Sunday, April 24, 2011


As I stepped into the room, I did not recongize it covered in white sheets, pillows, and candles on the floor. Could this be where we had hospital meetings during the sail, where dinner is served to special guests, and where crew gather together to watch movies on the weekend? This week the Queen’s Lounge was transformed into the Upper Room where Jesus met with his disciples to have the Passover. Then outside on deck 7, towels and baskets are set at each chair. We wash each other’s feet as Jesus did for his disciples. In the International lounge, all your senses point to a garden; it is the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus spent his final hours praying… Could you keep watch and pray even for a hour?

This was just Thursday and the four-day weekend began the next day for most of the crew. Groups left for the beach or for a weekend excursion up-country. I lay in my bed on Good Friday with the worst cold ever. I still have not figured out how I come down with colds in Africa. I was restless from resting and eventually took a stroll into town Saturday evening. I spent a couple hours on the dock watching the sunset and waves crash along the coast of the fishing village.

Holidays always bring homesickness, but it cured in an instant seeing my adopted family of 400 come together to celebrate Easter. We gather for hot cross buns and coffee following the sunrise service. Our stomachs wait in anticipation for a wonderful brunch after church. We follow each other in to the International lounge for worship and celebration. The children sing, we declare “Christ is risen indeed!”, scripture is read, the youth perform, a message is shared, and then we partake in the Lord’s Supper. What a honor it was to serve communion to the crew this year. I looked into my friends’ eyes as they dipped their bread into the wine… “This is Jesus’ blood shed for you. I bent down so the children could reach the cup… “He died on the cross for you.” I have done communion countless times, but this time was different. His body broken, his blood shed on the cross… The magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice overwhelms me this Easter. How he loves us all, no matter what we have done. For those that believe, we will never have to face death, because Christ has overcome it for us. I will finish this blog as we finished the service, singing praises, with my favorite hymn... In Christ Alone. Happy Easter!

"In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save

'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From a life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand
'Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand"

Lyrics by K. Getty, K.Towend
Photo by Maggie Hill

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I can already hear the beats of the drums coming from deck 3 as I leave my cabin and head down the hall. At the bottom of the blue stairs, my 2 minute commute to church is complete. I see patients and nurses strolling into fill the seats in the ward. Its crowded today and I look for a spot to sit and a baby to hold. I greet each person with a handshake and then place my hand over my heart- as it is custom to do in Sierra Leone. This is not your typical church... but then how do you define a typical church?
So here, pews are replaced with wheelchairs and Sunday best is a hospital gown. There is only one set of drums, no slides of lyrics, no microphones, only are voices to sing. "Tell him, tell Papa God Tenke" we sing together. We quickly transition to more songs, singing only a verse, then the chorus of "Lord I Lift Your Name" before going on to an African version of "It is Well." The Spirit must lead us as we sing because there is no set list or computer telling us the next words to sing. As we finish singing glady glady songs (Krio for worship songs), prayers echo the room from every mouth, from every heart. Each week, a different crew member delivers a message from what God is teaching them in their life. What a blessing it is to hear how God is working in someone's life and not having to worry about a debate about theology. There is always a translator in the front, which is really just the doorway of the ward, no stage necessary. I listen intently to the translator as well to pick up some of the local language and today he even translated our speaker's laugh for us. As you can imagine, the patients and crew erupted in laughter. No one is afraid to speak their mind as hallelujahs are interjected in the message. Other translators are strategically placed among the patients that have come from up country and even Guinea. I look around and realize one day we will all understand each other without a translator. One day, there will be no more casts on these little ones' legs, no bandages around my patients heads where once a tumor had taken over their face. No more pain, or crying, or sickness. We will be side by side- from every tongue, tribe, and nation. One day this is what church will be, the body of Christ, coming together to sing glady glady songs to our God and King.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Friday's Patients

My friend recently made the observation that it is hard for us long-termers to keep blogging the same thing over and over again. Have I seen any thing different to write about than years before? Is God here doing amazing miracles in our lives as well as our patients in Sierra Leone? Of course He is and it more than ever! So my days continue in the operating room and helping out in the maxio-facial specialty. Each patient has a story to tell... Friday’s patients I am here to share with you.

A young woman, Kadjia, so petite she could pass for a 12 year-old, but she is more likely in her twenties, came to the ship with a missionary from Guinea. Kadjia was suffering from ankylosis, locked jaw. She had difficulty opening her mouth to eat, drink, and even speak. In order to eat, she we would smash food behind her front teeth where a severe overbite allowed a little opening. More than likely, Kadjia had an ear infection when she was young and it was never treated so the infection moved to her the joints that move her jaw up and down. So last week, the day came for her surgery, I was asked to scrub and assist Dr. Peter & Dr. Luer for the day-long case. I set up trays of instruments that helped the surgeons remove a piece or rib to replace the bone in her jaw. The hours flew by as instruments were passed to and fro- and at the Kadjia’s jaw was freed and opened a few inches. Friday, she came back to the OR for dental work and stretching of her jaw under anesthesia. This time, I was the circulating nurse to check-in Kadjia at the pre-op bench. As I greeted her in the little French I know, I could see a little smile start to form and a whole new life ahead of her.

Our second patient of the day, was Margaret. She already has a feisty reputation on the ward from being here ten days. I was helping in the other OR when she had her first surgery to remove a large mass that had taken over her left eye. I knew it was a difficult case so my prayers continued for Margaret through out the day and she has made amazing recovery. This second visit to the OR, was for a washout and dressing change for her surgical wounds. Later on that day, Margaret was back to her bubbly self and dragging me down the hospital corridor wanting to go outside and play.

It was Friday and all of us were looking forward to the weekend after the busy week. Kadjia and Margaret had come and gone before lunch for their minor procedures. We were on stand-by waiting to see if we could do another surgery. We finally got the go ahead to call for our next patient, Emmanuel. As I helped my coworker, Julie, check in Emmanuel, I noticed that I had taken his vital signs and history down at screening. I love seeing the full-circle. He had come to our second screening in Freetown. The day went so smooth, the line was peaceful, and we were able to see hundreds of people to schedule for surgery and Emmanuel was one of them. He is about my age, but his life was interrupted by a tumor taking over his lower jaw. I saw him at ward church today with a bandage wrapped around his head several times and drains still attached. I could make out a smile on his swollen face despite the fact part of his jaw is gone. I greeted him with the typical Krio “How d’body?” and Emmanuel responded the “D’body fine. Praise God.”

These are just a few stories that God prompted me to write down. Each person has a story to tell. Every day God has something amazing planned for each of us and there is always something new to share.


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