North Africa Debrief

It is difficult to express all that God taught me and showed me through my recent trip to North Africa.  In Africa, I joined a team of medical professionals and a few non-medical volunteers to try to show the love of God to the people we encountered by giving them our hearts and our skills to care for them in an area of great need: their health.

In the country we visited, many individuals, especially women and children, have difficulty getting medical care when they need it.  Also, the care received by those lucky or wealthy enough to receive it is not as well regulated as in the US.  We saw these hardworking people come in with joint pain and low back pain, and we were able to give them tylenol, physical therapy, and sometimes injections to help with their pain.  We saw women with personal issues that caused them discomfort and embarrassment, and we were able to give them antibiotics and other medicines that helped.  We saw children with malnutrition, chronic diarrhea, and various kinds of parasitic worms, and we gave them multivitamins, rehydration solution, and de-worming medicines.

One day, we had a roomful of individuals from a local disability home come in to receive care. We saw mothers and fathers care for their children with syndromes and deformities, looking at them with incredible love, caring for them with amazing compassion and perseverance, and seeking all of the good that they could for their children.

We saw children with problems as simple as ear infections that had changed their lives.  Numerous children had perforated ear drums from chronic, untreated ear infections. One girl, due to this problem, has been deaf since the age of one.  She cannot go to school and cannot communicate outside of her family, which has developed their own form of sign language, because of something as easily treated as an ear infection.

We saw many healthy individuals who came in with one complaint or another, but who really came in to have somebody listen to their stories and care about them.  Many mothers wanted reassurance that their children were healthy and they were doing a good job caring for them.

And that is what God allowed me to witness in clinic.  But I learned so much more than that!

God showed me the glory of His creation when we hiked the Atlas mountains for an entire day.  I was absolutely worn out and sore for days, but it was DEFINITELY worth it!  The absolute beauty of these mountains was stunning.  I took about a million pictures to be able to share what I saw with family and friends back home, but nothing could capture the vastness and grandness of what I saw being there.  We were surrounded by God's creation, and it blew me away.  God is beautiful.  God is good. I am blessed.

And the greatest lesson I came home with was when God revealed his amazing love FOR ME through my team's attempts to love the people of North Africa.  Never before in the entirety of my life had God been so real and so obvious in His love for me. He used the people I was serving with, the patients we encountered, the translators, the devotions our team did, and a book I read on my travels (Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller) to reveal His amazing, all-encompassing love for me.  As a chronic "performer" all of my life, the full acknowledgement that God loves me for me, and not for what I can offer or how "good" I am was beautiful.  The realization that it is not arrogant to think that God loves me in a crazy, passionate, and dynamic way changed my life.  And out of His astounding love for me, I could better see His love for others and how He was calling me to love and to serve others as well!  And this lesson, I hope to apply for the rest of my life.

"I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God"
-Ephesians 3: 17-19

"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  
God is love.  
Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him"
-1 John 4:16