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.»

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.



Anonymous said...

You are doing a great thing
Stay strong and healthy
I'm praying every day
Joyce Page