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What a whirlwind the last few weeks have been. I’ve been home for about one week now, and I feel this is the first time I’ve been able to sit in quiet to process everything that I saw, heard, and lived in Africa. I’m not quite sure how to even begin to answer the question “How was your trip?”

The Africa Mercy is a strange, but special place. Deep relationships are formed quickly, know no boundary of race, language, or age; time either goes really slow or really fast, and connections you make with colleagues, patients, and caregivers alike are unlike anything I have experienced in America. It is not uncommon that in one day you will feel extreme joy, grief, and complete awe.

My last few weeks on the ship I put my computer away to soak up the last moments of my time serving with Mercy Ships. So, I figured I would backtrack a bit to cover the highlights for those of you who followed along!

During my time there, the ship had started their VVF (Vesicovaginal Fistula) repairs on the women’s ward. This is a gynecological surgery that involves the repair of fistulas that have formed between the vaginal canal and urinary tract, or between the vaginal canal and GI tract from a traumatic birth. Here in the United States, if a mother is having difficulty birthing a child naturally we are able to perform a C-section. For most in Africa, this is not an option. As a result, mothers will labor for days, many times losing their child in the process. A few days later, the soft tissue in the birth canal that died from lack of blood supply during labor falls away leaving a hole where there should be a wall. This allows urine or feces to leak constantly. In many communities, the woman is then shunned by their society and even left by their husbands for being considered unclean. On board the Africa Mercy, these women receive free fistula repairs from world-class surgeons! They are embraced, full of hope, and are able to connect with a community of other women who are afflicted with the same condition. Every day these women would walk up and down the hallway as a group, Foley catheter bags in hand, and sing praises to the Lord. Little ones from the pediatric wards trail behind them clapping and stomping their feet. It is an absolute joy to join in with them and celebrate the start of their new lives. After these ladies are able to remain “dry” the ship holds a dress ceremony before they are discharged home. The Hospital Chaplaincy Team has beautiful, bright African fabric dresses and headpieces made for them. They enter into the ceremony looking absolutely radiant, makeup and hair done, faces beaming. Here they are able to give their testimonies, dance, and celebrate with the crew. It is an incredible moment to share in.

The Africa Mercy is all about celebrating new life and renewed hope. Before leaving, I was also able to attend the Celebration of Sight with the ophthalmology team. Here I was able to witness patients, whom were previously blind from cataracts, see again! I have never seen such reckless abandonment in joy, dancing, and just utter thankfulness. I looked out over the sea of patients, in their best dress, glasses in place, jumping up and down, with all sweat and exertion that they could finally be set free! I couldn’t help but think of Jesus restoring sight to the blind man, and that this is what his response must have been like.

My last weekend aboard the Africa Mercy was Easter Weekend, and it was one for the books! I worked Thursday evening, and was able to wash the feet of my patients in remembrance of “Maundy Thursday.” We read them the passage in John 13 where Jesus washed his disciple’s feet, and explained its meaning to them. It was such a raw and spirit filled moment as a nurse on board, being able to exemplify the heart of what drives us by following Jesus’s example of humble servanthood. Friday night the ship had a Tenebrae Service which was a dramatic devotional service with songs and scripture readings that helped us identify with the suffering of Jesus. In between the Easter Celebration, I was able to take a day trip with friends to a beach about an hour away called Limbe. On Saturday, 18 of us piled into a rickety old van that would probably seat 14 back here in the States. The radio was broken, so we sang and danced the whole way there and back. It was a great last adventure out of Douala, where the ship is docked. Easter Sunday, I offered to work for one of my colleagues so I could spend a little extra time with my patients. I was able to attend the sunrise service on deck 8 before work, and then went to Easter Service with my patients on the wards. I was still able to partake in some of the Easter Activities for the crew. The ship does an incredible job with Easter Brunch – smoked salmon, steak tips, mountains of fresh fruit, an assortment of cheeses, it was spectacular! After a delicious lunch break, I went back down to the wards to help plan an Easter egg hunt for our patients. It was such a gift being able to spend Easter in a place that is so special to me.Sunrise Service

Now that I am home I can’t help but miss the way the Harmattan hovers over West Africa, the thick, hazy heat, the way mango melts in your mouth, bright African fabrics, prayers at change of shift,  the way our patients dancing and singing would echo throughout the ship, listening to worship music as I completed my nursing tasks, the joy filled beat of African drums, impromptu dance parties on the ward, playing with little ones on deck 7, watching the sun set over the harbor, piling 7 people into a 4 passenger taxi to venture off ship, fried plantains, visiting with patients at the Hope Center, singing and dancing with them to “Bambelela!”, being greeted with daily hugs from patients and coworkers alike… the list is seemingly endless. It is no surprise I choked up with tears the moment I drove away from the gangway filled with sweet friends waving me goodbye. As my time there came to a close I felt a rollercoaster of emotions. I was so excited to be reunited with my husband, but also struggled with the fact that something that I had prayed about for so long had come and gone so quickly, and taken aback by how deeply I fell in love with it all.

My first week home has been hard but good. I am thankful to have a husband who is patient and kind, and has cooked me some delicious meals on the grill! Now that I’m home I have been spending time recovering from jet lag, catching up with family, getting organized to start classes again, and helping plan my sister in laws baby shower that was this past weekend. I am going back to work this week, which will be another adjustment to anticipate. I would love to meet up with you for a cup of coffee to share more about Africa, or just catch up! I missed you all and I am so thankful to have so much to look forward too after being away for so long.

 

Love, Becky

 

 

 

 

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Lives Changed

 

The Africa Mercy with a sunset

It’s hard to believe I only have two weeks left on the Africa Mercy. I have been able to meet and care for so many beautiful people in my time serving. Some have asked what one of my favorite patient experiences have been, but I don’t think I can answer. There has been so many. Each patient has their own uniquely beautiful story of healing, and each relationship I have built with them (and they have built with each other) has deeply touched my heart.  To be honest, I am fearful that my writing skills will not be able to do some of these stories justice, which is partly why I have been procrastinating on this post – but I’m going to do my best because they deserve to be known.

Abdoulayne – This sweet little girl is one of the first patient connections I had aboard the Africa Mercy. I met her during my first week of work, and although she has been home for five weeks by now, she still has a special place in my memory. Abdoulayne had a large parotid tumor that was growing in size and threatening her airway. The surgeons performed a parotidectomy and gave her life back, incredible! She is 12 going on 30, and has a sense about her that is quite mature for her age, playing mother to some of the other AFM kids. I think what was so sweet about our interactions on D ward was the way she watched me while I worked. I’d often sit in a chair across from her bed and do my paper charting, look up and she’d be smiling at me. We couldn’t communicate much, but it didn’t take long for her to warm up to me. When Abdoulayne discharged from the ship, I told her I would visit her at the Hope Center. When I arrived, she came running up to me and threw her arms around my waste, making sure to tell everyone that my name was “Tante Rebecca.” She was so proud of our friendship. I’ll never forget the way Abdoulayne looked up to me.

 

The Three Ladies – Henriette, Adama, and Yaya. When I picture these three together my soul just smiles. One of the upsides to having an open ward is that the patients get to bond together through their surgeries and experience on the Africa Mercy. You will frequently see these three chatting and giggling like little school girls in their beds next to each other. Yaya and Henriette came in for the same surgery, both women had large tumors on their lower jaw bones. They had this bone taken out and replaced with something called an ICBG “Illiac Crest Bone Graft.” Adama, who we lovingly refer to as “Adama Mama” has the bed across from these two. She came to us with a large facial cleft (think of a cleft palate but its involving the entire front of her face, rather than just the roof of her mouth). She speaks Fufulde, which is a less common language here in Douala as French is the primary language in this part of the country. It doesn’t stop her from chatting and laughing at us as we attempt at a game of charades to communicate. I usually don’t have to say much sitting at her bedside, she just holds your hand and rambles on giggling the whole time. It just makes your heart melt, love has no language! Yaya has become Adama Mama’s sidekick. She also speaks Fufulde, but knows some French. I have witnessed Yaya become such a support to our sweet Adama, as she has undergone a total of six surgeries here. After Adama’s last surgery she became a little withdrawn, but her face completely lit up when Yaya came to the ICU to visit her. Their friendship has been so moving to watch. Henriette is just a sweet heart, and it is evident that she loves and deeply appreciates our medical staff. Every day I get a hug, and a “Bonjour, Rebecca!” She smiles, says “Merci! Merci Rebecca!”  for every little thing I do for her. Unfortunately, all of these ladies have had postoperative complications which prolonged their stay with us on D ward. But watching them bond together through the ups and downs of their recovery process has been so special to be a part of. Our beautiful Yaya just discharged last week, which is very exciting and she is so happy with the results of her surgery, but our little trio is definitely not the same without her.

 

Abdoulaye – Abdoulaye has been with us for several weeks recovering from a reconstructive surgery to improve his appearance and oral function after a case of Noma, a flesh-eating bacteria that had left a hole on the side of his face. He is still impatient because of delayed wound healing needed before the second step of his surgery (which he just had four days ago, praise Jesus!). Abdoulaye is Muslim, and prays way more than the required five times a day. Despite how he has suffered, both before and after his surgery, he is still one of the most joyful people I know. He is always smiling, nodding, waving, and clapping for us from across the room. His energy is contagious. Even today I was having a busy shift and feeling a bit overtired, as soon as I got to his bedside I couldn’t help but smile. He is quick to take your hand, give it a pat, and nod his head saying “mmmmhhhhmmmm” through the corner of his mouth, “Merci Doctor! Merci! Merci!”

 

Bernard – Bernard was such a joy to take care of. He is the only patient I took care of that spoke English, it was nice to be able to freely chat with him like I do with patients back home. Here we have to use translators for most of our communication. Bernard is 19, he is so sweet, intelligent, and observant. He was constantly asking questions about his care and eager to learn. He was able to educate me on Neurofibromatosis Type 1, which I had little knowledge of before I met him. He explained that it is a gene that is passed down, and he was the only unlucky one in his family to get it. This disease causes benign tumors to grow from the nervous system, which can develop all over a person’s body, brain, and spinal cord. There is no cure for neurofibromatosis, but tumors can be surgically removed in the hope that they won’t grow back. I was able to follow up with Bernard at the Hope Center a few times before he was discharged home. Bernard is heading into his finals at school and hopes to become an IT engineer. My prayer is that this tumor will not grow back, and that his new face will give him the opportunity and confidence to tackle his goals. With how motivated he is, and how much he loves to learn, I have no doubt that he will.

 

Dieudonne – Dieudonne was a more recent admission, his physical transformation was perhaps not as obvious as some of our other maxfax patients, but his initial reaction after seeing the results of his surgery is one I will never forget. He had Ankylosis of his Temporomandibular Joint (basically the joint that allows you to open and close your mouth). An Ankylosis is a pathologic condition where that joint becomes fused. He is 26 years old, and had been able to open his jaw since he was 7 years old! Our volunteer surgeons performed an ankylosis release in the OR. When I came into work the next morning he was asleep with a dressing around his jaw and packing in his mouth. The surgeons came to round a few hours later, and unraveled his dressings to assess and took out the packing in his mouth. He was able to open his mouth for the first time in 19 years! When he saw his jaw move and his tongue go beyond his teeth in the mirror, he immediately started crying, his hands to the ceiling, giving thanks to God, tears streaming down his face, shouting out in joy, giving high fives, sobbing, sweating with exertion and joy that he has finally been set FREE! I stood by his bedside for an hour in absolute awe. Nurses, doctors, pharmacists, pouring into the room to celebrate with him. My eyes welled up with tears. Our God is doing incredible things here.

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Jesus tells us that, “The thief has come to steal, kill, and destroy – I have come that you might have life, and have it in abundance” (John 10:10). I can’t help but think this is what he must have meant by life in abundance. Not religion, but a living breathing relationship with God that gives you strength to love unconditionally, step out in faith, and push us past shallow waters and into the deep oceans of life. My heart has been set on fire here. I am so thankful that I let go of my fears and finally listened to that still small voice. I am humbled, overwhelmed, and utterly grateful that the Lord would make a way for me to serve here years later. And as much as I have been able to take part in changing lives, I have been changed. My eyes have been opened to the immense suffering in this world, and the Lords heart to heal it. I have learned true joy, compassion, the importance of community, unfailing love. I’ve said it before, but Africa has given me more than I could ever hope to return.  As my time here comes to a close, I have been working through a rollercoaster of emotions, being incredibly excited to see my husband again while at the same time not ready to say goodbye to a place I have grown to love so much. My hope is that it will not be a goodbye forever, but rather a “see you later!” Who knows what God has in store. 🙂

See you all soon!

Xoxo, Becky

Ekom Falls and Hiking to the Crater Lakes

This past weekend I had off and was able to get out into the country and explore a little more. I went with my friends Courtney and Sarah from the ship, and Courtney’s local friend Mirella. We took the 3-hour drive to first visit the Ekom falls, which were absolutely beautiful. The drive there was stunning, lush greenery, rolling hills, farm land filled with mango, papaya, and pineapple groves. Tropical fruit, plantains, and avocado all grow to massive sizes here. And the fruit just melts in your mouth! I am quite the fruit bat myself, so I was very excited to stop by one of the fruit stands on the way home. Here are some pictures of the Ekom Falls:

We hiked to the bottom and the top of the waterfall, it was incredible from both views. It was a jungle paradise, I half expected Tarzan to swing across the canyon on a vine! Absolutely breathtaking, I could have stayed there all day.

After soaking up the views at Ekom Falls, we made our way to Villa Luciolle. Here we got to stay in cute little huts that came equipped with bug nets over our beds, hot water, and even a flushing toilet. These are things I have learned not to expect while traveling in Africa. The owners were so hospitable, and even gave us some free french fries because we were with “Mercy Ships.” The local businesses give us all discounts because of why we are here, which has been really unexpected and sweet part of venturing off the ship. We had a dinner of vegetable soup, fresh baked bread, fried plantains, and some kind of beef stew over rice. It was all delicious. The rest of the night we enjoyed a bottle of wine that Morella brought us and played card games outside at the picnic tables. It was so peaceful listening to the music of the jungle and enjoying the fresh mountain breeze. The villa is located in the mountains so it was cool, such a different climate from the muggy, hazy streets of Douala. It was so good to get some fresh air!

The next morning, we woke up at 5am, had some coffee and fresh baked bread with Jam. Then we were off for our hike to the Crater Lakes! We left directly from the villa and hiked through a little village to get to the start of the trail. Walking through we heard African music playing from some of the little houses as people were waking up and making breakfast. There were lots of chickens, and goats walking around. I took so many pictures of the babies and kept falling behind. We passed women carrying baskets of vegetables and greens on their backs. The sun was rising through the low laying clouds coming off the mountain tops. It was so beautiful to take in.

The hike was about 8 miles, and went up and down the hilltops, through pasture fields and muddy forest. Everything was so green, and there were so many breathtaking views along the way.

We made it through in pretty good time, and arrived to the crater lakes at 10:30am. They were stunning! We hiked to the top a a viewing point and took lots of pictures! In my travels, I have witnessed so much incredible scenery, but each has its own unique beauty. You really can’t compare one to another.

Our original plan was to hike back to the Villa, but as we were arriving to the picnic area there was a driver who had just dropped off a couple who would be camping at the lakes for a few days. He offered to drive us back. Seeing how we needed to make the three-hour drive back to Douala before rush hour, we took him up on his offer. It gave us time to enjoy our lunches and take a swim in one of the lakes, which was so cold and refreshing.

After that we made our bumpy drive down the mountainside back to Villa Luciolle, and made our treck back to Douala. Of course, I had to make a pit stop along the way to purchase my fruit! I just wanted one or two mangos and papaya, but somehow ended up with two large bag fulls. I have fruit for days!

I have one more weekend off before I head off the ship on Easter Weekend. The rest of my days have been filled with caring for my patients, visiting the hope center, and visiting some of the Mercy Ministry sites. This past week I was able to visit one of the local orphanages and also attend the Celebration of Site! This is a celebratory ceremony where our recovering ophthalmology patients celebrate and thank God that they can see again! It was so incredible to be a part of and I hope to have pictures to share with you before I leave the ship.

Write soon. 🙂

Love, Becky

Bambelela!

Bambelela is an upbeat song that you will frequently hear echoing throughout the ship and in the outpatient waiting area. It is also a favorite at the Hope Center which has become one of my favorite places to visit on my off days. There is a fun dance that goes along with bambelela that our patients all know by heart. I try to keep up with them but it usually ends up in laughter because “Tante (aunty) Rebecca” can’t shake it like everyone else in Africa.

When I found out that the saying means “hold onto Jesus” it really resonated with me. This song really is the heartbeat of the Mercy Ships organization. These beautiful people have come to know on a deep level what it means to hold onto Jesus. In the struggle and pain before Mercy Ships found them, to their time on board. Many of them have never slept in a bed before, used a flushing toilet, or owned a toothbrush, let alone been in a hospital or on a ship.

Ward nurses say goodbye to a patient on D ward.
Abdoulayne after her parotidectomy. She had a large tumor removed that was threatening her airway – not anymore! 🙂 We took this picture before she got discharged to the Hope Center.

The surgeries can be incredibly uncomfortable as well. One of the more painful surgeries here is a procedure to fix a cleft palate called a pharyngoplasty. This is basically taking a piece of tissue off of the back of the throat and using it to patch the opening in their palates. Our surgeons describe it as one of the worst sore throats you will have in your life. They have something called a “whiteheads pack” sutured to the surgery site and a “nasal trumpet” stuck down one nostril for airway protection and an NG tube and bolster in the other nostril. It can cause quite a bit of anxiety for these little ones as they no longer have the large opening in their palate to breathe through. For days following they have to endure saliva pooling out of their mouths, swollen lips and nose, NG feeds, enhanced gag refex, vomiting. It’s no fun. But on the other side of all this there is such joy.

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The day Anje’s NG tube and whiteheads pack came out. Not really captured in this picture, but she was all smiles for the first time since surgery. 🙂

I love following up with my patients at the hope center because they are actually feeling better from their surgeries and excited about the new face they see in the mirror. When they see you there they remember that you were the one who held their hands through it all. It’s an incredible feeling to be dancing with them singing “hold onto Jesus.” Because we both have had to leading up too, and in our time aboard the Africa Mercy.

On one of our Monday morning meetings our captain reminded us that we have been chosen to be here. Too much had to work out for it not to be God’s doing – financially it had to work for Matt and I, I had to get time off from work, grad school had to be willing to let me put my studies on hold. It’s been scary navigating leaving my husband, arriving not knowing anyone, and adjusting to living in a third world country on a ship. But, I know I am here for a reason. It could be as simple as being the hands and feet of Jesus for 8 weeks, to strengthen my trust in Him, or as a gift. I’ve heard before that God’s call on your life is where your greatest joy and His greatest glory collide. Well, this is it for me. I don’t know if it is just for this season, or perhaps will lead to something else down the road. But being here, using my nursing skills to glorify God, has brought me the deepest joy.

People back home keep telling me how amazing and strong I am. But honestly, I’m not that amazing or strong. I am simply doing what I have been called to do by God. Knowing His love, loving Him, and letting that overflow into lives that desperately need it. We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19  In my time here, I have come to understand the deep brokenness of this world, and the Lord’s overwhelming heart to heal it. There has been struggle in it as well as joy – and believe me, I have had to “hold onto Jesus” through it all. 😉

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27

I can’t believe I am already in my fourth week here! Miss and love you all!

 

Love,

Becky

HOPE Center and Exploring Cameroon

Hello friends and family,

My second week aboard the AFM has been busy with the hustle and bustle of maxillofacial, plastic, and general surgeries. I have seen a lot of burn contractures, cleft lip and palate, facial tumors removed, and Noma repairs. The ship is preparing to start our women’s health program where vaginal fistulas will be repaired this next month. I had one day off this past week, Tuesday, in which I was able to visit the HOPE Center. Many of our patients have traveled hours from all parts of Cameroon and surrounding areas to receive their surgeries. To prevent the need for multiple trips, Mercy Ships has established the Hospital Out-Patient Extension (HOPE) center. This center provides a clean, safe environment for patients and their caregivers to stay at until their last follow up appointment on the ship. I loved visiting the hope center as I was able to reconnect with a few of the patients I had discharged over the weekend. I was greeted with big hugs and smiles, I think it means a lot that we don’t just forget about them after discharge. The relationships we make with our patients here are life-changing, for both of us. Twice a week the Hospital Chaplaincy Team provides music, dancing, a bible story, and crafts for us all to do together. I loved being able to check in with my patients, see how they’ve progressed, hold their hands, sing, laugh. It was a day off well spent, I loved every minute of it.

This past weekend I had some time off and was given the opportunity to get out of Douala and explore a little more of Cameroon. One of my cabin mates introduced me to a lady named Caroline who is a local in Douala. She and her husband have started a tourist company and were happy to hear that Mercy Ships was coming to Cameroon as they are trying to put their children through school. Here in Cameroon, there is no public education and parents have to pay for their children to get an education. This can be very difficult as there are no jobs in Cameroon.  Caroline was a wealth of knowledge and was able to open my eyes to a lot of the corruption and struggle of living in this country (we are so spoiled in America, truly I am so blessed to live there. I will never take it for granted again). Caroline told us that Mercy Ships was an answer to prayer for her, and knows it was Gods will for her that we are here. Knowing that my fellow crewmates and myself were able to support her in providing for her family was really the icing on the cake of a wonderful weekend away.

On Saturday, Caroline first took us to a Chimpanzee nursery which was absolutely the highlight of my weekend (It wouldn’t be that illegal to sneak a baby chimp back in my bag would it!?). I already want to go back and snuggle them again. In this country chimpanzees are hunted for meat, they call it “bush meat.” 17 years ago a nursery was started as hunters have killed momma chimpanzees and their little babies are left to fend for themselves. When a baby chimpanzee is found by itself in the forest locals bring it to this incredible organization where they raise the baby chimps and release them into the wild if able. To help fund their efforts, tourists are given an opportunity to play and visit with them. In western culture, we don’t get the chance to interact this closely with wild animals. As many of you know I have a very soft heart when it comes to animals, I was on cloud nine!

After our visit with the Chimps, Caroline provided us with a traditional African picnic lunch before we headed off to our next destination. She made us chicken, rice, fried plantains, and of course fresh cut pineapple for dessert (it melts in your mouth here, so yummy!) After lunch we were off to Kribi, which is a beautiful beachfront in Cameroon that attracts a lot of local vacationers. We stayed a night there in one of their small hotels, and the next day took a boat ride down a river that went through the forest. Cameroon is so lush and green, it was beautiful. We even passed by a pigmy village and waved to a couple of children floating by in their carved-out tree canoes. After our boat ride, Caroline took us to see where the river turned into a waterfall directly into the ocean. Many of the locals were there bathing, doing laundry, and dishes at the same time (pretty efficient!) There were tables set up with local artist selling their handiwork. Hand carved wood giraffes, bowls, bracelets, clay pottery, paintings – art and crafting is everywhere in this country. After lunch back at the hotel, we had time to swim in the ocean before piling back in the van and heading back to our floating home in Douala.

 

Keep me in prayer as I will be working almost nonstop this upcoming week, Monday-Tuesday evening shift, and Thursday- Sunday night shift. I will write when I can! Love you all!

Love, Becky

Nursing “Africa Mercy” Style

Well, I survived my first few shifts by myself! I am just coming off a three day work weekend and am thoroughly loving every minute of caring for patients on board. As you can imagine, nursing is drastically different from back in the States. Resources are limited here, so we wash and reuse med cups, basins, and other patient care items. Documentation is all on paper, we rarely use IV pumps, the wards are open, beds are separated by curtains, and there is a mix of both pediatric and adult patients on each unit. Limited space also provides its challenges and we have to be innovative. Caregivers sleep on a mattress below patient beds. The wards are crowded so it can get pretty warm, and we are constantly bumping into each other. But everyone is so friendly here, running into a team member usually ends up in a hug. To keep cool we have rotating fans and a secret stash of water guns in one of the desk drawers. Water gun fights with each other and our patients is a frequent occurrence while at work, it’s no fun at all. 😉

I’ve also found that caring for patients here is truly patient and people focused. I am not running around trying to complete endless nursing tasks, clicking away at lengthy assessments on the computer, barely keeping my head above water. There is actually time to spend with my patients. I had time to hold hands and pray with one of my cleft-lip and palate patients and the surgical team before going to the OR and was able to thoroughly educate two of my patients before discharge. I was able to blow up balloons, hand out stickers, and play games with my pediatric patients. Of course, I still have tasks to complete throughout the day, but patient care is much more holistic in its approach here.

At home, I have to work every other weekend and miss a lot more church than I’d like too. However, this past weekend I was actually able to attend church with my patients! One of the wards is emptied and set up each week with folding chairs, a keyboard, and of course, the African drums! A message was given by one of the chaplaincy team followed by a time of worship, and man these people know how to have a good time praising the Lord! People were dancing in the aisle way, clapping to the beat of the drums, it is so full of energy and so much fun! Looking around the room I  saw patients healing from all kinds of surgeries – casts, bandages, suture lines, crutches, walkers – all with huge smiles on their faces.

The crew on board are all friendly, helpful, and gracious – you can just feel the kindness in the air! It is evident that everyone here has a strong desire for the patients to know Jesus, as well as experience hope and physical healing. This ship really is unlike any place else on earth. 400 crew, 32 nationalities, all with one ultimate mission. I am blessed to have a profession that enables me to travel and help people all over the world. I am constantly learning here, a new culture, language, the importance of community, true joy. I know that I will leave with immeasurably more than I can give here on the Africa Mercy. I am truly so grateful to be here and I hope to appreciate every moment.

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Some of our nursing staff and amazing translators! 

Write soon!

Love, Becky

 

 

 

 

 

Life on the Wards

Hello friends and family,

Just checking in again. I’m coming up on the end of week one here on the Africa Mercy. My days have been filled with making new friends, orienting to the wards, and a few tears – both out of joy and sadness. Life and work on the ship have been exactly what I’ve always imagined, but I have been feeling a little homesick more recently (missing my hubbie and pup scooter). I am finding peace in moments of quiet – spending time in the Word, looking out over the water, and listening to my worship music. The Lord is stretching my heart in more than one way here, but it is so so good. I have spent two days orienting to the wards taking care of patients and have been brought to tears multiple times by how beautiful the Mercy Ship mission is, it is overwhelming. Mercy Ships primarily takes care of maxillofacial, plastics, orthopedic, general, opthalmology, and women’s health surgeries. We see things like cleft lip and palate, bowed legs, clubbed feet, hernias, cataracts, among many other deformities. In Africa, these people have been cast out of society for their physical appearance. Their ailments are seen as “Evil” or “badluck” and many of these people spend their lives in hiding. Mercy Ships is their saving grace, and a chance to be given their lives back. Taking care of patients here is full of love and healing – both emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual.

Work shifts on the wards are filled with nursing tasks and taking care of our patients needs, but also with games, singing, and dancing. My first shift was on Valentines Day (how perfect is that!?). I work on D Ward which is maxillofacial surgery. The wards are open here, D ward has 15 beds with curtains to draw for privacy during assessments and dressing changes. I have been taking care of children and adults which has been a learning curve for me, but I am loving every minute I get to spend with these precious little ones. Our shift starts with prayer for our patients and for each other before taking report. Often there will be worship music playing throughout the day on the wards which is so special for me, as my faith is so closely tied to my heart for nursing. My first day I took care of a 15-year boy who had a cleft lip and palate repair, a 1-year-old with a hemangioma on her face and neck that had grown to a point where it was starting to block her airway, and a woman who had a mandibulectomy to remove a large facial tumor. Every day the hospital chaplaincy team comes in and gives a message to the patients in their language about God’s love for them, pray over them, and lead them in worship songs with African drums. There is clapping, singing, dancing – it is so special to be a part of (Again, trying to hold back tears). Every day around 2pm we bring all mobile patients up to deck 7 for about an hour where there are swings, bubbles, and games to play. It is so nice to be able to get our patients out for some fresh air and devote time to getting to know them. On evening shifts, we often have a “dance party” to get our patients up and ambulating in the hallways. You can hear music blaring, and our patients’ singing and clapping echo throughout the ship – it is so much fun! Well, I’m off to sleep! Tomorrow is my first day on the wards by myself. Keep me in your prayers!

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Love, Becky