24 May 2016

pie charts and life change

The final surgeries have been completed and one-by-one the patients are being discharged from the wards.  The hospital (and all of the rest of the ship) is being packed up and readied for the sail to Durban.  Crew are finishing out this field service with all the tough good-byes that this season brings...

As those things are happening, it's nice to have visual reminders of some of what has been accomplished through the Africa Mercy in the last 9 months.  

If you have time, take a few minutes to study these charts - to read the fine print...to consider that each number is a person.  Each percentage represents impact. 

What's mind boggling is all of the lives that have been affected that are NOT represented by these pie charts.  Crew. Guests to the ship. Neighbors of patients who return home without the tumor or cleft lip or leaking body that they left with. Caretakers.  Health officials. Doctors. Nurses. Friends and family of crew back home.  The random person in Seattle who happened to click on a link where a story of a patient was shared.  

And then to think of future lives that will be affected (whew...that brings tears to my eyes)...those lives that will be saved because safe surgery practices are being used...the babies who will be able to breathe because a Malagasy nurse took a course...future crew who will come serve on a Mercy Ship because they hear the story of a current crew mate....hundreds and thousands of lives forever changed because of God's work through the Africa Mercy in Madagascar. 

A few songs are coming to mind and filling my heart: 

  • To God be the glory great things He has done...
  • Tell Papa God Tenki...
  • Great things He has done.  Greater things He will do...

He is our good, good Father...what a privilege to be a part of His love here on earth.

Surely there will be more to come.

10 May 2016

Paper Making Field Trip (we love Miss Katie)

This is the ever lovely Katie Stafford - Emma's teacher and a good friend of our family.  She recently wrote a blog for our internal communication forum affectionately known as "Navigator" -- we thought you'd like to see/hear her pictures and words from a recent field trip the Elementary Kids were able to take (and some bonus sea urchin activities!).

The end of the school year is upon us, and we have been busy with many fun activities and highlights! The elementary students recently had the opportunity to visit a local paper-making craftsman. What a memorable experience! We learned all about every step of the process, and then we got to do it ourselves.

Step 1: Beat the tree bark that has already been soaked and cooked for 8 hours

Step 2: Slap and spread the mixture over the screens in the water

Step 3: Design your own piece of paper using beautiful Madagascar flowers! Seal water over the top

Step 4: Leave the paper in the sun to dry. Thank the craftsman with a hearty “Misaotra Bessika!” Go enjoy ice cream before heading back to the ship!

Step 5: A few days later, admire your beautiful, hand-crafted Malagasy work of art!

Bonus! Sea Urchins!  : Racing and holding live sea urchins for a school-wide devotion time, led by our principal. What!?!?

Thanks, Katie, for letting us use your blog post.  And thank you for loving on Emma and teaching her so very much.  You've taught her so much more than reading and math and science, you've taught her kindness and generosity, gentlness and the art of laughter.  You've modeled the life of a woman who loves the Lord and lives her life for Him.  You've invested so very well in her and we will forever benefit and forever be grateful.  We would be thrilled if she grows up to be anything like you. We couldn't have asked for a better Kindergarten teacher.  We are praying God's absolute best for you as you transition from this place.  It's quite the understatement to say that we will miss you.  

The treasures and gifts of this place amaze us...Miss Katie and the Academy are certainly 2 of those treasures (not to mention sea urchins). 

Surely there will be more to come. 

02 May 2016

i fell in love last week.

I fell in love last week.  I guess that shouldn't surprise me - after all, this vessel has been deemed the "love boat."   I just wasn't sure if it was really going to happen to me (especially since I came here happily married and already very much in love).

It was down on deck 3. On Tuesday.  I was wearing blue (as was everyone else).

Truth be told, this isn't the first time I've fallen in love in this place.  Just the most recent.

The falling in love happened as I observed 2 surgeries.  The fact is that this love connection could have happened 3+ years ago (and multiple times!) -- as crew, we are able to observe surgery once per field service.  For no explainable reason other than I just hadn't made the effort (and - more honestly, I really wasn't sure I would be able to handle it!), this field service is the first time I've done it.

I donned my scrubs (which are so very comfy and I wish I could wear them all the time) and was oriented by the lovely and kind Bronnie (OR Administrative Assistant...aka "Ms. Hospitality" for the crew who are coming to be first hand observers of miracles on Deck 3).  She graciously told me what I should do if I began

These pictures are not from the surgeries that I observed - but they are similar to what I saw.  

I was welcomed in to an OR...I was told (in pretty terrific detail!) what was happening...I got to stand and watch as a hernia was repaired on a young Malagasy man. Even more impressive than the hernia repair was being in a room full of people from various countries, generations and backgrounds working together as one team to perform a life-changing surgery.
I was also able to watch and listen as the Mercy Ships surgeons (there were 2)mentored,  taught, modeled, and explained to a Malagasy surgeon what they were doing (or perhaps a surgeon in training - not sure which stage of learning he is in!).  Who knows how many lives will be better as this Malagasy man takes what he has learned and applies it in his hospital and shares it with his colleauges.  Capacity building right in front of me. Beautiful to witness.  
After the hernia surgery I thought I was done...but then Bronnie asked if I wanted to go into another OR.  I thought, "I'm dressed and ready for it, why not?!"  I'm glad I said yes...the 2nd surgery was even more fascinating than the first!  I was able to be inches from a baby having her cleft palate and lip repaired (by the surgeon on the left below).  I've never considered just how tough the palate is and how closing the gap is actually done.  I'm amazed by the talent and skills people have and how they use them to bring hope and healing to some of the world's forgotten poor.
Yes, I fell in love with this place all over again.  I fell in love with the mission and the vision and the love that is happening in, on and through this vessel.  I was reminded of why we are here...and what we're all a part of.  I fell in love with the way healthcare is done here on the Africa Mercy - with kindness, care, attention to detail, excellence and Jesus-like LOVE for the one in front of us.

I fell in love and I was reminded of how in love with this place I already am.

I needed the reminder.

Surely there will be more to come.