Friday, June 23, 2017

Benin Recap

Hello everybody,

This post serves two purposes. The first being after a lot of technical difficulties I have decided to just send out the blog updates via email by myself. If you want to be on that email list or want to be removed please let me know!

The second purpose is to share this recap video of all that was accomplished in Benin!

The numbers are truly amazing! Even more amazing is to think about how each number represents a person and each person now has the potential, courage, love and bravery to go start a business, get back to work, provide for their family, love their children better, go to school, lead their church and effect change in their own country of Benin. The ripple effect of the lives represented in this one minute video is incredible! Thank you so much for playing a part in all of this. Thank you for your prayers, support, encouragement, cards and financial support.

I have about a month left at home and have been so enjoying catching up with friends and family and taking a bit of a breather before the work continues in Cameroon. 

 Finally, I am prepared to cover my travel expenses, vaccine expenses, room and board (three meals a day, AC, wifi etc.) for my time in Cameroon but would love to have you partner with me in this endeavor. No volunteer including myself can do this work on their own. If you would like more information about how you can help me financially check out the following link: 

Lots of love,

P.S. Curious as to where the ship is and what happens in between countries? Check out this video of the ships maintenance period called dry dock.

Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Where We've Been, Where We're Going

I feel like it's time for a little recap of what I've been up to over the last two months. As Doc Brown says in Back To The Future " The intent here is to gain a clear perception of humanity. Where we've been, where we're going. The pitfalls and the possibilities. The perils and the promise. Perhaps even an answer to that universal question, why?" We might not get to the universal question of why today but that was really just for all of you that know me and share my love for Back To The Future.

Okay here we go.......

After the Women's Health program finished up at the beginning of April we started doing more general surgeries. Some people like to call this the lumps and bumps program. Patients have mostly benign soft tissue masses removed from their backs, arms, legs, and head. The recovery time is usually very short and most patients are discharged within a few days. In addition, the general surgeons have been doing a ton of hernia repairs. At first I didn't really think of this type of surgery as life-saving or life changing but as I have learned most of these hernias are very large, uncomfortable and sometimes even involve the intestines. If untreated this could cause other serious problems for the patient.These general surgeries don't get as much fan fair or publicity as some of the other surgery specialties but in the end each patient was able to go back to work or school safely and comfortably without any lumps, bumps or hernias so that makes it all worth it.

Final dress ceremony in Benin!

One of our general surgical patients.

We also had some overflow of maxillofacial patients. This included some babies that had their cleft lip/palate repaired. 

As I have mentioned before the Africa Mercy will be leaving Benin pretty soon. Every field service around this time we start doing fewer surgeries and prepare patients for their final discharges. We have parties of all sorts of kinds as well. Farewell parties for long-term crew members, friends, nurses and daycrew. It is filled with a lot of "last moments", excitement for rest is in sight for some crew members, preparation for sailing and lots of goodbyes or see you later's. In order to prepare the hospital for sailing all of the equipment and supplies need to be packed away and every inch of the hospital is cleaned by yours truly the nurses and other volunteers. For those family members who know what it's like opening and closing our summer home every year it is basically like that but on steroids haha! After the ship is prepared and ready it will sail to another location for a maintenance period in preparation for the next country of service which is Cameroon.

Which leads us into the where we're going part or more like where am I going next part. When I first arrived back on the ship rumor had it that Cameroon has a very high rate of obstetric fistulas and that Mercy Ships would be potentially doing fistula surgery the entire 10 months they were in Cameroon. That immediately peaked my interest and I thought I would possibly come back in January 2018 similar to the amount of time I had spent in Benin. I kept it in the back of mind and started praying about it. As the months passed and more preparation for Cameroon started I was asked to be the team leader for the women's health program on the ship. This basically entails overseeing the nurses and daycrew, daily rounds with the surgeons, and the general flow of the program. I am completely humbled to work again with these ladies and have this opportunity to learn more and gain new leadership skills. I know that this will be challenging in more ways than one but I'm really looking forward to seeing how God stretches and grows me through another season with Mercy Ships. Before leaving for Madagascar part of me thought that Mercy Ships would be something that I would just do once and then check it off the list. I see now that God has a much bigger plan for my life then just a check-list. I have given much but I have received, grown and learned more than I ever expected during my time so far with Mercy Ships. I will also get to sail to Cameroon in order to prepare for the field service. I sometimes forget that this ship can actually sail and move so I'll really get to test my sea legs :)

Next stop Douala,Cameroon! 

As of now I am committed to serve from August -December 30th. I realize that my time home will be short but I have complete peace that this is where I'm supposed to be. It doesn't mean I don't have fears, worries, questions or uncertainties. It just means I'm choosing to say yes. I'm choosing to keep my eyes fixed on Him, one step at a time, trusting that He will go before me, letting go of my ways and choosing to open my hands and receive all that He has planned for me. After leaving Benin and before coming home I will do some travels but when I do get home I really look forward to talking with you all in person and catching up. I'm not sure I can thank you enough for your financial, and emotional support but mostly your prayers. I could not do this without all of you and I am thankful for each one of you.

Nurses and daycrew that I have worked alongside with this year. What an honor it has been!

Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships


Monday, May 15, 2017

Saying No

As our time in Benin is coming to a close in a few weeks we took time last night to reflect on and pray for all of the patients we were unable to help due to a variety of reasons. Saying no is a very real and harsh reality of the process here on the Africa Mercy but I'm so thankful that we serve a God that loves these patients more than we ever could, sees them, knows their names and will continue to walk with them long after the Africa Mercy leaves Benin.

I'm going to write another blog soon about what I have been up to the last few weeks and what my plans are for the summer ahead but I ask you now to join me in praying for the over 6,000 patients that we have had to say no to. Would you also pray for the patients that are still with us now. Many patients still have wounds and incisions that need to heal. We care for them until the very last minute and pray that they are healed before we leave but some will have to be left to finish their care in local facilities. It is hard to leave feeling like a job is unfinished but we place these patients back into God's hands with the knowledge that these patients were never really ours to begin with. They have and will always be in God's hands.

Thank you in advance for you prayers and support!

" Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right will hold me fast." Psalm 139:7-10

P.S. I will now be using MailChimp to send you my blog via email. It should be more efficient and each person should actually receive the email on time. If you are already subscribed and receiving emails you do not have to do anything. For those of you that have not been receiving emails regularly please enter your email on the right hand side of the page where it says subscribe to our mailing list and you should be all set. Thank you!  

Monday, May 1, 2017

You Are A Good Mom

Last year in Madagascar we had a very special orthopedic patient named Fifaliana. Her and her mother won the hearts of so many people on the ship from nurses, to physical therapists, pharmacists, doctors and basically anybody that met them for even a short time. She had a smile that was absolutely contagious and a spirit of joy, courage and boldness that spread to every person that she met. I only took care of her for a short time but had one very special interaction with her and her mother that will probably stay with me for a very long time.

I was visiting some patients at the Hope Center one day and saw Fifaliana sitting by a window looking outside. She waved and flashed that smile that melted hearts and I knew that I had to go see her. I asked a translator to come with me and we visited with Fifaliana and her mom for a short time. I asked Fifaliana how she was, and commented on all the fun drawings on her casts. Fifaliana's recovery was quiet long and required mom to be very hands on and involved in her care. They had been away from their home and other family for a long time and I think it was all really taking a toll on mom. I asked how mom was doing and she gave me a short quick answer that she was good. I could tell she was tired, and maybe a little unsettled. I took her hand, looked her in the eyes and said to the translator "please tell her that she is doing a good job. She is strong. She is courageous and she is a good mom." I watched the mom as the translator began to tell her all of this and the tears started flowing from her eyes and she gave me a big hug. I didn't really say anything else. I just kept hugging her and before I knew it both the translator and I had tears in our eyes. I kept hugging her as the translator continued to talk to her and encourage her. We gave Fifaliana and her mom one last hug and left. I wasn't directly involved in her care much after that but just like everybody else always said hello and greeted the dynamic duo anytime I saw them.

I can't imagine what these moms go through everyday on this ship. Putting their child's life in the hands of complete strangers that don't speak their language. They travel hours away from their home, leave their families, other children and jobs to allow their child to have a surgery that just might change the whole families life forever. Any mom's reading that can relate to this type of situation?

I take care of the obstetric fistula patients and listen to their stories of being in labor for hours and hours and their baby still dying. I read their charts and see that they have been pregnant several times but have no living children. I have never given birth and I don't have children but as a women I can not imagine going through these traumatic events. Any other women or moms that can relate to this type of heartache?

There are even moms on this ship who have answered the call and choose to raise their families in this crazy, full of love and challenges of a community. If the children are of school age some of the mom's have other jobs on the ship but their primary job is mom. I love watching the families and particularly the moms on this ship. Can you imagine trying to occupy your 1 year old in a small cabin space or never knowing if your child will be happy or throw a temper tantrum in the dining room or during a community meeting? How about nap time on a always noisy and buzzing ship? How about the dynamics of play dates with children and parents from all over the world, navigating cultural differences, and different parenting styles. All I know is that surgeons, nurses and other volunteers might get all the fan fair but the moms on the Africa Mercy are the real MVP's. Any missionary mom's out there that can relate? or mom's at home that face similar challenges?

Then there are the countless moms in my own life. Grandmothers, aunts, and sister-in-laws who have loved me well and have been tremendous examples to me of godly women. I have watched them care for their families with so much love, sometimes even tough love, prayer, joy and grace that at the end of the day you know that they would do anything for their children and families.

And my own mom. Forever my biggest fan, always cheering me on, praying for me, giving me advice when I need it and even when I don't ask for it but deep down I know that I need it. She know's me the best even when sometimes I don't like to admit that. Hopefully one day when I have my own kids I can see and really understand how she sees me but for now I'll reflect on all the moments she has picked me up when I was down, listened to my complaining, anxieties and fears, celebrated my successes and encouraged me to pursue God's plan for my life even when it takes me thousands of miles away from home.

There maybe lots of cultural differences and distance between moms at home and the ones I have observed in Madagascar and Benin but something tells me that women and mom's everywhere can relate to these stories. On this Mother's Day I hope children, grandchildren and families shower you fabulous moms with all of the love, and care that you so deserve today and everyday. And in the midst of all the chaos, uncertainty, risks and vulnerability that comes with being a mom may you never forget that you are doing a good job. You are strong. You are courageous. You are a good mom.

If you want to know more about Fifalina's story check out these following links:

Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Easter Reflections

The ship has really been buzzing with preparations for Easter. Over the last week we have had special Easter movies playing, coloring of eggs and special times of prayer and reflection. We will have a Good Friday service, more activities on Saturday and Easter Sunday will start with a sunrise service on the bow of the ship, followed by a special brunch and then open cabins in the evenings. Open cabins is just a time when crew members serve some food or dessert and allow people to come and go and visit cabins as they like. It reminds me of being home during holidays, house hopping and seeing all of my family and eating everywhere I go :)

Even with all of these fun activities and events going on the leadership on the ship always points us back to the importance of Easter. I appreciate that because with all of these fun options, working, spending time with friends, connecting with family and friends at home it is easy to forget that this holiday is about something so much bigger, greater and more joyful than anything else.

I know what you are thinking. Of course we all know that Easter is about Jesus's resurrection but do we really understand the weight of that? Do we really understand what all of that means? I was hesitant to write a blog about Easter because lets be honest I'm no theologian, history buff or bible scholar but when I really thought about it I realized how much we over complicate things some time. Easter is about love. Not the conditional, false, lust, greedy, selfish, and proud love that the world and us flawed human beings offer but a different kind of love. A step down from heaven, leave all of His glory, sacrificial, serving, humble, extravagant, unconditional and patient kind of love.

"Because, if we do not, we shall be relying on human beings. And that is going to let us down. The best of them will makes mistakes; all of them will die. We must be thankful to all the people who have helped us, we must honor them and love them. But never, never pin your whole faith on any human being; not if he is the best and wisest in the whole world. The are lots of nice thing you can do with sand; but do not try building a house on it." C.S. Lewis

I can only imagine what some of you are thinking now. Christians are loving? What about all that stuff I see on the news about Christians saying hateful and demeaning things about other races, religions, politicians and humans of different sexual orientations? I'm not naive friends I see and understand what goes on in this world. Here is where things get tricky. I can't really stand up for these Christians. I can't justify their actions or words. I have no good answer except for what the Bible tells me and that is

" This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:22-24

Please do not take this as me justifying or saying that the way Christians and the church in the past have treated other people is right. It is not right. This is where pride and sin come in. Pride says I'm a good person, I don't sin, I'm kind, loving and generous to other people, I love my family and serve my community. I don't need somebody to save me or help me. When you see the word sinful I don't want you to think of a laundry list of things that we do wrong or of a God up in heaven throwing lightning bolts down at you and waiting for you to fail. I simply want you to think of being separate or not in harmony with Christ. Those actions, and that laundry list of sin is what causes separation and a broken relationship with Christ. Religion is all about traditions and what you have to do in order to get right with God. Religion says do this, that and the other thing and then you will finally be right with God. God says you don't have to do anything. I did everything, I took away the need for you to strive and do anything the day that I died on the cross and rose three days later. After that day there no longer needs to be a separation in the relationship between God and man. But he gives us a choice. He doesn't want to force us to be in a relationship with Him. He stands with arms open wide ready for the day we say Lord I need you. I receive your love.

I know what you are thinking now. What do I get out of this relationship? Why do I want to be in a relationship with God? First and fore mostly it gives you eternal life. It gives you a guarantee that the day you die you will spend eternity with God in heaven. But does heaven and hell actually exist? If it doesn't exist then why did I need this relationship with God?

More than just a ticket to heaven this relationship with God gives you an abundant life here on earth. I didn't say perfect. I didn't say it would be without pain, suffering, and heartache but walking through this life with Christ gives you strength, wisdom, boldness and a reason to love and live in a way that you never thought possible.

" The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

" He didn't just come to save you from your sins he came to save you from yourself. He came to save us from who we could be apart from his grace. He didn't just come to save you from something. He came to make you into somebody. When we let go of this old life and person and we invite him into our lives He takes us and makes us into something that we could never be on our own." Pastor Jeremy Zeigler

I'm going to spend this Easter reflecting on the fact that who am I today is only by the grace and love of Christ Jesus. I know that I will be missing friends and family this Sunday but I pray that each one of you has a great Easter and takes time to reflect on this great love that God has lavished upon us all.

Here are some helpful links if you want to hear more about this topic.

Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Month Of March Is Marching On......

Humor me friends with the title of this blog. I'm well aware of how terrible it is. The month of March has really flown by though. During this month we have had a couple special guests visit the ship to see how the organization runs and meet some of the leadership and crew members here on the ship. If you haven't heard the Fox news anchor Dana Perino visited the ship a couple weeks ago and did a short piece about Mercy Ships on her show The Five. You probably won't see me in the video though I was a little camera shy ;)

The highlight of the month is that the women's health program is in full swing bringing in lots of lovely ladies, nail painting sessions, and late night bedtimes for the patients in which it feels like a slumber party on the ward. We have had women come in with not only obstetric fistulas but large uterine fibroids, and uterine and bladder prolapses. If you have read any of my previous blogs I might have mentioned how women's health was never an area of nursing that I was particularly interested in or ever thought I would do. This year I have felt very comfortable taking care of the obstetric fistula patients but of course I am expanding my knowledge and skill set with the other gynecological problems that we have been seeing. Lets just say I'm most thankful for the nurses that I work with that have women's health experience.

We have had two dress ceremonies to celebrate with eight ladies who have had successful surgery and are no longer leaking urine from their fistulas. Check out this previous post for more details about what happens at a dress ceremony:

It is basically one big party in which we sing, dance and praise the Lord for healing these ladies. The ladies often give a word of praise or share their testimony and receive some special gifts including a beautiful new dress, and jewelry. It is really interesting to hear the ladies perspectives of the process of coming to the ship and having surgery. One lady described how when she was previously at a local hospital she laid in bed for 3 weeks. One day after her surgery here on the ship we had her up, out of bed and walking in the hallways. She said she thought to herself I don't know if this is going to work. I think the nurses laughed the loudest at this because we all know how difficult it is sometimes to coax them to get up and moving. It usually involves nurses and daycrew starting to sing, clap and dance to get them out of bed. Even more uplifting and joyous was to hear each lady say how they were leaving with a new sense of confidence, that they never thought the day would come in which they would be dry or standing in front of a group of people testifying about God's healing for them. Needless to say, there were a lot of tears of joy from both the patients and crew members. This dress ceremony just reminded me why I love walking with these ladies on this sometimes rocky journey towards physical, spiritual and emotional healing. It reminded me of why I am here. He doesn't need me to take care of these ladies. He holds each one them in the palm of His hand. He knows them by name, He sees them, and walks with them long after this floating hospital ship leaves. On the days that are hard and even on the joyous days I take great comfort in knowing that God loves each one of these patients more than I ever could and yet He allows me to walk with them on this journey for a short time. For that I am truly grateful. The same goes for all of you reading this. God sees you. He loves you. He walks with you. He is for you. And as much I miss each one of you there is a peace I have knowing that one that is greater than me goes before you, watches over you and loves you more than anybody else.

Lots of joy, and laughter.

Nurses, doctors and surgeons with our beautiful patients.

I also wanted to share with you some before and after pictures of the goiter patients that I took care of in February. The general surgeon that was here noted that not only is the surgery very complex and time consuming but that these goiters compress the trachea (airway) so much that it is almost as if the patients are breathing out of a straw. It always amazes me how the body compensates and how strong these patients are to continue to walk around with such a life threatening goiter. Truly a testament to God's provision and protection over their lives. You see the physical change in them so immediately and it was a pleasure to care for these patients. 

 She said, " When I say I was not free, I mean that I could not move around as I wanted, I could not travel far from home, and I did not have the strength to carry anything on my head... so I couldn't work." After 30 years this lady is goiter free! 

With a couple more months of surgery to go please continue to pray for strength and perseverance for the crew and day crew aboard the Africa Mercy! Pray for quick healing for all of our patients and please keep the country of Madagascar in your prayers. They are recently recovering from a hurricane that flooded areas and destroyed many homes. Madagascar is near and dear to many people as the Africa Mercy spent two field services their recently.

Thank you for your steadfast prayers, love and support!


P.S. If you want to read more about whats happening on the Africa Mercy check out a recent update that my good friend Anne wrote:

Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Before And After

A picture is truly worth a thousand words. I love looking at before and after pictures of our patients here on the Africa Mercy. I think it is the satisfaction of seeing such a drastic change so instantly. There is always something different in the after picture besides the obvious physical change. Eyes full of joy, laughter, wide tooth showing smiles, and a renewed sense of confidence.

What before and after pictures don't show you is everything in between that allows the patient to get to that after picture.Those pictures don't show the hours that these patients travel to get to the ship, the families and occupations they leave behind, the hours of surgery, multiple dressing and cast changes, and painful rehab and exercises that have to happen before that glowing, joyous after photo is a reality.

Just like at home patients have to come in prior to surgery to get tests and labs drawn so that surgeons and nurses can make a plan of care and make sure the patient is fit for surgery. The hospital has a fully functioning lab, CT scan and X-ray machine. 

 Even with all of these tests, highly skilled doctors, nurses and translators we never underestimate the power of prayer. One of my favorite parts of working on this floating hospital ship. 





People often comment to me how fantastic the people of Mercy Ships must be and how wonderful I am for doing this but in reality I'm on a similar journey as these patients. I can't tell you how often I wish that I could forget about the before things, skip all the middle ground and just go straight to the place in my life where everything is settled, all my questions are answered and my fears calmed. I would love to skip the challenging days, the places and people that make me feel vulnerable, the moments that test my patience and faith just so that I can finally get to that after state. Time and time again I forget that God uses that middle ground to shape me into who he wants me to be. One day when I am in heaven I will be the most perfect and complete after picture. However, I can't rush through the in between days anymore than these patients can rush through rehab, exercises or the healing process. God is taking me on a journey and I don't think he's so much worried about the after part as much as who I become in the process. Similarly, these patients are on a journey towards physical healing but it doesn't stop there. We pray that the spiritual and emotional healing and hope that they have received will far outlast and outweigh any physical healing that they have received.

"His priority, his work in us, is to continually transform our ability to love God and love our neighbor to an even greater level from whatever level of ability we have at the moment." Christine Caine

I'm thankful for these patients, their bravery, courage and various ways that they teach me everyday. I'm thankful that during this time God does not choose to keep us in a state of brokenness but continues to mold, shape and transform both the patient and caregiver in more ways than one.

The women's health program will start in a couple weeks and I'm getting excited for that. If you want to read more about OBF (obstetric fistula) surgery refer to these previous blogs: Beauty Of Nursing and Least Of These. For those of you praying continue to pray for good health and strength for the crew members, fast and smooth healing for our patients, and a good transition and start to the women's health program!

Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships.