Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Christmas story that changed history...


"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”




 Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, 
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”





So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.  Luke 2:1-21




After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 

Matthew 2:9-11




Characters and props for the Christmas story provided by the Operating Room onboard the m/v Africa Mercy.


"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:21


Monday, December 19, 2011

Numbers

I was lost in Powell's, the largest book store in Portland, but I finally found the book I was looking for to read on my flight to South Africa. I am not sure who suggested, Half the Sky, by Kristof & WuDunn, but it will be my recommendation for all of you to read. I read about women's oppression as I flew halfway across the world and then sailed to the country mentioned the most in the book, Sierra Leone. The statistics just floored me as I read about child slavery, maternal mortality, and my passion- women suffering from vesico-vaginal fistulas. I read it again on my 36 hour flight home to Texas again just to remind myself why I am moving missions, living on land, and working with local nurses and doctors to help heal their country. 
"The most common measure is the maternal mortality ratio (MMR). This refers to the number of maternal deaths for every 100,000 lives births... In Ireland, the safest place in the world to give birth, the MMR is 1 per 100,000 live births. In the United States, the MMR is 11. In Sub-Saharan Africa, it is 900, and Sierra Leone has the highest MMR in the world, at 2,100." The MMR is a statistic to express the risk during a single pregnancy. In simple numbers, but high for sub-saharan Africa, a woman's lifetime risk of dying in childbirth is 1 in 22. In America, the risk is 1 in 4,800." Behind these numbers there are names, faces, and their stories- here are a few that captured my heart in the first days at Aberdeen Women's Centre. 
I was in temporary housing for a few days and then moved to my apartment above the maternity side of the hospital. As I walked to and fro with boxes, I saw two ladies with swollen bellies resting under the shade of a tree. These two, Hawa & Alimamy, are pregnant and waiting to deliver any moment by c-section. You can see their excitement in their eyes because a few years back they were the ones on the VVF ward. Maternity nursing is a new thing for me, but I am excited to be a part of it here at AWC. 


Fatmata and Alimata did not know each other, but something in common brought them together. They are both teenagers, married, and have lost a baby being in labor for days. They smelled like urine and were shunned by people in their town. These girls are always together walking around the hospital and their beds are right next to each other in the ward. Fatmata had her surgery last week and Alimata was in the operating room when I left on Monday. They will be recovering for a few weeks, but you can tell the healing has already started. Their smiles are contagious. My days at AWC were busy with orientation and getting small jobs done, but the ladies always wanted me to come sit with them. When I return, if Fatmata and Alimata are still at AWC, I imagine they will finally get to braid my hair. 


Bintu is the youngest patient (2nd from the right) and Mama (below) is probably one of the oldest on the ward. They both are precious to me as I sit with them making cards. Bintu takes her time to get from the ward to the courtyard for crafts and chop (meal) time. She is 14 and can barely walk. When she was struggling to give birth, people in her village, placed weights and heavy stones, to force the baby out. Bintu will have a long road of physical therapy and eventually surgery to repair her fistula. This is Mama- forgive me, I don't remember her name, but thankfully, "Mama" is universal in Africa. She wanted to see herself so she asked me to take a picture of the "old lady" referring to herself. I pray she will heal completely and have a gladi gladi ceremony soon- complete with a new dress before she goes home. 


On my first working day, a woman came in with an abruption- the blood supply to the baby had separated prematurely. An emergency c-section was performed, it was too late for the baby, but we were worried we might lose her. Just three days prior, Mercy Ships crew had donated 60+ units of blood, and we were able to use four bags just for this woman to save her life. Donors are rare and blood is in critical shortage in the country so this was a huge answer to prayer for the hospitals in Sierra Leone. This woman could have been another statistic, another number in a woman losing her life giving birth. It is comparable to five jumbo jets' worth of women die in labor each day. For every woman that dies in Africa, at least 10 other women suffer from childbirth injury such as fistulas. These statistics drive me and others to help women in Sierra Leone as we hope the numbers change- one mother and baby at a time.


Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn, Vintage Books, 2009

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Africa Mercy

This time for the sail, I was on the dock to wave off the M/V Africa Mercy. The ship I have called home and the crew that have become my family, will forever be in my heart. My love and prayers I send with you as you sail to Ghana and on to Togo for the next outreach.

Lord, guide this vessel of mercy to those people in need of hope and healing. May it be filled with your love as the crew serve those in West Africa with what you have given us so freely. Thank you for the joy, the opportunity to work on the ship and I give you the glory of what has been accomplished. May the nations praise your name. Amen.

My new Aberdeen family came to support me as we waved off the ship. Ready for the new adventure!

The gangway going up as the engines start and the mooring lines are pulled in.

My friend, Sandra, works at the pediatric government hospital and has been living in Sierra Leone. Thankful someone can show me the ropes of living on land.


"He has shown all you people what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."
Micah 6:8

Friday, December 9, 2011

Two-weeks notice


The date was quickly approaching for the M/V Africa Mercy to leave Sierra Leone. I wanted time to stand still, but I found my two-weeks notice coming quickly. The 10-month outreach was finished for the crew. I made it back for fourteen days to pick up life where I left in September. I found joy in those last days in everything I did- even stripping, waxing, and mopping the floors in the operating room. I spent time entering hospital data on the computer- knowing that I had missed surgeries this year, broke my heart. However, hearing stories and seeing pictures of patients encouraged me that God still did amazing work here when He had me somewhere else. I reunited with dear friends and even met some new people- that knew my story because they had been praying for me while I was away. I am in awe of the body of Christ when it comes together to support those in need even across the world.


My ship family, I cherished even more those last days. My schedule was packed, but I loved every minute of it. Pool party with the youth, working Starbucks, baking in the crew galley, and honoring a tradition with friends- taking a day to walk the country we had lived in for the year. As the "at sea" drills began, anticipation of the sail mounted. Sharing stories over meals of pasts sails relieved my sadness on missing this one to Ghana. I gave away all my pirate gear (and a lot of magnets) to friends before I departed. There were parties, coffee dates, and movie nights full of laughter. My friends said they missed my laughter, but more than anything I missed laughing with them.

When you put your notice in that you're leaving the ship, everyone will know. It feels like a member of your family is leaving home. My name went on the departure list in front of the purser's office and I received a check-off list on my door. The inevitable question when you walk around on your last days- "Will you be back?". For now, I am moving on to another mission, a new adventure on land. I said my goodbyes over and over again. They did not seem real. I turned in my cabin key, signed off articles, and was given my passport. As my friends waved me off on the dock, I had complete peace I was following what God has next for me. I am not sure the final answer to that question, but in my heart I hope these were not my last two weeks I had onboard the M/V Africa Mercy.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mercy Shippers


Mercy Shippers are an unique breed. Our time on the ship shapes who we are by the end. We change in so many ways. When we leave the ship, its hard to explain life to people that have never experienced it. Don't get me wrong, I imagine we can talk anyone's ear off about our experiences. However,  we make it a point to reunite with other Mercy Shippers because we connect in different way than any other friendships. We live life 24 hours, 7 days a week together. We share memories and pick up habits that are unique to those have been on the Africa Mercy. I came up with the list below when I was home stateside hanging out with some of my friends from Mercy Ships. Hope this bring a laugh to those Mercy Shippers that know what I'm talking about! Thanks for the memories everyone! 

  • Playing the word "Milch" in scrabble and shuddering thinking about the taste of shelf-life milk. 
  • Magnets replace nails in hanging wall decoration.
  • Common meal conversations include your GI tract or what noises your toilet is making. 
  • We leave messages on sticky tack instead of voicemail.
  • Looking for hand sanitizer as you walk into a dining room. Did you also know there was a "hand sanitizer" dance move created by the AFM youth?
  • When meeting new people you ask- their name, where they are from, what they do and how long are they here for?
  • You use starboard and port when giving directions, even if you're on land. 
  • Its too quiet if there no "humming" generator background sound. When the air-conditioner shuts off, you know a blackout will soon follow. 
  • You are hungry at 5pm for dinner. 
  • In a house- there are cabins and decks not bedrooms or floors. 
  • You're the only one dancing or clapping your hands at church. 
  • People think you have an European accent because you use holiday, rubbish, cupboard, and lovely in conversation. 
  • There is more than one name for a surgical instrument. You learn them all. 
  • Starbucks is out of your price range and Walmart is a bit overwhelming. 
  • Your work commute is long if its involves more than one staircase.
  • Flip flops all-year long footwear. 
  • You learn different eating habits: using silverware for finger foods (or vice versa), teaching what peanut butter is good on like apples, and grilled cheese sandwiches are always an option for a meal. Cinnamon toast and tea are often dessert. 
  • A torch could be a stick with fire, or just a flashlight.  
  • When you watch TV, you usually watch more than one episode at a time. 
  • Sayings like "happy as a clam" may not translate well. 
  • You have a lot of four digit phone numbers memorized. 
  • You're friends are also your dental hygienist, physical therapist, and electrician- and possibly your neighbor. 
  • You are aware that there are more holidays to celebrate than you can imagine. 
  • Pirate gear is a must, even if you really don't live on a pirate ship, but a hospital one. 
  • Two minutes is more than enough for a shower. 
  • Everyone is on the same pay grade. 
  • You feel weird without a badge on. 
  • It takes you longer to get to the kitchen and laundry room than your workplace.
  • You can bet on hearing worship, prayer, music, and have amazing conversations at any time of the day. 
  • Most of all, you get to know hundreds of amazing people. Its more than a job here, we're family. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Timing

As I got off the plane in Sierra Leone, I finally felt the humid heat I had missed for so long. There was a gentle breeze coming off the ocean. It felt good to be back. I had traveled 30+ hours in the same clothes including sandals- I got crazy looks from fellow Thanksgiving travelers in D.C. and Brussels. It was the first time in Africa for a passenger I met on the plane, I told him "welcome to chaos" as we enter the airport custom area. No lines, just a huge mob of people trying to get places. I waited patiently until I finally could show my passport and all it took was to say "Merse sheep" and I smiled as they waived me through to the only luggage carousel in Lungi airport. I was greeted by one of the security men and the only response I had to "How d'body?" was "Tell Papa God tenki!" He helped me load my heavy bags since my arm was still in a splint. It felt good to see a familiar face in the crowds outside the airport. Bridget and her husband, Pastor Mark, have been helping crew come and go throughout the year. I also know Bridget because she was one of my last patients the week I left in September. It was so good to see her smile and know she is better since her surgery. I took a taxi, a ferry, and a landrover- that was about 3 hours of waiting to get home to the ship. With all that time to hurry up and wait, I had time to reflect at my time stateside. As we slowly crept through the streets in Freetown- it started become familiar to me again. People, young and old, were still out late at night... men with baby strollers pushing coolers of drinks around, women sitting next to their lanterns selling the catch of the day, children carrying baskets of plantains and water on top of their heads. The streets like Sani Abacha and Kissy Road were packed with taxis and poda podas carrying people to and fro. I was getting anxious to get to the ship when we were on Fourah Bay when a poda poda came very close to hitting us. I am still a little squeamish when it comes to near miss car accidents since mine, but this time I couldn't close my eyes. It is common to see phrases painted on the front pertaining to God on these buses and this one I saw clearly.. "God's Timing is the BEST." Simply put, but the most important lesson I needed to learn that night and for the past year. Despite illness, the setbacks, canceled flights, missed days on the ship, discouragement, and I can go on... I saw God's hand at work through it all. Really in all that and God was working? Yes, He was. God's plan was for me to be stateside for 76 days. I might not know the BIG picture yet, but He does, and I can rest that His timing is the best. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Will Go

I Will Go by Starfield... another song that reaches deep into my heart. 


To the desperate eyes and reaching hands
To the suffering and the lean
To the ones the world has cast aside
Where you want me I will be

I will go, I will go
I will go, Lord send me
To the world, To the lost
To the poor and hungry
Take everything I am
I'm clay within your hands
I will go, I will go, send me

Let me not be blind with privilege
Give me eyes to see the pain
Let the blessing You've poured out on me
Not be spent on me in vain
Let this life be used for change

I wanna live for you
Go where you lead me
I wanna follow you
Send me!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

plans

I apologize for the month in a half absence from my blog. Today, my plans failed again. The planes took off without me bounded for Sierra Leone and I am still here in Texas. I am more sad, scared, and questioning God today than two months ago when I had to buy tickets stateside. I arrived home to have gallbladder surgery and everything went well. I was on the road to recovery, resting, and visiting friends and family. While in Tyler at the end of September, I was in a car accident leaving me with a three fractures in my right arm. That is when I posted the song below on my blog. With the pain and a long cast on, I could not use my right arm and was prevented from going back to Africa until the doctor ordered my release. That came just a few weeks ago and I bought tickets immediately for today. I said my goodbyes to friends and ate all my favorite foods this past week. My packing day was scheduled for Friday so I could spend the weekend with my parents. However, my dad is now in the hospital about to have heart surgery tomorrow. Please pray for him and my family. I am here for to be here for my parents. Right now, my plans are on hold... for Africa, for the future. This breaks my heart more than anything. I have to give my plans to God. I had hoped to update my blog with news with my return to Sierra Leone, but this is not the case. What can I say to make sense of it all? I rest in God's unfailing love and promises that I will never walk alone. The passages belows have been comfort to me as some days it has felt I am alone and others I see His hand moving me along His will.


"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” 
Esther 4:13-15



"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:3-8


"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 10:28-29




Saturday, October 1, 2011

Theme Song of my life

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise


Blessings, Laura Story


Friday, September 23, 2011

Happiness

Tonight, I read an article for my nursing continuing education about happiness. I asked myself the same questions they did in the article. What causes happiness? How do you experience it? Who has the most happiness? Midway through, the researchers offer a formula by Seligman for happiness...
  • H = S + C + V.3 In this formula, enduring happiness (H) depends on the sum of
  • S, the genetic happiness set point (50%)
  • C, the circumstances of a person’s life, such as health
  • V, factors under our voluntary control, such as engaging in a meaningful life.
Really? There is an exact science to what causes us to have pleasure and meaning in life? What is making me happy? Genes? How many facebook friends I have? My job? My faith?
I ponder these questions over as I sit here a 28-year old single woman, somewhat healthy, still recovering from surgery, and away from what I call my home away from home. Honestly, two weeks ago, if you asked me if I was happy, I would say "No". I was leaving the Africa Mercy on medical leave, not enough time to say goodbye to friends or to Sierra Leone for now, and had to travel 36 hours to Texas... Really, not the plans I had made. The weekend proceeding was good- I love my parents, my church family, driving to Sonic and Target, but I was not happy all the time. I had to deal with insurance, anxieties about surgery, and most of all I was homesick for Africa. Last Friday, I celebrated my birthday with my parents and close friends- I was happy to be around people I loved and eat Mexican food. Monday came and through the wonders of the internet (and of course the Holy Spirit), I had people praying all over the world as I walked into the OR as the patient. I felt loved with all the phone calls, messages, flowers, and cards this week. At one point, my happiness probably was based on how much pain medication I had onboard. It was difficult to balance the pain relief when the the medication requires you to eat, but the side effects include nausea. I hope I was a good patient for all my medical friends that came over to take care of me. I proudly showed off my battle wounds (they feel like it) and the pictures that my surgeon printed off of amazing anatomy. I am thankful for my "home nurses"- they made me walk, drink, deep breathe, and try to eat to get me better. We watched movies, talked, and even if it hurt, laughed... maybe my happiness returned? Then I found myself missing my life in Africa- I loved hearing from friends overseas, seeing people enjoying the beach on the weekend, but also feeling a lack of purpose here, and missing my job onboard the ship.
In the end, we waste energy on the pursuit of happiness. In this moment, I can say "I'm suppose to be there" and that would convey unhappiness, but at the same time, I can say, "I'm happy because I am healthy." We make happiness fleeting, when it can be constant if you choose. I think it comes down to finding happiness is in not your genetic code, or your circumstances, but more making the decision to be happy no matter what life brings you.

"Oh, happiness, there's grace enough for us, and the whole human race..." DCB



Seligman MEP. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York, NY: Free Press; 2004.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dream

Just a few days after my last post, I had a dream that when I awoke, it was still fresh on my mind and pain in my gut- literally. I recall seeing Dr. Kelly, the general surgeon, looking over me, like I was on the OR bed, and telling me I had no hernia, but my gallbladder must come out. Then, Dr. Andrew, the anesthetist, pushed that sleepy drug into my IV as they both were singing "Be Our Guest" when I drifted off into a deeper sleep.
Being an OR nurse, its typical dreaming of surgery so I put the idea away. Got ready for the day, Bible study, breakfast, a busy schedule in OR#4 with cleft lips, and then lunch came later in the afternoon. I opted for the traditional grilled cheese toasty with sweet spicy sauce. I returned to do another max-fax case and started not feeling well... that's when I remembered the dream. Dr. Kelly offered to do an ultrasound and I had blood drawn from the lab. I am so thankful for having access to a doctor and hospital when most of the world does not. Thankfully, blood work was normal, but Dr. Kelly did confirm I had little baby gallstones. Not the dream I would like to come true, but it did. The following days, I was torn with what to do... "Can I live with gallstones and risk being sick in Africa? Should I stay or go stateside to get help?" I was able to eat/drink soup and continue to work in the OR. The pain was tolerable, but I could tell I needed to get help. I felt loved by all my coworkers who wanted to do my surgery there on the ship. I bought my ticket to the states and started to get my life in order... more like my calendar. Trained nurses for plastic surgery, finding friends to cover my Starbucks night, lead the Esther Bible study, and take care of the JH girls while I'm gone. I did not want to leave. Of course I put off doing laundry and packing until my last night and also worked until 9pm being on-call. My questions then turned to "Why God would you take me away from something I love so much? This is where I'm suppose to be- serving you and loving these people." I did not want to leave. I had so many prayers as word got around so I was feeling better, but friends continued to tell me to take care of myself so I can take care of others.
Despite my stubbornness, I took medical leave from ship. As I saw the mountains of Sierra Leone disappear in the clouds, it was hard to hold back the tears. Traveled for next 36 hours... always wanting to turn back around and fly back to the place I call home. And now, two weeks since that dream, its hard to distinguish between my two homes. I love being here in Texas with my parents, seeing my best friends, eating mexican food (yes, its tolerable!), shopping at Target, and even driving through Dallas traffic- not as bad as Sierra Leone, but do I ever miss it!
I visited the surgeon today and he hopes to do surgery to remove my gallbladder on Monday if insurance works out. Prayers are much appreciated for the insurance process, surgery, and recovery so I return quickly to Sierra Leone. I am trusting God knows best and I am here for a reason, so I am resting in his sovereignty and peace. Next week, when the anesthesiologist is giving me the sleepy drug, I just hope my dreams are of Africa.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Acrostic

An acrostic written as appreciation for the good work the team of doctors [and the rest of the crew] from Mercy Ship are doing.

M- My heart leaps up for joy
E- Endless happiness I've got
R- Restlessness and pain have gone
C- 'Cause you are special doctors from God
Y- Yes, thousands of Sierra Leoneans have been cured

S- Surely, goodness and mercy are yours
H- Homes from west, east, south, and north
I- Indeed testified your worth
P- Praising you for your good works

Written by mother of a patient that received surgery on August 18th.
"I thank you all. God will continue to bless you."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Prayer

“… pray without ceasing.” What does this really mean? Is it possible for us to pray without stopping? Do I pray brushing my teeth? Say a prayer of thanksgiving when I am eating chips & salsa? Praying is part of my job in the operating room. We pray for each patient that comes into theatre. I pray when we are searching for a vein to place a IV in a dehydrated child or for a infection to clear from a surgical wound. It is almost a constant conversation between me & God when we have a difficult case. “Lord, close the blood vessels that are too delicate for the surgeon to see.” We pray for our patients that have been ashamed or hurt because of outside appearances that they will feel loved during their stay on the ship. “May the healing start from the inside out for them.” That is not only our prayer, but also the reason why we are here.

Different things may trigger prayer… when the Emergency Medical Team alarm goes off- we know there is something going wrong with a patient. A status change on facebook may prompt me to pray for a friend. Lots of meetings, Bible studies, and chats lead to prayer among friends onboard. I glance up at my wall covered in pictures of loved ones. God places people on my heart to pray for… a dear friend grieving the loss of her father, missionary friends in other parts of Africa or at home, my sister in PNG, family members that are sick, and my church family in transition. I look at pictures of my supporters and I’m encouraged to know that the prayers are reciprocated.

With all this talk (or type) about prayer, I don’t want be perceived that I’m perfect in it… sometimes I feel “prayered” out. If there is such a thing? It’s a challenge for me every time I bow my head. I don’t want to have the same prayer for each hernia patient, but lately it has been… does God listen to the same mundane prayers? Of course He does, but my heart needs to be in it. I have seen miracles in answers to prayers here and afar; my faith is renewed each time. Sometimes, I feel like my prayers are a one-sided conversation and I wait for a response. I want to know the answers God has for my prayers… His timing is perfect and until then I will try to “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bunny Chow Love

My very first bollywood movie... won AFM's Best Musical 2011.
Requirements:
1. Love triangle
2. Dream scene
3. Awesome Dancing

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Productive day working...

A few posts back I shared about a productive day off onboard the ship... then my biggest fan and critic (my father) suggested I share about a working day. So I chose today to share with all of you faithful blog readers even though I am not so a faithful blog writer. I'm working on a serious blog entry that will be out later this week... I can just feel your anticipation on the other side of the screen. God is teaching me a lot and I just want to make sure I convey it well. So August 17th, 2011 went a little like this...

7:45am- I woke up late again. It could be either my alarm is going dead or last night I stayed up late because of all the excitement of the film festival. My bollywood movie won best musical! Anyhow, I run out the door in scrubs and with a handful of granola.

8:02- Time for morning report in the OR. Announcements are read, a verse is shared, a song is sang, and a prayer lifted for the day. We have to start late because the potential of a blackout.

9:40ish- Blackout occurs. Soon after, power is restored and the captain gives us a go ahead that it is safe to start surgery.

10:00 I check in little two year-old Alasan for cleft lip surgery. So nice to have a break from hernia land and work with Dr. Gary in max-fax. Marco scrubs and I circulate for the first case. I help with anesthesia, complete paperwork, help Marco and Dr. Gary with anything since they are sterile. We share riddles with each other as Dr. Gary closes. I need some new ones.

11:30 Alasan is waking up in recovery with a a new lip! We are short on nurses, so we all have to break for lunch. Its usually a cheese toasty (aka grilled cheese), but today there is couscous instead of rice. I dig in and enjoy the change of taste. Applesauce and walnuts for a snack.

12 noon We start on our second case. I scrubbed my hands as Marco brings in four year-old Nymah. Her upper lip is pretty big and there is gap right under her nose. Untrained midwives tried to save Nymah's life when she was born by trying to stitched together her lip. Most babies like her born with cleft lips, are left for dead because of traditional beliefs. Unfortunately, the suture broke and the lip split and was left with scar tissue. I assisted Dr. Gary in moving skin and muscle around Nymah's lips- its like a puzzle to put back together. Pretty amazing to witness transformation like that in just a few hours.

1500 Nymah's in recovery and we clean the room. Next we call D ward for Alimata. I greeted her at the pre-op bench and she was all smiles even though she had nothing to eat today. She speaks small small English and with my broken Krio- I check her in for surgery. Alimata is only 12 years old and translates everything for her father. We walk into the OR corridor and she is already holding on to the side of me, not wanting me to let her go- I hold her hand until she drifts off to sleep. She tells me she loves me and smiles. Dr. Gary and Dr. Bello remove a tumor behind her eye- we pray her vision remains unchanged with the delicate work done by the surgeons. Marco scrubs and I circulate running for different instruments or supplies.

1730 We finish surgery right at change over time. Alimata is waking up as I give hand over report to the on-call nurse. I hope to visit my little friend in the ward tomorrow. I head up for dinner and enjoy conversation with friends in the dining room.

1830 Youth leaders meeting and we get to planning a pretty awesome semester for the teenagers onboard.

1930 Need some girl time... grabbed a drink from the snackbar and visited some friends. Yes, we did girly things, painted finger nails, and watched the Office. Lots of laughter. :)

2300 Now I find myself here in front of my computer and hoping that I can post this blog. Facebook seems not to like me right now- I have tried a couple times to post my bollywood movie, but it won't allow me. I'll work on it another night because my book & pillow are calling my name.

Sweet dreams blog world. xo


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Shoes


My wallpaper picture on my laptop has been the same ever since I came back to the Africa Mercy this January. In years past, I enjoyed switching between pictures of cute African kids and good friends from back at home. I just don’t have the heart to change it this year. The picture is of my family taken this past Thanksgiving. I love and miss them so much… There is something comforting to know when I open up my laptop, there a picture of all of us together, even though a ocean separates us. They know me and still love me... they are my biggest supporters in all aspects of my life as a missionary. I receive boxes in the mail of chocolate chip cookies, gum, and salsa, and most recently shoes.

My parents sent me these shoes at my request… I tried to buy some online and I accidently ordered track shoes with spikes included. So my parents were up to a challenge of finding me new sneakers. My parents, affectionately known as, Papa-doe and Mother Green, have blessed not only me, but also many crewmembers with mail. They send me the Sunday morning comics along with snacks (that I share with friends) as well boxes on the container full of Mexican food. When I’m working out in my new sneakers, I think of my parents. They are hard working and supportive of their children- they keep us stable when we are running toward our dreams.

Next pair of shoes just came last week… still getting compliments of my bright yellow birkies from my brother and sister- (skip the formality of “in-law”). Jeff and Kara were worried when they heard I kept slipping in the operating room. The combination of my old crocs and freshly mopped theater floors were not ideal. Kara and I have a special relationship because in a family of educators, we’re outnumbered being the nurses. She loved this brand of shoes and I figured I followed in her footsteps, why not try her shoes out! I thank God for Jeff & Kara, for their love and support as I work each day in the operating room, with my feet firmly planted to the floor.

Now, these last pair of shoes I received just days before heading back to join the ship in South Africa. My best friend and my sister, Robyn, gave me these cowboy boots. I am ashamed to say, being Texan, these were my very first boots to own and I was not going to just leave them in a closet. Robyn always came into town before I left overseas to make sure my to-do list is complete and my bags are packed even if I waited until the night before. I couldn’t fit the boots so I sent them on the container and they have been a BIG (as BIG as Texas) hit on the ship. I just have to laugh as well as thank God for a wonderful sister that thinks a girl needs her cowboy boots in Africa. Right now, all I wish I could do is to jump on a plane and be in Dallas today. Robyn is leaving for a two-year stint with New Tribes Mission in Papua New Guinea as a secondary school teacher. She’s going to the “other side of the world” and we can now swap missionary stories. I can’t wait to see how God works… and if only she had room in her luggage for some cowboy boots.

I miss them... Papa-doe, Mother Green, Jeff & Kara, and Robyn everyday as I look at the picture, but all it takes is for me to look down at my feet and know my family is with me every step of the way.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Norm

In my sociology class in college, we were given the project to go against a norm in society. We could do any anything for the experiment; nothing illegal, just to allow us to observe what happens when we change the normalcy of life. I still remember my norm for that week, when people asked me the common question- “How are you?” I responded with more than just the expected “Good, thanks. How are you?”. Sometimes, I offered a sad reply or a lengthy explanation why life is wonderful at the moment. Majority of the time, I would receive the usual response, a head nod or “That’s nice.” A few people actually listened which forced them to go against the norm. To this day, I still go against the norm when it comes to the “How are you?” question, because I know I am more than just fine as my patients often remind me.

So the norm these days for me have been working a pretty consistent 8-5 schedule in the operating room, on-call often, eating meals with the same people, doing the identical routine around the ship. Its half way through the outreach and a lot of us are feeling worn out after what feels like running a marathon the past six months. Life and work can become so routine, that I lose sight of our mission. My daily interactions with patients remind me why I am here. One evening, taking the OR laundry down the corridor, I ran into one of our plastics patients after a dressing change. “How d’body, papa?” I asked. He looked up and smiled, even through the pain, and answered, “Tell Papa God tenke.” I thanked God for that smile and prayed for a quick healing for his wound. A similar response came from one of our cataract patients. It was a busy day in the OR with only half the nurses we needed to finish the list of 30 cataracts. After the procedure, I was placing the eye patch over her telling her “Operation done done, Mama. How d’body?” I knew I only had seconds before going on to the next patient, but what a blessing to hear. “Tell Papa God tenke.”

The past couple weeks, I have been in “Hernia Land” where we do eight or so operations a day. One right after the next, I check in Abraham, then Mohammed, then Alimamy, and so on. They go home the next day as I am checking in others for surgery- I see relief on their face and they give me hugs or handshakes, and I hear their echoes of, “Tell Papa God tenke.” Just today, I was delivering my second hernia patient to recovery, when one of the nurses handed over to me our first hernia patient- five month old, Abu Bakar. Sweet, chubby, and he fit perfectly in my arms. However, I knew it was his time to go back to the ward. I had just a few minutes before we would be calling for our third patient, so I took him down the corridor myself to take advantage of some snuggle time. In A ward, I found mama sitting in Bed 20 and her face transformed from worry to joy in the second I handed over Abu to her. I told her “Abu’s operation is fine fine” and my heart agreed when she responded. “Tell Papa God tenke.”

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Sunset





No words from me, but from "The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth." Psalm 50:1-2

Friday, July 1, 2011

Productive Day Off

The past month I felt like I was training for triathlon: eat, work, and sleep. So I apologize for the absence of blogs, but never fear I'm still here in Sierra Leone onboard the Africa Mercy! I have been able to get out to the beaches and spend a weekend staying with a friend in town for some rest. Yesterday, my lovely supervisors thought I could use a day off and I gladly accepted. I wrestled back and forth on Thursday night if I should turn off my alarm and sleep-in or set it and have a productive day off. I think I made the right decision, so my Friday went a little like this…

6:45 Alarm goes off… even though my ipod sound has gone kaput, I still wake up at this time. I might become a morning person and this is scaring me a little.

6:55 Pick up breakfast in the dining room… still not a talkative person in the morning, so avoid eye contact is key.

7:00 Bible study with Sandra in the cafĂ© area. I’m so thankful for Sandra- she keeps me accountable in my Bible study and in working out. Right now we are studying the fruit of the Spirit. The view from our table in the morning: containers.

7:45 Plastic Surgery Presentation- An opportunity to share with the crew amazing stories of our plastics patients- pictures on the last blog. Thank you everyone for your prayers for Osman. We had to amputate his leg, but he is healing and a happy little boy on the ward.

8:30 Organized my cabin & schedule for a productive day! Made my bed, Mother Green!

9:30 Coffee & waffles at Starbucks with my friend, Laura. We decided to each lead a Bible study in August. I’m excited about studying the life of Esther.

10:30 Time for errands: Ordering books for Bible study, dropping off comics and notes at cabins, signed up for laundry at 11.

11:25 Stopped by the library... decided to read Sense & Sensibility by Austen. Forgot about laundry, but got in the washer just in time.

11:30 Picked up lunch and visited the OR office to trade call for tonight so I could go out with the Jesus Film ministry

12 noon Change over laundry to dryer. Have to get to it before someone else does it for me… try sharing 10 machines with 400 people.

12:15 Eat lunch while working on Bible study sign up sheets.

1:00 Pick up laundry… deck 4 to deck 6 (4 trips in all today).

1:30 Time for correspondence: writing cards, which I love to do and wish I had more time! Organize/clean room and put laundry away. Everything held up by magnets on the wall.

3:30 Stopped by post office for stamps, ship shop to visit friends, but didn’t buy anything, and the bank. All these things are a few steps from each other, so it doesn’t take long to run errands except when you stop and chat with friends.

4:00 Time for nap… felt like I needed it after a busy day!

5:00 Woke up feeling nauseated… sadly, a common occurrence while living on the petri ship. Please pray for the crew as bugs like this go around. So, I decided it would be best to stay onboard instead of go out tonight. Hopefully, I can go out again with the Jesus Film.

5:30 Tried two pieces of toast for dinner… so good so far.

6:00 Gathered trash from the cabin and went to get some fresh air… beautiful sunset at the end of the dock.

8:00 Mosquitoes were coming out since it’s the rainy season so came back onboard. Spent the past couple hours working on internet correspondence and then trying to format my blog’s background… no luck, but at least I can post this entry.

10:00 Time for bed since I'm not feeling good... hope a good night's rest will do the body good and I can enjoy a day at the beach with friends.

Goodnight!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Me Pady

Just the other day I said, “There is nothing new to blog about here, but God surprises me once in awhile.” The past four weeks I have been working in Plastic surgery with a wonderful team of friends- Melanie, Michel, Gillian, and Dr. Tertius. It’s a different kind of plastics we do… not your typical lifts and enhancements. However, children come in with burn contractures due to crawling into a fire or hot water poured on their bodies. A young woman came in with burns on her hands. She tried to save her baby and husband from a house fire, but she was the only survivor. A healing doctor in the village put another patient in a room of boiling water to rid her demons, but instead she had a seizure and fell into the fire. We release the contracture, scar tissue that bends the appendage inward, and then new skin is placed on the wound. What a joy it is to be a part of amazing, life-transforming surgery.

I would like to tell you about my little friend, me pady, Osman. He came in a week ago Monday for a release contracture of his knee. He had sustained an injury to his leg and was taken to a “healer” who placed leaves that were soaked in boiling water on his right leg. Osman suffered burns so intense that his skin healed by pulling his right leg in… his knee was bent permanently at 90% angle. I went and checked in 9 year-old Osman at the pre-op bench on Monday morning and we were both hopeful for his leg to be straight the day he would go home. Due to previous surgery, we had to clean his wounds and bring him back another day. Wednesday, Osman and I met again at the bench and he knew me by now as “me pady in da operation”- my friend in Krio. Finally, Friday came and Osman was ready, he asked me. “Will this be my last surgery?” We bowed our heads and prayed to Papa God that it would be Osman’s last. Dr. Tertius removed skin from his lower leg and placed it behind his knee where it was once bent and we wrapped bandages on his new straight leg.

Today, I was coordinating in the OR and going from room to room helping with counting and cleaning in between cases. I volunteered to go pick up our next hernia patient at the pre-op bench. Standing there, I spotted Dr. Tertius in the hospital corridor walking my way. He told me we needed to bring Osman back for bleeding and I switched quickly into emergency mode. All of us in the OR worked together to get the room ready for Osman- instruments, suture, drugs, blood, and supplies… some that had to be substituted because we are not a fully stocked hospital. I went to ICU to retrieve Osman and could only encourage him, “Me pady, take fine fine care of you, me pady.” Osman went to sleep holding my hand and surrounded with all the prayers of everyone in the hospital. The surgeons and nurses worked into the afternoon, replacing the damaged artery in Osman’s right leg with a vein from his left. We took him to Recovery still unsure if the surgery was successful. When I checked in on Osman in ICU this evening, he was awake, but more importantly concerned about his balloon he lost. I rescued the balloon from Recovery and placed it in me Osman’s hand while he struggled to get comfortable with both legs wrapped in bandages. As I sit here on the computer and on-call, I am asking God again for help. The Lord amazed us, helping us with Josephine’s surgery to remove the pebble from her lung. Tonight, I am asking you to pray for healing and for blood to flow through Osman’s leg. Please, please pray for me pady.

:)

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