Monday, April 26, 2010

Every Prayer

My alarm went off at 4:30 am and I pushed snooze just once before dragging myself out of bed. I was looking forward to Friday, but also dreading it. As I closed my eyes, I knew what lay ahead for the day so I prayed for the nine minutes of “snooze”. I could imagine just a two hours north of Lome, in Assahoun, hundreds of Togolese were gathering for our last surgical screening.

“Lord, send the right patients, the ones we can help.” That is my prayer for every screening.

For the past three months, the crew have been volunteering on their days off to come with the screening team to help with various jobs. This is when the body of Christ comes together to support each other for a single reason. There are engineers and deckhands working security, galley staff as escorts, and dinning room stewards are at the prayer station. There are usually three of us nurses that stand at attention when the first people are escorted through the gate. The translators are by our side to help us hear each person’s story of suffering from a disease or deformity. Then it is our turn to respond. I pull out a single slip of paper from my front scrub pocket to fill out if I think we can help with surgery. It is a ticket to the ship to see a surgeon. I am filled with joy because this surgery could save their lives. Then there is the other answer I have to give- “There is nothing we can do. We have no doctor to help.” They are the most difficult words I have ever had to speak. By the time it is translated, my eyes are glossed with tears. I’m asking God why he brought this person to me when I can do nothing. These children will struggle to walk with bowed legs because we have finished orthopedic surgery. The schedule is now full, we can’ fit any more Papas with hernias and Mamas with goiters. Little ones with cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus and paralysis have nowhere else to go for help. They continue to ask if there is anything we can do for them. I share what nursing knowledge I know that could relieve their suffering. Then I extend my hands to them and offer the only words I have remaining- a prayer. By the end of the line, I have nothing left in me and I ask others to step in and we agree in unison for God to be the ultimate Healer. I look to God for strength to carry on to find the people we can help; like my last patient of the day, a little one-month old with a cleft lip and palate.

The line disappeared in just a few hours. We took a break from the heat and indulged in some fan milk. A few people trailed in late and most I have to turn away. In the background, I heard some translators singing this song. This is when I knew not only my first prayer of the morning was heard, but every prayer spoken from that day.

"I have a Maker
He formed my heart.
Before even time began
My life was in His hands.
He knows my name,
He knows my every thought.
He sees each tear that falls,
And hears me when I call."

- He Knows My Name

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010


It started just how any youth retreat would. The excited kids weighed down by backpacks said good-bye to their parents before embarking on the weekend retreat. Moms & Dads showered their children with hugs and prayers. It brought me back to my days being a youth and then graduating to youth leader for some years at Mid-Cities Bible Church. I loved those days so I was ready to see what God had in store for this weekend for the youth here on the Africa Mercy.
The luggage and the 20-something youth piled into the landrovers and we were off to Kpalime, about two hours north of Lome'. It was a typical car ride- the youth started to sing Veggietale tunes, Disney favorites, and finally settled into worship songs they knew by heart. The four-wheel drive landrovers took to the mountains of Togo and we arrived at the YWAM base just by lunch time, the hottest part of the day. The kids went straight into setting up their cabins and hanging their mosquito nets on the bunk beds. There was free time to play games, to explore, and a contest to find the weirdest looking bugs. We ate African dinner (and some boys ate flying termites), by lantern since the generators had failed. All of us gathered with our torches (i.e. flashlights) for a time of worship and message. Our speaker, Marty, shared his story and the story of Elijah hearing from God- in the still whisper. It was the perfect setting, to hear from God, except I would have to wait until the morning to do so. I was not only a youth leader, but camp nurse and had a restless night along with others. In the coolness of the morning, before our coffee & bread, we took time to mediate on Psalm 95.

"For the LORD is great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountains peaks belong to him." vs 3-4

The rest of the day we spent exploring God's creation in the mountains of Togo. We ate sack lunches at a waterfall, that was just dry a month ago, but because of rainy season, we had a spectacular view. Then we ventured further into the jungle, with a hike to another waterfall, where a cascade of water and a muddy pool cooled us off. We returned back to camp to clean up for dinner and then a campfire underneath the stars.
The last morning I spent time with some of my favorite people, my 6th grade girls. Bethany, Iona, and Grace created a collage with markers & glue to share how God speaks to them to share with the whole group. Then we gathered sticks, leaves, and flowers to create a prayer/meditation station. Each of us spent time at the stations that were placed on these worn stone steps. The staircase looked like it lead to an overgrown bush, but beyond was a abandon sanctuary. A perfect place to hear from God. That weekend, I heard from God- in the gentle breeze through the trees, in the grasshoppers jumping around my feet, in my reading and journaling, in the waterfalls, in the songs we sang, and in my time with the youth. Most of all I heard from God in the stillness of the sanctuary.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Life & Death

Death has been on my mind this past week. It is something I would never want to write about, but being on my heart as well- I need too. I hate to sound morbid, but death is a part of life. Living and working on a hospital ship, death is among us. Our patients would not be here unless it was in their near future. Isn't death everyone's future? Our patients have tumors that are so large, that one more inch of growth would slowly suffocate them. On Thursday, we removed a tumor (size of nerf football) taking over Ama's face. Her life was given back to her because of surgery. There was a patient on the ward, Vincent and he came to us last year in Benin. Doctors first thought it was an infection in his hand. I remember praying with Vincent on the pre-op bench for God to rid the infection in his hand, but also praising God for being the ultimate healer in Vincent's life. Vincent's hands were resting on his lap, open, and palm up- ready to receive the answer from God. Now we know it was cancer slowly taking over his body. Vincent breathed his last breath this morning and is now healed in a heavenly way. There are babies that have cleft lips and palates that would starve to death, but thankfully their mamas care enough to come for help. However, this past week, Ani was so sick she lost her battle and now is in the arms of Jesus.
Over the weekend, the crew celebrated Easter and honored another death. The death of Jesus on the cross for us. We focused on his sacrificial death, but also his victory over death. He loved us so much he died on the cross for our mistakes, so we may live and love others the same. This is why I am here. I understand that I will face death, however it is what we do with life that counts. I pray we give a new life to those here with not only physical healing, but spiritually healing that comes from Christ alone.

2 Corinthians 2:14-15

"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.


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