All comments contained within this blog are my personal observations while serving on the M/V Africa Mercy. They are not the views or opinions of Mercy Ships or partner ministries.»

Friday, February 29, 2008

Oh Freedom

My life on the ship is almost over. People are shocked when I tell them I am leaving on Wednesday. I ask myself, "Where has the time gone?" and in the same breath it feels like I have been here for a year.

There is a Christian worshipper who has really spoken to my heart quite a bit in my time on the m/v Africa Mercy. I had most of his albums before I arrived, but as I lay in bed and try to find rest from the days I listened to his lyrics and wanted to find out if he had anything new.

One album I did not have was "Peace Like a River". I jumped on ITunes and purchased it and it has been playing repeatedly since. I usually find a lot of comfort in the words of the old hymns, particularly "It is Well With My Soul".

...When sorrows like sea billows roll... thunders in my thoughts
...That Christ has regarded my helpless estate... lifts my thoughts
...It is well, with my soul... resonates among the other thoughts.

I have been struggling with the chorus as I watch a little four-year old succumb to cancer. But, as I listen to the songs that follow I find myself singing along to "O Freedom"

Ohhh Freedom, Ohhh Freedom
Ohhh Freedom over me

And before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave
and go home to my Lord and be free.

No more weepin', No more weepin'
No more weepin' over me.

And before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave
and go home to my Lord and be free.

They'll be singin', They'll be singin'
They'll be singin' over me

And before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave
and go home to my Lord and be free.

Ohhh Freedom, Ohhh Freedom
Ohhh Freedom over me

And before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave
and go home to my Lord and be free.
and go home to my Lord and be free.
and go home to my Lord and be free.

by William E. Barton, 1899

There are so many ways I can take this writing from this point and I hope I can properly explain why this song has really helped.

Not many American's know that Liberia was created back in the early 1800's by freed slaves from the US. The name Liberia is derived from the word Liberty. President James Monroe was honored by the capital city of Monrovia being named after him. If you look at how the country was founded, it almost mirrors the story of the founding of America. It was once the most prosperous nation on the continent of Africa, but after the start of the first civil war on 1989, and subsequent second civil war, literally all the infrastructure was destroyed. When I say all, I mean ALL. The water system, roads, schools, medical clinics and hospitals and every aspect of the government were destroyed.

The hymn was sung on Plantations after slavery was abolished. The freed slaves did not want to sing the songs they sang as slaves. Christianity began to influence the songs they wrote and "Oh Freedom" was one of them.

Keep this in mind as I continue with what happened to me today...

I went down to the ICU ward today and was able to spend some time with the little boy as his father continued his vigil at his bedside. As I entered the unit, a woman came out the door crying. I was told it was not my little guys family, she was the mom of another patient.

I approached a little figure laying in the bed with a tracheotomy doing the breathing for him. There were tubes coming out of every appendage and various other openings. His right eye twitched, but that was not due an awareness of my presence. Due to the chemotherapy treatment, his bottom jaw was almost back to normal.

I leaned over him and whispered a prayer over him, followed by quiet words of comfort. Can he hear me? I don't know, I am told probably not, but I am not going to take any chances. If there is any chance he can hear me, I want him to hear words of love and comfort.

In between my exposed thoughts I would lean over and kiss him on his hot forehead. I repeated this for probably 5 minutes or so. I moved around the bed and touched his legs and then rested my hand on his right hand. He did not have an IV there, only an oxygen monitor clipped to his tiny index finger. As I took his hand in mine, it was cooler than the rest of his body. I continued to pray over him as his father sat watching.

He looked worn out. He has not left his son's side. A crew member brought him some clean clothes to change into and I'm not sure if he has had any of the food that has been offered to him.

I let go of the limp little hand and moved around the bed to his father. I shook his hand and told him that there are people all over the world praying for them. He simply shook his head in acknowledgment. I shook his hand again and left the room.

I don't know if I will ever see this little boy again outside of the corridors of my mind this side of heaven. This is where the song comes into play. The words "No more weepin'", "They'll be singin'" and chorus "and go home to my Lord and be free" help me to listen to "It is Well With My Soul" by knowing the hope we have in Christ Jesus.

The son of the woman whom I passed as I came into the unit was in a room off to the side of the main ward. She had been told that he was beyond the help of the medical staff and was in the process of calling family members to be at his bedside. He is 14-years old

This has been a difficult start to this outreach.

Just as when the freed slaves wanted to look to the future and not the past, Liberia had ended its rebel rule and they have entered a new era where songs of war need to be replaced with songs of hope in Christ.

I am not sure I was able to put this very eloquently and for that I apologize. Through all this, my faith and trust in God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit has grown stronger. That does not mean I don't direct my anger at Him, but I know He is big enough to handle it and still love me just as he loves these two little ones.

Oh, Freedom!!! (Thanks Chris for recording this!!)