working with real people

Some people are never happy. They are always looking for the next “big thing”. The next job or house will make them feel like they’ve made it.

Or they’re constantly hiding. They are always trying to cover up their mistakes, defend their actions and poor decisions even when they know where the fault lies. Some people are so insecure that they can’t bear to own it because it would leave them too exposed.

We all know a few people like that. We meet them at work, at school, and at church. They are annoying. They get away with too much and seem to oppose the inspiration at work within us. They don’t oppose us on purpose; their sole presence just makes our day a little more difficult. We are bothered by how much they can get away with.

I don’t want to work or live with people like that. That’s not my definition of a stimulating work environment.

In a perfect world

I want to work in a place where people can see inspiration at work in their professional community. I want to work in a place where people travel from across the oceans to see if the amazing stories are true. I want to work with people who are so excited about their jobs that they can’t help but whisper, “I love this job” several times a week. I want to work in a setting that addresses the cutting edge surgical needs in developing countries. I want to work in a hospital where people recognize the value of teamwork and kindness. I want to work alongside individuals who are passionate about the purpose they work towards.

Then there’s me

Unfortunately, I often fall into the “defensive and hiding” category. I can’t pretend that I’m always the person that people want to be around or work with. If I’m well-mannered and likable, it’s only because I’m skilled at removing myself once I’ve reached my limit and holding my tongue. (Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes it’s bad).

I’ve gotten the chance to work in many departments on the Africa Mercy. I’ve witnessed people that exemplify each of the characteristics I want to see in an ideal workplace. I’ve worked on the wards with inpatients most of the time, including the Dressings Team, Plastic Surgery, Orthopedics and Women’s Health. I’ve also worked with patients before and after their admission to the hospital like Outpatients, Admissions and Screening. I’ve even done miscellaneous work in the Dental Department, the Dining Room, and the Human Resources Department! After 2 years, I feel like I’ve been everywhere.

My experiences in so many departments help me see inspiration at work on this ship.

Inspiration at work everywhere

I meet people from so many different corners of the organization that it’s hard not to be amazed at how God brought us all to this place at just the right time. I hear and see stories about nurses and doctors going above and beyond for a patient that really needs a personal touch. Team Leaders that organize prayer vigils for special patients make me wonder what gifts of mine I could add. Supervisors that help a local employee when his wedding cake plans fall through make me rethink how loyal of a friend I would be to a local. Coworkers that bring me toast with butter when I’m sick in bed make me want to be available to other friends when they’re not feeling great.

This community is truly, vibrantly, beautiful. It’s full of wonderful people who want to make a difference.

But exactly what makes the difference? Why do I see inspiration at work so clearly, so often, in this place? Why do people return to the Africa Mercy year after year?

If I really look, everything isn’t perfect here either. People make mistakes. Sometimes the bureaucracy seems overwhelming. Sometimes people hurt you, and then hurt you again. Sometimes it’s an accident, and sometimes we take things too personally. We pass judgments on people we don’t really know and we lash out when someone makes a mistake that cuts into our “sacred” space.

So what’s the difference? How does inspiration stay alive in the midst of messed up people? Why is this place so special in spite of us?

The difference lies in the community.

I don’t mean the community we’ve fostered and built up ourselves. I mean the community that just IS when you live and work in the same place as your neighbors. All 400 of them. Not only that, but we all fight for the same cause, which centers around “love”.

Inspiration at work on the Africa Mercy, Mercy Ships
Photo Credit Mercy Ships

Living and working in proximity to each other forces us to weigh the consequences of our impatient comments or lazy mistakes. Furthermore, when we don’t weigh the consequences ahead of time, we tend to live with the consequences in real time. When we make poor choices that affect our community, the effects ripple out and soon we’ll feel them! Until we drop at least a grand on a plane ticket, we’re stuck here.

So maybe that’s the missing ingredient: take away all easy options to escape. Maybe not?

When we enter into community yet hold on to our right to leave when the going gets tough, we lose the ability to reap the benefits of true community. True community, although voluntary, has a trademark of people enduring the tough times because they believe it’s worth it. People go above and beyond for their neighbor because they remember when someone did that for them.

There is immeasurable value in living with other people. It forces us to drop our masks and be real. Less space to hide sounds terrifying, but it forces genuine relationships until we realize that we actually like genuine relationships. I don’t want to imagine a life where I don’t live alongside others. That’s definitely not to say that I want to stay on this ship forever. Not true. However, I’m so glad I’ve experienced the beauty of living in community and I will fight to keep that in my life in whatever shape I can find.

It makes me so excited to feel the passion and love of others rubbing off on anyone in close proximity. It’s what makes this place so worth it even when I question why God called me here. The sharing and exchanging and encouraging that happens on this ship is something no one quite understands until they visit. It’s supernatural. That’s the beauty of the Mercy Ships community. Inspiration at work within these walls in every department for the cause of love.

At home in the U.S. community living happens, but people are always remarking on how noticeable it is here on the Africa Mercy. While there is no doubt this place is markedly different, I’m really curious about where you see community living come to life.

If you have lived here on the ship, do you see community more clearly here? Can you see community being lived out by friends and family at home? If you live in the U.S. where do you see the benefits of community most clearly?


16 comments on “Inspiration at Work in the Africa Mercy Community”

  1. I love such a private life when I’m at home in the states. And even on my last trip abroad, I had a lot of privacy when it came to living. But my first day in Ireland and I’m living with 10 guys in a hostel. Despite these being people from my school some of which I see daily, it totally changes things when your forced to live side by side. Cooking together, showering together and sleeping not more than 5′ from the next person. We already have more of a sense of community now than I did when I left the states. It’s uncomfortable but that might be the best part. Getting out of that comfort zone!

    • Kamillah, I should clarify that I LOVE my private, alone-time. It’s possible to live in community and still hide out. Although it sounds a lot harder for you than for me currently. I can’t wait to hear about how that goes 🙂

  2. WE all make mistake, and that’s okay. It is okay if we learned from our mistakes, move on and never do that mistakes again.

  3. Why are you in my head ? Lol I get the whole defensive types at my job which has me question on my purpose and what it is . Hmmm

  4. I enjoy a community to a point. But then I need my own space. I’m married with two kids and I make sure I get “me” time or else I’ll lose my mind.

  5. I do a lot of pulling of articles for clients and much of the content centers around the idea of your company culture and how to help it be more positive. Clearly it’s an epidemic in the business world- people are so out for themselves. Love your take, on it.

  6. Community time is great if takes up maybe an eighth of my time. I love spending time with my husband alone and also time to myself just doing what I love 🙂

  7. I am such a homebody. I have a small group or work friends that I hang out with but i am such a low tolerant person and I call everyones BS and I can read people well thats why my group is small.

  8. This is interesting. I’ve never heard about Africa Mercy. I hope to hear more about your experience. It might not really be my thing, but it’s still super intriguing nevertheless.

    • I’m a super-introvert and love my own time and space, but at work I have to be in community, so might as well have a good one.

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