24 January 2014

Last Night's Community Meeting...what a gift.

Sometimes we blog to share our experiences with others.  Sometimes we blog to have an easy place to document our journey for our own benefit.  Sometimes we blog simply to remember (or not to forget).  Sometimes we blog to celebrate the gifts that God has poured into our lives.  This particular post may be a combination of all of those reasons...

Last night we had the privilege of hearing from Wess Stafford.  Is that name familiar to you?  Many of you may have received letters from him in your mailbox or maybe you've seen him in videos.  Many of you sponsor children as a result of Wess's work.  He is the former President of Compassion International.  He's got degrees and books and a radio show and all sorts of other accolades that could be attributed to him.  

Our favorite thing about him?  He loves the Lord his God with all of His heart and soul and mind and strength.  He has lived his life unto Him...allowing the Lord to use him in INCREDIBLE ways.  

OH!  His life story (the bits and pieces we heard of it) is beautiful - heartwrenching and devastating and incredible and lovely - an act of worship to our God.  Here's a link to his bio if you want to learn a little about him:  wess stafford's bio.  You can use our friend Google if you want to learn lots more about him and his life/work.  

Our favorite line from his bio?  "...They have two daughters, Jenny and Katie — the two children in the world for whom Wess is the greatest advocate of all."

Why?  Because we know his daughter, Katie.  She's the Kindergarten teacher here on the ship....

Wess Stafford didn't come to the Africa Mercy as a celebrity or a big-name speaker.  He came to visit his daughter...and he graciously agreed to share a word with our Crew while he was here.  God used him in our lives and in the lives of so many here...and we are very grateful.  

Here are a few of the thoughts/quotes that were posted on Facebook or shared in conversations:  

Still mulling over last night's talk by Wes Stafford at our community meeting. What you do matters. If God's given you strength, use it to help the weak. If God's given you courage, use it to help the afraid. - Elza 

Tonight Wes Stafford, the former president of Compassion International spoke to us at our community meeting. What an inspiring message and heart filled stories of his childhood. More nights like that and I'll never leave this place! - Deb

"It is a privilege and an honor to stand in a room full of heroes." Thank you, sir, for walking straight into the heart of our story and inviting us into yours. -- Krissy 

Wes Stafford-Wow!! Best sermon I have heard in years!!! He had the room captivated with tears flowing freely from so many. He called us his heroes but what he has done with his life is nothing short of unbelievable. If you haven't heard his story, then check it out! - Jodie

"HR should have been at the back of the room with forms...we all would have extended after hearing Wes Stafford speak."  -- Steph 

So thankful for Wes Stafford-recently retired president of Compassion International-sharing his heart tonight with the crew of the Africa Mercy! Thanks for sharing your story and reminding us why we do what we do! May we seek to learn from the Africans just as you did growing up! - Shea 

"I hope as He wipes the tears from my eyes He realizes that He also needs to wipe the sweat from my brow, because I lived the life I was called to."   This, and so much more from Dr. Stafford tonight at community meeting. I don't know that I've ever been simultaneously so encouraged and challenged by hearing someone tell their story. - Ali

Here are the 3 main things that stood out to me (in addition to his overall humble and genuine heart and the stories of his childhood in the Ivory Coast):
  • it takes courage to be joyful....it takes courage to be hopeful.
  • if God made you strong, it's not for you - it's to be shared with those who are not so strong
  • selfishness is unacceptable behavior
On our reading list: 

And this was in an email this morning -- it's in regards to something entirely different but just as beautiful as the community meeting -- it fits and we wanted to share it:  "I never tire of God’s surprises and the way he works through people to show His love and concern for everything we do." - Tom V.

God certainly does work through people to show His love and concern for us....He worked through Dr. Stafford last night...He is working through doctors and nurses at this very moment as surgeries and recoveries are happening 4 decks below our cabin.  He works through so many of you as you pray and give and encourage us.  He is at work...and we're grateful to be a part of His work.  

Surely there will be more to come.  

17 January 2014

Park Adventure!

Question For all you Columbus folks (and anyone else who happens to be reading this!): What do you get if you cross Monkey Joe's, Cascade Hills' indoor playground and the McDonald's playplace on Veteran's Parkway?

Answer: Pointe Noire's "Park Adventure" and a fantastic way to spend an afternoon!

During Christmas break, we ventured out with some other families (moms/kids) to this fun indoor playground. Thought you might like to see some pictures.

A few ways it's similar to places in America:

  • snack bar!
  • fun!
  • paid money to get in
  • slides!
  • multi colored brightness
  • had to take off your shoes
  • attendants walking around making sure kids aren't being too crazy

A few ways it's different from places in America:

  • the snackbar served omelettes and beignets and multi-flavors of Fanta
  • LOUD (indoor playplaces are usually loud in America....but not this loud)
  • it opened at 2:00 (they kindly let us in at 1:30...but we had to sit on little stools in the dark until 2:00)
  • kids got hot (again, they get hot at these types of places in America...but this was a special hot! - thus all the water drinking.)
  • little nets are given out to help you slide faster (America could take a lesson!)

It's kind of incredible when we get to do things that are so familiar and "normal" off the ship.  It's been fun to find things here in Pointe Noire that are so enjoyable and delightful - things that remind us of home and are special treats when we get to experience them - things like coke and stuffed crust pizza at Carnivore...things like walking on the beach (no, not something we got to do in Columbus....but a favorite activity on vacations!) and going to an indoor play place.

And it's fun to discover new things that are so enjoyable and delightful - things like fresh baguettes and "baby cheese" (little triangles of "Laughing Cow" cheese that are available in the states....we just never bought it!)...luxuries like buying limes in the market to squeeze in our coke and knowing how to ask for ice in French.

Every good and perfect gift - new and old, familiar and soon-to-become familiar, acknowledged and unacknowledged - every single gift - is from above.

Surely there will be more to come.

08 January 2014

Lucrech (and our friend Mr. Nick)

Thought you might like to read about another life that's been changed by God's work through Mercy Ships.  This story about a special little boy named Lucrech was written by Mercy Ships' writer Grace Antonini.  The pictures are compliments of Michelle Murrey, Catherine Murphy and Josh Callow. Fun note: the "Nick" referenced here is our dear "Mr. Nick". Please pray for him as he is returning to Guinea to serve for a few months. AND he recently proposed to the lovely Suzanne, another sweet friend of ours!  Please pray for them as they prepare for marriage (and a wedding!).  

“He’s doing much better than yesterday,” Nick remarks, as he gently inclines five-year-old Lucrech’s thumb toward the pointer finger.
Nick is Lucrech’s physiotherapist onboard the Africa Mercy, and they have been spending a half hour together every day since his surgery. They work on exercises that will bring full function back to Lucrech’s right hand.
Today, Nick believes Lucrech is ready to touch each of his fingers to his thumb. It seems a small distance to cover – but, for Lucrech, it’s a milestone.  One by one, nurses and patients gather around the pair, and a sheepish grin sweeps across the little boy’s face.
Not very long ago, most eyes on Lucrech were critical eyes. The only words he heard from his schoolmates were unkind ones. His physical problem was a seemingly uncrossable dividing line, separating him from other children.
You see, three years ago, while reaching for his brother’s toy, Lucrech tripped, plunging his arm into a pot of boiling beans over an open fire.
Without a skin graft to prevent the raw wound from forming inflexible scar tissue, the skin across Lucrech’s palm tightened until each finger was pulled into a permanently bent position. This is called a burn contracture.
Mercy Ships volunteer surgeon, Dr. Tertius Venter, explains, “To treat an acute burn wound in the First World, we would quickly do a skin graft before a contracture forms. We’d treat it with physical therapy and occupational therapy, and then splint it. But, in many parts of Africa this is just not available. The only way that the body can heal itself and prevent infection is by pulling everything together to close the wound up.”
A few months ago, Lucrech decided he’d had enough of school. He couldn’t handle the negative attention anymore. His classmates ridiculed him because he could not write or throw a ball. His mother, Nadja, recalls, “He loves to play games, especially soccer – but he had to play alone.”
Today, the deep, fire-etched scars on the five-year-old’s right hand go unnoticed. The people gathered around Lucrech and Nick are too busy celebrating a true showstopper – those five freed fingers that can move, stretch, grasp, wiggle, point and tickle!
Nadja comforts her son with a pat on the head as he tries to touch his thumb to his ring finger…two down, two more to go. She is beaming from ear to ear and clapping her hands in expectation. When the two fingers touch, everyone bursts into applause, exclaiming, “Très forte, Lucrech! Très forte!” [Very strong, Lucrech!]
Nadja laughs. “He forgets the pain because of the attention,” she says.
“Okay,” Nick continues, “last one. Can you try to reach your pinky finger to your thumb? No? I think you can!”
Lucrech drapes over Nick’s thigh, his head turned toward the camera with a grin. These exercises for his newly uncurled fingers are painful – but, when everyone tells him how strong he is, he smiles and tries harder.
The pinky and thumb touch to another round of applause. Lucrech wrinkles his nose in response and then runs off to join a noisy group of his pals from the ward.
A few weeks have gone by, and Lucrech is back from the Hope Center for his weekly physical therapy. Like a miniature whirlwind he jumps up into the arms of one of the Africa Mercy crew members. All traces of shyness are gone; he’s a veritable entertainer these days.
What are you going to do now that you can use your right hand?” the crew member asks him.
“I want to go back to school to write!” he says. Then, with a heart-melting grin, he hugs her more tightly and adds, “I want to play ball with my friends, too!”
Surely there will be more to come.