I average about two marriage proposals or declarations of love a day. So when the man in the nice suit and red tie sat down across from me at lunch and started talking to my translator who didn’t tell me what the guy was saying I smiled and went back to scrolling through the newsfeed on Facebook thinking nothing more. I heard him clear his throat and say, “My name is Prince.” I looked up and said, “Je m’appelle Kristin.” I had no idea what the next few minutes would hold.
After some basic broken language conversation I found myself answering his question of how long I’ll be in Cotonou with, “One year… do you know of Mercy Ships?” He shook his head and I started explaining in my best English-French who Mercy Ships is and what we do. Confusion and curiosity were creeping into his eyes so I asked, while pulling out my iPad, if I could show him a short video to explain. He nodded and I hit play.
See the Transformation is a two minute video that shows you exactly that… before and after photos, selection day photos and hospital snapshots. It shows physical transformations but also shows tears turned to smiles.
But it’s not always easy to watch. And Prince sat across from me his eyes darting from the screen to the wall and back again, his chin protruding with stiff and strong pursed lips, shifting positions and his eyes turning a little glossy. Not what he had expected from his lunch break I’m sure. The final words faded to black and he sat for a moment before saying that what Mercy Ships is doing is very good and that, “it takes a lot of love to do this.” I didn’t know what else to say but something like, “Yes, a lot of love.”
He quietly excused himself a moment later and moved to get his food. Jeremy and I went back to talking and soon Andrea joined us. The three of us sat talking about customs and the port when Prince ventured back over to say goodbye. He again mentioned how great he thinks Mercy Ships is and murmured again about loving the people.
He asked for a way to contact us and without skipping a beat I pulled out my card and passed it to him. Normally I wouldn’t give my card out to someone I don’t actually know, but something told me this was different. I can’t help but think that somehow this was personal to him, that something resonated deep within him about our mission of hope and healing and the genuine love we have for the forgotten ones.
My day went on and I sat in meeting after meeting gathering insurance quotes, courier information and reviewing customs procedures and now my day is at it’s end and the one thing I can’t get out of my mind is the lunchtime impromptu presentation and the look on Prince’s face.
I’m reminded that our lives are constantly intersecting with other lives and that a seven minute conversation with someone can make a deep impression, that there are moments where you just know in your gut something greater is going on, a divine moment if you will. And though I may never know the whole story or how today fits in, I know that Prince will never forget Mercy Ships because it takes a lot of love to do this.