Monday, March 29, 2010


Her name was Anicette, but we all called her Ani. We taught her mama the Annie theme song... Tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll love you tomorrow, You're always a day away." Last year in Benin while I was working in admissions, the pediatric nurses would bring in the feeding program babies. These babies were so tiny they got lost in their blankets. Ani's mama brought her to the ship to find help for her sweet little girl that was born with a cleft lip and palate. First she had to gain weight before surgery. So the ward nurses took extra time teaching mama how to feed her. I remember praying for them. I wanted to see Ani in the operating room to close the huge gap in her lip that continued on to the top of her mouth. She would never know the ridicule her mother received because of the birth defect. Ani would grow up to have a beautiful smile. I would visit Ani and Mama often at the hospitality center where she was getting bigger by the day. Finally, the day came when Dr. Gary Parker closed her lip with thin purple suture. Her mama was ecstatic to see her in recovery and cried tears of gratefulness.

We were all so happy to send Ani home to her village and to have her return for surgery here in Togo. Ani and her mama did come back. However, Ani was sick and being over a year old, weighed only 9 lbs. All the medical knowledge and skill we have on the ship, could not give us the answers we wanted to our questions. She was so sick and lost the fight today. Anicette is now in the arms of her Heavenly Father. The Father that allowed us to love on her and her mama for many days- to show them mercy and compassion when no one else did. Lord, I praise you for being Ani's ultimate Healer. Give comfort and strength to her Mama.

Friday, March 26, 2010


It was only three weeks ago the desire of change stirred within me. Not only a change of scenery, but a change of attitude… a change of heart. In just ten days, everything changed in my life. I had to wake up in the early hours to leave with the screening team before most of the crew made it to breakfast. I went from being a nurse in the operating room keeping watch over a sterile field to being outside bending down in the dirt to meet the eyes of children. Instead of a scrub hat, I had a bandana to catch the sweat as we worked in the heat of the day until the last person in line was seen. With help of a translator I heard many stories of suffering. My hands were first on the tumors to assess and then to pray over them. Screening paperwork were sheets of checkmarks under columns labeled fibroids, cerebral palsy, and even cancer. These checkmarks kept track of who we could not help. Who we had to say “No, we can not fix this with surgery.” So many faces I remember full of sadness, suffering, and shame because of their illness or deformity. All I could do was offer them hope in prayer. All I could do to keep from carrying the burden was to pray for them. Tears streaked down my face as I prayed for them each by name. Jean-Baptist, only a toddler, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis with joints so swollen, he was unable to stand alone without his mama’s help. Emmanuel, a 13-year old boy with cerebral palsy, bowed his head with me to pray. His brother carried him away and was so grateful for the prayers for strength. For Collette, I prayed for a miracle like the woman in the Bible that was bleeding for years. Bella had a goiter, Mati had bowed legs, and Oscar had hands that were contracted due to a burns when he was a year old- all of them will see a surgeon. A mama came in hopes of her 4-day old receiving surgery for her cleft-lip, but before she will need to gain weight through our feeding program.

Thursday was one of the last screenings in Togo and I will never forget my final “patient”. Mama unwrapped him from her back and handed me this six-year old little boy with cerebral palsy. I held him in my lap and just wept. His arms and legs were so thin and contracted in to his body. However, he smiled, giggled, and his eyes made contact with mine as I kissed his forehead. All I could do was pray, but before I asked his name. His mama responded, “Mawulolo.” My translator turned to me and whispered “It means God is great.” At that moment my heart changed and instead of asking why this little boy has to suffer like so many, I prayed for healing to a God who is great.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Blank Friday

I was planning on doing a serious, deep thought blog tonight. However, I need to process my thoughts for the week and will post soon. Here is a effortless blog for tonight... If you want to join in on the fun go here.

1. Today I am wearing my pjs because it is almost my bedtime (midnight)... I've been up since 5:30 for screening. I was wearing scrubs (workday pjs), but they got soaked in the African downpour today.

2. My favorite childhood memory: summer family vacations and camping in our pop-up camper and hearing the rain on the canvas top. My favorite food now is chips & salsa.

3. A day that I am too busy to brush my hair and I just put it in a bandana/scrub hat is a day that I am too busy.

4. The last movie I saw was Little Mermaid and the next movie I want to see is ... sadly, I don't know. I'm months behind on current movies.

5. My favorite smell is fresh baked bread because that is one of the few good smells in Africa and we have German baker on board that makes wonderful treats for us.

6. A weird little quirk I have is I only eat yogurt off the back of the spoon.

7. When I take personality quizzes they always say I'm a sucker & servant but, nonetheless a loyal friend.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I once was told by a wise (youth) leader... Change is good because God is good. He continues to make the change in us from the time we first believe until we have our new heavenly bodies. I feel like I have written about change before on my blog. I don't like change, but nonetheless change is always upon us. Surprisingly, I found myself praying for change. I could see I needed a change inside that comes with a change on the outside.
So for the next month, I am taking a break from the operating room and working with screening. From day one in Benin, my heart has been serving in-land and being one-on-one with the people of West Africa. This is an opportunity for me to hold their hand, be a compassionate listener, and hopefully provide some hope for healing. I love screening, but hate it at the same time. It is difficult to see the suffering that is here and know we cannot help everyone. Today, was my second day and already find it so hard to turn people away. We always provide prayer for those that cannot come to the ship for surgery. I do pray that God will be their ultimate Healer and radically change their lives no matter the outcome. I pray the same for me as I discover change is good because God is good.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking Beasts. Be divine waters." ~ C.S. Lewis, The Magicians Nephew

My reading to-do list keeps growing longer and I finally decided to tackle it. So I started reading The Chronicles of Narnia for the first time. It is so much more than a children's book being rich in truth and symbolism. It is also a fun read to imagine the new land of Narnia being formed, but then again I visited Narnia this weekend.
A group of us ventured north to Kpalime' to see the mountains of Togo. It was beautiful. Rich of vegetation. Green. Fresh air. As we drove up the steep cliffs we passed by views of the villages below and waterfalls above. Guides took us on a hike through the thick jungle in search of butterflies and to show us how nature provides for the people. You could hear birds and insects communicating, watch the trees sway back and forth, and feel the thunder following us as storms approached.
It was the best silence I have ever heard. We climbed down the mountain and crossed over rivers where children were washing clothes. Our guides shared with us plants to eat or painted us with the natural colors of the earth. What amazing day full of breathtaking views of today's Narnia.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ward Church

My commute to church was just a flight of stairs this morning. I could hear the beating of drums just below my cabin. Today was the beginning of ward church in Togo. My cabin-mate, Gini and I arrived to "B" ward converted into a sanctuary. Instead of pews there sitting stools squeeze between patients' beds. There is no dress code since most people are in hospital gowns or scrubs. No announcements or programs, just translators sporadically placed around the room to translate the message. Nurses are at the door to greet and usher in patients from other wards. Several babies I admired from afar with bandages covering their new lips that once had a gap. In front of me, was a set of newborn twins, born at 32 weeks, and one with casts on her legs. She will never know the rejection that other patients like Bobo and Akkousava have suffered with their legs twisted for years. They both sit with their straight legs propped up on pillows with brightly color casts as they heal from surgery this past week. As the music starts, patients and translators, gather in the center of room to dance. One lady, has a head scarf covering a large jaw tumor, she is scheduled for surgery this week, but already has started to praise. One mama, takes a plastic jar of craft beads and turns it into a music instrument to join in the worship. The message is spoken in several languages and dialects and speaks volumes to patients and crew. We depart with hugs and handshakes, the only thing familiar to a church goer in any country. I head back up the stairs to my cabin and think my attendance will be close to perfect this year in Ward Church.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I look at my last picture I posted for Wordless Wednesday and the only thing that comes to my mind is James 2:17, "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." I snapped the picture right outside the church I visited last Sunday. It was my desktop background this week. It challenged me to think about my faith. Is it alive? I know I am in Africa, but my faith needs action daily. Recently, I felt like I I flatlined. My faith needed to be revived. Not only does faith become alive with action like good deeds, but also time in the Word and prayer. Take your spiritual pulse, are you dead or alive?

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Presidential elections are happening today in Togo. We have been preparing for this day just as the Togonese people have since we arrived. The crew involved with security has been working extra hard to keep us safe. Patients were admitted days in advance in case of political unrest in the city. Our Togonese day workers have been on different shifts to allow them to vote in the election. We hear the people of Togo wanting peace and justice for their country and we are praying the same.

"For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. " Colossians 1:16-17

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Today, we had a young man with a bilateral maxilla tumor to be removed... just imagine the center of your face, your nose and upper lip protruding out about three inches. I was helping coordinate in the operating room so I was in and out all day of the six hour surgery.
Being a hospital ship, the crew is a walking blood bank as our patients may be in need of a little boost of blood cells before and after surgery. I was beckoned in the afternoon to donate for this young man in OR #4. I arrived in style (in scrubs) and allowed my friends, Maggie & Naomi, stick a hose in my arm to drain me of my oxygen carrying cells. It flowed into the bag as fast I could drink my coke and time to pray for the man about to receive my blood in order that he may live. Afterwards, I took a minute to check on him still in surgery as my blood was being administered and he is expected to make a full recovery. I was not the nurse assigned to the patient, but I am thankful I was able to be a part of this life changing surgery.

That my friends, is why I love being a nurse and a blood donor.


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