It?s official: this is definitely not life as usual. Kim and I returned to the M/V Africa Mercy to spear head the restart of the Mercy Ships cataract surgery program in Benin, a west African country of about 8.5 million people.
We lived on board from 2006 ? 2010 and in fact have served in Benin before. But it?s different this time.
What I notice is not so much the poverty, voodoo, sickness, and blindness which are all around us in spades, that is about the same, sad to say. Rather, I see more vividly the contrast between light and darkness, sadness and joy. Take for example this young man who had LP vision in both eyes with fibrotic pinpoint pupils and dense white cataracts. Sometimes, there is significant improvement. Surgery went well but this time, no improvement. You can see the tears on his face from giving him the news. Great sadness for all.
But on the other hand, a young lady 19 years old and gradually lost her vision until 3 years ago she quit school and her dream of being school teacher was gone. She was HM and LP. I did both eyes the same day because of her unusual situation and one day postop MSICS she is 6/9 and 6/24 (one eye is intentionally slightly myopic). You can see the joy in the faces of the whole group that day.
Jesus said He came to give us life and that abundantly. I wonder if He was talking about the fullness of life, both sadness or joy. Almost by intention we create a sameness to everyday life. Perhaps moments of happiness when a team wins, a child succeeds, a spouse expresses their love- but not the same profound joy we can experience in life, and certainly we try to avoid the deep sadness. Being here reminds me that Jesus never avoided the extremes of life. And he wanted us to have it full force, in your face, good and bad. Perhaps that?s when we can hear Him the best: the voice we hear in great joy and sadness is His.