Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ends of the Earth

Have you ever had a verse come alive to you? Acts 1:8, the one you can find in my title, feels like my life story. I have never been to the Jerusalem, Judea, or Samaria, but God has given me an ever-increasing mission field. I first went to Juarez, Mexico in 1999 with my youth group... I was ruined in a good way. Three more Mexico trips followed over the years to border cities to do construction projects and Vacation Bible School. I found myself in the mission field at home- working at my church, sharing with friends at university, and reaching out to my coworkers. Then I traveled to Guatemala for my first time to use my nursing skills and I continued with three more trips to the little clinic in Guatemala’s hills.
Finally, I had to ask how could I satisfy my heart’s desire of doing missions just one week a year? So I signed up full-time with Mercy Ships and my life has never been the same. I have witnessed God do miracles in the lives of people here in West Africa. I see physical healing as well as spiritual healing for our patients that have suffered so long. I thought this Acts 1:8 calling would be complete here being a nurse missionary. However, my heart longed even more to be at the “ends of earth” when I went to visit Georgette with the Jesus Film Team. We were invited into villages by chiefs to share the good news of Jesus Christ. We went so deep into the bush that our land rover was driving over footpaths into areas that no vehicle had been.
We would arrive at a village and the children would gather around us as elders collected benches for us to sit on. The first village was Toweta, where I was suppose to share a testimony after the message. I kept going over in my head what I was going to share, but as I looked into the crowd, all I had was compassion for these children. This reminded me of the passage in Mark 10 when Jesus said "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” I read this passage to them and said that no matter if you are a child, a mama, or papa you may enter the kingdom if you receive the truth that God so loved the world he gave his son as a sacrifice for our sins. As I spoke John 3:16 from memory, I could see in their eyes this was new- that they had never heard this truth before of God’s love. It was that day I found myself at the “ends of earth” as we continued on visiting Glachihoue’ and Kakapohoue’ sharing the gospel, our lives, and praying for the village people. That night, the Jesus Film was shown in the local language, Fon, and even a brass band showed up for the worship and dancing afterwards. Sunday, the team split up in pairs to visit and encourage local churches. I was the only Yovo (white person) at this little village church and I danced like one too. What a joy it was to give Bibles out to new believers that had received the truth the day before at the Jesus Film. We said our final farewell after a time of thanksgiving and prayer for the time we had in Benin and headed home to the ship in Togo. I find myself longing to be out there in the villages, but I trust that God will place me in different mission fields, sometimes at the beginning, in the middle, or at the “ends of the earth."

Friday, August 27, 2010


As I looked through my computer’s photo album to find pictures for Wordless Wednesday, I saw so many stories to share with my blog readers. I know so many look forward to my pictures on Wednesday, but it would not do the picture justice unless I share with you what it means. So this is a picture of Mama Georgette and me just the weekend before I left West Africa.

I had the honor of going with the Jesus Film team to visit Georgette and her family in Dogbo, Benin. I have never seen God’s timing more perfect than when I first met Georgette and her pastor, Simon, in July. Georgette traveled from Benin to Togo for a CT scan on the ship with special permission from Dr. Gary. Last year, the Jesus Film team worked with Georgette and her husband in Cotonou and all along the crew thought she was pregnant. As time passed, they discovered her swollen abdomen was not a baby, but a tumor that had been growing for 12 years. We had no surgeon that could help her in Benin however with a CT scan she possibly could find a local doctor to help. So she arrived to the ship only coming for a scan, the same day Dr. Frank was screening general patients for surgery. See, Dr. Frank was suppose to be leaving on a plane that day to head home to Uganda. He had come three weeks earlier to do VVF surgery and fill in a gap because a max-fax surgeon had canceled. Then we received noticed our general surgeon was not able to come in July so Dr. Frank decided to stay to help the countless patients we had waiting for surgery, including Georgette. If any other surgeon would have been there, Georgette would have had only come for the scan.

The day of Georgette’s surgery finally came. I sat with her on the pre-op bench praying with my translator not knowing prayers were being lifted up on our wards, at the hospitality center, and in Benin. Georgette’s prayers were answered. She was transferred to the recovery room three hours later, with two units of blood from crew members, and 17 kilograms (37 pounds) lighter.

When I visited Georgette on the ward, I shared with her about her surgery and all she could do was give praise to the One who timed it so. I also had the honor of sharing this story with her family as thanksgiving flowed from each person. My friend reminded me afterwards, that I had met Georgette and her husband, the year before at a viewing of Jesus film and I had prayed for Georgette, but never knowing we would be reunited this way in God's perfect timing.

Monday, August 16, 2010


In 6th grade Social Studies class I did a project on Togo. I remember picking out the country from the world map because it was made up of two words. “To” and “go”- how cool was that! However, I do not recall any other information I shared with my teacher, Mr. Samuelson, in order to get the grade. In the six months being in Togo, I have learned so much more about the country. I can share with you the history or statistics of Togo, but I rather share the stories of the people I came to serve and will remember for a lifetime.

One of the weekend holidays, I took advantage of visiting my little friend, Afi. A group of us packed in a taxi to take the 3-hour car ride north to Atakpame. The better part of day, we spent around this village with her pictures asking, “Where is Afi?” “Have you seen her?”.

The day before, my translator friend and I spoke to a family member, planning the trip to visit Afi and her mother Ama. We waited for hours at a paper supply store, but only grandmothers, cousins, and neighbors appeared to thank us for helping her. They did not know she received the life-saving surgery on the Africa Mercy a month before. Our taxi driver, even reversed down a one-way street in order to get us to her house, but Afi was not there. After a guinea a late lunch of guinea fowl and a walk through the market, we headed home to Lome’ defeated.

On the taxi drive back, guided by a lightening storm and a starlit sky, we received a phone call from Afi’s father. They were in Lome’ at a bus station! What a joyous reunion in a gas station parking lot it was after searching for Afi for 12 hours! We showered her with love and toys, and gave loaves of bread to her grateful parents that we had carried all day. It was the typical “TIA” (This is Africa) day, but how thankful I am that I saw Afi again. I will remember Afi, not only because of her amazing story of how she received surgery, but the day I was able to see her healed and so happy!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pink Sheets

The number of patients on the ward these days can be counted on one hand. However, there are hundreds of pink sheets that remain. Every patient that is seen, there is a pink sheet that tells us each their story. Their name, contact information, basic assessment is written down on arrival to the ship. It is placed in the patients’ chart and this is what the nurses look at to find the surgeon’s diagnoses and plan for surgery. However, these pink, yellow, and green sheets that remain are patients we could not help this outreach. All are placed in a file cabinet in the OR office waiting to be pulled when we have a cancellation or the right doctor to help. The final surgeries were done on Thursday and we still have a stack of pink sheets left. Like any hospital document it has to be shredded, but first we needed to pray.

We cleared the recovery room and laid out each pink sheet representing a person that came to us for help, but surgery would not be their answer. I walked among the covered stretchers along with other crew and read stories of people I never met, but were in need of my prayers. There was Dantote and Dola that were placed on the max-fax waiting list. Gloria, David, Esther, and Emmanuel all had yellow sheets from orthopedic screening. I lifted up praises for them because written on the sheet was “too good for surgery”. They all are babies with the beginning signs for bowed legs, but with the right nutrients it may be reversed. There were ones that broke my heart when I read of cancer on Kadjo’s pink sheet and HIV on others. I picked up a green sheet and noticed my handwriting below from general screening. I had met Akoele for a brief minute in hopes of being able to provide surgery for her large goiter, but now I sat there praying for healing in another way. Bamafou and Koko were waiting at home for a phone call to tell them to come to the ship, but we no more surgery slots- I prayed for peace that surpasses all understanding. As I placed each of the pink sheets in the “Prayed for” bin, the piles still on the stretchers were overwhelming to the few us left. This is when we agreed to keep praying until every name has been read. Will you pray along with us? I will find a pink sheet that has a story of someone that needs your prayers for hope and healing.

Monday, August 2, 2010


It is hard to believe we are close to the end of our time in Togo. It felt like just yesterday we arrived in the port of Lome’ to provide hope and healing to the Togolese people. Hundreds of patients have walked the hospital halls of deck 3 and left walking on the gangway out to the dock, a healed transformed person.
There is Lawson that came in the first week of surgery to have this facial tumor removed. I was able to donate blood that he received during surgery.
Patients came with bowed legs and hand contractures that can now use their once deformed extremity to play like a normal child.
There are babies, like Marius, that came in starving, but left with a full belly and a new lip. These patients taught me so much as I took care of them in the OR and saw them on the ward. They taught me perseverance through suffering, strength that overcomes adversity, and most of all, love that conquers all barriers.

The patients that will be in my heart forever are my VVF ladies.

Afaua kept the faith, in Benin we had to put her on a waiting list because of her complicated fistula, but this year she received surgery. Then there was Deborah, who spoke small (little) English. I would look up verses in my Bible then she would look it up in her Ewe’ Bible, the local dialect, and then read it to all the other ladies on the ward. At her dress ceremony she shared she had been praying for healing like the lady in the Bible had been bleeding for 12 years.

This year was Deborah’s 12th year of leaking urine and she is now dry. She taught me persistent in prayer. I had the privilege to love each one of ladies, like a human being should be loved. Being looked in the eyes when spoken too, holding their hand, being next to them even if they did smell like urine. I would see their ashamed frowns turn into smiles of joy. I could hear their songs of praise from the OR and take a few steps to watch them dance down the hospital corridor. All the ladies have showed me what true thankfulness looks like in their own words.

Most of all, I learned about love from my patients. Love translates into all languages, it communicates when nothing else is understood. I came here to show love to my patients, but in return they have taught what love can do. I know when I am in the right place, when “the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13)


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