The auxiliary services of the hospital (ie the lab, pharmacy, radiology, etc) are one side of the hospital while the wards are on the other side. We have Wednesday morning devotions together, a meeting together every other week (a fortnight in British speech), and we often sit together on breaks. The radiology lab is next door to the pharmacy, so I see Petra often, as well as Jeanette, a dayworker from Conakry. Jeanette sits with the patients as they wait for their x-rays or scans, and she translates and explains the process to the patients.
So Jeanette invites several of us to go to church with her at the beginning of September, but due to the the demonstrations, we weren't allowed to travel for a while. Finally, this past weekend, she met us at 9 am at the ship, and we traveled 40ish minutes to get to her church home. It's a pentecostal church off of a main road, and the inside was decorated with rich fabric and flowers in glass cases. We sat in rows of 8 amid beautiful ladies in regal african fabric dresses and hats and men in dark pants and button down shirts. And when the church started with a single voice from offstage merging into multiple harmonies as the gospel choir walked onstage, I knew it was going to be a good church service. Jeanette had warned me that we were going to dance and sing praise, but I was unprepared. Woefully unprepared. No amount of wedding reception two-step or cupid shuffle or electric slide could have made me remotely on par with this praise and worship dance. je voudrais complete son histoire, mon nom c'est kevin effowe je suis Togolais, je travail au dining room pour maintenent 14 mois, ok bonne suite de ton histoire;
That's Kevin. He's from Togo and works on the ship in the dining room and is quite the prankster. I went to check out the fall carnival and get some spicy popcorn, and I came back to find he'd hijacked my post. Continuing on...some of the praise music was in french, some in english, but it all involved standing up and dancing and moving around. Towards the end, we formed what might best be described as a praise conga line that marched around the room seven times before sitting down. On a side note, it might help to know that a popular song sung in the wards has the lines, "Sing a song for Jesus, we shake our bodies for Jesus." It's a bit of an understatement to say that music and movement are important parts of worship here. And I loved it. There were people of all ages dancing up front, in the aisles, on stage, in rows, everywhere. Then it was like every other church service I've been to. The words were different, the methods may be a little different, but it was really comforting to see how faith and worship plays out similarly in Indianapolis and Conakry. We pray, we search the bible for answers, we reflect, we have announcements, we have offerings. I'm sure the similarities have something to do with missionaries carrying the same faith from Europe to Africa as they did to America, but it was still a reminder that we are all one body, united in faith.
The week has played out pretty uneventfully. I got to do another Mercy Ministry where I visited a pediatric hospital ward. It was really heartbreaking, but I'm glad I went. A doctor gave us a tour and introduced the patients, but I couldn't always follow what brought each kid to the hospital. I forget that on the ship we mostly have surgery patients, so the kids aren't necessarily sick if they're on the wards. So often I encounter bubbly, curious, smiling patients as I'm checking medications that it was a bit of a shock to see so many quiet, reserved kids on the beds by their parents.
We brought puzzles and coloring books and toys to pass out, but the biggest hit was the bubbles. There was one little girl who was a little sister of one of the patients, who was really wary of all of us. We brought out the bubbles, and she staunchly refused to come near us. We'd smile, cajole, laugh, hand the wand to her to see if she wanted to try, her mom would tell her to try, but she wasn't having it. So I moved on to some older girls who were asking to try. We'd blow bubble showers in the air and take turns trying to catch each bubble before it hit the floor. Not five minutes later, this little pink flash came rushing by and started chasing bubbles. It was great. The look of sheer terror had been replaced by a beautiful smile, and she started reaching for the wand to try to blow a new bubble shower. Of course, it's a little hard for a 2 year old to master the subtleties of bubble blowing-mostly the film would pop before making bubbles, but it was really exciting to see her attitude towards us change and to see her so excited with each new wave of the wand. For the kids that couldn't leave their rooms, we walked to each bed and let parents and kids alike try their hand at catching bubbles. Again, the smiles were so encouraging, and I'm glad we could bring something fun to a place that isn't always fun or happy, at least for a few hours.