Michelle Harris, associate director of UB Global
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
In September, I traveled to Sierra Leone to visit our Mattru Hospital team. For five days in Mattru, we focused on the work at the hospital. It’s a busy place—for the medical staff as well as our engineering team. The November Worldview newsletter gave a glimpse into the routines of our staff in the article “Three Times a Day.”
Getting the group together at Mattru is a challenge. Someone is always either on call or needed on campus, so though the team meets weekly, a retreat needed to take place elsewhere. So, we traveled up to Freetown where we stayed at a simple, but beautiful place.
There were seven of us. I was joined by Dr. Jon and Heleen Yoder (doctor and nurse), Dr. Richard and Cathy Toupin, nurse Pamela McKee, and Matthew Asher, an engineer working on the solar and water project at Mattru Hospital.
The lodgings were simple—beds with mosquito nets, and fans that used solar power to make it mostly through the night. Showers were mostly a trickle of cool water. Our meeting place was an open area above the restaurant where we arranged our wooden chairs with cushions in a U shape so we all had a view of the water as we talked and sang and prayed.
Our foundation in scripture was Psalm 23 and John 6:35, focusing on Jesus as our very good shepherd, who provides bountifully for us. We grounded our discussion of the challenges of culture shock in wise words from Ajith Fernando, Youth for Christ Director from Sri Lanka. His book, The Call to Joy and Pain, reminded us that suffering in ministry often flows from our commitment to people, and that Paul’s words to the churches are filled with both joy and pain. We worked through the realities of culture shock and tasks for people in their first term of service.
And we rested. Some of us slept in, using the 9:00 am starting time as the beginning of breakfast—omelets or crepes. Others took boats across the bay to have early morning walks on the beach. We worked our way through the menu, comparing dishes like fish and chips, Thai curry, and bruschetta—it was all good. We took advantage of free coffee, served in small white teacups with cream and sugar. Some of us napped in the afternoon, some walked on the beach and swam in the ocean. We took turns on the hammocks and listened to bird calls. We played games and laughed after dinner. We talked and sang and prayed.
Our Shepherd restored our souls.