Two years ago

I had to make a decision. It was the first major decision of our 2-year marriage where we both wanted completely different things. I wanted to leave the Africa Mercy and he wanted to stay.

Fast forward two years and we are still here! Time is measured here in units of “commitments”. Everyone has to sign on for a specific length of time. Two years ago, I finally consented to the 2-year commitment Ruben was hoping for.

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As the end of our current commitment kept approaching, we knew we would have to readdress the subject. I’m grateful that we were on the same page! People are always saying how wonderful it must be to travel and serve together. Yes, I’m quick to remind them, it’s great but it’s even better when we manage to agree on the same path! We have different motivations and “callings” to this work. Cuz, you know, we’re different people.

Is it time to go home?

The answer feels impossibly subjective, yet it was the deepest, most obvious gut feeling I had. (Keep in mind that I speak for myself, not for Ruben.)

I’ve wanted to go home since December 2014. Yup. Virtually since the beginning. Let me explain. It was MY dream to come here. It was something I wanted to do before I graduated from nursing school, before I met Ruben, and before I had the required experience. However, I came, I tasted, I learned a few lessons, but after a few months, I was tired of learning lessons. Okaaay… I’ve had my fill and I’m ready to go now.

That might sound like I volunteered as a way to tick something off a bucket list. I can relate to that, but I think it goes deeper. Let me explain a little more.

Can I make a difference?

I’ve always wanted to do something big or make some huge difference in the world. I can remember in college during a workshop on prayer how I responded when the leader asked why I was there. “I want to be a revolutionary.” That was my response. This may sound very swollen-headed but, ultimately, my deep desire is to serve. However I’m still searching for what I can put all my passion behind. What can I be revolutionary about?

[A note about being revolutionary… you can move across the world and remain in your comfort zone. You can live among different cultures and never get to know them. You can fly away from home, yet cling to every possible comfort blanket you can find. I’ve learned that no matter where I am, I have small, yet revolutionary choices laid in front of me.]

called from USCG to Mercy Ships

Anyway, it was my idea, but Ruben was the one God called at a specific time and place. Ruben was the one who phoned me from duty at the Coast Guard station and told me he wanted to serve God in a deeper, more holistic way. He wanted to be radical for Christ and serve God with everything he had. I had told Ruben about Mercy Ships over a year prior, but I had accepted what it might look like to be a “military wife”.

It was my dream come true. But once I got here, the work wasn’t what I expected. Many expectations (that I had tried not to have) were left unfulfilled, and it was hard for me to connect with my patients like I always had. The community on the ship looked strong and thriving, but I didn’t know how to enter in when people were always coming and going. It was hard being a newlywed and balancing personal with work constantly.

Related Post: How I Experienced Cross-Cultural Nursing

When we decided to stay longer (read about that decision here), I adjusted my attitude and aimed to make the best out of it. Looking back though, I was still searching for something that drove me with my whole heart.

I’ve asked a few friends over the past few months about their feelings regarding home. They tell me, without a doubt, that you couldn’t pay them to return to the U.S. That’s when it was even more obvious to me. Comparison isn’t always bad; it confirmed my gut feelings. I love serving on the Africa Mercy, but I’m still looking for a cause that drives me the way I’ve seen in others.

at peace with our decision

My longing for home is nothing new. In fact, unlike many others that come and go from this place, I’ve never had the chance to miss this place because I’ve never been gone long enough. Neither did I have the chance to feel my time coming to an end.

We decided early in this Benin field service that going home at the end was a strong possibility. By late November, we had agreed on the best plan for us.

Until now. And I feel so ready. I still feel like I’m jumping off a plane into the unknown. Will I crash into the society that feels foreign to me? Or will all this passion slowly leak out? I don’t know. I feel so different from everyone else, but maybe I’ll feel that way for the rest of my life.

Why I'm Going HOme; Thoughts on Leaving Mercy Ships; Provocative Joy


2 comments on “Why I’m Going Home: Thoughts on Leaving Mercy Ships”

  1. It’s so funny how our lives are separated by several thousand miles of ocean, yet I see myself so clearly in your stories. Your next big change is incredibly close timing to my next big change in life. I feel like I’m jumping off a plane into uncharted territory too!

    I wonder how you will feel about your time on the Africa Mercy as you guys continue your lives in the US. How some time of reflection will help you to continue in what God has in store for you next.

    • That’s so cool to see how we’re connected! You and I have a similar spirit of doing things in new ways and following our own path. I’m excited for both of us and especially to be in the same country as you!

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