So it’s our first Christmas on the ship, and it’s been a really fun time! There have been various activities through the month of December to help prepare us for Christmas and really just to have fun. There’s been a door decorating contest, a visit from Sinterklaas (the Dutch St. Nicholas), the jingle bell dash, Christmas cookie decorating (and eating), gingerbread house making contest, Christmas caroling, storytelling, and many other activities. We’ve also had some really beautiful Advent services each Sunday evening.
It’s all been really great, but we do miss home. It just doesn’t feel quite like Christmas with it being 90 degrees and humid, but we still seem to manage.
What has helped was getting your Christmas cards! Thank you so much to those of you who answered our plea. It really helps us feel connected to you back home.
Today, we told the kids they couldn’t get up before 6:00. So they came and jumped on our bed at 6:00. They are such good listeners! In addition to our usual Christmas traditions of stockings and opening presents under the tree, we were blown away by the presents left outside our door. All crew leave their shoes outside their door, and everyone goes around leaving gifts, often personalized, for everyone in their shoes. The time and effort people put into making and or purchasing these gifts is really touching.We were also treated to a very nice Christmas brunch. Our awesome head chef, Serge (from Congo, like Ibaka), stayed up until 1:00 AM preparing food last night, then woke up again at 4:30 to finish the job. I remind you that he’s a volunteer, just like the rest of us!. I can’t even begin to tell you what a blessing it was. It’s hard enough cooking for family get-togethers back home. Can you imagine a family of several hundred? The round of applause and standing ovation he and his team received during the brunch was well-deserved and very moving. As the year comes to an end, we reflect on the multitude of changes we have gone through. I am continually amazed by God’s goodness. He called us here, which seemed really crazy at the time. We’re finding out though that He knows exactly what He is doing!
I (Brian) have really enjoyed working here. The best thing about this place is definitely the people. I’ve said it before, but the environment here is unlike any hospital I’ve been in. The collaboration, communication, and the way people serve each other is truly unique. It brings back John 13:35 to me when Jesus says, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Yes, we can love and serve our patients, but really it first starts with loving each other, and this sets us up to love and serve our patients better. Of course we aren’t perfect, but this is what we strive to do.
As for the patients, it’s been amazing to see the transformations taking place. Legs are straightened, tumors removed, hernias (some huge) are repaired, incontinent women are dry, and it goes on and on. It’s really been a privilege to play a part in all this. Here are a few patients that come to mind.
This is Victorien. I’ve posted about him before, but click here to read more about his story and to see some after-surgery pictures. What an awesome kid!
While my work life has been very fulfilling, it has been really awesome seeing how God is using the rest of the family on the ship. Jamie has been working as an administrative assistant on the wards. This job is perfect for her. She is really great at organization and administrative tasks, but she also has a huge heart for the patients. Since she works on the wards, she gets to interact with the patients and translators on a regular basis. Sometimes I get to see these interactions, and I can see the light in her eyes and how it spreads to others. She’s in the perfect place!
Jamie is also really gifted at making people feel welcome and included. I’ve had numerous random short-term crew members ask me,” Is your wife the one with dark curly hair that is so nice? She made me feel so welcome!”
As the anesthesia supervisor, one of my jobs is to make sure the short-term anesthesiologists and assistants are feeling plugged into the ship community. While I can check on them during work hours, it troubles me that I am not able to invest in them more after the work is done. This is where Jamie has come through again. She has started assembling Welcome Packets for the short-termers, complete with a welcome note, chocolate, and laundry detergent. She’s also organized anesthesia dinners on Thursdays so that we, including the family, can spend some time with the short-term anesthesia crew. She’s awesome!
Speaking of family, the kids continue to amaze me. While I can lose my patience with them more than I’d like, I have to remind myself of all the changes they have gone through since June. I would not have handled it nearly so well as a child. All the kids on the ship, not just mine, really enrich this community. I had at least 3 people today say something along the lines of how thankful they are to have children on the ship to celebrate Christmas.
The kids continue to do different activities on the ship offered (free of charge) by various crew members. Brandon is doing gymnastics, karate, jimbe lessons, running club, and soccer. His favorite part of the week has become ultimate frisbee on Friday afternoons. The girls are doing gymnastics, running club, and Maya is learning to play the recorder.
I know this has been a long post. Thanks for sticking with us–through this post and though this journey. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We are so thankful for your continued prayers and support that sustain us daily. We love and miss you all!