Sunday, November 17, 2013

Africa Mercy - War and Worship: One Nurse's Journey

More from Marilyn in Africa. She tells the story of Ibrihim, an Africa Mercy crewman she has come to know. The brutality that so many children like him suffered in the 1990s during Sierra Leone's Civil War is chilling.........Sharon

(This is a running post about a nurse's experience on a hospital ship, the Africa Mercy)

10 November 2012
War and Worship
Greetings, my friends. I have two thoughts to share, and perhaps they are related. I heard a bit of the life story of one young man from Sierra Leone who is now part of the African Mercy crew. As you may remember, Sierra Leone had a terrible civil war in the 1990's. The rebel forces were murderous and cruel, and many terrible things happened.

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.
I'm sure you've heard African worship music.  If not, you have   missed something rich.  In general, the only instrumentation is     drums.  The complicated rhythms give pulse and energy to the     singing--they can really stir the blood. Generally someone will      lead off with a song, and the people answer by singing a responsive
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,

Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy.


No comments:

Post a Comment

"Stay" is a charming word in a friend's vocabulary
(A.B. Alcott). Stay and visit awhile. Your comments mean a lot to me.

About Me

My photo
You could call me an eternal optimist, but I'm really just a dreamer. l believe in dream fulfillment, because 'sometimes' dreams come true. This is a blog about my journey as a writer and things that inspire and motivate me.