Thursday, August 3, 2017

Safe and Sound!

Hello Everybody,

Just a quick update to let you know that I have arrived in Las Palmas, Spain and that all flights and travel went very smoothly! Thank you for your prayers for safety!

So far I have unpacked, saw many familiar faces and explored a very small part of this beautiful island. Las Palmas is known as the "Bahamas of Europe" and it definitely has that feel to it. Lots of families and people on vacation. They have a boardwalk that is right near the beach packed full of restaurants and all sorts of shops. Kinda feels like the boardwalk's in Jersey with a European flare haha.

It has been great being back on the ship and having people say welcome back or glad to see you *cue Cheers theme song* It most definitely feels familiar and just plain nice to be back :)

The hospital may have closed in June but the work has certainly continued around this ship. So much mechanical, painting of the hull and overall maintenance which I won't even pretend like I really know about has been happening and it is incredible! Truly amazing to think about how many hands, heads and hearts it takes to run this ship all year around. Each one working together and doing their job makes this ship run like a well oiled machine and I'm humbled to play a small part in it all.

As we make our way to Cameroon I will have very limited wifi so this will be my last update until we get there. As we make the twelve day journey towards Cameroon please pray for....

1. A safe and calm sail
2. Minimal sea sickness
3. Restful time to prepare for the patients, and day crew that we will be meeting
4. Good team bonding and dynamics
5. Smooth start up of the hospital and programs when we arrive in Cameroon

Thank you for all of your prayers, support and encouragement!

Beaches near the boardwalk

After a dip in the ocean!

Because the ship is currently docked in a place where all different kinds of ships are getting repairs done we have to wear hard hats and close toed shoes when we walk through the port. It is basically like walking through a construction site. 

Some of the other ships and sites around us.

Goodnight port! 

Monday, July 24, 2017


Officially one week until I fly to Las Palmas (Canary Islands), Spain to meet the Africa Mercy! Check out the video on the right hand side titled What is dry dock? to see why the ship is in Spain and what happens during the ship's maintenance period.

These weeks at home have gone fast but at the same time slow. I have been able to see and spend time with so many friends and family that my heart is so very happy. Some days I have thought this time at home is not enough. Will it ever feel like it is enough? The thought of packing is dreadful. The thought of saying "see you later" again is hard. This time at home has not been without some ups and downs. Then I'm reminded to give thanks. To be thankful for this full, rich and amazing time at home. So many people have not been able to go home or have had less time at home. Be thankful. And soak up each moment. I remind myself that these are the moments that keep me going when I'm away from home. I'm reminded that God has truly used this time to rest, recharge and fill me up for there is more work to be done on the Africa Mercy. With that thought in mind I'm ready as I'll ever be to get started.

This time in Cameroon will not be like any other time that I have served with Mercy Ships before. I will have a different role and schedule. A different country, a new culture to learn, new nurses and daycrew to meet. It's a completely clean slate which is exciting but nerve wracking all at the same time. But when have you ever done something new and amazing without some nerves? Nerves are good. They keep you on your toes. And when you know that is where you are supposed to be.... when you know that your are moving and working not in your own strength but in the strength of a God who is so much more powerful and greater than you, you have no reason to fear. God is not a God of fear. Fear is not from Him. So there is no reason to fear.

I leave home with the knowledge that my God is with me. He is for me. He goes before me. I have been listening to some songs that have really been encouraging me. One of them has the following lyrics:

Can you hear the voice of the Father
Inviting you to walk the water?
Risk it all, answer the call, and enter in.
Now we stand on every promise
We're not afraid, our faith goes before us
When we believe, we're gonna see
The supernatural

This song and these lyrics resonated with me immediately. I'm heading to Cameroon with great expectation. Praying for the impossible. Believing that we are going to see what we are praying for. Standing on the promises that Christ proclaims in His word. I'm sure it will be hard and I'm sure I will need to be reminded of this often but those things don't make the promises of God any less true. 

I so appreciate the time and effort each one of you has made to see me, catch up, hang out, eat food and just spend time with me. Coming home truly does make those moments even sweeter and it is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your prayers, support, love and encouragement. Continue to keep me in prayer as I get packed, fly and get ready to sail to Cameroon! I will hopefully get to send one more update out before we sail but not sure what the internet situation will be like yet.

Enjoy the music and continue to keep Mercy Ships, the crew members and the people of Cameroon in your prayers! 

"Standing" William Mcdowell 
"Your Promises" Elevation Worship
"Hills and Valleys" Tauren Wells

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. Every little bit counts and 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