It has been a challenging week starting on Tuesday with the beginning of surgery. I was assigned to be in OR 1 for general surgery which I have been setting up for days before. I felt we had nothing prepared for the week and its new OR for most of us. Not only do we need to find our role in the OR, but where all the supplies are kept! I was thankful for the time I was able to go receive our patient in the holding area and pray for them- as well as the OR team taking care of them. I had to rely on God for every working minute. All my coworkers have different backgrounds, training, and knowledge & skill- so it has to be Christ to keep us unified. We have to be here with the right motives- to serve God and our patients. We have had some difficult cases and prayer is what got me through. I praise God for giving me the skill I needed to assist the surgeons, for giving us an IV site on a baby, for allowing us to repair hernias and remove tumors, and for patients breathing again. One of my friends told me I will never pray more than I do here. I am thankful for having a wonderful support from friends & family that pray for me when I am here in Africa.
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
Life is great and easy-going on the Africa Mercy... it will soon change tomorrow we when start the first surgeries in this Benin Outreach! This weekend was fun with a trip to the local market to make homemade pizza with friends. Sunday was my first time to go to an Africa church and then a visit to the YWAM mission of Benin. Starting tomorrow life will be busy, but I cannot tell you how excited I am to start surgery! It will feel like home even more in the OR. I think I will be general surgery for awhile and hopefully be able to rotate throughout the other specialties. Please pray for our patients and their families as they travel to the ship this week. Pray for safety and wisdom for the healthcare team. Pray for healing for our patients for God's glory and renown!
We finished our first screening day in Benin with close to 2000 patients seen and more to come tomorrow! I felt your prayers as I took several people's health history and vital signs for ten hours today. I had a wonderful translator, Florent, to help with french and several dialects. I picked up a few words here and there. I relied more on touch and basic greetings and "God Bless you" with every person that I met today. Please continue to pray for us as it is hard to see each person come to our tables with deformities you can only imagine. I could see Florent was emotionally drained seeing his own people this way. He said I had courage to do what I do, but I gave God the credit for giving me strength throughout the day. My first patient was a 3 month old girl with a facial deformity- the mother handed her right over to me. I looked into this precious face and prayed for God's mighty hand to heal or deliver her- like every patient I saw today. I was able to see by the end of the day- many were cleared for surgery and were in the group to have their pre-op pictures- Praise the Lord! Many were also sent home after prayer the ones we can not help on the ship. We saw patients that were suffering from hernias, head and neck tumors, past trauma injuries, and bone deformities- people from all over Africa came to find hope and healing.
Tonight we sang a South Africa worship song with an added two-step action as we rejoice with Africa to God!
Its a half past 9 (how the British say time) and I'm chillin' (American slang) in the dinning room. I just finished my first session of Daniel, a Beth Moore study with 50 other ladies on the ship. I should be in bed soon since I have to be ready to go into town at 6am tomorrow. We have our first day of screening for general, maxo-facial, and orthopedic surgeries. I am part of the history assessment team with other nurses. Along with a translator, I will take vital signs and a health history from patients the next two days. Please pray that God will send the right people to screenings- the ones we can help physically with surgery and those we can not that God may heal them in a different way. It will be a challenging long day and we all have different jobs from passing out water, to the health screening, and praying with people of Benin. This is the start of Mercy Ships outreach to Benin for 2009 and I am grateful to be here along with your support and prayers.
Outside I can see a lighthouse on the coast of Benin and it reminds me of one of my favorite Psalms 27-vs 1-2: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"
Tonight we had amazing night of worship service on the Africa Mercy. It was a night of hymns and the stories behind them from Be Thou My Vision to Blessed Assurance. I love hymns since the words are so rich with truth. I have a favorite hymn I would like to share as a prayer for my year in Africa called "Father, Let Me Dedicate"-
"Father, let me dedicate, all this year to Thee,
In whatever worldly state Thou wilt have me be:
Not from sorrow, pain or care, freedom dare I claim;
I'm finally here in Benin- its so hard to believe! We are not allowed off the ship just yet, but hopefully soon my feet will be on African soil! I am so thankful God has brought me "to the ends of the earth" to share His love with the people of Benin! Thank you for all your prayers during the past days as we sailed and had engine trouble that delayed us to dock until this morning. Pictures will be posted soon (left column), but the one here is right after my first glimpse of Cotonou, Benin on Monday.
In the past hour we have let down our anchor off the coast of Benin. Benin is within reach- I can see the port where we were planning to dock at 2pm with celebrations for our arrival. This morning we learned we lost power to one of our engines we need to get into the port. Please pray for wisdom the electrical and engineering team on the ship. Lift up the captain and his team as they discern what is best for the crew. There was much excitement about the ship's arrival, but now it is more somber as we wait and trust God. During our prayer time, 2 Corinthians 12 came to me. What an encouragement it is to know during weakness that God's power is perfect.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (vs 9-10, ESV)
The anticipation is building among crew members this morning- we are so close to Benin! This is the first time in Africa for most of the crew, like myself. I can hardly believe I'm so close to Africa. The Lord has been faithful to expand my mission field "to the ends of the earth." I have a heart for the those (anywhere in the world) that are not only in need of physical healing, but healing comes that through Jesus Christ's love.
In my gateway training, I had the privilege to meet Mercy Ship directors from all over the world. It is an international ministry that reaches from small town Garden Valley, Texas to all over Europe, to New Zealand and Australia, to South Korea and South Africa. I would like to share with you some valuable lessons and prayers the director from South Africa passed on to us as we prepare to serve in Africa.
1. Pray for flexibility. Africans don't plan. We need to be flexible when our plans change to go with whatever is happening. We might plan one way and something totally opposite will happen, but we have to trust God is in control.
2. Pray for patience. Not only do I need patience working and living with hundreds of people from all over the world for the next year. We all need patience to see a difference in the people we serve. Change takes time in Africa.
3. Pray for strength in the Lord. The poverty and injustice will be hard to see in Africa. Both emotionally and physically draining to see it everyday. Our screening days will be difficult to turn those away we can not help. Also, pray for strength as we fight against the enemy's attacks in Benin, the birthplace of voodoo.
I am grateful to all that read this journal entry and take a moment to pray for Africa- even if I have never met you. May the Lord bless you.
It is a typical day onboard the Africa Mercy- only my second Sunday, but it feels like home. Its four o'clock in the afternoon, I'm in the mid-ship lounge, the social center of the ship. There is a group of people (representing more than 4 countries) playing a new game. On the starboard (right-side), there are kids making a fort with furniture and toys. Others are on computers keeping in touch with family and friends. I'm sitting on the couch, port-side, looking out at the blue waves wondering what is beyond what I can see. I think we are passing Ghana today. We expect to arrive in Benin tomorrow morning!
The weekends are days of rest on the ship since we can't go far while we are sailing. I've slept in both days and worked out with a friend in the afternoon. Watching movies, reading, and playing games are typical activities. If you're ever bored, its easy to find a friend. If you want to be by yourself there are hiding places for that as well. This afternoon they served fruit smoothies on the sunny bow- now that's the part of the cruise I've been missing! :) We have evening church together and I am looking forward to the sermon series going over Paul's ministry from Galatians- Colossians. I hope to join a Beth Moore Study, Daniel, starting up during the week when we are Benin. I love living in community- I'm a people person. I have missed it for the past couple years while living on my own and working evening shift. One of chaplains shared with us last week- make sure we don't replace our personal time with God with fellowship. So I need to make sure I keep my time with God and not get to busy while working and living onboard the Africa Mercy. I am here because of Him and nothing else.
Hope everyone is doing well! Thank you for all your emails of encouragement and prayers!
Life onboard the Africa Mercy is wonderful! I have never been more happy and content in where God has me in life than now. I actually teared up in front of my OR team today sharing how excited that I am here to serve along with them in the next year.
We have hospital devotions throughout the week and I was asked to share on Thursday with the group. I questioned what to speak about- I'm one of the new ones- what do I have to share with this group? I finally decided to share my story how God brought me to Mercy Ships. I shared how God has given me a mission field for the past ten years in ways I could never imagine. Also, that He has used me variety of ways to be a witness. I shared one of favorite passages from The Message paraphrase...
"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. " 2 Timothy 2:20 (MSG)
I need to be willing to be different containers for God. My first job in the Guatemala OR was to mop the floors and later years as the scrub nurse. I will have a variety of jobs (mostly in the OR) on the ship throughout the year. On the ship right now there are more than 300 different containers- some work in the galley, dinning hall, the starbucks and ship shop. Others work in the offices of HR and finances. There are full-time parents and teachers for the kids. Especially during the sail, the people in the engine room and the bridge are important containers for this mission. There are people in housekeeping and the the whole hospital team of nurses and doctors. Everyone works together to make it possible for us to serve God and the people of Benin. I also include each of you that are at home praying for us-part of the team- you are a blessing to me. Thank you and I pray that God may use in many ways to bless others.