Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mercy Ships...One Chapter Closed, Another Beginning...:)

Wow! I'm home and it's been almost three weeks since I stepped off the plane here in FL after my time with Mercy Ships. What an experience! It's hard to believe it's over. I will always treasure Everything I experienced along with every person God brought into my life through Mercy Ships. I've learned SO many things.
I would say, with no doubt this has been one of the most influential, if not THE most influential time in my life. I never imagined God would teach me SO much, and bring me into such incredible friendships that I believe will last a lifetime.
You've followed me in the many experiences I've had and the variety of different opportunities and work places I've been in. It has been simply incredible! I have come away with some very vivid realizations, and some extremely meaningful lessons. I feel like God used everything combined in this incredible 20+- months to shape me more into the woman he created me to be. He began by stripping me of myself, and showing me things I didn't even realize were there. One example of this is I found out through a co-worker and friend that I did not respect everyone as I thought I did. I did not give them the opportunity and freedom to grow and learn for themselves. Instead I would make them feel inferior simply by the tone I used and proceed to do something myself, because it was "just easier." This implied that I believed I was better and more qualified, smarter and just above another person. I realized I had some things to work on and went to the Lord. I asked him to forgive me for this attitude in my heart. And I asked him what caused it and what I should do to change it. I heard him say, "learn to love people with my love; love as I love." So I began to pray that prayer. Also I got the idea to pray against the spirit of 'Entitlement' in my life. I realized this attitude was a huge underlying reason for this high and mighty attitude. I felt things should be a certain way, people should be a certain way. People should act and treat me a certain way. And if things didn't turn out the way I expected or thought they should, for some reason I was entitled to be upset or disgruntled about it. But as I prayed about all this, I realized it was all a lie and it resulted in more disappointment and frustration anyway. I realized I wasn't in control of anything and the world in no way catered to me, nor should it.
As I prayed that God would take this spirit of entitlement from me, I began to gain an new understanding of a better way to live, and it was SO freeing! There was so much more joy and peace. If you don't live by expectations, and flexibility is the characteristic way you respond to situations, life is so much more enjoyable.
Next God began to teach me more about His love. He began to show me that he truly Does love me, no qualifications, no strings attached. And his love was overwhelmingly more deep and encompassing than I had ever understood before. And I knew it was just the beginning. At that point I began to ask God to show me how to love him more, and I felt prompted that it required I know him more. So I began to pray daily that God would show me himself. I wanted to Know HIM. Not just about him, or what he can do. But who he is, like a best friend that you know all about, what they like, how they think, what makes them laugh, cry, angry. How you get to the point you know them so well that you even end up gaining some of their characteristics, or quirks, or phrases, and you automatically know how they would respond to different situations or what they would want or choose. I asked God if he would help me to know him like that. Because I know there is SO MUCH to know about him that we can never stop growing to know him more. Through this process of getting to know God more, I began to love him more as a result. Because the very essence of who God is, provokes an incredibly deep love from us.
I began to ask God to reveal his truth to me in such a strong and deeply rooted way that I truly grasped it and fully believed it in the very depths of who I am, so that it would shape the way I live! I realized after going through a video teaching called The Truth Project, that I apparently did not fully believe all I thought I did about who God is and what he says he can do. The way I realized this was I suddenly saw that I didn't live as though I believed these things! If I truly believed them, my actions and living would naturally follow. And they did Not.
For example, God says he loves us and wants what is best for us, and that he is in control, and able to see everything, and he is ABLE, and trustworthy! If I really believed that, then why did I worry about things? Or get frustrated when things didn't turn out the way I planned or thought they should? I realized it was because I didn't fully believe that God loved me that much, maybe I loved myself a little more and would care a little more than him to look out for what's best for me. Maybe he really didn't Always know what was best for me, because I think this over here looks better...maybe I know a little better. And if things go "wrong" (in other words, differently than i planned or expected), I shouldn't get stressed or annoyed if I really believe God sees it all and the bigger picture for that matter and he has a purpose he's working out nomatter if it seems to make sense to me at the time or not. He's trustworthy and so much bigger than me, so I have no qualification to worry about anything! Nomatter what the circumstance. Now of course I did not master all this. But God just opened my eyes, so I saw it clearly. It was a revelation to me. And I began praying for God to help me truly believe and truly trust him and his truth claims about himself. And I began to see changes in my attitudes and responses to things. I wasn't as easily annoyed, or riled up by things. In fact it was really difficult to get me legitimately frustrated even if things seemed to totally go south, or the plans were completely changed around. I began to see life as an adventure, and the changes were just part of the ride to be enjoyed. Some new exciting path that my guide must know something important about, but I just don't see it. But I could enjoy it and not worry, because I knew my guide was in control and knew what was happening and where we were ultimately going, and I knew he loved me and cares deeply for me and would never let anything happen to me that he though would damage me in the big picture. So I learned to live in trust. And I really found freedom, excitement and joy in it!
I also learned that I definitely do Not have the strength to make it day to day on my own. I came to the point where I just cried one day and told God, I didn't understand why, but I was just tired, and so worn out, and I just felt like I could never catch up. And I just couldn't do it. And He reminded me that I was never meant to. So I realized and grabbed onto the understanding that I have to draw on him every day, to live it to the fullest the way he intended and to be the person he wants me to through everything. So I realized that spending time with him, talking to him, and drawing truth and strength from his word, was my lifeline. It wasn't an option, it was a necessity. Even if I thought I was ok, I need him, and I know I'm not ok without him. And I realize that is the best place to be. I had to go to him, in every thing that came up, any little concern. Instead of taking it and thinking and worrying about it, I began to give him my concerns and talk to him and ask him about them and ask for his mind, and thinking, and perspective on all the things that came my way. It was like for the first time I realized how I'm supposed to live. I'm supposed to let go of everything, and give it to him. None of it is supposed to stay pent up inside me. God created me to be in relationship with him and go through life WITH him. And in all honestly, he takes the brunt and weight of everything if I will live it with him the way He designed me to. It's incredible. Thank you Father for loving me like no one will ever fully grasp, and being everything you are. Thank you for all you've grown in me. Please continue to make me more like you and draw me in to know and love you more for the rest of my life. I know there is so much of you that I'll never get to the end of the depth I can know and love you. Thank you Lord for everything!!!! I love you Father.
So as this chapter of my life closes, I believe it has simply prepared me for the next. I pray that everything I've gained from this experience stays just as vivid and becomes the foundation for the rest of my life, and another stage of growth as the Lord sees fit.
Now that I am home, It seems I still have not stopped running. I'm actually thankful that I've had many things to preoccupy me, so I don't have time to get bored and wonder what to do with my life. God has moved me right on to the next adventure, and I'm extremely excited!! I came home and was blessed to spend time with my grandma and aunts from IN. The week after, a very special man in my life (Joey Waddell) came to visit for spring break.
This is where the next chapter begins...
I picked him up from the airport in the morning on Saturday, March 12th. We decided to drive straight to the beach to just spend some time together and catch up after not having seen each other for 10 months. When we got there we decided to take a walk on the beach together. It was wonderful. I absolutely love the beach, the beauty, the freedom, the smell of the water, the sound of the waves, the feel of the sand between my toes. All of that, and the Man I love was right beside me, walking with me, his arm wrapped around me. There couldn't be a more perfect moment.
After a while we stopped and just enjoyed watching the water, standing there in each other's arms, savoring the feeling of finally being together again. I felt like I was finally home. I realize all this may seem sappy and over dramatized, but I truly love this man, and there is nothing more wonderful to me in this world than being in his arms. I truly am home when I am with him. He is a gift that I feel God gave me, simply to show me the depth of his love in a way more special than I ever fully understood or realized.
Joey turned me to him and hugged me and said "Well, we're here!" I responded, "Yes were finally here together!" Then he told me how much he loved me and how he loved everything about me, my quirkiness, and goofiness, my heart, smile and laugh, and a bunch of other wonderful things. ;) Then he said, "In spite of all this, I haven't been totally honest with you..." That struck me as odd, but I wasn't gonna let my imagination run away with itself. He continued, "I don't want to get married in August." We had been talking about getting married in August, and it had seemed quite difficult to get to that decision for various reasons. Now I was a little nervous, and He paused long enough to read all of it on my face. ;) I think I said something like "ok...?" ;-p hehe Then after he let me be nervous for a bit, he got down on his knee and said, I want to marry you a lot sooner than that! Leah will you Marry me? And he pulled out an absolutely gorgeous ring! It was amazing. I was So surprised and I felt so spoiled! Half of me wishes I would have said something like "Maybe..." or "I'll have to ask my dad" or "I'll have to think about it" just to tease him a little for making me sweat, ;) But there was no question in my mind. I said Yes!!!! and hugged him around the neck, and of course gave him a big kiss. ;) and a little later I said it again "Yes! Yes! Yes!!" hehe finally he sat down in the sand, and pulled me down next to him and we began to discuss and plan and get excited about our future together! Oh and we started calling everyone! :)
So, I am engaged! And the best part is the man I'm engaged to. ;) I love you baby. You are the most precious thing on earth to me. I am so excited that you are the man God gave me to love and share the rest of my life with. I can't wait! I know we have so many adventures to look forward to. And We will experience them together! Finally!
So now we are planning a wedding! OUR Wedding! on June 25th. :) What an incredible God we have. Lord you are the best writer of love stories anywhere in History. I guess it's because you are the author of the first and ultimate love story, our love story, with you. Thank you for first loving, and pursuing us Lord. Thank you that you are the source of passion, love, and the depth of all the mystery you've made these to have. It is the most beautiful thing in eternity. Teach us more about your kind of Love. And draw us deeper into our love story with you.

*More Pictures on Facebook

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Back on the Ship! :)

Happy New year everyone! Wow, I can't believe it is 2011. And to think, I started with Mercy Ships in August 2009. That sounds like a long time! hehe It's been an incredible experience. We had a really fun New year's Eve. We had a wonderful Dinner and then a great fire works show by some of the guys. Then we had a fun family dance party until midnight. At that point the entire valley lit up with fireworks from everyone living there. It was a hearty welcome to the new year and a dignified exit to the old. :)
I've been living in Apples Bosch College, our land base here in South Africa. But I'm back on the ship now! I've been here 9 days now. It is still being worked on, but it's nice to be living here again. It's kinda cool having the experience living on a work in progress; we have no air-conditioning, which has been interesting, though not too bad. and there is no electricity in many places. and everything else is just in a general working state, wires, open portholes, deck heads down, lots of messes etc. I kinda like experiencing the difference of it all to the norm.
I'm working in Reception right now, helping to train some new girls that have just arrived. They are great and I've been enjoying it.
Please keep praying for the completion of the work here. Things are moving but there is still a lot to be done.
We also just went to a big Cricket match in the Moses Mabhida Stadium, where the World Cup was hosted. It was fun to be part of the crowd at this match as it was the largest Cricket match in the entire history of the continent of Africa. The crowd was around 30,000, where others have only been numbers like 5,000 I believe. It was a cool experience. I was a part of history! :) Congratulations India! (India vs. South Africa).
Other than that, there's not a whole lot new to report. Things are slowly moving back to normal here on the ship. It's fun to watch it happen. :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Time!! and a random assortment of other adventures...

Hello everyone! Sadly it has been forever since I've updated my blog. But I'm catching up now! So your in for quite a lot of pictures. I've written the stories below the appropriate pictures. Enjoy! No, I haven't changed...;-p still my goofy self. hehe Me and my friend Shannon were putting up Christmas lights in her room and we happened to have some left over sticky tack. This was the result... :-p
Havin' fun. Who says you have to grow up ;)
Around Christmas time, we usually have some fun family events. This Christmas we've done Christmas tree decorating. making decorations from cookies and paper chains and popcorn chains etc.
We also made gingerbread houses and decorated them! this was ours. :)
This was our team. :) [Sharon, Gini, Shannon, Me] We were in a self-imposed competition with another team of our friends. At one point, we each got a big glob of icing and went over to our rivals nonchalantly, and THEN...We iced them! hehee it was fun. We had a good time. We all felt like kids again! I said, "this is the most awesome gingerbread house i've ever made in my whole life!" Gini was like, "Its prolly because were all in our twenties Leah..." lol
Yum! candy! sugar! We said, "So how long we gotta leave em before we eat em?" Gini was like, "I'm thinking, decorate, take a picture, and dig in!" hahah don't worry we didn't eat our masterpiece. We just did plenty of taste testing in the process of making it. :D
Somehow I got icing on my face. And then it just happened to be in the shape of a heart! What are the chances!
Aww I love them ;)
The various artistically sweet structures on display
Yay for Christmas Fun!! :)

Dental Adventures!
So this first adventure was something else! One Incredible Crazy day!
But it started out so normal....

...One day this was the place we were supposed to do a dental clinic. It was way up in the mountains.
We got there and there were probably 300 people there! We found out there was a cancer screening, and weren't even sure if we were expected. Comfort ended up speaking to all of them on dental hygiene and Jesus.
They still wanted us to set up and we all decided we might as well set up outside on the porch. After all it was a beautiful day and inside was packed with people!
I set up sterilization in the back of the landrover! Coolest set up ever! Now that's extreme.
Josh came out as a helper
yep, portable sterilization. That's right :-p
This was the most adorable baby! and again, I love how Africans hold their babies on their backs. So handy! (or hands free) ;)
This was our porch. And look at the beautiful sunny day. We had no idea what was brewing...
Suddenly the skys started to darken and it started raining and then hailing!
This is Gini showin a piece of hail. But we thought ah we'll just work through it.
This is quite comical in light of how things progressed...
It started pouring rain and hailing harder.
We were getting pelted and wet so we had to stop. we thought we'd just wait it out. Note our translator standing in the window sill :-p
it continued to rain and hail
then the rain started draining off the building and making a big pool at the edge of the concrete. and it looked like it was snowing outsided as you can see by the grass.
within minutes the water had flooded our little porch completely and our shoes were gettin soaked.
We had to try to move everything off the ground and Everything was muddy!
Then we all retreated to the top of chairs, making an obstacle course of walking across them grabbing stuff and bringing it inside. it only helped a little, not really at all in the end. we were soaked through. :D
Look at that river! it came all the way up to the building wall!
We couldn't believe it and it was so crazy that it was actually exciting!
So remember Gini's hail from earlier? Well this hail has already melted some. It got to the full size of ping pong balls!
Finally we got everything moved inside and tried to clean it off as best we could.
I set up my sterilization on some chairs ;-p
This is what outside looked like. Who knew this could happen in Africa!
Then the electricity went off! haha
But I still had stuff i needed to sterilize. Dryness was unfamiliar by this time...
Cold and wet and Still havin fun!
The building was full of people! and it was dark. We decided it was silly to try to work in the dark and wasn't very safe anyway.
So we left and got some warm drinks of hot chocolate and coffee at a quaint little coffee shop.
Me, Sandra, and Sieh
So as we were at the coffee shop the owner comes up and asks us if we take care of teeth. She then proceeds to ask if we can pull one of her employee's teeth, because the woman had been in pain for weeks. So Dag (our head dentist) looked at Kura (another dentist who was there for a couple months) and they both said, Sure! lol! So we got the local anasthetic and some forceps from the back of the land rover and Dag pulled her tooth in the back room of the coffee shop! :) What a day!
Me and sandra standing in front of Dag while he pulls the ladies tooth.
And that was the end of one of our greatest dental adventures ever!

We also went to many other locations which I have some photos of below:
I love getting baby duty ;)
another mountain clinic
We get distracted on the way sometimes cause the views just must be captured!
This is the kind of houses the Zulus make around here :)
One day after work we went to take a walk by a beach. Beautiful! It's always fun going places after work cause we look like a family of smurfs, all of us in our matching blue scrubs! It must be quite a comical thing to see.
Left: Deb (photographer), Sieh, Kura, Gini, Sandra, Me, Comfort, Lady who set up the clinic, Dag So something I've loved from the moment we got here, is that you will see cows and bulls just walking the streets. Its great. :)
Clinic to the homeless in Downtown Durban!
One of our clinics was in downtown durban to the homeless. This little girl got her tooth pulled and was really scared so I held her for a really long time and became friends with her. She tagged along with me the rest of the day. I later found out that her mother had just died not long ago.
This homeless clinic was held in a church! and one day they had a little worship service.
everyone really got into it. It was fun!
The patients would go up and take turns leading songs. Or share the mic. This church is where they all came for a meal every day.
I held her for probably an hour. It was sweet. I think she just missed being held by a woman.
There were some other little kids that came too! This little one and I colored for a while.
Yes I actually do work :) not just play with cute kids (though I like that part a lot!)
This woman's name was "Precious." And she was just that. She was this little patite pregnant woman. She was kinda scared but ended up being really brave. Holding hands and reasuring people is another thing I get to do sometimes.
This was our set up in the church for the homeless.
These two women gave out bread every day at the church.
Some of the team for this particular clinic.
One more quick story about this homeless clinic: We had security (a married couple who were both in the marines. we'll call them Bob and Sue) come with us, because it was just a rough area. In the middle of the day Bob was standing out at the entrance by the street and all of a sudden he got light headed and passed out and supposedly bumped his head. When he woke up he wasn't quite coherant. I ended up being an ambulence driver that day. Dag asked me if I could drive Bob and Sue to the hospital so everyone else could continue working. So I grabbed my bag and the keys and off we went. First we tried a government hospital but they wouldn't see us immediately so we went to a private one across town! Who know's what will happen when yer with Mercy Ships! Craziness! Quite a lot of excitement. He stayed over night but is now fine.
Random pictures from other clinics:
sterilizing at another clinic.
Comfort teaches dental hygiene to the patients as they wait and also gives a message about Jesus.
Patients waiting to be seen.
Team photos! :)

Linde Tvet, a highschooler from one of the families on board, had a birthday sleepover party, where we all had fun being girls and dressing up. I was one of the responsible adults. It was a good time. :)
kisses for the birthday girl!
left to right: Danae, Alana, Bess, Linde, Hannah, Rachel, Me
Charlie's Angels anyone? (Linde, Me, Rachel)
Getting makeovers! (Me, Danae, Christina)

One Saturday they had a project to help paint the parsonage for a little church across the street. They have a new pastor coming and needed help fixing up the house it was fun. :) At another time, we also helped to paint a preschool (called a "Creche" here) and put letters and shapes and other things on the walls to make it fun for the kids.
I wasn't tall enough, so I made do with my resources! hehe
Ok so these pictures are out of order, but one Saturday we went ziplining! So fun. This picture was taken at the end of the day when we were leaving and Me and Angie decided to roll down a hill on the way to the cars :-p hehe oh to be kids!
I found a comfy spot on a vine while I waited for everyone else to finish the line. I'm very at home when i'm climbing around :-p
At one of the landings there was a really pretty waterfall. It is bigger than what you can see here.
Jesse, Me and Angie in the back of the truck on the way to the tree lines.
All suited up and ready to fly!
Our group picture at the end of the lines.
(from left to right: Tim, Me, clare, Rachel, Angie, Miriam, Gini (back), Steph, Jesse)
yay for friends :)
we had to slide, stop at the tree so we didn't hit it, pose and then swing on. haha
I'm comin in for a landing!
in the truck on the way to the beginning of the trail. I was so excited to get to ride in the back of a truck again! It's been too long!
So most of my time here in South Africa, I've worked in the Galley because there wasn't a whole lot of work for me on the dental team since things run so differently here. I've really enjoyed the change of pace. And I love the people I work with. Good people, Good food. Can it get any better!?
We were making... uh, something with flour! haha and kinda had some fun. :)
Left: Linde, Jesse, Me, Marilyn
Marilyn, James, Bendic, Linde, Me, Jesse (Jesse is the head chef)
The galley is where I'm currently working. I'm enjoying it. As things constantly change here (which i like), I've been asked to go back to the ship in the first week of January, to work in Reception again, and help with the training of new team members. Life is definately an adventure! and I'm so glad God's taken me on this one!

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!!! And a wonderful New Year!!