(This is a running post about a nurse's experience on a hospital ship, the Africa Mercy)
10 November 2012
They would invade villages to murder the men and boys. They would chop off children's hands and feet, leaving them maimed and
crippled. They would kidnap young boys and force them to carry
guns and do unspeakable atrocities to their own families, hardening them to a life of violence as members of the rebel forces.
Last year, one of our day crew had been machine-gunned along with all the rest of the men of his village--he alone survived. The year before, when I was in Sierra Leone, I saw many of the young people who had had limbs chopped off when they were babies or children. The city had gangs of youth who lived a life of crime, the only "job skil" they had learned from their conscription into the rebel army. The wounds of war were still very much in evidence. Ibrihim, the young man I mentioned, was thirteen when the rebel forces invaded the school he attended. They shot the teacher and kidnapped the boys for their army. Most of the boys had to carry guns and kill people, but Ibrihim was big for his age, and strong.
The leader of the army unit had a young girl who was his prize possession. She was treated like a princess, which meant, among other things, that her feet were not allowed to touch the ground. Ibrihim was assigned the duty of carrying her everywhere she went. One day, about eight months after his capture, he heard a voice telling him to run, and run he did. He ran all day and into the night. He traveled for several days, until finally he found some people who believed him (he was still wearing his school uniform, the only clothes he had). They helped him to get home, back to his parents. But in telling the story, Ibrihim doesn't sound bitter.
Instead, he mentions how thankful he is that he did not have to carry a gun and kill people. My second thought comes from attending the church service on the ward this morning, and from other opportunities I've had to worship with Africans, both in West Africa and in Congo. They are exuberant! You might mistake it for a football rally--but the focus is on praising God and giving thanks. It seems like no matter how hard their circumstances or what they have suffered, they enter wholeheartedly into worshiping God. Their attitude of gratitude is one of their great cultural strengths, it seems to me.
phrase. The phrases will repeat, back and forth between the leader and the people, reminding me of the structure of some of the Psalms, with their responsive chants. The leader will gradually evolve to new phrases, and the song continues. At some point, someone else will take the lead, singing what they want to sing.
The melody also changes from time to time--it feels like something organic, one thing leading to another, but it is all expressing praise and thanksgiving to God. There aren't any songbooks, and no designated succession of leaders. It just seems to happen spontaneously, everybody participating.
So, which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Does the pervasive attitude of gratitude give the worship singing its energy, or does their style of worship fuel their hearts with thanksgiving that spills over into the rest of their lives? Who cares? It works! It's beautiful!
Blessings to you all,Marilyn
Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy.