August 20, 2018

One day a few weeks ago, I was walking through the café with my arms full of items, Brad said "Lindsay we need to go talk to the Ship Security Officer (also known as the SSO) and I know the look on my face had to be complete and utter confusion. He then said "I received an email about the screening and positions they need, let's just go talk to him". I really wanted to be a part of the screening event coming up and he was willing to help me in any way possible.

Let me give a little bit of a back story as this is a new blog for a new field service. I worked, and will continue to work in the post-operative recovery room as a nurse part time (that is a complicated issue for a whole other blog of its own). I had heard that there was a need on the screening team for this field service and I immediately emailed the screening team leader to ask if they would be willing to allow me to help, in the complicated part time hours but was quickly told no. I must admit I had been told no so many times, I had started to get sad because there are areas I really want to work on the ship, and because I am a NICU nurse back home, many people don't even consider me a real nurse. Which is hard, but to some people, I guess they think I only play with babies all day.

Anyways, I am digressing. I stayed in the PACU until the end of our first field service in Cameroon (throws confetti around in celebration) and felt accomplished. We went home on PTO (not paid time off, as we are not paid but personal time off) and enjoyed the luxuries of our home and abundant lives in the US. We returned to the ship the end of July. I survived (with victory I might add) the short 5 day sail to Guinea, where I heard the rumblings of the screening that would take place and that there would be a need for help. I began to express my desire to anyone who would listen, but not knowing who to contact formally I began to again feel discouraged.

Return to Brad finding me in the café as he received an email (that he wasn't meant to I might add, but we will return to that later) and he knew my heart was to be involved in the screening day. I love that my wonderful and caring husband is always so thoughtful and tries so hard to fulfill my every wish and desire (obviously he is living on a ship with us). I ended sending a Facebook message to our SSO's wife out of desperation because I kept missing him in his office, my email wasn't working, and the voicemails are down ship wide. I will never forget his response of "I will fit you in somewhere".

The day before the event all of the volunteers gather and go to the site, and try to imagine what it will look like the next day and do a run through. It was a mess, a beautiful and crazy mess. We just had to say "the Lord will make the roles clear tomorrow and we will do them" and boy was this true! My sweet friend on board the ship told me "Lindsay, this will be top 5 one of the hardest days of your life, pray it up". I remember thinking after that moment of some of my "worst days" and wondering how they could compare. I would soon find out.

The morning of, I got out of bed at 5 am, not even exhausted like I thought I would be, but quite excited to see how God was going to use me. I gathered my packed lunch, and my 5 liters of water I had packed in a backpack and went down to the dining room to meet my fellow patient escorts. That was my official title and we all had a sense of excitement about us. As I was sitting there I remembered it is our anniversary, I run back upstairs to kiss this amazing husband of mine (7 years of marriage, 12 total) and thank him for making this possible. I hung a card I brought him from home on the bathroom door and was back out to join my group.

I remember filing into the car and the night shift people saying "there are a lot of people there already" and I thought great, we will hit the ground running. I watched out the window as our amazing team leader and driver navigated the crazy African streets to the site of the screening and we approached the gate we were to pull in. There were thousands of people. A lump formed in my throat. as we were puling in to the compound people were jumping onto our vehicle trying to get in. It took 4 people at that gate to get the gate reclosed and locked. Seeing all of this I still had no clue what I would be walking into. We gathered our bags and headed up to the command center, which is a vantage point for security, and from here we could see what we will call the south gate. Immediately you see the several thousand people that are located at this gate.

We were asked to pray as we knew we couldn't open the gate in a manner that was safe for all parties, the people of Guinea or the crew there working. All the different teams gathered and lifted up the day and all our concerns to the Lord. Now I wish I could tell you that the anxiety and desperation of the people was suddenly and miraculously eased but that is not the truth. In fact the more we tried to encourage people to back away from the gate, simply so we could open it, the more worked up many of them became. Some because they physically could NOT move, they were pinned up against these metal bars by the hundreds of people pushing toward the gate behind them. Others simply did not want to move because they were afraid of losing their place in line. We knew we had to find another alternative.

We discovered what we will call the Central gate down the road a bit towards the back of the compound, it was a viable option as the crowd "could be more controlled". The local military brought in their trucks and began backing them into the crowd of people who had gathered at this gate to create a funnel, which created more panic and desperation. I was not at the initial opening of this gate, but I was at the next two. One crew member sharing at our debriefing yesterday, described the people coming in " it was like one big breathing organism of desperation, there was no humanity" as people were climbing on top of people. Clawing their way through as military and police are using force on people in their attempts to "control the crowd" and the elderly, women, and children are being trampled at the bottom. This first opening of the gate, many have described how awful and heart breaking a sight it was, but have also said how clearly God's hand was on it as the security team working this gate was able to close the gate (Which due to the sheer number of people pushing on it from the outside would've been physically impossible) in time to save the lives of the people at the bottom.

I was located just up the path from there, and I will never forget the sight of 250 people 7 people wide charging in our direction. A lump formed in my throat again, I must have been ghost white and I uttered "Lord please help us" and we got to work. I positioned myself to the right of the group and was so thankful for the gentleman 10 steps in front of me that spoke French, as he said to them "slow down, one by one, we will see all of you". I was able to repeat the "slow down, one by one" over and over.
I will always remember the look on their faces as they realized it was okay and started walking. It was a miracle. The patient escorts and other security members were able to help the people form a beautiful and orderly line. It was BEAUTIFUL.

I was then asked to go stand by the south gate, as were hoping to open it and I was to be the first person they would see and I would show them where to go and how to walk the line. As I am standing there I am probably no more 6 feet from the people on the other side of the fence. Face to face with these people. People are yelling at me "my friend, my friend please help us.". This is where I had the hardest time, as there were several parents who were pinned against this gate as I told you before, pleading with me to take their children through the gate. A father wanted to hand his toddler over, a mother wanted to hand her tiny baby through, arm after arms outstretched eyes locked on me pleading me to help them. It became clear we still could not open this gate, so I was sent back to the other gate to help bring in the next round of patients.

The moments begin to whirl around in my head, it almost feels like a slide show of pictures playing on super speed. I can catch snips of different images, and the last two nights when I close my eyes it plays over and over again. I dreamt of the line last night. I dreamt of the screams and the heartache. People on the ground, teams around working to assist them. Me, with my arms through the gate taking a women's pulses reassuring her and others. Holding peoples hands and encouraging them to remain calm. I came home utterly broken and exhausted and needed time to go through it all.

I awoke today with a migraine, and I believe it was stress induced. I told myself I would share of the countless miracles I observed. So here goes. When we arrived, we were able to close the gate after driving in. The multitudes of people who came together to pray, not only on the site but across the WORLD. The sense of calm and peace that was felt once the patients arrived within the compound. The orderly lines that were formed with no barricades, simply smiles and a "follow me". The team working together as one beating heart. The group that came to deliver lunch, and was then used for a multitude of other things. Seeing my husband at the site, when I felt like breaking which helped me regain control. The cloud cover that kept those of us out in the crowd from baking. The brief and refreshing rain that came through just when we needed it. Seeing the same parents the begged me to take their children come through the line. The laughter that was shared with the patients. The smiles that would light up across their faces from a simple hello. Being able to give high fives to all the children that walked through. Hearing the Holy spirit remind me over and over "they will know who's we are by our love" and being able to show that love to every person. Being able to have the privilege of looking nearly 6000 in the eyes and express to them love via a smile, that I cared. Seeing every patient that was in line come in. Coming back to the ship in a working vehicle. My husband collected me dinner so I wouldn't have to. A hot shower. Being able to cry to my husband ( I think of all of those who don't have a Brad to lean on). Friends messaging me to check on me, and having coffee made just for me and letting me cry to them because they were correct that it was one of the top 5 worst days yet full of so full of blessings. Lastly, Grace.

I came away from this event having witnessed miracles. I witnessed the body of Christ coming together and working like one beating heart for a His purpose. I saw desperation and despair in so many faces and eyes and it changed me. I will never be the same, and I am blessed that the Lord is growing me. I am still working through the emotions of this day, as for me it was quite difficult to see.


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