Friday, September 30, 2011

Burnt but not broken

“Alberta loves dancing and singing gospel songs,” said Mariah of her five-year-old granddaughter. “She helps me shop, and when I do the dishes, she rinses them. She always wants to help.”
Since Alberta was eighteen months old, Mariah has raised her, allowing the child’s young mother to finish her education. Three years ago, Mariah was cooking over an open fire in front of her Liberian home when Alberta awoke from her nap. Still groggy from sleep, the little girl walked too close to the fire, falling near the cooking oil. It splashed over her left arm and leg, up her back and over the back of her head. The fire quickly followed. The little girl’s left arm was terribly burned, immobilizing its position at her side. Her leg, back and the back of her head were also severely burned and scarred.


For the next two years, Mariah searched in vain for someone who could surgically release Alberta’s arm so she could raise it above her head. The frozen arm caused much embarrassment for Alberta at her day care, where the children constantly taunted her and called her names.
Mariah is a member of the Eden Church in Liberia, where she coaches football (soccer) for a group called LACES. This group organizes teams for boys and girls, ages 10 and 11, teaching them about Christ through sports. The team members collected enough funds to send Alberta and Mariah to the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship where the volunteer plastic surgery team released Alberta’s burned arm.
Because burned skin and nerves were cut during the surgery, Alberta spent several weeks in recovery. An infection added more weeks of recovery time. But her bubbly personality helped her to make many friends among the crew, including the physiotherapy team that coached her through new exercises and the medical team that gave her post-operative care. Much of that care was painful, but most of the time she remained very brave, generously sharing her brilliant smile and even singing while the nurses applied new dressings. Such behavior is very rare among West African children.

“Sometimes she would fall asleep while I was changing her dressing,” said Nurse Becca Noland. “I love that girl. She’s amazing!”
“I am HAPPY!” said the five-year-old as she approached the end of her stay. “I can play and go to school!”
“She’s going to remember this. I will remind her repeatedly of everything she has seen here,” said Mariah. “It’s a miracle of God that she can have this surgery.”


Story by Elaine B. Winn
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell and David Peterson

Monday, September 26, 2011

Living on a ship

 So, after being here eleven weeks I finally got the opportunity to see another ship dock. I've seen them many times leaving or arriving, but it seems that every time I was without my camera. Just last week I saw one leaving during lunch and since it was my day off I decided to go to my room and be ready just in case the next ship came in soon. About half an hour later I saw this ship coming up the river towards the port and so I made my way to deck seven. From deck seven outside you can see across the river and I also went in front of the bridge for a few of the pictures.The ship was only here for a day or two and then I saw it leaving to go out to the ocean.

Coming up the river turned towards the docks.
A clear dock waiting for the arrival of new containers.
Turning so that it will dock with the portside towards the port.
Great view from up on deck eight.
Almost looks like it's going to do a circle and pass us.
The deckhands getting ready to tie up to the dock.
It's getting closer, and moving much slower so as to not hit the dock.
You can see the AFM here in the foreground.
Throwing out the HUGE ropes to tie up to the dock.
All safe and secure.

He wanted a full body shot for his profile pic.
Things have been going very well in the galley. I think that it's a great fit for me! The time goes so fast that it seems like the weeks are flying by like crazy! I'm hopeing to go to church with one of the day workers here in the next week, and just today I set up a Facebook account for one of the workers. It's amazing to see what us people from the western culture take for granted. Kids of young young ages have their own Facebook accounts and computers while Isaac who's thirty-three doesn't even have easy access to a computer. He said that only the rich have computers and mainly just the ones that go to university or own their own business.

Got a package with some LEADER clippings from my mom today, I just love reading that paper!
Want to thank the people that have sent me a card, letter or just a word of encouragement. It's a great reminder of all of you great people at home.
Lastly this week I want to give a shout-out to my friend Bro. Chris, the music minister at FBC-FCC, Sunday was his last service on the staff. He'll be moving with his family to Village Baptist Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Sorry that I couldn't be there for the big celebration last night, I heard that everything was wonderful. Seems like just yesterday you were coming on the staff. I wish you many great years, I'm sure that the Lord will bless your ministry there like He has in Missouri.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

From super sad to Superman

The villagers called Abdul the “devil child” because of his deformed, curling feet.  Each year this common condition, known as clubfoot, affects 220,000 babies born in developing countries.1
Abdul was abandoned by his mother, but his father Simeon stood by his side. He knew that the baby’s condition was medical. It was not a case of witchcraft. He dared to believe that his son could get an education and have a bright future.
Every day Simeon walked in the intense heat from village to village selling firewood for money to live on. Abdul played with the neighborhood children who taunted him until he hid in the house, sobbing from the pain of rejection.
When Abdul started attending school, he proved to be a very curious child and a quick learner. He enjoyed his father’s support of his education, as Simeon regularly helped Abdul with his studies.
Every Saturday, father and son washed clothes together.  Then, before dinner, they talked man-to-boy about the future. There was quite a close bond between them. His father smiled at these memories and said, “Abdul is a cool and wild boy.”
Simeon was determined to find medical treatment to correct his son’s clubfeet. They visited many doctors but never found anyone who could help them. Yet, Simeon had a strong faith in God and firmly believed that, one day, Abdul would be healed. As they searched for a solution, the obvious need for medical care developed a deep desire in Abdul’s heart to become a doctor to give hope to others who suffered.
One day, a radio jingle announced the arrival of Mercy Ships to assess people for surgery. Abdul and his father stood in line for an exhausting three days to be seen. It was worth every second when Abdul was accepted for treatment. “The joy I felt was so overwhelming that I lost my appetite to eat until I arrived at Mercy Ships,” he remembered with a flush of excitement.
At the HOPE Recovery Center, crew from around the world and patients with similar conditions embraced the father and son with kindness. Abdul and Simeon enjoyed the social interaction tremendously. It was a refreshing change for Abdul, who was so accustomed to rejection. At first, he cried a flood of tears after playing with the crew, for fear that they would never return, but soon he realized that they visited every day.
Abdul’s first Ponseti treatment involved the application of heavy plaster casts to his legs to correct the position of his curled feet. The thigh-high casts positioned his legs in 90-degree right angles. Abdul was required to stay in a permanent “squat” position for several months. But Abdul’s mischievous spirit emerged, and he cunningly mastered walking like a spider. Now, he could explore his new home and demonstrate his adventurous nature. He became the first one to scuttle over to greet visitors, join in creative activities with the other children and even climb the steps to go into the shower rooms.
Despite the playing and exploring, Abdul dreaded the cast changes. It was a lengthy procedure – but, in time, he formed endearing friendships with the physiotherapy team. His perseverance paid off. Finally, after many cast changes, Abdul was ready for the surgery to make his curled feet flat.
Then, suddenly, he was overcome by a fever. He lay motionless, drained, and limp. His father stayed at his bedside, soothing Abdul’s fears away by gently stroking his head.
Fortunately, Abdul soon recovered. The first sign of the return of his sassy nature occurred when he received a puppet bear. The animated bear triggered his sunny smiles and laughter.
A few days after his successful surgery, he returned to the HOPE Recovery Center in straight, short leg casts which made walking easier. He joyfully hobbled around on crutches with the other boys who were receiving similar treatment on their legs. He was encouraged as they practiced walking together by playing competitive games.
Angel, a physiotherapy team member, made foot shields to keep Abdul’s feet in the correct position in his shoes. “The braces will help him in the future to walk correctly. I love that – it motivates me to make them,” said Angel. However, the foot shields brought to light another problem – Abdul did not have any shoes because he had never been able to wear them with his curled, twisted feet. This was the first time in his life he needed to buy shoes, and a delighted Abdul beamed, “I am happy because I can walk to school when I go home.”
Then something very unexpected happened. A Mercy Ships doctor offered to do some tests on Simeon. He had whispered since he was seven years old, after a long- term throat infection damaged his voice box. The doctor agreed to do surgery. Abdul was enormously excited about his surgery because he would now be the official person to look after his father in the hospital. As they waited to board the ship, he strutted up and down with a bounce in his step, announcing to anyone passing by that he was a “caregiver.”
Shortly after his father’s surgery, they were ready to return home. Physiotherapist Nick was overjoyed with the boy’s progress and said, “Abdul is very special. I’m very proud of him. His first few steps were like a newborn calf, but now he’s walking with confidence. His future will be worlds apart from what it would have been before treatment – he would have been begging on the streets. Now, he will work, contributing to society, which gives him a bright future.”
To mark the occasion, Abdul proudly wore his superhero Superman costume. Brimming with confidence for their future, his father waved goodbye and declared, “His faith has grown stronger and stronger as his legs healed. Now he’s ready to grow into a great man that we will love and respect!”

Story by Claire Ross
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell, John Rolland, and Liz Cantu

Friday, September 16, 2011

A taste of summer

 Yesterday I made some blueberry and raspberry oatmeal crisp. It's not everyday that we get the privilege of having dessert at dinner time, but we didn't have any produce to make the regular salad bar. So, I looked for something to make. After figuring out what the possibilities would be I decided that some kind of cobbler/crisp would be a good idea. Fresh berries are unheard of around here, but there are always some available from the freezer. I went online because we don't have many recipes sitting around. When I found what looked like a good recipe I converted it to make enough for 300 people and to metric witch is easier in mass quantities. To top that off I made the recipe twice. The staff was very happy to receive 10 pans of warm berry crisp.
Berry Crisp

     2  l    honey
     1  l    canola oil
     4  kg quick-oats
  1.5  kg flour
  1.4  k   chopped pecans
  400 g   cornstarch
11.4  kg strawberries
  7.2  kg blueberries
  3.1  kg raspberries

Last week I received a great package of cards from  3rd & 4th grade Sunday School class at church. Thanks to Mary Gans, Janet Goodwin, Frosty Acre, & Jim Kirby for getting everything together.
I got sixteen different cards, but these three were some of the greatest.


"Don't worry about your life." -Cayden


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dr. Bruce Steffes & PAACS Residents

The following is another story from the ship. I did know Dr. Steffes, his wife and his son. I also had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Arega about what his plans were for after he left the ship. It is all a part of Mercy Ships plan not only to help the people with surgeries, but to help build the capacity of doctors, hospitals and general heatlthcare system.

Dr. Bruce (USA),  Dr. Arega (Ethiopia),  Dr. Agneta (Kenya),  Dr. Philadelphie ( Mali)

Dr. Bruce Steffes, volunteer CEO of Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS), says that in some areas of Africa, there is only one surgeon for two and a half million people. This startling and appalling fact has triggered the existence of PAACS, which seeks to respond to the great need for surgeons in the African culture – and, more importantly, to highlight “the importance of spiritual healing as well as medical healing.”
This five-year surgical training program uses rural mission hospitals in several countries to train national physicians in modern surgical procedures, at low cost, with the aim of retaining them to practice within Africa. A nondenominational, volunteer service organization, PAACS serves Africa’s poor by maintaining faith-based health care facilities as it builds capacity within the health care system. Although mission hospitals provide many services, they only make money on surgeries. With so few surgeons, it is difficult to maintain these hospitals.
Operating under the umbrella of the Christian Medical and Dental Association, candidates must be African graduates from recognized medical schools, be less than 40 years of age, have a valid medical license in their home and training countries, and be fluent in English. Training is given at a well-established evangelical mission hospital in Africa, under the supervision of board-certified surgeons. PAACS is affiliated with the Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California.
Dr. Steffes, who is completing his eighth mission with Mercy Ships, has spent the past three months training three well-qualified trainees in general surgery, anesthesia and maxillofacial surgery. This is the second time the Africa Mercy has been a training site for PAACS residents.
Dr. Agneta Odera is a fourth-year PAACS general surgery resident from Tenwek Hospital in Kenya. She will graduate next year and plans to begin a three-year pediatric surgery training program before returning to Tenwek Hospital to begin a practice as a missionary surgeon. “Everywhere in Africa there is a need for good health care,” she said. “We have capable people, but after they are trained, they go to the west where there is more financial reward.” She is dedicating her life to being part of the solution for medical needs in Africa.
Dr. Arega Fekadu Leta is from Gimbie, Ethiopia, and is also a fourth-year PAACS general surgery resident from Tenwek Hospital. After graduation, he plans to return as the only surgeon at the Gimbie Adventist Hospital. “This program is the best way of building capacity for the neediest in Africa, since we need equipment and financial support. This is also a good way to address and expand the good news of the Gospel. Most countries (in Africa) are 75% Muslim, so there’s a huge need,” he said. “We witness to patients and crew and won’t discharge patients unless they have been told the Gospel.”
Dr. Philadelphie Dembele, from Mali, is a rising fourth-year general surgery resident from Bongolo Hospital in Lebamba, Gabon. He will graduate in 2013 and return to the Christian and Missionary Alliance Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Koutiala, Mali, where he will be the only general surgeon. “The (Mercy Ships) OR is so well-organized with many things we don’t have,” he said. “Organization is important to change things, and there’s a big difference between what I have here and what I have when I go home.”
“It makes me angry when people say that with so many differences in background that people can’t work together. Here at Mercy Ships, we are doing it, and we are doing it  efficiently,” said Dr. Agneta Odera.
The training program does not feature the usual lecture approach, nor does it require the customary thesis of most master’s degree programs. That material is included in the reading, patient care, rounds, operating room, conference schedule, and the constant preparation of reports and presentations. Clinical and academic study, spiritual and ethical training, research projects, written reports, a study of current surgical texts, log-book keeping, post-operative care, hands-on training in the operating room under supervision of board-certified surgeons, and in-service examinations are all included in the training program. By 2020, it is hoped the program will graduate 20 to 25 surgeons a year.
“We are trying to make our residents the best surgeons in Africa. But, literally, the most important thing is not the 50 to70 more years we can give by physical healing. It is the spiritual healing that gives them eternal life,” said Dr. Steffes.

Story by Elaine B. Winn
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Liz Cantu and Reka Borsiczky

For those of you that haven't seen my update on Facebook: Keep the crew of the Africa Mercy and all of Mercy Ships in your prayers. One crew member lost his mother Sunday, one left Thursday because her brother was on life support, one left Thursday to have her gallbladder removed, and our founder Don Stephens was in an ATV accident with his son JP this past weekend.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I am a part of....

 A few weeks ago in the Sales Department our team devotion was lead by Jeff, our manager, and he had a copy of the Fellowship of the Unashamed. He had me read it out loud to the group and it stuck with me for some reason. Somewhere in the past I heard it before, but this time when I heard it I wanted to dwell on it, so I've printed it up and have a copy of it hanging in my room.

It is unknown who exactly wrote it, but I would encourage you to take the time and read through it, I'm not sure if anybody could argue with it. It's quite the challenge.

The Fellowship of the Unashamed

I am a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit Power. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won’t back up, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I know live by presence, learn by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer and labor by power.

My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, back up, let up, or shut up until I have preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until He comes.

And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My colors will be clear for “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes


As I have started working in the galley many friendships have been formed. Yesterday on of the ladies had a birthday and as they went to leave for the day, she and two others changed clothes into some very wonderful African dresses. It's great to see the smiles on their faces constantly. The people of Sierra Leone have been through so much, but everyday you see that they push through and never let things get in the way.

Hope you had a great and wonderful Labor Day weekend. I missed being in Rector, Arkansas like I have spent many Labor Days with my grandma in her hometown going to the Labor Day Picnic. It was good to know that some of my dad's cousins and a few of my cousins there were holding true to the tradition.

And to all of you that were at the First Baptist Church Picnic at the Baptist Park, I hope you got to hear my little note. Especially my friend Bill Rayfield, it's always good to know that I can hassle you from across the ocean. I heard that there was a good turn out due to the pleasant weather. If there's any leftover pulled pork, make sure to send it my way. : )

Thanks for keeping up with my blog and the the support that you have given me through prayer and finances.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

She swallowed what?!?!

Today is the first day of September, I can't believe it. Last night marked the seventh week that I've been here. I started in the galley yesterday and am very excited about it. Tonight we made 50+ pizzas for the crew dinner. Here is a patient story from last week. I don't get much patient interaction so I've used a story that the marketing department has released.

Isatu was crying hysterically as she and her three-year-old daughter, Hawanatu, accompanied a friend to the home of his neighbor, a Mercy Ships day-worker named Bassey. Despite the fact that it was 6:00 a.m., the three were invited in. But Isatu’s crying prevented her from telling Bassey what she wanted. She held out a large envelope. Bassey took it and pulled out an x-ray showing a 2½-inch nail lodged inside the little girl.

Isatu had seen her daughter put the nail in her mouth and had tried to grab it before she swallowed it, but the youngster was too fast. A quick trip to the pharmacy had cost quite a bit, but had not produced a solution. Isatu bought some fruit, which she thought would help. She planned to take the little girl to Freetown the next morning to get a medical opinion. But her focus was turned unexpectedly to her husband, who had a serious automobile accident that morning and was taken to the hospital in critical condition. The next day she found a doctor, but after listening to her story, he told her, “There is nothing I can do.”
Pregnant and with three other children to care for, she had reached her emotional limit. So, she took Hawanatu to the home of a trusted friend who lived in Bassey’s neighborhood. Bassey showed the x-ray to the medical team onboard the hospital ship, the Africa Mercy. The child was immediately authorized to see the admission nurse. A second x-ray revealed that the nail was taking its natural course. The little girl asked to use the rest room, and the nail came out naturally without piercing any organs.
There were shouts of joy from everyone involved.
“Everyone here who saw the x-ray has been making an effort to help. I’m very happy and very relieved!” said a grateful Isatu.

Story by Elaine B. Winn
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell