Not in This World

Edmund Pevensie at the army recruiting office in England:
Recruiter: “Are you sure you’re eighteen?”
Edmund: “Why, do I look older?”
Recruiter, opening the ID card skeptically. “Alberta Scrub?”
Edmund: “It’s a typographical error. It’s supposed to be, ‘Albert A. Scrub’."
Lucy, entering the room from the back and calling: “Edmund, you are supposed to be helping me with the groceries.”
General laughter as the recruiter hands the card back to Edmund. The man behind him in the line tousles his hair patronizingly: “Better luck next time, eh squirt?”
Edmund, leaving the building angrily and talking to Lucy: “Squirt?! He barely had two years on me. I’m a king! I’ve fought wars and I’ve led armies.”
Lucy, softly but with finality: “Not in this world.”

Initially I didn’t have much sympathy for Edmund in this opening scene of Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He came across as petulant and spoiled. Recently, though, this scene came to mind in a completely different setting, and I felt more sympathy for the character.

On April 21st I arrived in Davao City at the clinic where I would intern as a midwife for a month. On April 22st, I went for my orientation. Most of the material had been sent to me previously. However, some of it was new. And that was the part that caught me off guard.

Learning that “no experience counts except experience here,” I was given some unexpected guidelines to meet before I could start delivering babies. The fact that I was already a fully trained midwife and had practiced for four years wasn’t going to count for much.

Although I had come to learn and gain experience, this bothered me more than I wanted to admit, even to myself. Although on the outside I did my best to be agreeable, I couldn’t help but compare it to my previous internship where my supervisor immediately gave me privileges and, more importantly to me, respect in the birthing room as a colleague and an equal.

My first couple of weeks in the clinic were long. All my shifts turned out to be slow, and so the process of attaining the required prerequisites was painfully extended. It was so excruciatingly slow, that I started working double shifts in hopes of speeding up the process. Roxanne’s MO is when something she needs or wants isn’t working out, she pushes herself and works harder. And so I did. I worked so many shifts the supervisors started laughing or shaking their heads whenever they saw me staying on or showing up for the next one.

In the process, my greatest battle was to keep a good attitude. Being at a clinic where over 200 babies are born every month and getting to deliver hardly any was a challenge, to be sure. Especially after I had worked so hard to raise money to come just for that purpose. So I deliberately tried to focus on other things.

And that is where my salvation came. This particular birthing center attracts applications from all over the world for two year volunteer positions, as well as short-term volunteers like me. The Christian women who surrounded me on shift and off during my stressful ordeal were young, beautiful, brilliant, godly and motivated by higher and deeper things than your average chick on the street. Every day when I would come back to the house next door to the clinic where I was boarding, exhausted, sweaty and discouraged after another long quiet shift, there they would be. I'd find groups of two or more sitting around in the sweltering heat trying to stay cool, joking, laughing, cooking, studying and discussing.

Being with them was energizing. And encouraging. And humorous. And most importantly, it helped me to get my eyes off myself. I finally came to the point that I said to myself, “If I don’t take the NARM exam this year, I don’t. But I sure met some great folks.” The openness of these young ladies half my age in including me in between shift activities like trips to the store, Easter sunrise service, Jesus film outreach, durian and coke night at the fruit market, care group, snorkeling, and most of all, general conversation definitely went a long way in preventing me from having a break down.

And then, when I had pretty much resigned myself, my new friends came through for me. Thanks to several of them generously stepping aside in the last week and allowing me to deliver their babies on their shifts, I achieved all I hoped for on this trip in birth numbers.

I learned a lot through this experience. I learned what it feels like to be the most inexperienced person (or newest) in a clinical setting. There were supervisors and midwives who went out of their way to be helpful and kind, and those who didn’t. I learned equally from both- what to say and do and what not to say and do. In the future, both the pleasant and the painful memories will help me to be a better clinic director when it is my turn to be in charge.

I also got a deeper spiritual lesson on the limits of accomplishing things in my own strength. I really think God intentionally did not allow me to reach my birth number goals simply by working harder and longer, but allowed me to struggle through that to a place of surrender, and needing the help of others.

In summary it was challenging, painful, exhausting, humbling, exhilarating, stretching, inspiring, informative, educational, productive, and life changing. My thanks to Mercy Maternity Center, the wonderful people I met, and most of all, to God who brought me through the experience. My time in a world where I was a squirt instead of the one leading the army - and the grace I was shown in that setting - was exactly what I needed.

Important disclaimer on behalf of Mercy Maternity Center: I was not guaranteed a certain number of births before I went, and therefore the events that I chronicled here and how they affected me were in no way the fault of the administration or staff of MMC.


  1. Roxanne,
    What a wonderfully difficult lesson in life. So thankful that God had the grace to stretch you gently. It's amazing that each moment He leads us is like another stitch in that amazing tapestry of life that He has for us. So glad that you are back safely and that your stay there was exactly what you needed. Miss you!


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