day as a nurse yet, but I was going. My parents weren't to sure if I was serious. But two years later, I was on a plane headed for Liberia, for a year of service on the Africa Mercy. So I guess I meant it.