Monday, September 28, 2015


Ask anybody on the ship that has been with Mercy Ships for awhile and they will tell you that this field service in Madagascar is so different than any other country they have been in as far as tourist activities. Most times the ship is docked in countries that don't have tourist attractions or aren't close to any counties with tourist attractions. Madagascar is such a unique country though and has many different kinds of places to visit that are relatively close to where the ship is docked. By close I mean like a couple hours drive haha. You can't really go anywhere in this country without driving for at least an hour. We are also finding that if they say it will take one hour it will probably take two lol. In Tamatave where the ship is docked we have been going to local restaurants, the beach right near ship and some shopping.

          We tried this local Indian food the first week we were here! 

Korean food. We find these restaurants through others on Mercy Ships that have tried them before. 

The weekend before the clinic  opened some roommates and I went to a beach about 2hrs away called Mahambo. Absolutely beautiful and our bungalow was right on the beach. I think we figured out that it cost something like $10 per person a night for the room. Everything is pretty cheap compared to our prices at home hahaha!

       The view from our bungalow window.

       Sunset at Mahambo beach.

        OBF clinic nurses. 

        Sunrise at Mahambo beach. 

       Found a couple lemur friends in Mahambo. 

This past weekend I happened to have 4 days off and went on a trip with my friend from college and a couple of girls to an island called Ile Aux Nattes. This is a small island off of the island of Saint Marie. I'm learning though to get anywhere that is really awesome it usually takes time. It usually is a journey or an adventure but the final destination is always worth it.
We first drove in a bus with about 15 local Malagasy people for 3 hrs. We then got off the bus and probably waited about an hour for them to get all the luggage loaded on this large boat or ferry I guess. The boat ride was an hour and a half of rainy, rough seas and it turns out I can get sea sick lol. Never threw up but they do have buckets just in case and let me tell you other people had to use them lol. Once we got off the boat we were finally on the island of Saint Marie! The adventure doesn't stop there. We then took a tuk tuk for about a 20min. drive and then a pirogue to our final destination of the hotel La Petite Traversee. Basically we were on an island (Ile Aux Nattes) off of an island (Saint Marie) off of an island (Madagascar) hahah. It was the most remote island I will probably ever be on and was totally worth all the traveling. It was like something out of a magazine. The owner of the hotel is a man from South Africa named Ockie. We had dinner every night like family style and got to know him and the other peopel staying there pretty well. He has an interesting life and pretty much visted the island one year for vacation, absolutly loved it and decided to stay. I don't think pictures will ever do this place justice but here's my attempt.

      Ferry ride across to Saint Marie.

        Pirogue's are the transportation from Saint Marie to Ile Aux Nattes. So much fun! 

      Looks like a postcard right?!? 

     Getting decent at selfies on this trip lol! 

       Pizza and the beach. Pretty much my ideal vacation. They made this in a brick oven stove. Very good! 

     Breakfast. The juice is banana and coconut. Delicious! 

      Fresh baked goods for the morning. 

      Perhaps they need a nurse on this island?!? ;)


The clinic officially opened on the 22nd with 7 patients! I and one other nurse went to the ship to help transfer them from the ship to the clinic. Some logistics to figure out but it all went pretty smoothly. The ladies were excited and nervous as they have gotten used to the ship and were unsure of what the clinic would be like. All natural feelings right?!? As they cautiously shuffled down the gangway holding their foley catheter bags they smiled and said things like the sun feels so good or fresh air. Amazing what a little sun and some fresh air will do for people :)

What I really loved was watching the ladies say goodbye to all the other women on the ward. They went to each one and shook hands, hugged and kissed. It was beautiful. What I sensed right away in that moment was a true atmosphere of community. Community was the real buzz word at Messiah College. We had classes about it, they talked about it in chapel, in the dorms, in the cafeteria and after 4 years of this you think at the end that you will never discuss community again. Community however is a big part of our lives whether we realize it or not. Our communities shape us, influence our choices and attitudes.

What I find so interesting about these women is most of them believe that they are the only ones with fistulas. Most times their husband will leave them because they can't get pregnant and the constant leaking is embarrassing. Having a family in this culture is everything. If you don't have kids you have and are nothing. Their husband leaves them, and most times their family and friends reject them because of the smell and embarrassment of the leaking. They become isolated. They are alone. They have no community. Then they hesitantly travel to Mercy Ships but  quickly find out that they aren't alone and that there are so many women of all ages and backgrounds suffering from the same problem. A bond slowly begins to form. Hope begins to grow. I obviously can't understand what they are saying but as I watch them interact, laugh and look at each others foley catheters with concern or confusion you can tell that for the first time they aren't alone. They experience acceptance and love. Community, a sense of hope, love and acceptance is the greatest and most healing medicine these women can receive. As we welcomed a new women to the clinic the next day the ladies were smiling, clapping and showing them around like it was their own home haha!  When you find that kind of community you begin to flourish. You have a purpose. You are of like mind and of one accord pressing forward for the same goal.

We too crave community. We want to feel like we aren't alone in our problems or confusion. Obviously communities aren't perfect. These women are in all different stages of healing and often times these surgeries don't work for some women. I can't imagine how devastated they feel when one women is dry and they are still leaking and are told the surgery hasn't worked. How often do I encounter people in different stages of life and say I just want to be where she is or why am I struggling in this area and she isn't? It is here that I'm learning to "embrace my place" as Christine Cain says. Caring for these women. This clinic. This ministry of Mercy Ships. It is all so much bigger than myself and God in His infinite wisdom allows me to be a part of these women's lives for a time and a season. He allows me to encourage and show them His love and in the process I am learning about myself and community. He is teaching me that the best foundation of any community is hope and purpose though Christ. Only through His strength and His wisdom can I understand community and truly encourage people and walk with them through the good and bad times. He is showing me that his grace is always sufficient. That community isn't always easy and can get messy. There will be ups and downs but that's what community is all about. Walking along side people even when it isn't easy and the answers aren't clear.

If you want to read more about what I have been doing on my days off check out this post

Thanks for reading!


"Welcome" in Malagasy. Nurse's and day crew put their name and home country flag on the hands.
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

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


We are getting there! This week we have been doing a lot of lifting and transporting of supplies from the ship to the clinic. Needless to say I won't be working out cause well those supplies are heavy and walking up and down those stairs is enough exercise for one week :) It is like Christmas around here opening up supplies and equipment and setting everything up!!

We do have a lot of help from our day crew. Day crew workers are local malagasy people (yes that is what people from Madagascar are called haha) that Mercy Ships employs to be translators and assist with patient care. They are all so hard working, willing to learn and eager to help wherever needed. It has been so much fun getting to know them as we work together and they help us learn malagasy and we help them with their English. They claim we will know malagasy very well before we leave so we shall see :) They play a huge role in helping us take care of the patients and it has been so humbling to work with them and see their heart and love for their own people.

Well six women have already received their surgery's on the ship and are recovering very well! On Tuesday they should be stable enough to transfer to the clinic! My coworkers and I are eagerly awaiting their arrival so continue to pray for all of us and the day crew as we finish getting everything ready for Tuesday.

Much Love,

"Royalty is my identity. Servant hood is my assignment. Intimacy with God is my life source."

                                                             Bill Johnson


                                                  Day crew having fun!

           This beach is just a short walk from the ship.

                          Bringing in a days worth of fishing. People actually wait as they pull in the
                          nets to buy the fish right away.                 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Let's Talk Nursing And Medical Stuff......

There was a lot of excitement on the ship this week as the first patients arrived on Monday with surgeries beginning on Tuesday. I thought I would give some more details about the hospital and the wards. So if you don't care too much for it maybe just watch the video and skip the rest ;)

There are 4 wards on the ship with 20 beds each and 3 ICU beds. They offer 5 different types of surgeries which are each performed for a certain amout of time throughout the 10 month field service.

1. General- goiters, hernias and other issues correctible by surgery

2. Maxillofacial- cleft lip, cleft palate, craniofacial tumors

3. Orthopedic- fractures, club feet and neglected trauma

4. Plastic- severe wound scars, burn contractures and benign tumors

5. Obstetric Fistual's and Women's Health- Childbirth complications, vesicovaginal fistulas (VVF), rectovaginal fistulas and prolapse.

This short video gives you a glimpse of what Mercy Ships accomplished last year while in Madagascar. You may have to copy and past the link into the search bar but this one gives me goosebumps every time I watch it :)

Last year Mercy Ships noticed an increasing need for the VVF repair.  If you can't remember what that is refer back to my post "The Beauty Of Nursing". What is most exciting is that during this field service VVF surgeries will be performed for the entire 10 months. Mercy Ships has parterend with the local hospital to completly renovate one of their buildings for a brand new 30 bed obstretic fistual clinic. Patient's will now receive the surgeries on the ship and then after a couple of days be transferred to the clinic to finish there recovery which in total takes about 14-20 days. Last year about 100 VVF surgeries were performed. With the start of this new clinic they are estimating 500 surgeries to be performed. I never thought I would be excited about women's health but that is exciting!

This is a huge project that Mercy Ships has taken on and there is much excitement about it throughout the entire organization. With all of this comes a great deal of ownership and  responsibilty which I think every nurse and volunteer is ready to step up and take on this challenge. More than that we are all so humbled to be able to play a part in developing this clinic. This week and next week we will be working hard to get everything cleaned and setup for our first set of patient's to come on September 22nd. We are basically starting from scratch. We have a new space and now to have to fill it with beds, supplies, medical equipement and patients. More than that we are slowly watching this space transform into a place of hope, healing and redemption for so many women and that is the most exciting thing.

Please continue to pray for all of the volunteers as patients arrive, surgeries continue and everything gets into full swing here. Thanks for reading!


    The port. You can kind of see the Africa Mercy all the way in the back.

              Indian Ocean is beautiful! 

                                                            OBF clinic before we started cleaning. 

 Looking more and more like a clinic! Stay tuned this place is going to continue to transform :)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ready. Set. Go.

We made it through the 8 hr. drive that actually took us about 11 hrs. and finally arrived at the ship on Monday at around 5:30pm! Despite the long trip, curvy, hilly roads the scenery was absolutely beautiful and gave us some great time to take in this beautiful country. It was hard getting pictures with the bus moving but here are a couple.

Packing up to leave.

It was surreal pulling up and seeing the ship for the first time. I'm not really sure how else to describe it but absolutely incredible. Volunteers across the entire ship are ready to go but there is still some "setting" to do. There is some preparation of the wards that can really only be done once the ship is docked. Also, there is a lot of hospital orientation that has to be done. We have nurses from all over the world that come from a variety of different types of hospital so there is a lot of education that needs to be done to ensure the patients receive the same care from each nurse. It is so interesting to hear about how nurses from different countries work and let me tell you there are a lot more ways to pronounce different medical terms and refer to medical equipment than I expected lol.

You would not believe how much preparation goes into this operation. I'm completely blown away by how many people are involved from different areas and how well they all work together. You really have to be flexible in this kind of environment but within all of the changes this organization works together and keeps moving forward. It goes to show that a body of people that keep Jesus at the center of everything and are in one accord, striving for the same goal and purpose can truly accomplish great things. I'm kind of speechless that I get to witness this all unfolding and play just a small part in this organization.

Patients arrive on Monday with the first surgery scheduled on Tuesday. We have some more work to do to get the Obestric fistual clinic prepared but more updates on that soon.

Finally, a huge thank you to everybody that donated financial support. I officialy have all of my monthly crew fees covered!! I can not thank you all enough for the financial support, words of love, and encouragement! If you wish to give I would suggest continuing to research Mercy Ships and all the great things they are accomplishing and ways to financially support them!

Enjoy the pictures and stay tuned as this journey continues to unfold!

                     View from deck 8 of the ship. 

              OBF clinic nurses helping out the deck crew! We are certainly a multitalented group :) 

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