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.


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."

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


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.


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