All comments contained within this blog are my personal observations while serving on the M/V Africa Mercy. They are not the views or opinions of Mercy Ships or partner ministries.»

Friday, February 29, 2008

Oh Freedom

My life on the ship is almost over. People are shocked when I tell them I am leaving on Wednesday. I ask myself, "Where has the time gone?" and in the same breath it feels like I have been here for a year.

There is a Christian worshipper who has really spoken to my heart quite a bit in my time on the m/v Africa Mercy. I had most of his albums before I arrived, but as I lay in bed and try to find rest from the days I listened to his lyrics and wanted to find out if he had anything new.

One album I did not have was "Peace Like a River". I jumped on ITunes and purchased it and it has been playing repeatedly since. I usually find a lot of comfort in the words of the old hymns, particularly "It is Well With My Soul".

...When sorrows like sea billows roll... thunders in my thoughts
...That Christ has regarded my helpless estate... lifts my thoughts
...It is well, with my soul... resonates among the other thoughts.

I have been struggling with the chorus as I watch a little four-year old succumb to cancer. But, as I listen to the songs that follow I find myself singing along to "O Freedom"

Ohhh Freedom, Ohhh Freedom
Ohhh Freedom over me

And before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave
and go home to my Lord and be free.

No more weepin', No more weepin'
No more weepin' over me.

And before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave
and go home to my Lord and be free.

They'll be singin', They'll be singin'
They'll be singin' over me

And before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave
and go home to my Lord and be free.

Ohhh Freedom, Ohhh Freedom
Ohhh Freedom over me

And before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave
and go home to my Lord and be free.
and go home to my Lord and be free.
and go home to my Lord and be free.

by William E. Barton, 1899

There are so many ways I can take this writing from this point and I hope I can properly explain why this song has really helped.

Not many American's know that Liberia was created back in the early 1800's by freed slaves from the US. The name Liberia is derived from the word Liberty. President James Monroe was honored by the capital city of Monrovia being named after him. If you look at how the country was founded, it almost mirrors the story of the founding of America. It was once the most prosperous nation on the continent of Africa, but after the start of the first civil war on 1989, and subsequent second civil war, literally all the infrastructure was destroyed. When I say all, I mean ALL. The water system, roads, schools, medical clinics and hospitals and every aspect of the government were destroyed.

The hymn was sung on Plantations after slavery was abolished. The freed slaves did not want to sing the songs they sang as slaves. Christianity began to influence the songs they wrote and "Oh Freedom" was one of them.

Keep this in mind as I continue with what happened to me today...

I went down to the ICU ward today and was able to spend some time with the little boy as his father continued his vigil at his bedside. As I entered the unit, a woman came out the door crying. I was told it was not my little guys family, she was the mom of another patient.

I approached a little figure laying in the bed with a tracheotomy doing the breathing for him. There were tubes coming out of every appendage and various other openings. His right eye twitched, but that was not due an awareness of my presence. Due to the chemotherapy treatment, his bottom jaw was almost back to normal.

I leaned over him and whispered a prayer over him, followed by quiet words of comfort. Can he hear me? I don't know, I am told probably not, but I am not going to take any chances. If there is any chance he can hear me, I want him to hear words of love and comfort.

In between my exposed thoughts I would lean over and kiss him on his hot forehead. I repeated this for probably 5 minutes or so. I moved around the bed and touched his legs and then rested my hand on his right hand. He did not have an IV there, only an oxygen monitor clipped to his tiny index finger. As I took his hand in mine, it was cooler than the rest of his body. I continued to pray over him as his father sat watching.

He looked worn out. He has not left his son's side. A crew member brought him some clean clothes to change into and I'm not sure if he has had any of the food that has been offered to him.

I let go of the limp little hand and moved around the bed to his father. I shook his hand and told him that there are people all over the world praying for them. He simply shook his head in acknowledgment. I shook his hand again and left the room.

I don't know if I will ever see this little boy again outside of the corridors of my mind this side of heaven. This is where the song comes into play. The words "No more weepin'", "They'll be singin'" and chorus "and go home to my Lord and be free" help me to listen to "It is Well With My Soul" by knowing the hope we have in Christ Jesus.

The son of the woman whom I passed as I came into the unit was in a room off to the side of the main ward. She had been told that he was beyond the help of the medical staff and was in the process of calling family members to be at his bedside. He is 14-years old

This has been a difficult start to this outreach.

Just as when the freed slaves wanted to look to the future and not the past, Liberia had ended its rebel rule and they have entered a new era where songs of war need to be replaced with songs of hope in Christ.

I am not sure I was able to put this very eloquently and for that I apologize. Through all this, my faith and trust in God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit has grown stronger. That does not mean I don't direct my anger at Him, but I know He is big enough to handle it and still love me just as he loves these two little ones.

Oh, Freedom!!! (Thanks Chris for recording this!!)


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pollyanna reflections...

I woke up this morning, stumbled into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. Or I should say, I squinted into the mirror. My eyelids were swollen. Not quite swollen shut, but it was an effort to open them wide enough to function. I knew the events of yesterday had worn on me, but I had no idea it would carry over to the morning.

What can I say about the people who serve on the M/V Africa Mercy? If I were to sit down and write about all the amazing things the crew here do every single day it would fill several volumes. And even then I am sure my words could not do their actions justice. But let me try to highlight a few of the amazing medical personnel I have had the honor and pleasure to work with over this past month.

Dr. Gary Parker: He, along with his family, have served onboard the longest. He has been performing life changing surgeries and has been used by God to bring the Gospel to the people of West Africa for over 20 years. He is the chief medical officer and walking wisdom for those of us new to the ship and to the medical field. In his chosen profession as a maxillo facial surgeon he could have a house as big as the ship, but the people of West Africa have touched his heart in a way that his desire is to serve them and bring them healing, both physically and spiritually. Not only does he give his life away, he also freely gives his knowledge away.

Dr. Gary was the head surgeon in yesterdays surgery with Alica. During this surgery he was once again passing on his knowledge freely. Dr. Mark was assisting and Dr. Gary was doing what he does best, operating. I have also become comfortable enough to ask the odd question or two during surgery and he answers with grace, kindness, patience and knowledge. He speaks in layman's terms and not over my head.

Dr. Gary also was involved in the situation with the little boy; to what extent, I can't say since I was not in the OR. But, before he went in, he talked to me and was very honest with what is happening here in Africa. Not every story turns out happy. Not everyone is able to be helped on the big white ship. The need is great and just like in an earlier post when I posted the story of the little boy and the starfish, there are many starfish stranded during this season of low tide in West Africa, particularly Liberia.

I must confess, I came to Mercy Ships with perhaps a "Pollyanna" attitude. Everyone who walks off the ship is healed. Nothing bad happens here. Our doctor's have miracles flowing from their hands.

Before I started writing today's entry, I looked up the story of "Pollyanna". I had not read the story of this little orphan girl, but her name has become synonymous with an overly optimistic personality. Here is what Wikepedia has to say about the latter part of her story:

"Eventually, however, even Pollyanna's robust optimism is put to the test when she gets hit by a car and loses the use of her legs. At first she doesn't realise the seriousness of her situation, but her spirits plummet when she accidentally overhears an eminent specialist say that she'll never walk again. After that, she lies in bed, unable to find anything to be glad about. Then the townspeople begin calling at Aunt Polly's house, eager to let Pollyanna know how much her encouragement has improved their lives; and Pollyanna decides she can still be glad that she had legs."

Yesterday I was hit by an emotional car. Not every story here has a happy ending, but there is still hope for the story of this little 4-year old boy who is in our ICU ward.

Another amazing person I have had the honor to get to know is Mark. Sorry Mark, you are going to blush with what I am going to write about you at least I warned you at lunch.

Mark has been a part of every experience I have had down in the OR. He is new to Mercy Ships as well, but not new to the medical profession. He is a surgeon back in the US and specializes in working with cancer patients. He is definitely the kind of doctor you want on your side if you ever confront something like the big "C" in your life. His manner, both on and off the ward, is one of compassion.

On the screening day a couple weeks ago, I happened to glance over at Mark as he was speaking to a woman. The look on his face was not one of good news. There would be no, "Yes, we can help you." His eyes held nothing but concern for the woman. He had to tell her and her grown son that she had cancer and there was nothing we could do on the ship to help her. There were long pauses yelling quiet desperation. Hoping that if a question was asked in a different way the answer would be different. Megan Pitock has her story on her blog. Click HERE to meet Sarah, the woman who received this terrible news. Please pray for her and her family.

I filmed this event, but not the woman he was talking to. I wanted his reaction as he spoke to her. Today I looked at that footage. His eyes never wavered. It was a look that, to me, conveyed the message of sorrow for having to give this type of news. There was the classic, "I'm sorry." and the shaking of the head no. But there more subtle things like the deep breath before trying to explain one more time what was happening in her body. Almost as though he was trying to digest the news he was giving her as well. It was after that scene that I prayed for all the doctors involved in the screening day and the long road ahead of them.

After everything that happened yesterday, some of my equipment had been left in the OR. I was given my equipment as well as Mark's camera. Last night I went to the ward to return the camera to him, but he was busy with the little boy in the ICU. We had arraigned for him to come pick it up later that night, but we missed each other after I was compelled to come to the office and update my blog.

First thing this morning, I went down to the ward and gave it to an OR nurse to pass on to him. He uses it in the OR and wanted to return it to him before the day got rolling.

I was sitting in my office when he came up to thank me for returning the camera and gave me an update on the situation. The little boy made it through the night. He has an aggressive form of cancer that is very common here in Africa. Jean, the health care manager went out and somehow, some where secured the required treatment. With this medical treatment he has a chance. I have not discounted God's miraculous healing.

After giving me the update, Mark turned his concerns to me. We spoke about how situations like this are difficult on the medical personnel as well. This is his field of expertise and this hit him hard. Contrary to popular belief, doctors and especially surgeons are human to. He offered to help me debrief if I needed to, to understand a bit more of what was going on. That meant a great deal to me. Thanks Mark.

One observation Mark made yesterday was when the Captain announcing the need to pray for this little one while they were still in the heat of the moment in the OR. To know that over 400 people were lifting the situation up in prayer right then and there encouraged him. I was able to expand that beyond the ship and dock with this information.

As soon as we returned to our office from the all crew meeting, Esther, my co-worker was on the phone asking for prayer and I was on my computer sending out an email to people asking for prayers. They were not only being lifted up to the Lord here in Liberia, but by people around the world. How awesome is that?!?!?!

So, I'm okay if I am a Pollyanna. I'm glad I have had the opportunity to be here on the M/V Africa Mercy. The people I have met, both patients and crew alike have effected my life and I pray in some small way I have done the same for them. This has been the richest experience of my life and for that I am thankful.

Thanks for taking the time to keep up-to-date with me and the adventure I am on. I appreciate it.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Psalm 139

1 O LORD, You have searched me and known {me.}
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar.
3 You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all.
5 You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.
6 {Such} knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is {too} high, I cannot attain to it.
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,"
12 Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike {to You.}
13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, {And} skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained {for me,} When as yet there was not one of them.
17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.
19 O that You would slay the wicked, O God; Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
20 For they speak against You wickedly, And Your enemies take {Your name} in vain.
21 Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
22 I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.

Today has been a difficult day for me. As I write this my cheeks are stained with dried tears and my eyes are stinging, both from exhaustion and sorrow.

Psalm 139 is filled words I am standing on this evening. Words of truth. Words of faith. Words of hope. Words of wonder. The words of my heavenly Father.

Today I filmed a surgery that was awe inspiring. Part of a rib was used to rebuild a jaw. A jaw that had not functioned for 11-years. I whispered during the surgery, "How can people say there is no God?" as I watched a life transformed.

During the surgery a father brought his 4-year old son to the ship for treatment of an infection his bottom jaw. From what I understood, this was going to be a simple procedure to drain the infection. It was not. Far from it.

After the surgery I was filming was completed, I went and met with this new little ones father. I wanted to do a story on him since. I asked for his consent to tell his sons story, received it and proceeded to ask the father some information to tell the story. He held his son in his lap as we talked.

The little boy was fussing and obviously in a lot of pain from his enlarged bottom jaw. I took a couple of before photos and left the room. Soon, the little boy was taken to the OR for surgery.

We had an all crew meeting and after the meeting an announcement was made to pray for a patient in the OR who had coded, or had no heartbeat.

Now, I have have been open with you with regards to me losing it, but this time had taken on a new dimension. I sobbed.

All the crew broke up into groups and started lifting this little one up in prayer along with his family. After about five minutes a message came over the loud speaker informing us that he had a heartbeat to continue to pray for him.

As of now, at almost 10pm, he is holding his own. I do not know the prognosis, but would ask that you keep him in prayer. Because of the sensitivity of this story, I am not including his name for you, but the Lord knows him. It tells me so in Psalm 139.

I am heading off to bed. I tried to retire for the evening without blogging but it was gnawing at me, so I am hoping I will be able to sleep.

Thank you for your prayers. They are badly needed out here and much appreciated!!!


Monday, February 25, 2008

Little girl lost.

I have to tell you, I am not writing this blog so much for all of you reading it as I am writing it for myself. In all my travels, I have never written down my experiences and even though this takes a couple of hours a night to do, I have enjoyed my time in my little office here on board the M/V Africa Mercy writing my thoughts. I have looked at previous posts and once I look past all my grammatical and spelling errors, I like being able remember what I felt at a moment in my life. Not all of them happy, but the people I am writing about are real and just as they were real when our paths in this life crossed, they will live forever in my mind. Sometimes I wish I could forget, but there they are, just as vivid as if I were sticking my head into a time machine.

Today my mind added another visitor that had taken up residence in my thoughts. She is a little girl of only fifteen years old. I met Alica late this morning when I went to the dock to see if there were any stories that just had to be told. Her story yelled at me.

I knew there was a Maxillofacial patient being admitted today for surgery tomorrow. However, I thought it was a man in his mid-thirties. Since I have been following an adult in my first story, I really wanted to tell the story of a child. Instead of finding a man with a growth on his face that needed to be removed, I found a petite little girl sitting in the orientation meeting.

Inside the tent on the dock where admissions takes place Alica was sitting with her back to me. She barely sat tall enough for her shoulders to clear the back of the chair. It was only when she turned to her right to look at her mother that I saw why she had come to the M/V Africa Mercy. Her bottom jaw was virtually non-existent.

I have learned in my time here that it is not in the heat of the moment that I break down. I can stay focused on the task before me pretty well. It is only after the fact when something small will trigger the flood of emotions to breach the wall I had built to hold back the tears.

I filmed her and her mother as they listened to the translator inform the group of surgical patients gathered around what was going to happened to them. Every once in a while, Alica would glance towards her mother for reassurance.

I filmed what I needed and after all of the patients had been escorted out of the tent to wait in the plastic chairs outside in the shade, I approached Alica and her mother. I told them I would like to tell her story so that others would be able to be helped by Mercy Ships. I added that she is important and so is her story.

I had confirmed earlier that they had signed the consent form to be filmed and photographed, but I always want them to know why we do this. We don't do this to humiliate them. For some, like Alica, humiliation has been the only thing they have known and that is not our intent at all. It is to give glory to God for his amazing provision, not only for the ship, but for the people of the country we are there to serve.

I followed Alica into the belly of the ship to finish answering some health questions and did a bit of filming, but left after a short period of time because I did not want to hamper the interviewer from getting correct information.

It was then back out to the tent for some blood to be drawn by a nurse and a physical by Dr. Peggy, she is Dr. Mark's wife.

After the physical was complete, a terrified little girl clung to here mommas belly as her arm was stuck to draw a small amount of blood for testing. There were not a lot of tears streaking down her check when she pulled from her mothers side. I think I would have felt better had she flat out cried, but all there was was one big tear. It is almost as though she tried to do what I do and pinch them back, but one crept through her defenses.

At one point prior to this I had asked her if she was frightened. She shook her head, but I could see it in her eyes. I told her that it is perfectly fine to be frightened, but that she would be taken care of. When I asked her again, she admitted she was afraid.

We headed back into the hospital ship down to the ward to get her settled in. Her eyes became wide as she looked around her. Just as we came to the ward, they wheeled in an older gentleman who was just coming from the recovery room after having surgery on his back.

When I thought her eyes could not get any wider, she surprised me. Just as her bottom jaw was retracting towards her neck, her eyes protracted trying to process all she was seeing before her.

She stood in the middle of the room as they moved the man from the gurney to his bed. I just wanted to hug her and comfort her.

The nurse came over and showed her which bed would be here for her stay with us. Both her and her mother sat down at the same time as though joined at the hip. Her mother was better at hiding her fear, but it was on her face just the same.

After the nurse left, the two of them sat there. Looking around, trying to become invisible but knowing this would mean a new life for Alica.

I saw down in the ward for a couple of hours waiting for Dr. Mark to come in for the pre-op talk. While I waited, I was blessed to be able to observe some of the amazing things that happen on the ward.

As I told her at the first of todays entry, I store things up and then one small thing will condense me into a weeping pile of muck. I am so amazing that I have to job I have. I have the honor and privilege to follow a patient from beginning to completion. I am looking forward to the latter part of the process, because it will be seeing how patients change over the process. Not physically, but emotionally.

If you have not read Dr. Mark's blog, please do so. I told you about Emmanuel, the cleft lip patient and Mark picks up that story. It brought a tear to my eye when I read his description of worship on the ward yesterday. I cried because I heard it, but did not go down.

I also saw the interaction between patients. The new ones, the ones waiting for surgery that day and those who were now recovering from their surgery.

There was little Roger, in for a double cleft pallet, and Charles the older gentleman and Catherine waiting for her surgery. There was another young man, I didn't see his name, but he was had just had a hernia repaired. As he lay in bed not moving, he pulled out his little "New Testament" and started reading it. What a joy!!! It was quite a sight, not only because of what he was reading, but also because of what was sitting on his lap. A hand made teddy bear with the words, "Jesus Loves You" written across his belly. He did not play with it, but neither was it placed out of view in his bag. It is a very tender picture.

Dr. Mark walked in and after checking on his post-op patients, he went to see Alica and her mother. He looked at her mouth and asked her mother if she had any questions. She did something most of us in the first world don't do, asked questions. She was concerned that Alica would not be able to open her mouth. Mark answered her questions and her mother told him that she needed to return home to her other three children.

Out of necessity, a mother had no choice but to leave her eldest child in the hands of strangers. I cannot imagine what either of them are going through tonight, but neither of them have left my thoughts all evening.

So, tomorrow I will go into the OR with Alica and film some of her surgery. Please, pray for her, her mother and her three siblings at home. There is a major change coming to this little family. A family where a little girl who was lost will soon be found.

As always,

Sunday, February 24, 2008

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's Speech to Mercy Ships

Here is the speech made by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf here on the Mercy Ship M/V Africa Mercy.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

For such a time as this.

On Wednesday Debra asked me if I wanted to try to get off the ship this weekend. I jumped at the opportunity. My time here with Mercy Ships is almost to an end and I have not been off the ship except for the two screening day related outings. I have had some of Liberia come to me, but I have yet gone to Liberia. I was desperate to go.

On Thursday afternoon she came to me and told me that all the vehicles had already been booked out for this weekend. Needless to say, I was really bummed. I began to think that the next time I actually went though Monrovia was on my way to the airport.

On Friday, after I finished my blog entry, I went to watch a movie at a crew members cabin with some newly made friends. When I returned to my office, there was a message from Debra telling me that Beatrice was due to be released from the ward tomorrow morning and since I am doing a story on her, I needed to film that.

It seemed it was a good thing a Land Rover was not available. I had to work.

I got to sleep in a bit this morning. I woke up at 8am after a very good nights sleep. That seems to elude me here. When I made my way down to the ward, Beatrice was waiting for Dr. Gary and Dr. Mark to come in and give her the thumbs up.

Before the two docs came I sat down with her and interviewed her to find out more of her story. And after Dr. Mark saw her and asked her if she wanted to go home, her answer was quiet, but determined yes.

So, I filmed her leaving the ship and will see her again on Tuesday when she returns for her check up and to have the packing in her mouth removed.

After settling in at my office, Debra came in and asked me if I still wanted to leave the ship. Unlike Beatrice, my yes was not so quiet but just as determined, YES!

A driver had not shown up for their appointed time and that meant the vehicle was free for us to sign out. We invited Victoria, another crew member, along with us and headed out to the Land Rover.

We all climbed in, got buckled up and as Debra tried to get the steering wheel lock off she discovered why the this Land Rover might still be sitting on the dock. She could not turn the key and release the wheel from "The Club"'s grip. My hopes dashed, but so did Debra.

She dashed out of the vehicle and wrangled some assistance from one of the national day workers. It took him no time to raise my hopes again into the stratosphere!! Soon, we were on our way.

The start of our jaunt into town was like a kite flying in a fickle wind. No sooner had we started off the dock and Debra mentioned a red light warning. We tried all the doors, but the light still yelled at us. Fearing we might have to turn back, Debra's words breathed new wind in my kite and fiddle with the handbrake. The warning light was silenced and we were off!

We were heading for no particular place. Debra knows that I wanted to take photos of the city and just see a bit of where I was. We only had two-hours and Monrovia traffic will take snatch most of that time away from us.

I did not care. I was off the ship and as soon as we turned from the port onto one of the main roads my camera was snapping away. Goodness, I love digital!!

We had not been out of the port for more than 10-minutes when a huge smile was brought to my face by a man standing on the side of the road. As we drove by, he saw the "Mercy Ships" logo on the side of the Land Rover and with a smile as wide as his face, he looked me straight in the eyes and raised his thumb in the air. I returned the jester and when I thought his smile could grow no larger, it did. He was beaming. What a welcome!!!

I am trying a new way of putting my photos on the blog. It is a slide show so let me tell you a bit about some of the photos you will be seeing.

The first one is of the street children. The little girl is laying down and her baby brother is sitting behind her. These two were sleeping at the bottom of the hill where the US Embassy is located. It broke my heart to see these two and I really struggled as to whether or not I wanted to list them on my blog. In the end, I wanted you to see reality for so many in Africa. I have no idea where their mother or father was. I pray they were not far, but the fact that they were sleeping on the sidewalk is not a good indication of their financial situation.

There is also a photo of an ATM. I am sure you might want to know why I have included a photo of a machine that you can literally find almost every 100 fee in America. I have included it because that is not the case here in Liberia. This is one of the first ATM's to be introduced and is really a big thing. However, if you also notice, there is nothing showing on the screen. I don't know if it is working or not.

The two women sitting in wheel chairs are receiving a blessing from the woman standing next to them. I happened to catch this shot while standing on top of a bridge just below the US Embassy. The woman giving the money has a huge smile on her face and it is not because she knew I was there taking this photo. I was about 300 yards away from them. Who in this photo received the bigger blessing?

And the last one I want to comment on is of the two little girls asleep on the stairs. About four years ago, this photo would have more than likely been of two girls who had been shot as the fled the rebels. As sad the photo is today, it would have been worse during the civil war.

An image I was not able to capture with my camera is one that will never leave my thoughts. As we were returning to the ship, we had passed some fellow crew members on the side of the road. We didn't know if they walked to this point and needed a ride, so we slowed down and asked. As Debra quickly spoke to them, I look out the driver's side of the vehicle and saw another "Mercy Ships" Land Rover parked. Just as I turned my head I saw a young man of probably 18 or 19 walking with a white cane. I saw the tip of it go under the back part of the vehicle as as my eye tiled up to his head, he walked right into the side with a thud. His reaction was of shock, but he simply took a step to the side and gingerly continued walking.

With all I had seen on that drive, it was this moment that caused me to break down in tears. It's not supposed to be this way. These people are not supposed to be living like they are. This city was a model city in the 60's and 70's. If you were to see photos of it then and now, you would be shocked.

I cannot describe it to you, but just as when I was youngster, this is where my heart still resides. Reality is not hidden to me. I know this is not the safest place in the world to be, but at the same time I know for me it is. That is because it is the Lord who placed this love in my heart and I am right where He will have me to be at this particular time.

"And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Esther 4:14

I just received the news that one of the edits I completed this week for the medical screening has been placed on the web for a press release. Click HERE to see it.


Friday, February 22, 2008


I had finished all the projects I needed to send off to the International Office yesterday, so I spent most of today dubbing tapes and trying not to pass out.

Growing up in Arizona, you would have thought I would have grown up understanding the importance of drinking enough fluids. I must have not really picked up on that lesson because it is one I still struggle with and today was not exception.

I started feeling really faint and dizzy and knew right way what was wrong. So, after filling up my 'nalgene' water bottle twice with Gatorade I was made right as rain. I just forget to drink.

So, with that little drama taken care of, Debra and I headed down to the ward to capture some images of some donor cards being given to the patients.

Debra was delayed a bit so I headed down by myself. As my descent to the hospital deck was finished I was greeted with a glorious sight. Beatrice was up and walking the halls. Her face was a bit swollen, but she looked beautiful. My spirits were lifted immediately!!

I followed Beatrice and nurse Stephanie into the ward and when I looked around I was amazed at what I saw before me. The place was hoping!! Almost all of the 20 beds were filled. It was right at shift change so there were nurses and translators EVERYWHERE! People coming and going. Two patients were getting ready to be discharged.

One older gentleman was being given final instructions by his nurse. He had a cloth bag she was going through to make sure he had all the needed items with him when she pulled out a smaller, colorful bag. She had a perplexed look on her face and leaned over to pick up a similar bag on his bed.

Remember the teddy bears I mentioned in yesterday's blog? That teddy is an exception in that it is quite a big one. However, before each patient arrives there is a little hand knitted or crochet teddy that is about 10 inches tall popping out of a hand made cloth bag. On each of their tummies are the words, "Jesus Loves You".

The older gentleman explained that he new the woman who was in the bed next to him and that when she was discharged, she forgot her bear. He was going to take it to her. With that the nurse smiled and gently put the bears into the larger cloth bag with the rest of his belongings.

Within 10 minutes his bed was empty and being stripped of the sheets, awaiting the next patients arrival on Monday.

Across from the now empty bed Beatrice was resting from her walk up and down the hallway. After Debra and I finished finding out how the greeting cards were going to be dispersed, Debra spoke to nurse Stephanie to find out about Beatrice's feeding schedule and the sort.

Since I filmed her during her surgery, I am wanting to follow up and find out more of her story. Part of it will be her amazing recovery, so with Stephanie being willing to be on video, she went to check on Beatrice and get her stats.

Debra explained to Beatrice what we were doing and how it would help other people continue to receive free treatment just like she had received. She was okay with being filmed.

After Stephanie checked her breathing, heart rate and the wound I sat down on the bed next to her and reiterated what I was going to do with the filming and that I would like to come back tomorrow (Saturday) and talk to her about her story.

Through the translator, Beatrice told me that she looked forward to me coming down and telling me all about how the Lord had worked in her life.

I shook her hand and bid her so long until tomorrow.

The greeting cards were ready to be handed out to the patients in the ward and when I saw the large box overflowing love I was happy to know that people had taken time to send a greeting to the patients whom they would never meet.

I picked up on card. It was signed by the Johnson family of Las Vegas Nevada.

Again, if you recall the very last observation made yesterday I told you about about a frightened woman stoking the teddy bear as she gently swayed back and forth. Today she was no longer fearful. She was the first woman to receive one of these letters of love.

Julia had a goiter removed from her throat and was doing quite well. I filmed the translator as she read the card to her, but pulled back a bit while Debra spoke to her. You could see her eyes beaming as they spoke. She was holding a love letter from people she had never met, but who cared for her by supporting the ministry of Mercy Ships and taking the time to send this card. That is what this is all about. Love!


Thursday, February 21, 2008

To heal...

...sometimes blood must be shed!!!

This is what happens for the patients of the M/V Africa Mercy. I am not only speaking of their blood; I am also speaking of the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for them.

Today I was deeply honored to have seen patients physical conditions being made right. I was able to film two surgeries today and let me tell you, I walked out of the first surgery energized. The outreach has really switched into high gear and I am right in the heart of it, in more ways than one.

After devotions this morning, Debra took me down to the hospital deck and began to show me around a bit and introduce me to some of the nurses and translators. There were three patients in the ward that we spent most of our time in. One of them was a young man here to receive surgery this afternoon for a cleft lip.

Emmanuel was on the first bed as you walked into the ward and he was laying on his side with his arm shielding his mouth. Debra walked over to him and introduced the two of us. After extending her hand to his, he greeted her with a Liberian handshake. If our handshake in America is dinner, then in a Liberian handshake you receive dinner and dessert.

The handshake starts out like ours, but at the end instead of just letting go, each person grabs the others middle finger and they 'snap'. That is how they break their grip. Liberians do not consider the handshake complete until that snap is done. I am still working on my snap, so I think mine is more like dinner and a cookie, not quite a full dessert.

After the introductions, Emmanuel draped his arm over his mouth again and was quiet the remainder of our time on the ward. He looked frighted and unsure of what was going to be happening to him later that day. As we left the ward, I prayed for him. I did not know that I would have the honor to pray for him once again, only this next time, there was to be no snap in our meeting. Instead, he would sleep right thought it.

Debra then took me to meet Fiona, one of the head OR people. I forget her title, I'm lucky enough to remember names at this point!! All I know is I did what she told me to do.

I came prepared to enter the O.R.. I had brought my own scrubs because I knew I would be filming surgeries and wanted to have a bit of fun. Sponge Bob Square Pants accompanied me into the O.R.. The top is purple with big hearts for Valentines Day and good ole' Bob sending various greetings like, "Happy Hearts and Bubble Day". With that top and my bright red scub pants, you would have thought I was a pro at going into the O.R..

I put blue plastic booties on over my shoes, tied a hat on my head and shaped a mask over my face to head into the unknown. You would think with all the times I have been traveling down this mysterious path of the unknown, I would know what it looks like!! But, alas I have failed to secure a map detailing these meandering roads in my life. Still, I wasn't nervous. I was quite confident there would be no need for an extra gurney to haul me out of the room.

I walked in on a surgery already in progress. Unlike walking in on a movie after it has already started, I didn't need anyone to catch me up on what was going on.

This was a Maxillo-Facial patient. This is a patient with a growth on their face somewhere that causes major deformities if not treated. In first-world countries these are taken care of when they are small and we don't let them get to the point of causing possible death, but certain shunning, like they do here in Africa.

Beatrice had a growth occurring inside on the upper left part of her mouth. When I arrived the surgery had been taking place for about 45-minutes. I started to film and was in awe of what I saw happening before me.

Dr. Gary and Dr. Mark (you can see his photo in one of my earlier entries) had already exposed the growth and it was glistening in the bright lights of the O.R. like a dew covered cherry tomato, perhaps a bit bigger. I was focused on the technical part of my job and didn't notice that it was actually hard until Mark started drilling and sawing to remove it.

Once it was free, it was dropped into a gauze lined metal bowl with a muffled clank. No sooner had the sound dissipated than Dr. Mark was back at work finished the surgery. The job was far from over.

I was very aware of all the blue items in the room and made sure I put a lot of space between us while moving about. Those are the items that are sterile. I did not want to put any patient at risk.

I pulled up a little stool on wheels and proceeded to film some amazing shots of the two surgeons transforming this patients life. It was a experience I never thought I would see in person. When she was wheeled into the O.R. she was an outcast, shunned by society and more than likely by her own family. Medical conditions such as hers are looked at as demon possession or a curse and people do not want to 'catch' it from her.

I have never been in a room when a women has given birth, but I believe todays experience is the closest thing I will ever come. She has been re-born, transformed and given the gift of life again and I was there for that moment in her life. WOW!!! I serve an almighty God who has allowed me to take part in moments like these.

Most of the time I have a tendency to discount my role. Okay, it's closer to all the time. I'm only a videographer. I only take photos. But serving on the Mercy Ship M/V Africa Mercy I am starting to see how my role is a large one.

It is through the God given skills I have that will allow the message of what Mercy Ships does to go global. No, my name is not on anything I produce. I am perfectly fine with that. I do not do this job to please man, I do it to please the Lord. If I wanted to please man I would pack up and move to Hollywood. I doubt Steven Spielberg has ever filmed a real life surgery of this magnitude. He has made millions, perhaps billions of dollars on his creations. My account is not calculated in dollars or any other currency. I cannot tell you how many lives my work will impact. I will only be shown that when I am worshiping around the Throne. For now, I look forward to telling one story at a time, because ultimately I am telling my own story of being an outcast to God, through these peoples lives. And that is better than anything I can think of. Yes, even better than a new Mac laptop.

With Beatrice's surgery over, it was now up to Nigel, the anesthesiologist to bring her out of her deep sleep. I stayed in the room, in an out of the way corner and watched as he kept watch over her. I prayed as people were preparing to move her to the recovery. I was praying that she will adjust to her new 'normal' life. Praying that her pain be mild. Praying that she know who Jesus is and what He did for her.

With Beatrice safely delivered to the recovery room, Dr. Gary and Dr. Mark and most of the others left for lunch, including myself.

I sat with Mark, (sorry Mark, I came to know you at Mark and outside the OR, you are just Mark :-), his wife Peggy and Nigel. I was on a high. I'm sure I sounded like a giddy school girl talking about some of the shots I got. I was saying things at the lunch table that were probably not appropriate, but I figured since they were Dr's it was okay.

After lunch I dropped in on another surgery. This time it was Emmanuel. Our second meeting. I stayed outside of the O.R. as they intubated him and had was once again able to pray for this frightened boy. Once he was asleep, I went in and was able to watch Dr. Mark (we're back in the O.R.) place the cutting guides on Emmanuel's face.

His lip was not an open cleft pallet, but there was enough of a deformity that it was causing him trouble in life. When he walks off this ship, a whole new world will be open to him.

I filmed the first incision to the final stitch. It wasn't a very long procedure, but the results will last a lifetime. Again, I am in the room for another re-birth.

--I had to put the blog writing aside and attended a community meeting here on the ship. Goodness, I love the Africa worship!! In a room filled with about 350 people worship the Lord, let me tell you that place ROCKS!!--

After the community meeting, Debra told me that there might be a case I could do a story on tomorrow, so we headed down to the ward to meet a child who was scheduled for surgery.

When we were down there, the child was not the one we thought it was. As Debra was talking to one of the nurses, I looked over at the first bed on the right and saw Emmanuel sitting up. He no longer felt the need to hide his face. He had a bit of swelling but he was on the road to recovery.

I also saw Beatrice. She was asleep. I pray she has a good nights sleep!

One more little observation and I will sign off. I told you I write mini novels!!!

The ward that only had three patients in it this afternoon was now filled. Not an empty bed to be found. One even had two little children sleeping in it. No, they are not putting two patients to a bed, the other little one might be a sibling.

But as I looked off to my left, I saw an older woman sitting in her bed. For some reason I am remembering her bed being a little darker than the others. She sat on her bed holding a teddy bear that was wearing a sunflower dress and matching hat. She was gently swaying back and forth and stroking this little bear. (Most of the beds in the wards have teddy bears on them.)

I could not see any physical deformities, but then again I did not really look for one. I was looking at a frightened child in a grown up body and I saw myself; I saw each and every one of us.

One phrase Jesus repeated was, "Do not be afraid".

His blood has been shed and we are healed!


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's Speech to Mercy Ships

For now, please read some of the stories from the last outreach. They will move you and perhaps bring you to tears.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Presidental visit.

It is once again late into the evening as I sit down to write you about the days happenings. I would like to ask you a favor when reading my blog. I am usually very tired when I am writing, but there are so many stories here that have to be told, I don't want to wait a day or they will be lost in the recesses of my mind forever. They are important stories the MUST be told. With this in mind, please be kind when reading my blog and forgive the mis-spelled words. Most of the time you can make out the gist of my meaning.

With that said, let me move on with today's news.

This is the second President I have had the honor to film. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf once again graced Mercy Ships and the M/V Africa Mercy with a visit. I knew a little bit of what to expect after my adventure in Tanzania in September so I was not as anxious as I was then. As with anything technical with regards to ministry something major almost always happens and this was no exception.

Earlier in the day I had spent 45-minutes doing a sound check to make sure I could get sound from the sound board to my camera. It took that long because there was a mix-up in how the cables were plugged into the board, but it was all sorted out.

I taped the mic cable down so no one would trip over it, placed my tripod in its place and went about the rest of my day. The President was set to arrive at 2pm.

When the big moment arrived, I was on the gangway and just like in Tanzania another press person joined me. Now the thing with gangways is the they are moving all the time. Today was particularly bad because there was a steady wind which made the ship sway from side to side. Add a person on the gangway and the movement intensifies.

With the other photographer adding extra movement to my camera, I went down to the dock and recorded the President greeting Don and Dayon Stephens, the founders of Mercy Ships and they all proceeded up to the reception area on the ship where a few chosen crew members of African descent waited to greet the President.

We all proceeded up to the "International Lounge" where the President would speak. This is where the heart-stopping moment occurred. When I plugged in my line from the sound board...NOTHING.

Thank goodness the President was not speaking first. Christian, the sound guy on duty, ran to get assistance and when the other gentleman came up it took him about 10 minutes to sort out the problem.

Well,,, as you can all well imagine, I was not a happy camper. The International Office wanted all of the Presidential speech and I thought I was going to have to rely on my on camera microphone.

But, as God's grace happened upon all of us that day, the problem was resolved and I was able to record all of Don's speech as well as the Presidents.

I am at the top of the gangway. Click on the photo to open it full size.

Filming the President's arrival.

The communications team.
It is nice to be on an all female team since I am the only female
on the team I work with back home.
Me, Esther and Debra.

She left the ship and all returned to normal.

Returning to yesterdays sad entry, I have some happy news to report. If you recall Mark, he is the doctor I met on the last leg of my journey here. I spoke to him today and I asked him if he happened to have seen Abraham. After telling me he had seen a lot of Abrahams, I mentioned the blue star on his nose. That joggled his memory and he did remember examining him.

When I told him that I had heard he had not been accepted, he had a perplexed look on his face and corrected me by informing me that there was no plastic surgeon there to do a proper examination and that more than likely Abraham will return for a follow-up appointment when the proper surgeon arrives. This would be within a month or so.

Suddenly the sorrow that had clouded my day had blown away and I had hope for this little boy. I must warn you now, if you are reading my blog with a child present, I do have a photo of Abraham posted for you to see the darling little boy. His physical appearance is not pretty. It is hard to look at. So, please do not scroll down if you do not want you child to see his photo.

Later in the afternoon, Stephanie approached me. She was the nurse who drew a lot of the patients blood. (I hope I remembered your name correct. If not, find me and correct me. --She reads my blog.) She told me that she remembered drawing his blood and reiterated what Mark had told me. Once again, my joy soared!!

I have found out that Abraham was burned when hot oil spilled on him. He spent several months in a hospital through another charitable organization. They tried to repair his eyes, but as you probably know, burn patients can require 30+ surgeries just to resume normal function of their damaged tissue.

I am including some other photos of some of the people who were at the screening. I believe all of them I am showing here made it through the screening process and they will receive treatment on the M/V Africa Mercy. Please keep them in your prayers. They still have a long journey ahead of them.

Here are the photos. AGAIN, IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN, PREVIEW THE PHOTOS FIRST!!! I'll start with some photos of me working. Okay, this first one is of me goofing off while Chad is trying to work. He put all the before photos in a template so that when the patients come for their surgery, the doctors will see the photos.

In the following images I am filming Don Stephens for updates to shown to sponsors.

Don speaks with patients in line.
I believe this little girls name is Nancy. She had a tumor growing on the side of her face. If it is not cancer and the doctors are able to remove it, she will be spared a future consisting of living with a deformed face and being an outcast to society.

I would like to thank Megan Petock for these wonderful photos. She is an amazing woman who has been helping out in the communications department by offering her photography and writing skills as well as being one of the wonderful nurses who will care for the patients. Thanks Megan!!! You are a star!!!

And now for the photo of beautiful Abraham. If you look closely you will see the little blue star Ali, one of the nurses here, helped placed on his nose. You can read more about her interactions with Abraham on her blog at:

Wednesday is our first admissions day. I will once again be in the heat of battle, literally it's stinkin' hot here!! I will be filming the patients as they go through the process to begin collecting footage to tell their stories.

On Thursday there is a strong possibility I will be filming my first surgery. I do not think I will have any problems, but you never know. Please keep that in your prayers a well. I do not want to be drug out of the O.R. after collapsing in a heap.

One last photo for you to look at. Look into his eyes. What do they say to you?

Thanks for reading my mini novel. Please write me and let me know what you would like to know about my time here in wonderful Liberia. I look forward to sharing with you.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Here comes the rain!

I want to first thank you for all your prayers!!! I had sent specific requests to a few people and I those requests were met completely!!!

This morning started out EARLY!!! I woke up at 4:55am to get ready for the day. I was trying not to think of what I was going to be seeing today, but looked forward to giving my smile away freely.

It was still dark and very humid as about 70+ people descended the gangway to pile into numerous vehicles that would form a convey down the dark streets of Monrovia. I thought for sure the water vapors in the air had conspired against us. I was sweating already as I walked to my assigned Land Rover.

The one-hour 15 minute drive to the Samuel K Doe Football Stadium was relatively quite, except for praying for the day and the occasional grunt when we hit a crater of a pothole. The roads are dark and pedestrians are like darkened lighthouses in the middle of the road. It's a bit like playing the old game of skittles. Okay, I'm giving away how old I am. Skittles is a game where you spin a peg and try to get it to go through openings and enter different rooms of the game board. The people are the pegs and instead of trying to score points by going into rooms, they are simply trying to stay alive by dodging cars that cannot see them until they are almost directly in front of them.

It was still dark when we arrived, but the sun was starting to shine. The colors were still a deep purple but even in this low light we could see hundreds of people already standing in a very long line.

We pulled up and spilled out of the vehicles. I was still nervous about what I was going to see. A couple of us walked over to the front of the line and much to my relief, there were no huge facial tumors that I could see and just as I started to quietly breath a sigh of relief, the people in the line started to sing an African song. I don't know if it was a worship song, I'm thinking it was. With the lyrics of a song I did not know sung in a foreign tune, the tears started to form. I pinched them back though. The day had just begun and I was not going to let myself break-down so early. I hadn't even gotten my camera out yet!

The communications department headed into the stadium to get set up. The department is responsible for the before and after photos that I have been showing you. While the rest of my team set up their station, I grabbed the video camera and headed out to the line.

There was a fence surrounding the stadium and it was this fence that was where the first screening took place. The line had now become a long snake of people waiting to find out if their would even step foot inside the gray metal fence.

I started to film the hundreds of people. Most of them watching my every move. I had a large, fancy video camera with a shoulder harness that made the whole apparatus appear that much surreal to them. No one turned away. But it was as I went from the overall scene to the individuals that I started to notice things. A neck three-times larger than it should be. People walking on the tops of their feet. I mean, their feet turned completely around. An older gentleman wheeling through the line in a homemade wheelchair.

Even with all these scenes before me I did not break down. I had a job to do and I was focused on that.

I moved to the front of the line and started following people as they moved from being outsiders to being escorted inside the fence to a waiting area that consisted of white plastic chairs placed in rows outside of the stadium. There were probably 300 of the 500 rented chairs sitting under the over-hang. It did not take long for them to be filled up.

As the day progressed, I continued to film people with no real one on one contact with them. That is until I saw Abraham. He is a little boy of probably three or four-years old. His entire face had been burned and both hands were but mere remembrances of what they once were.

He didn't cry or complain. He was quite content playing with his blue balloon that one of the staff had given him. The palms of his hands were no longer flat, but were round with what little remained of his fingers and thumbs. In addition to the balloon, a blue shiny star was firmly attached to the tip of his nose. This was really the only point on his face that still looked somewhat normal.

His eyelids had been burned away and it was a challenge for him to blink. He was very attentive to what was going on around him and didn't mind me filming him. He became one child I followed because I was really praying that the medical team could assist him, at least let him blink.

I would find Abraham at various stages of the process. He was always pleasant. Never fussing for his mother. His mother had a tremendous smile and it was easy to see that he had her personality.

I had gotten busy towards the end of the day and had lost track of Abraham and his mother. When most of the other stations had closed down, I started asking each of our three photographers who were taking the before and after photos if they had taken his photo. One by one they said they had not. This frightened me. This could only mean one thing, he had not been accepted.

On the drive back I had put Abraham out of my thoughts. I was exhausted and just wanted a shower.

When I was in my office capturing the days footage, Debra came in. She broke the news to me that it was official that he had not been accepted. I lost it.

All the tears I had not cried during the day came flooding out. They are re-appearing as I write this update for you. When Debra told me I was capturing that tape where I had filmed him at various stations. It only tore at my heart more.

I don't know why he was not accepted. I have gotten to know some of the medical personnel on board and their hearts are with the people here. They would have done something for them if they could. As I told you in an earlier post, I am glad that I do not have to make those decisions.

So, as I told you, I am a changed person. My time filming Abraham has changed me. The time trying to coax a smile from a little girl has changed me. Seeing and older man who has lived his life with a cleft pallet has changed me. A little girl who is going to have to lose her leg to save her life has changed me. Countless men and women with growths on their necks has changed me.

I must close for now. I am exhausted and need to go to bed but I wanted to jot down a few of my thoughts while they were still raw and fresh.

There are photos for me to upload, but that will have to wait till the latter part of the week. Please keep praying for us. We need your support in this area.

And I know I do not need to state this, but please pray for little Abraham and his mother especially. He was the one that finally made my tears fall like rain.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

And God saw that it was good.

I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for tomorrow. The person writing this post is not going to exist tomorrow. The people I meet and film are going to change me forever. Tomorrow is a day I have been waiting for for eight years. That is how long I have wanted to serve with Mercy Ships.

I woke up this morning, late I might add, and as I tried to mentally prepare myself for tomorrow the book of Genesis came to my mind. In the first chapter one phrase is repeated, "And God saw that it was good". The word "saw" is repeated seven times.

Tomorrow I want to remember this when I am looking at people who are outcasts of their society. God sees them! He saw them when he knit them together in there mother's womb. He sees their struggles and calls them to Himself. I want to see them the way He does.

If you look at the before and after photos of patients who have had their lives transformed all you have to do is look into their eyes. For example, take a look at Malik,

In his after photo, there is now hope, life and joy in his eyes. Malik saw that he mattered to people he had never met before. Malik had that tumor growing on his jaw for forty years. I can't erase what these people have gone through, but I am part of the team who can help to give him a new future.

There are a lot of emotions and thoughts wrestling in my mind right now about tomorrow. Will I have to excuse myself from the line or the assessment stations to go into the back room to have a quick cry before going back out there? I can almost guarantee that will happen. How will this change me? I have no idea, but I hope I will have more compassion for people and realize how truly blessed I am.

I'm going to change the direction of this blog now. Let's talk about ship life, shall we?

Community!! That's what it's all about. I live in a cabin with two other ladies. We have one bunk that is not occupied at this time, which is nice. The cabin is about 150 sq. feet. We have a couch, private bathroom and even a "kitchen" sink. Luxury!!

Now, I'm sure some of you, okay, MOST of you are shaking your head saying, "How do they do it?" Especially since all of you know I am not the neatest person around. It's a little hard to be 'really' messy when you don't have much to be messy with. But regarding the size of the cabin, we aren't in there very much.
My bed with the photo of me with my nieces and nephew.

Our "kitchen" sink.
The couch.

So, we live in cramped quarters, all the crew eat their meals together, we have community meetings (with AWESOME worship) and we PAY to serve. What a life!!!

The ship is our home, work place and recreational place. It's nice to get out and enjoy fresh, very HUMID air and be relational with each other. The kids on the ship have their bikes and when they are not trying to get their toys back from the adults who are playing with them, they ride up and down the dock. It is quite a joy to be part of. I took these photos the other evening. I must have been outside for about 3 hours just enjoying people's company and getting to know folks. People don't live most of their lives behind closed doors in their cabins. They live it in community with the rest of the crew. I like it!
I was hoping to capture her first tooth coming out, but it remained stubborn and didn't pop out.

Lindsey and Alison, two nurses, racing on kiddie toys.

I don't know if he ever caught anything.

Please keep all of us in your prayers on Monday. By the time most of you read this, we will be half-way through our day.

I would enjoy finding out what you would like to hear from Monrovia, Liberia. I would love to help you understand more of what the mission of Mercy Ships is. I still have a little over two weeks left. Can you believe the time is going by so quickly? You are part of my team and want you to feel as though you are here as well. Write me, let me know.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Site reckie.(Checking out the site we will be filming at.)

Today I went into town with most of the communication department to take a look at the facilities we will be working in for the Medical Assessment day next week. I had prepared myself to be out in the heat and humidity all day filming the happenings. I brought my hat, Deb has sunscreen I was going to be using and I had a cloth all set to wipe my brow to stop the sweat from running into my eyes as I film people as they find out if their life will soon be changed when they receive their appointment card for surgery on the M/V Africa Mercy.

Ha, the Lord brought me on this trip when the Medical Assessment day is going to be held indoors in three air-conditioned rooms.

When we arrived at the stadium where we will be seeing people, we were escorted to the managers office. It was a very nice office and we were greeted with a smile and invited to sit. After the formalities we were taken to the rooms where we would be working that very long day. The room was a bit warm, but I was very comfortable. There was a 6-foot tall AirCon (Air Conditioning) unit sitting in the corner but not turned on.

We walked out onto the football/track field, that is football as in soccer. I could not help but think that the fields look much bigger on TV. This was a normal size field, perhaps one my nieces would play on. I remember walking around the stadium in Sydney, Australia before the 2000 Olympics and that field was HUGE. It's like comparing apples to oranges I guess.

We found the rooms and walked around finding all the electrical plugs for our equipment, Deb looked at how she was going to hang the white sheet to have people stand against when she and Esther take the before shots and when we returned to the managers office it was immediately noticeable that while we were being shown around, he had turned on the AirCon just for us.

I am always amazed at people's hospitality towards foreigners when I travel around my "beloved Africa". Most of the time they do not have much to give, but what they do have, they give freely.

We finished our business and returned to the ship. As we drove out the gate, a man on the passenger side pointed to a man approaching the drivers side. The man walked up and told us he was here for the assessment day and told us his problem. Unfortunately, the problem he described was one that the ship could not assist him with.

Earlier in the day at one of the briefings we were told to expect this when we were in town. It didn't matter if we were part of the medical crew or not. The people just wanted help.

We also found out that there are only about 140 doctors in all of Liberia. There is a population here of about 6 million people. Do that math if you really want to be frightened. For dentists it is even worse. There are only 2 dentists in the country.

On the way back I was trying to take all the mental photos I could. There are moments that will always remain vivid in my memories. Africa lives its life on the streets. Unlike first-world countries where we do most of our business behind closed door, you can see everything on the street of Africa.

For example, we passed three girls as they stood around a tub of water. It looked like it was laundry day. One girl had other things on her mind. Instead of washing the clothes, she was giving her doll a bath. She was smiling from ear to ear as she combed her naked, white "Barbie" doll. I don't recall what was going on behind her or the two other girls with her; I only remember her beaming face and the action of combing the dolls thinning hair. So much life in the girls eyes, so much hope, so much potential and so loved by God.

Once again it is late into the evening as I write to you about some of the stories taking place here in Liberia. I look forward to telling a lot more in the weeks to come.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"Keep your hands and feet inside the car"

The ship is getting geared up for next week. Departments are starting to buzz with energy with the anticipation of receiving patients. As for me, I am simply trying to keep my excitement in check. I have no idea of what to expect. Am I prepared for what I am going to see, hear, smell and experience? I would like to think I am, but I have a strong suspicion that I am not.

Medical personnel had an open house down on the ward. Like most medical people, they had a lot of fun showing non-medical crew their work place. The following are some photos of that night.

A crew member has her artery checked with the ultra-sound machine. Results: her arteries looked good.

The following two photos are crew members trying their hands at suturing.

Danielle (far right) is my room-mate.

These are x-rays of a real patient treated on the ship. The name of the patient remained anonymous.

Balloon animals were also on the ward.

Putting in a breathing tube.

The kids of crew members were welcome to try things.

Facial tumors make up a large number of the surgeries done on the ship. Here Debra (R) doesn't do such a good job making sure the patient has enough oxygen.

Even with the blunder, the patient's tumor was removed.
Even Donkey got in on the fun.

Liberian Sunset.

Okay, now that I have entertained you with photos, let me tell you a bit of what is happening right now. Not on the ship, but in my head. Scary thought, huh?

I'm sure you have read the following story, but please take the time and read it all the way through before continuing with my writing.

The Starfish Story
Original Story by: Loren Eisley

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, "What are you doing?"

The boy replied, "Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them back, they'll die."

"Son," the man said, "don't you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can't make a difference!"

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.

Then smiling at the man, he said..."I made a difference for that one."

A lot of the crew from M/V Africa Mercy will be walking on the beach next week. There will be THOUSANDS of people before us, stranded in a sorrowful life; living as outcasts, left alone to fend for themselves. Some are very close to death. They cannot save themselves. The water is out of reach for them.

One of the things I am shielded from in my job is that I will not be making the medical decisions as to who will be brought to the water and given the opportunity to live again. I am very thankful for that. At the same moment I am very thankful that I will have the opportunity to record what takes place during these moment.

There are thousands of people in Liberia who need someone to come along the beach and throw them back into the life giving water. The medical staff do not only perform physical transformations, but the Gospel is given to them as well. They receive the love of Christ and for many, for the first time in their lives someone else was willingly gave sacrificially for them. This opens their hearts to know that Jesus sacrificed the ultimate for them, He died and rose again to restore each of us back to the Father.

I am sitting in the front car of a roller coaster that is about to start the climb up the first big hill. Next week is when the ride starts. I am filled with both excitement and butterflies. You are about to take the journey with me. All I can say is "Hold on". I am praying that not only are the patients going to be changed, but you and I will be changed as well.

I appreciate each and every one of you. Your words of encouragement have touched me over these past couple of days. Thank you.