Another day of work is done. I fill my water bottle at the hospital spigot. Straightening up slowly, I pause to smile and lift my hands in greeting to an Arab woman watching me. With my eyes I try to communicate all my mouth cannot. She smiles broadly in return and then turns back to her close family circle lounging on a crimson carpet. I walk toward the hospital gate with the day’s activities replaying in my mind. The baby who died . . . how I'd been surprised . . . wondering what had happened . . . how it felt to care for the girl with aids . . . and those bats who peed on me in morning worship. My thoughts don't stay on the level of events, but leap into the realm of questions, wondering's and contemplation. After greeting the guard man and the half a dozen people lingering outside the gate I commence my solo walk home. People smile and greet me all along the way. Children run to their family gate to shake my hand then scamper back to their family's mat. I continue down the road. At home my family greets me happily. Longing for companionship I join them on the mat. We have simple conversation about the weather and the day’s events, then I sit back to observe their lively family activities. They tell funny stories, discuss politics and who knows what else, in Mun-dong. I can smile and observe, but not comprehend.
My thoughts are still there. They are pressing and I long to talk to someone about them. God has blessed, but my feeble French only holds a teaspoon of my ocean of thoughts. Even if I was able to make myself understood I don't think I would find comprehension in my beloved African family. I long to share experiences and process thoughts with another missionary.
My fellow missionaries all offer wonderful encouragement in the time I spend with them, but after the visit is over, they stay with their family and I go home to my hut. Everyone else has somebody with whom they work, eat, sleep or rely on for care when sick. My work, living conditions, and location all set me apart, alone. I'm the only missionary nurse, the only one in the village, the only one with a vastly different diet and way of life. All my life I have had someone I relied on for comfort, protection, hugs, or an encouraging word. This isolation is something new.
At times the simile of being thirsty in the middle of the ocean has come to mind. All day I am surrounded with people to talk with, patients to minister to and children to play with, but despite this there is loneliness. My days are chalk full of amazing experiences, spiritual lessons or beautiful sights. It is hard not to have someone to share them with. I store them up in my heart, write pages, and learn more of what it is to talk with God as a friend.
Alone-ness is not my enemy, but here it has been flames in the furnace of God for me. When all human and earthy supports are removed, I am unable to replace God. He is the only one on whom I can rely. Despite its positive spiritual lessons, this experience has given me a new prayer for every missionary in the field . . . that every worker for God has a fellow worker who can lift up their hands when they are weak.
Through prayers and messages, many of you have been my "fellow workers." You have encouraged me more than you'll ever know.
Thank you my friends.