Beneath a desert sky in Death Valley I went in search of U2’s Joshua Tree location. The tree itself is gone but I wanted to visit where it stood.
I explored areas that rivers run but soon run dry. I had climbed the highest mountains. I had run through the fieldsof vast desert spaces, walking obscure canyons I’d never seen. Searching Death Valley allowed me to feel sunlight on my face, before finding success in Death Valley had been like a dust cloud that disappeared without a trace.
In the quiet solitude a howl jumped out at me like a bullet the blue sky – a jet fighter shrieked from behind a hill and thundered low over me.
Instantly I was plunged back into the deadly desert silence to reflect back on all that I can’t leave behind when I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
All of our hotel and airline rewards have taken a beating while we’ve all experienced being grounded due to COVID-19.
I personally made 3 attempts to take a vacation before I succeeded!
Miriam and I finally got to visit Fiordland – one of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand. Fiordland National Park is a World Heritage Site and includes Milford, Dusky and Doubtful Sounds. Milford Sound was described by Rudyard Kipling as the Eighth Wonder of the World; take a look at the photos of my visit and you will understand why.
“I was waiting to die. I could not do anything. Every day, I was just waiting to die.”
Hope – something that Sambany desperately needed, something that was stolen from Sambany around 36 years ago when a tumor began to consume his life. In time, it was a monstrous burden, weighing 7.46 kg (16.45 lbs) – the equivalent of two heads.
The tumor caused unrelenting discomfort, “hot like fire”, said Sambany. “I cannot sleep at night, and even during the day it heated me up. When walking, it’s too heavy, I have to hold it.”
It was an emotional burden too. Sambany’s family and friends rejected him, mocked him, laughed at him, and shunned him. Some thought his condition was contagious hurling harsh words at him, “Why are you still alive? No one can help!”
Sambany had become so weak his home was now his prison and his life a deadening cycle of waking, eating, sleeping. He was useless to his family, watching them labour in rice fields while he wasted away, their poverty trapping them – if they dared to spend the little money they had trying to find help for Sambany they would have no money for food.
Sambany’s only escape was listening to the radio where one day an announcement sparked a flicker of hope: a hospital ship that would treat tumors for free was coming to Madagascar. Weak but with a newborn hope Sambany told his family, “Die or survive, I want to go!”
This was a desperate journey, a foolhardy struggle to survive. Sambany lived several days away from the nearest road and the Mercy Ship was hundreds of kilometers away… Sambany struggled to even walk around his house – how could he dare to dream of making the trip or even survive?
In our desparation hope gives us determination and those who truly love us do more than just smile or speak soft words, they rally with us behind the weak wish fanning it into dogged determination. Selling a rice field to pay for the trip they gathered what little they had and hoisted Sambany on the their back and set off. For two days they walked, six people taking turns to carry Sambany on their backs before they could even reach transport. Then Sambany sufferred a painful taxi ride for six hours…and arrived at M/V Africa Mercy.
Sambany’s monstrous burden weighing 7.46 kg (16.45 lbs) – the equivalent to two heads – would be extremely high-risk for Sambany and the medical team, for almost two weeks wrestled with the danger and course of action.
After a lifetime of hearing, “No, no, no,” Sambany heard the words “yes” from the Africa Mercy. Well aware of the risks Sambany said, “I know without surgery I will die. I know I might die in surgery, but I already feel dead inside from the way I’m treated,”.
12 hours in theatre with over twice Sambany’s volume of blood lost and replaced, Mercy Ships crew literally poured life into Sambany with blood from seventeen people from six nations.
Soon enough Sambany was free from the burden that had weighed him down for nearly two-thirds of his life. He held a mirror up to look at himself for the first time and reached out to touch the tumour that was gone, “I am free from my disease. I’ve got a new face. I am saved!”
Together, Mercy Ships and Sambany had fought for his life, and by the grace of God, they had won.
It’s my privilege to serve Sambany and all the other patients and crew of Mercy Ships as a Musical Ambassador and together you and I can use music with a mission to rock the boat!