28 April 2014

Jean Bosco

Here's a story of one life changed during our time here in Congo.  Story and photos by our fellow crew members and friends, Grace, Ruben & 'Chelle.

Jean Bosco is a farmer. Just north of Congo’s capital city of Brazzaville, fields bear the mark of his honest labor – hectares of cassava, gardens of blooming eggplant and tomato, and lime and mango trees providing welcoming shade from the African sun.
Jean and his wife, Carine, worked hard to enjoy life with their six children. They enjoyed simple prosperity and stability . . . until a mysterious growth appeared on Jean’s back in 2003. What Jean calls his maladie was, in fact, a lipoma – a benign, soft-tissue tumor composed of body fat. Left untreated, a lipoma can reach giant proportions.
Jean explains:  “When my malady started, it was barely noticeable. But after three years, it began to rise from my shoulders. I became afraid; if I were to die, my family would suffer greatly,” Jean said.
Driven by concern for the well-being of his wife and children, Jean saved enough money for a hospital visit in 2009. But the appointments, bloodwork, and medicine quickly emptied his pockets, and he had to return home without surgery.
Nevertheless, Jean refused to give up. Day after day, he worked to save more money, desperately hoping for healing. Exhausted by the shifting, heavy growth, his work suffered and his fields’ productivity decreased. His family now found itself in dire straits. “At that time,” Jean says, “I abandoned myself to prayer that God would help me.”
Help arrived in God’s creative, unusual way. In 2013, Jean’s lipoma ruptured and began to bleed. He had no choice but to seek emergency medical care in Brazzaville. He found himself once again on the doorstep of surgery but without the means to pay for it. While in the city, he learned of a hospital ship docked in the Congo. “Go to Mercy Ships,” a friend told him. “The surgeons will help you for free.” Jean was amazed, and he wasted no time in traveling to the coastal city of Pointe Noire.

“When I arrived in Pointe Noire a few weeks ago, I crossed paths with a policeman on the street. He took one look at my back and asked me where I was headed. I told him, ’to the Mercy Ships.’ He smiled and told me, ‘You are in good hands there, my friend.’”
By the time Jean boarded the Africa Mercy, the watermelon-shaped lipoma protruding from his back weighed 20 pounds! Even in extreme cases, a lipoma usually reaches only 8 to 11 pounds. Under the expert hands of South African volunteer Dr. Tertius Venter, the massive lipoma was removed in a two-hour surgery.
A few days later, resting comfortably on his back in his hospital bed, Jean grinned and said, “My doctor thinks I’m a machine! I am too happy to feel pain. It has been ten years since I could rest on my back.”
Jean is overjoyed with the gift of health he has received from Mercy Ships. “What could I give Mercy Ships in return?” he asks. “What am I to say to God for what He has done for me? This ship goes beyond. This ship is in God’s truth. All I can give is ‘thank you.’”

Now, Jean Bosco – a farmer, a father, and a husband – can return to his family . . . without his terrible burden. His easy smile lights up as he envisions his homecoming. “Imagine your favorite fĂștbol team has just won the World Cup,” he says, “…that is exactly how my family is celebrating as we speak. There is a very perfect joy that is waiting for me and mine when I get home.”

18 April 2014

Good Friday...something to ponder.

Easter on the Africa Mercy is a special time.  Our hope is that Easter everywhere would be a special time!  Honestly, our hope is that every day would be a special time - we are loved by the Most High God and have the freedom to walk in forgiveness and perfect love!!  

....but you know what we're saying.  

Easter is certainly celebrated on the Africa Mercy.  All week there have been special events that have helped focus our minds on the beauty and power and gift of Easter.  

We wanted to share the following with you - it was part of the Good Friday service here this morning.  We're not sure who wrote it - so we can't give credit where credit is due (just don't give us credit, we don't deserve it).  It's certainly something to ponder...

The crucifixion of the Messiah was a day of incredible loss for his disciples.  They had lost their friend, but they also mourned the loss of their hopes and dreams that Jesus was who He proclaimed Himself to be: The Messiah, the King.  They had dreamed of their place in His earthly Kingdom, free from their oppressors, a place of ruling and reigning alongside Jesus the King.  Their hope was being nailed to a cross and their hearts were broken.  Their dreams and their King were dead.

Many of us have trusted and followed Jesus.  But we still carry unfulfilled hopes and dreams.  Maybe some of us have lost hope for those dreams.  It feels like Friday, but we've forgotten that Sunday is coming.

Jesus demonstrated His power on Friday.  He proved Himself to be a Mighty King.  But it was not the King His disciples were looking for.  Maybe God is fulfilling our hopes and dreams in a way that we do not see or understand.

It is Friday and your hopes and dreams appear to be crushed and destroyed.

Do you still trust Him?
Do you still believe in Sunday?
Do you still believe that God knows what He is doing?
Do you still trust Him to be your King?
We need to bring our hopes and dreams to the cross, because it is a place where God can be trusted.  God can only change our lives to the degree that we submit our lives to Him.

Do you still trust Him with your hopes and dreams…whether He chooses to fulfill these hopes and dreams, OR NOT.

Hopes and dreams:
- for a future marriage or family
- for a broken relationship to be reconciled
- for a ministry or calling to blossom
- for healing of mind / body or spirit that has yet to come
- for the healing or salvation of a loved one or friend

Jesus had to fully trust God on Friday.  What is God asking you to trust Him with?  

Surely there will be more to come. 

07 April 2014

living and active

Read this verse in the Message version of the Bible the other day:

Isaiah 56:3 "And make sure no physically mutilated person is ever made to think, "I'm damaged goods.  I don't really belong." 

...and was overwhelmed by the fact that we're living on a ship where the Truth of that verse is lived out on a daily basis.

Over and over and over the patients on the Africa Mercy are told and shown and reminded that they are NOT damaged goods.  They are NOT worthless.  They belong.  They are loved.  They are treasured. They are valuable.

As am I. As are you.  

Want to read about just a few of the valuable people who have been on the ship lately - some as patients, some as guests, some as crew?  Here are a few links for your reading pleasure (and for the encouragement of your heart):

Surely there will be more to come.