Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009

What a year it has been on the Africa Mercy in Benin!

996 reconstructive and plastic surgeries;
185 cleft lip and palate repairs;
1161 general surgeries;
2 local surgeons trained;
3,521 cataracts removed;
570 other eye surgeries (pterygia and stabismus);
2 local eye surgeons trained;
33,851 eye evaluations and other treatments;
7,083 pairs of sunglasses distributed;
5,689 pairs of reading glasses distributed;
18 community eye field workers trained;
154 obstetric fistulas repaired;
4 local surgeons trained in fistula repair;
231 orthopedic operations;
10,175 dental patients seen;
794 dental hygiene patients;
13,174 oral health education;
25 oral health teachers trained;
2 dental assistants trained;
28 patients received palliative home care;
6 Burkitt's Lymphoma patients received palliative support;
19 families trained in wound care;
10 agricultural staff trained;
23 local agricultural trainees;
1 hostel constructed for agricultural college;
19 mental health workers trained;
119 church & community leaders trained in mental health;
50 prison officers and workers trained in mental health;
2 church leaders conferences attended by 602 attendants;
and 12,000 people watched the Jesus Film and many made a commitment to Christ...

Behind all these numbers are the people of Africa that are forever changed. Also, hundreds of crew that came to volunteer their skills and time to make it possible to serve this many in need. Thank you to each of you out there, without your financial and prayer support, this list would not be here. The year in Benin was amazing and life-changing for me and I look forward to seeing what God does in 2010!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Go Back

It has been a week since I left the Africa Mercy and returned state-side for the holidays. After traveling for 36 hours, I went out for mexican food the first night I was home. The following days have been a whirlwind of emotions and events- celebrating my dad's birthday, Christmas, and now reconnecting with people. The real adventure came when I got in my car for the first time in 11 months to drive to Wal-Mart. Too many choices on every aisle... I even found myself hugging a box of my favorite special K cereal. :) I am finding deciding on what movie to watch with my sister, what drink at Sonic, who I shall see today, what's for dinner, or what city will I drive to next weekend?... are difficult questions for me. Too many options.
The most common question people have asked me: What are you doing next year?
That is easy for me to answer: Go back. Go back to the Africa Mercy and the people that make up the amazing community onboard. Go back to the people of Africa that are in need of healing. Go back to share hope. Go back to serve. Go back to love. No other options, but this.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: HOME


Words cannot express how happy I am to be home... after being delayed in Tenerife, rerouted midair, shuttled to Gatwick because of snow, van ride to my hotel, bussed to Heathrow, delayed more in London, missed flight in Houston, delayed again before arriving in DFW (without luggage) to my family welcoming me HOME.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Bridge & Bow





Wordless Wednesday Disclaimer: Kind of ironic title, wordless? Well my camera sadly broke this weekend, so I had to rely on my dear friend, Hannah, to provide pictures for today's blog. :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

'Tis the season... In Africa

As I walk through decorated mid-ships hearing carols and stop by Starbucks for a gingerbread latte, I feel Christmas is coming close. So many events going on each night here onboard the Africa Mercy and most of the crew come to join the fun- since we can't go anywhere else! It has been fun to watch the kids get excited about Christmas with storytelling night and craft night, where we made ornaments and wreaths. Being an international community, we also celebrated St. Lucia, a Scandinavian holiday, complete with singing and sweet rolls. It brought back childhood memories and stories from my swedish grandmother.

Another night, we had a "Winter Wonderland" in town square. Crew set up booths to sell homemade crafts and treats. I walked around with a cup of apple cider and browsed the sales and got a Christmas card picture with my ol' bunkmate, Estelle, and Ken Berry, Managing director.
I really have enjoyed experiencing a "Mercy Ships" Christmas during the sail. I still have OR duties to work on during the day and then time off in the evening. I head out to the green painted bow, sun beating down, hearing the waves crash, and stop for glance to see any marine life, Christmas is close, but I realize we're still sailing off the coast of Africa.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Beautiful Feet

The OR has moved to deck 6 for the sail. We have set up our personal computers to work on paperwork from this past year and also to plan for the next outreach in Togo. The OR office chairs have wheels that make it hard to focus on the computer screen. :) Also, we have windows to watch ocean waters for marine life. As you can see with the pictures below, God has shown his majestic creation to us just in the first days. This morning's coffee break on the bow, we saw a pod of killer whales pass by!

So back to work... Michel, a German nurse, and I have been here since January in Tenerife and one of the few still here from the OR. We are compiling all the central supply orders for the Benin outreach. Lots of supplies we used for surgery from 18 gage needles to sterile gowns to paper bags from Brookshires (Texas grocery store). These supplies have been used in roughly 6,800 surgeries done on the Africa Mercy this year. We are all amazed with the "numbers" and thank God for giving us the man-power to run six operating rooms. Before we closed up the OR, we washed all the shoes from the hospital locker room. It was a sight to see with all the colorful clogs in the washer! I pondered for a moment how many people came through this yea and worn these shoes? Can you guess how many? We had 253 volunteers from around the world come work for 2 weeks up to a year in the Operating Room. What a privilege it has been this year to serve together with so many people, now dear friends, with BEAUTIFUL feet!

Just one of many cycles to wash all the OR shoes!
"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10:15

The best $5 I spent at Walmart- the the night before I left! They made it until the last working day in the OR.




Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Evo, Amen.

How time flies here. It feels just like yesterday, but it was February, when the Africa Mercy was anchored outside the port of Cotonou. An engine had failed and we had to stay the night being tossed by the waves of the Atlantic one more day. We came into port "on our knees" praying and fighting forces that did not want us here to give hope & love to the people of Benin. We have done the same, praying this week for all the details to work out in order for us to sail. The gangway was pulled up, lines drawn, and the pilot & tugboats took us out to sea. Now, we are sailing again in the Atlantic blue waters.

I will miss Benin since it has been my home for the past 1o months. I am familiar with directions without street names, but I know to turn at the “blue lady”. I know how to cross the street… and dodge motorcycles, “zemis”, flying by as I walk to the local market. I have learned what to do on the weekend off ship and been north to see the countryside. I know how to greet people in the local language, Fon. I will miss the beautiful children’s smiles and running up too us, singing, “Yovo, Yovo.” “White person, White person.”

So the 2009 outreach is finished in Benin… the “big white whale” has left, but I do pray God is not finished here. On my last night walking on the dock, my friend and I sang “God of This City” and prayed for the people of Benin.

“Greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city.”

Evo, Amen.

Fon Translation: It is finished. Amen.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Green Machine

Just had to share a rap a brotha' wrote for me!
Thanks Davey!

(rap beat dropped )

Mama always said if you keep ya brain strong,

you will find on a math exam you can do no wrong.

You gotta eat ya fish, eat ya beans,

and make sure you have 3-4 servings of veggie greens.

And that way....you can be a Green Machine!

What? What?

A Green Machine! Uh..uh...ih uh.

Don’t Believe me?

Look at sista Allison she is a machine who is green,

she works hard in a operating room where she witnesses the obscene.

She is tough cat, but don’t think she is mean,

even though she is well oiled green machine.

She is so much of machine.

I were feeling faint she would be there to catch my lean.

She is humble, even though she is a ninja nurse on a boat,

don’t think for a second that she would ever gloat.

So kids let this be an example,

you could be a massive attack,

mega missionary of a machine,

just remember to keep that diet full of green.


I tried to eat my greens (mashed peas), but opted for the pizza instead. :)


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Prayer

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
Romans 12:12

Keep praying! The following day after our prayer vigil for the technical and advance teams- prayers are being answered and we are seeing God work in so many ways! As I stood in line for dinner tonight, I overheard a crew member say he just decided to go to Togo to help the advance team. The day before God put it on my heart to pray for help for Brenda & Joan, all I prayed is that God would send an extra person to help them. Praise the Lord! We also received all the packages containing supplies we need to sail! As a crew we are patient with waiting the unknown, hopeful for the sail to go as planned, and continue to be faithful in prayer.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Conversation

I remember hearing once that prayer is just a conversation with God.

This morning started with OR devotions- smallest group ever with just six of us left. I looked around the room and just gave thanks to God for giving me such a great friends over the year to work with in the OR. We all came from different backgrounds, hospitals, and countries, but we all have the desire to serve in common. Afterwards, we proceeded to Starbucks for some coffee (thank God for caffeine!) before returning to pack up the OR. As I stood in line, I surveyed the cafe, but noticed it was a different scene this morning. More medical crew since the hospital is closed and more students after their finals were finished today, but the engineers and deck crew were no where to be seen. These men and women are the "unsung heros" of this ministry. Right now, they are the busiest as we prepare to sail. We were informed that there would be another blackout today. So as the computers went down and the air con was turned off, people gathered in the dining room for lunch. I packed mine for later and joined other crew to pray. There is a great prayer need for the Technical team as they clean the cooling system for the engines. Just like a car, the ship's engine has a water tank to prevent overheating (thanks Dad for teaching me years ago!). Prayer for the radar to work now and properly during the sail to the Canary Islands. I sat with my head bowed as the lights went out and heard loud booms coming from deck 2 and prayed for wisdom and strength for the people working hard to get us ready for the sail. I also lifted up my fellow crew, Brenda & Joan, as they are doing advance work in Togo for next year's outreach. Please pray for open doors with the right government people, translators, protection, and wisdom in Togo. I took the time also to pray for my family and friends- a ocean separates us, but you never forgotten in all my prayers because of our partnership in the gospel. A couple hours later my cabin was getting warm and smelly, so I popped up on deck 8 for the sunset- one of the few that are left here in Benin. I sat there with friends, but inside having another conversation with God. Praising and thanking Him for the past year and all He has done in thousands of lives here, including mine. I pray for an everlasting presence of God's love in Benin and our patients' lives. Pray for healing in those still in need and for those who are searching for peace that comes only through Christ. My day ended with saying good-bye to friends leaving the ship, praying for their safe travel and also that our paths may cross again.

It was a full day of conversations with God.
Thank you for your conversations, for your prayers.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A day at the pool...

Saturday was another planned blackout for the ship to prepare for the sail. So no electricity, no air con, no working toilets, or internet means a mass exodus for the local hotel pools. I am one that finds something to do on the weekends, worth my time and sweat, something that I have never done in Africa. The pool was not my first choice, but I have checked off all the boxes to do here in Cotonou. So my friends and I took advantage of the first Mercy Ships shuttle service and went to the Marina hotel. In tote with my ipod, snacks, bathing suit, sunglasses, and a new book. The morning I spent under poolside listening to music and enjoy watching people and the beach view behind us. Already bored a little, I took up an offer go to the craft market to shop for Benin souvenirs. By the time we returned, the pool was a welcoming cool off and then the lounge chairs perfect for a nap. Then a couple of us nurses headed out for a walk to Obama Beach (that's right, named after our president). Our day volunteers/translators were suppose to be there for a party, but even after showing up a hour late, no luck. We tracked back to the pool for some swimming and crepes for a snack. Finally, I took out my library book, my friend recommended to me. Never thought I'd be crying poolside, but just reading the prologue tugged at my soul. It is called The Hospital by the River by Dr. Catherine Hamlin. Next year in Togo, I am going to be working closely with our VVF (vesico-vaginal fistula) patients and this book shares the story of one VVF hospital in Ethiopia. This year, these ladies captured my heart the first time I saw the transformation in their lives after surgery. Bare with me as I share a quote from the book, just to give you a glimpse about VVF.

"But there is no hiding her condition. Despite the difficulty of keeping herself clean, the sorrow of losing her baby and the shame of her condition, she tries to be brave, to greet her husband with a smile and prepare his meals. But it no use. She is ill, weak, and wretched. Soon he moves out. The long obstructed labor has left Enatanesh with terrible internal injuries. She stays like this, forlorn, and alone for months. Or years. Or a lifetime. She is fit only for work in the fields. The village women shun her. She is abandoned to her shame." pg. x

These women suffering, leaking urine, and left only to their shame is what keeps me going serving in Africa. God has given a passion to care for them. And not only surgical care, but care for them by showing them love, acceptance, and hope for healing. I would have never thought a day at the pool would change my heart forever.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

African Thanksgiving

You know when its Thanksgiving on the Africa Mercy when...

1. You wear capris & flip flops. (I wore my scarf for fall effect)
2. Green bean casserole is really made out of yellow beans.
3. Fresh pineapple is served as a side dish. yum!
4. Everyone greets you, "Happy Thanksgiving, American!"
5. A Canadian chef makes a wonderful turkey dinner for all to enjoy.
6. Work the normal hours and everything is still open to run errands.
7. You go on a pre-dinner walk on the dock and its 90 degrees.
8. You eat dinner with 300 family members from around the world.
9. Most of the day is spent sharing the history of Thanksgiving.
10. People talk about Blackout Saturday instead of Black Friday.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

L'Amour est,,,

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to go to the Jacquot Psychiatric Facility here in Cotonou. It was a nice facility and we walked around the courtyard greeting the hundred-something patient population. On the weekends they are left alone, so Mercy Ships takes the opportunity to minister to the patients. We come together in meeting room for some song and dance as well as a Bible story. Our translator shared the story in French of how Jesus gathered his disciples from all walks of life and brought them together to teach them about God's love. The young woman sitting next to me kept smiling at me throughout the story and at the end whispered, "I don't speak French." So afterwards while we were doing crafts, I took the time to share with Esther, the story in English and we had a good time talking about Jesus. As we were finishing up, I noticed one patient, Bernard, walking back and forth in front of the room, looking at the craft from the week before. There were hearts posted on the wall in French about 1 Corinthians 13. Thankfully, I memorized the Love chapter in 6th grade and with the little French I knew- Bernard and I recited the chapter about love. What a wonderful day it was to not only share God's love by action, but by word as well to these people of Benin.


Practice your French by reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 about Love. You might be surprised how much you know! Love is.. L'amour est...

4 L' amour est patient, il est plein de bonté, l'amour. Il n'est pas envieux, il ne cherche pas à se faire valoir, il ne s'enfle pas d'orgueil.

5 Il ne fait rien d'inconvenant. Il ne cherche pas son propre intérêt, il ne s'aigrit pas contre les autres, il ne trame pas le mal.

6 L'injustice l'attriste, la vérité le réjouit.

7 En toute occasion, il pardonne, il fait confiance, il espère, il persévère.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Last days in the OR...

Tomorrow is the last day of surgery, then another week of healing on the wards, and the week following we sail to the Canary Islands for a break before the Togo outreach in 201o.
I am still shocked when I answer the most common question of "How long have been here?" Benin has been my home and mission field the past 10 months! I have become one of the resource people in the operating room and even sterilizing manager the last week. Tonight, as I waited for the instruments from the last surgery, I walked the empty OR corridor and looked into the rooms that we are cleaning and packing up supplies for the sail. I remembered setting up the rooms in February, loving on babies, coffee breaks in the pharmacy, walking patients with my comforting hand on their shoulder, mustering for fire drills, and praying every morning with coworkers. I probably spent more time and walked more mileage in the operating room than anywhere else on the ship. What I will remember and cherish the most is seeing how God worked in this place, in each patient, and crew- including myself. There is not enough time or room to share now, but I look forward to doing some as it quiets down here and during the sail. Please pray for the last week as we finish and the last patients are healing. May we continue strong for the Lord until the very end of the outreach here in Benin.

Psalm 66:4-5

All the earth bows down to you;
they sing praise to you,
they sing praise to your name."
Selah

Come and see what God has done,
how awesome his works in man's behalf!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Angels Amongst the Sons of Men

The following poem was written by Prince Eddie Daniels from Ghana, a patient aboard having skin grafts on his hands. I is a descriptive of how he see’s Mercy Ship’s work here.

Angels Amongst the Sons of Men

The day the Big White Whale landed on the black shores of Africa was a blessed day to the Sons of Men.
It came with Angels to walk amongst the Sons of Men.
Why do I call them Angels? Let me tell you of my time with them.

I came on board the White Whale with rooms filled with
the lame
the maimed
the formed
the deformed
the wrong
and the rough.
And deep into the darkest part of the night, I saw men and brethren,
maidens and ladies, though flesh as us, yet with hearts as Angels.

Sleeplessly and tirelessly they toiled through the night,
through the pains and aches of men;
they with hands to heal and mend,
bringing from above the Father's love to the Sons of Men.

Some they cut. Some they tie.
Some they seal, and yet others
they fix with tools untold.

Like messengers of the Most High they came.
Not thinking of their own, they risked their lives
and sailed the seas to lands beyond the endless world,
to shores of Men afflicted and in pain.
Their hearts and lives they came to share,
as Angels walking amongst the Sons of Men.
Some in this life are born to pass,
and some are born in life to live,
yet these Angels are born to preserve humanity.

Though some may see lives as waste,
yet with speed they move to save.
With words of love and touch of peace,
they endlessly toil to make right the wrong.

You were born as Men to your lands,
and yet as Angels you served the earth.
Gold is digged from earth beneath.
Treasures are hunted on high seas.
But love so pure and true
can only in hearts like yours be found.
Your labor in the Lord shall not be in vain.
For every life you touch and every soul you save,
For every bone you mend and every face you straight,
The Lord of Life and Light will light your path and guide your life.

For you are truly Angels amongst the Sons of Men.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Body

This morning I had the honor of sharing a devotion with the hospital staff before we started our day. I have done it a couple times before, but this time struggled with what to share... I had a wonderful time this weekend away at a Women's retreat for rest and quiet time with God. I found myself looking around and noticing the women- I barely knew, since I don't work with them in the OR or even see them after work hours. However, each of these lovely ladies ranging from 25 to 65 years old, that work in the dining room, sales, deck department, and the school- are vital people to the ministry here on the ship. I found the passage in Romans 12:4-6-
"Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts..."
So this spurred me on to share with the hospital staff that the body of Christ is present on the ship as we all have different jobs and gifts. I returned back to the ship on Sunday morning and started interviewing people on camera about different jobs ranging from the chief officer to housekeeping staff. Then I asked people what container they were to be a blessing to others like mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:20-21 (The Message)

"In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets—some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing."

So on the Africa Mercy we have silver platters in hospitality to trash bags and dinner plates in the dinning room. Pipe wrenches to help keep our water running and gas meters to regulate the engines. File folders, passports, coffee cups, bed sheets, crayons, betadine ointment, and frying pans make up this ministry.

I was even challenged as I was sharing this devotion as I was preparing myself to be another container today in the operating room. I am starting a new job that will carry on to Togo next year. In addition to being an operating room nurse, I will help out managing the sterilization department and coordinate VVF & general surgery. It is a role with more responsibility and even new skills, but I am really looking forward to seeing how God uses me this way to be a part of the body of Christ on the ship.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sounds a little like Velvetta? That is what I thought my friend said when she mentioned the name of my patient for today. We are done with VVF this outreach and now I'm back to my (second) love of Max-fax specialty. I just have to say, all surgery, is my love- if the patient’s life is transformed and hope is given for healing. So I called for Belvida from the ward and started setting up for the case. It was a "big" case in the OR with 6 trays of instruments for this little 10-year-old girl. As I was scrubbing my hands, my sweet friend, Melanie, carried Belvida in and laid her on the OR bed with a gentle kiss. I had a lot to set up and count for the case, but I could not stop praying for the little one as anesthesia struggled to put the breathing tube down. The problem is, Belvida cannot open her mouth. Her top and bottom teeth touch and do not move due to a condition called ankylosis. Her jaw is locked in place. In ordered to eat, she has to smash food into small pieces and stick it in the open space behind her back molars. I will never take being able to eat for granted. Fours hours passed with pulling teeth, drilling, hammering, and sewing… and Belvida’s mouth opened one inch. What huge difference one inch will make in this little girl’s life.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Weekend

So a lot of people ask what I do on the weekend since I work Monday thru Friday in the Operating Room. The weekends I'm on-call are saved for sleeping in and relaxing around the ship. Having an emergency surgery on the weekend is unusual, but has happened when I was charge call.

A couple weeks ago friends and I ventured out to Cotonou. We stopped by my favorite place in the city, the hospitality center, to visit the patients before heading to the craft market. We played with the kids and then went to school with them for awhile. I love being able to interact with the patients outside of the hospital, even if we don't speak the same language, we figure out how to communicate.
The following weekend, the Africa Mercy hosted the Benin Olympic Games 2009. I was on Team Ters along with other OR nurses, in honor of our plastic surgeon, Dr. Tertis. We had a blast playing team-building games as we competed against other crew. We won the Most Team Enthusiastic Award! Woohoo!

Saturday nights are reserved for 24 viewing- a group of us (mainly from my Gateway) have been watching the tv series since the sail in January. We always have a table of snacks to get us through 4 suspenseful episodes watching Jack Bauer get all the bad guys.

Last weekend I spent a day three hours north of Cotonou in Bohicon. This is where a friend of mine and Benin nurse, Guy, lives with his family and runs a health clinic to help the local village. A couple of us from the OR spent the day touring Bohicon, the Dako Clinic with fun neighborhood kids, had a lovely African lunch, and enjoyed the Benin countryside.

So October was a busy month in the Operating Room as well as the weekends, but I must echo Anne of Green Gables sentiments-

"I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it?”

For more pictures from October check out the link underneath the clock.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

No translation needed

Only in the Africa Mercy operating room, would you have patients singing and praying aloud. In VVF, our patients are awake during surgery and receive spinals to numb from the waist down. So our first patient, Veronique, who reminds of the lady in the Bible who is so desperate for healing, reaches out to touch Jesus' robe. Veronique, has been twice to the ship this year for help. Her tears soaked my scrubs this summer as the spinal was done and I have never prayed so much for her healing. She came back for screening and I could tell by her downcast face she was wet again. The Lord only knows why she is back for a third operation, but it was done today with extra measurements to help her stay dry. At the end of her operation we sang together Jehovah, You are the most High God. I could see her smile overtake her face and joy come forth as she sang with the OR staff. Please continue to pray along with me as Veronique recovers and the Lord will be glorified in her healing and life. We finished the day with a lady from North Benin. There is a family member of another patient that only speaks her language. So through two translators, we struggled with positioning, the spinal, and just being able to communicate with Mama. At the end of the surgery, we told her the doctors were done and suddenly she was screaming at the top of her lungs. We found out she was praying and thanking us- it was so loud people were rushing to the OR to find out what the commotion was about. Eventually, we heard some hallelujahs amongst her praying and singing and we all had to respond in "Amen." No translation needed here to agree the Lord is the most High God as He lays his healing hands on these precious women.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mama

Today was VVF (Vesico-Vaginal Fistula) screening for the last time this year in Benin. I've picked up some local language and customs that seem to come natural after being here for nine months. One in particular, is to greet an older man as "Papa" and a woman as "Mama". So as the women came into A ward one by one with spectaular colorful dresses- I greeted each one, "Bonjour Mama, como ca va?". Most of women, have been outcasted by their own husbands and families due to them leaking urine after obstructive labor creates a hole in their bladder. So what a privledge it was to be the one to hold their hand, to talk to them like they are human, smile, hug, laugh, and pray with each one of these mamas. In the morning, most of their faces downcasted in shame, but by the end of the day I could see them coming out of their shell. We celebrated with the ones who received the 20 limited spaces of surgery and cried for the others we had to send away and could not help this time. All the ladies are on my heart tonight-Theresa, Sabine, Veronique, Lucie, Basso, and Agath... There are many more I can't remember their names, but our Heavenly Healer knows each one by name as I pray for each Mama I met today.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sunset


"Let the name of the LORD be praised,
both now and forevermore.

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the LORD is to be praised.

The LORD is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens."

Psalm 113:2-4

Friday, October 16, 2009

Still

"Still" by Hillsong

Hide me now under your wings
cover me within your mighty hand

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father, You are king over the flood

I will be still and know you are God
Find rest my soul in Christ alone
know His power in quietness and trust

Life has been a little crazy here on the Africa Mercy. Its easy for you to fill up your days with things and forget the reason you're here serving in Africa. For me personally, I've had up and down emotions on life issues. Feeling disconnected and left out at times with friends and coworkers. Thinking I'm not making a difference here even after long days in the OR. Searching for God knows what in my life is hard to do when everyone else looks like they have it already figured out. So last night, we sang this song at community meeting. A new song for me, so as I was paying attention to the words I felt like they were written for me for this time of my life. I was praying to find refuge in God when life seems to much for me to handle. For me to find a still place and rest knowing He is Christ alone. So this morning, I had time off before work, and found a perfect place on deck 8 (minus the deck dept. drilling), I had a quiet time with the Lord to start my day off right. Let me tell you, my heart was uplifted and I found my spirit renewed today. I was a different person today because I started my day out in different way; being still before the Lord.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Strength

Strength. This is what I've been praying for. After being sick this weekend, working on-call on Monday night until 11pm, and then another 10 hour day today in the OR. I need strength to carry on physically. Even to climb the ladder to the top of my bunk bed. I also, need strength in all areas of my life. I have a lot going on in my head and in my heart. Strength to see poverty on the streets, suffering and even death in the people I care for, and strength to carry on here on the mission field.

Tonight, I shoveled some salad and plantains in my mouth for a quick dinner before youth. I prayed for God to show the junior-highers something new, but also for me and my friend, Jane, the other youth leader. We've been studying faith in Hebrews 11 and took a break to watch "How Great is our God". Speaker Louie Giglio talked about the universe as well as the human body. He shared this passage and this is what I needed to hear tonight. I sat there in tears with the youth (also sharing their "wows" out loud) in amazement that the Creator of the Universe knows the stars by name, but also knows that I need strength to carry on.

Isaiah 40:26-31

Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and complain, O Israel,
"My way is hidden from the LORD;
my cause is disregarded by my God"?

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Happy

Remember my blog about flower power in May? It was about a patient of mine, Basse, who remembered me weeks after her surgery just because of a flower hat I was wearing. Well, she came to the ship the week I was in Paris to have the second stage of her surgery done. She had a hole on the top of her mouth effecting how she breaths, eats, and speaks. I checked the records while working one day in OR 4 and realized she had her surgery on my birthday. I was so happy she returned and the doctor said the procedure was successful, but sad I missed my little friend.

Hospitality Center
So all week I was contemplating what to do on the weekend. There are pools and beaches at are disposal around Cotonou, but I love going to the hospitality center to visit patients. These kids bring joy to my heart and a smile to my face because they are happy even being wrapped in bandages and even sometimes in pain while recovering away from home. They are always excited to see what I brought in my backpack for them to play with- coloring books, crayons, bubbles, and play-dough. So my friends and I made our way through the streets of Cotonou with motorcyclists zooming around us, women with baskets of fruits on their heads going to the market, and children waving at us "Yovos" (meaning white person). As I walked into the hospitality center and my eyes adjusted from being in the bright African sun- I was suddenly surrounded by children giving hugs and the first smile I saw was very familiar. It was Basse in my arms! What a surprise and sweet reunion with Basse and her mother. They were so happy to see me and show me that Basse was healed on top of her mouth. After some play time with the children, we sat down with them in the new classroom at the center. I was able to participate in school with Basse and the other children as they learned the French alphabet, numbers, and even some English phrases. When I first met Basse in May, she was shy and non-verbal. Today she is a beautiful and outgoing girl, but more than anything I can tell Basse is happy.

Teacher, Ellen & student counting
Basse & me, both happy!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Home

I am back to my home onboard the Africa Mercy. I'm keep catching myself calling it home, but it truly is with my adopted Gateway family and friends from all over the world. It is where I eat, sleep, and work- what I call my triathlon training. Africa is where my heart is the happiest right now as I serve the Lord. Even in this life, I have ups and downs, but its worth it to see healing come to the people of Benin. To see relief for a man with a hernia, a new smile on a cleft lip baby, new sight to the blind, and to see a death sentence from a tumor erased for good. Most of all, to see God's healing power overcome not only the physical ailments, but the dark forces that are binding the country of Benin. This place I call home, needs prayer from all of us. Pray for the crew onboard the Africa Mercy to stay strong and finish the outreach well. For people of Benin to feel and know the love of God. Pray we do not just leave the country with just temporary changes, but transformations and eternal impressions on the people of Benin.

Flying from Paris to Benin- As we were approaching the city of Cotonou, I could see the Africa Mercy at the port outside my window. With tears in my eyes, I knew I was home.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reunion

Good-byes are always hard to say. In the beginning, it was ok for me to say goodbye- almost every night someone left the ship. Then it started becoming difficult with Gateway family departing and close friends going home who I arrived with in January. I know God calls us at different times and places to be to serve. So you have to look forward to reunions whether here on earth or in heaven one day.
So yesterday I had my first Mercy Ship reunion in Paris! My friend, Liv, from Texas, finished her time on the ship as Ortho Coordinator and she had a layover in Paris. Our friends, Sarah, from Austria and Margreet, from Holland, took trains in to meet us. It was such a sweet time over lunch in cafe to catch up on life. My parents were able to meet my friends and hear their stories. We spent the afternoon walking around seeing Notre Dame and then took a boat ride on the Seine River. I took them to my favorite crepe stand to pick up dinner so we could sit below the Eiffel tower as it lit up the city of Paris. It was such a good time to share ship memories and as well as talk about "post-ship" life. We all have lived an unique life together these past months in Benin. As we said our goodbyes again in Paris, it made me think back to the dock in Cotonou. Tears are shed, hugs are given, and we wave farewell to each crew member and look forward to reunions with our friends we make onboard the Africa Mercy.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Paris

This week has flown by in Paris with my parents. We have done so much together in the City of Lights and also traveled to other parts of France. We spent a day in the Luxembourg gardens and seeing amazing stain glass in churches dating all the way from the 11th century. A day at the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. Always had a constant view of the Eiffel tower right down the street from our hotel. Walked the market streets of Paris eating crepes. Amazing birthday dinner on top of the Eiffel tower with views that went on for miles. Trips to the Normandy beaches reminded me of my world history and champagne country brought on new tastes and smells. Of course, I went a little click happy taking pictures to document the trip, but I must say the best one is me with the two people I love the most. Thank you to my amazing parents, I was able to have a wonderful vacation and unforgettable birthday in Paris.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Most High God

So Friday I had the privilege of helping in all the operating rooms as the OR coordinator for the day. I love being a part of it all and seeing what God is doing here in Benin. OR 1 &2 had plastic cases scheduled and OR 4 had one major max-fax surgery for the day. I was able to give coffee breaks to my coworkers and help with turnover between cases. McDonald's did teach me a valuable lesson on how properly mop a floor. In the afternoon, I volunteered to go pick up our next patient from the waiting bench. This is where we do our pre-op interview and pray with each patient before walking them back to the OR. I came to the bench and Ines, brave little girl, just 11 years ago, came up to me to shake my hand. I noticed it was not the normal movement for a handshake because of the burn contracture on her arm. I learned from her mother, she was only a couple years old, when she fell into the fire and her clothes caught fire. The scarring was from her ear to her hip on her left side. It was amazing to see the transformation the plastic surgeon and OR nurses were able to do for her arm in just one surgery. More will follow for Ines. I saw her today at church in the ward and her right arm was raised as we sang " Jehovah, You are the Most High God." I have to agree with her. 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cataract

My OR assignment this past week was cataracts. Woohoo! Let me tell you how exciting it gets:

Microscope handles, drape,  straight scissors, eye speculum,  calibri foceps, iris scissors, bipolar cautery, weck spear, blade, slit, keratome blade, silastic gel, BSS, lens loop, irrigation & aspiration, lens forceps, Y rotator, and gentamicin injection. 

Now REPEAT 4o times per day. It is exciting and a blessing to assist Dr. Glenn giving sight to 30-40 Benin people that were once blind to cataracts.   

 It's all about love in the OR with our heart scrub hats- Melanie, Michel, and me. 

Monday, August 31, 2009

On-Call

I was more than happy to hand over my pager last year when I quit my job. That little annoying sound box prevented me from running errands in traffic packed Tyler and kept me up more nights than none.  When I arrived onboard the Africa Mercy, I was unaware of how much we rely on pagers to find people on the ship. First day in Benin, I had the duty nurse pager, that is God's sense of humor. So last Saturday, I was one of the three OR nurses on-call for the day. For the pager handover, I usually answer the door with one eye open and then return to watching my eyelids. However, this time I couldn't fall back asleep so I ventured to the dining room for breakfast. One of my friends, Missy, was shocked to see me up early. She wanted me to go to the hospitality center to visit patients with her. As I was explaining my sad excuse of being on-call, Luke, one of our coworkers overheard and graciously volunteered to take the pager for me. I love that there is a different and willing attitude when it comes to helping each other out with the pager when you work with missionaries. So a group of us gathered our supplies and walked to the hospitality center for the day. When we got there all the patients were enthralled in a Nigerian movie playing. Of course, there are always babies to hold and kids to entertain. I broke out the coloring books and stickers, Tracy had balloon animals to make, and Liv had press-on tattoos. What a great day until I had to retrieve the pager when I got back to the ship. :)

:)

The views expressed here are solely mine and are not the opinion of AWC/Mercy Ships.