Madagascar!

Wow… I’m not even sure where to begin to share all my experiences over the past few months. To say it’s been a challenging few months would be an understatement. However, with all challenges I and Mercy Ships as a whole have faced, God has shown Himself so big and so faithful through it all.

So what have I been up to since I left my cozy little life in Georgia 2.5 months ago to join the Africa Mercy once again???

Well, I left in August for the Gran Canaria Islands to meet the ship. At that time the Africa Mercy had no idea where she was going. This fact of course made me question why I was still going to serve on the ship. My position is the Hope Center Manager. If we aren’t in country, providing surgeries to patients then we don’t have a Hope Center and if we don’t have a Hope Center, I don’t have a job.

Why didn’t we know where we were going you might be wondering.

Ebola has devastatingly changed West Africa and has also taken away our ability to provide Hope and Healing to West Africa. Our plan was to go back to Guinea and Ebola changed that. Our next plan was to go to Benin and Ebola changed that plan as well. The next plan was to go back to Congo and once again Ebola changed that plan. All of the hearts that make up the Africa Mercy were quickly breaking and in a place of disbelief and helplessness. You see, our physical hearts might be here on the ship, but our emotional hearts are all over West Africa with our friends and our families. Sadly, the Africa Mercy isn’t equipped to treat infectious diseases. We are a surgery ship and had we gone back to West Africa we would have only been a magnet for those infected with the horrible disease and in the end we only would have done much more harm than any little bit of good we might have been able to do.

So there I was in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria on a ship without a home and not even a plan of a home. I left my home, my amazing job, my lovely friends, my beautiful family and all my belongings to step into the unknown…   I can’t even begin to tell you how many times the question; “why in the world have I come here?” passed through my mind. However, there was still always a peace in my heart, my mind and deep in my soul that I was exactly where I was meant to be. Although some days it was super hard, I still managed to make a daily decision to trust in that peace while we were in the ‘waiting’.

Since we had no Hope Center for me to manage, I didn’t have a job at first. There wasn’t anything for me to do. There was no place for me to belong. I was just there…  I’m not even going to go into how intensly this brought on the battle in my mind of not belonging, not being important, needed or noticed.  After a week I was reassigned to the sales department. There I worked in our starbucks onboard and worked the register for our ship shop. That only lasted a few days because they were overstaffed so once again I was jobless and not needed and not belonging… again, I won’t bring up the mental battle of not belonging or being important this brought on. Thankfully, they found another department to reassign me to. I was reassigned to the deck department. I became a deck hand ‘deckie’ on the ship (never imagined having that title in my lifetime). I painted, sanded, scrubbed the decks, painted, vacummed rain, assisted in moving containers, painted, loaded pallets on the crane, painted, lifted lots of heavy things, tied down the land rovers. made some awesome new friends and then painted some more. Yes, I finally belonged somewhere. Yes, I had a job and something to do to pass time. Yes, I actually enjoyed it most days. However, I still couldn’t help but wonder why in the world I was there. I gave up my life to do busy jobs on a ship in paradise. Yeah, I know that doesn’t sound like something to complain about, but that wasn’t at all what I signed up for or ever imagined having to do. I still found myself stuck in the ‘waiting’

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Finally!! After a few weeks of being onboard our Managing Director, Roland, announced that we had finally found a home! Madagascar!   WHAT?? SERIOUSLY?? MADAGASCAR?? NO WAY!!! It was an amaizng day! We have a home! We are FINALLY going to be on our way to do what we all came here to do!      Nope… not exactly…    Yes, we were going to sail to Madagascar, but first we had a 2.5 week sail to Cape Town, South Africa. Not only that, we also had to spend 3 weeks in Cape Town. Again, I know this all sounds like an amazing adventure and it was, but I didn’t sign up for this kind of an amazing adventure. I signed up to assist the ship with bringing Hope and Healing to the people of Africa. So even though it had finally been decided to go to Madagascar, we still had 1.5 months ahead of us before we arrived. Once again still in the ‘waiting’

Then we arrived in Cape Town and that’s when my life truly changed forever.

During the sail to Cape Town, I was reassigned once more. The communications team onboard asked me to assist them in managing all the PR Tours we had planned to do in South Africa. To be completely honest, I wasn’t too thrilled about the whole idea, but I said yes anyways. They are a great team so I figured that even if I didn’t love the job, I would love working on the team. Oh how I was completely wrong. Yes, I did love the team as I knew I would, but I also LOVED the job! I won’t go into too much detail about the tours because it might bore you just a bit, but I will share a little.

Our main goal as a ship in South Africa was to recruit. One of the ways we did this was to setup a tour through our hospital that allowed people to as close to real life as possible, experience a patients journey through their life changing surgery on-board. Long story short, our team, with the help of many crew volunteers accomplished this goal far more beautifully than we ever imagined. Below are just a few comments that came from the tours:

“You have created not only a great way of sharing what we do, but somehow found a way to allow people to connect with the real heart of what we do. I know without a doubt that through these tours, the transformation we desire to see will go beyond patient lives and crew members lives and now extend to these visitors lives too.”  -Hospital Director

“I did not have dry eyes for too long, so emotional. I think the concept is very well thought through and we should keep it for future usage.”  -Managing Director

“It really exceeded my expectations of what I thought was possible. This truly was a team effort and just shows what we can achieve even in a very short time scale when we work collaboratively together. May this be a sign of things to come for the rest of the field service…..expectations exceeded and glory to God for what He provides in this place.”         -Deputy Chief Medical Officer

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celebratory cupcakes after the first day of very successful tours! thank you, Tanya! 🙂

You are probably wondering why our time in Cape Town changed my life forever so I’m going to tell you.

God showed up every second of every day. Even in the moments I thought I was ok without Him, He still showed up. He allowed me to see Him, feel Him and experience Him in ways I never have before. He allowed me to see the bigger picture. He allowed me a small glimpse into heaven. He answered my cries. He made me belong. He gave me purpose. He picked me. He allowed me to see that He has never forgotten about me and far before I ever even had the thought of volunteering on the ship again He had it all planned out. He changed my life.

Through the tours I was able to see hearts deeply touched and impacted. Hearts of long term crew, short term crew and hearts of visitors. I was able to witness the moments God planted a dream in someones heart. I was able to see the tears streaming down faces when they experienced the moment God choose them. I was able to join in the laughter, excitement and joy of those who were just simply speechless after the tour. I was able to see Jesus shared with over 5,000 people during our time of tours. I was able to see myself and other tired crew members brought back to why we’re really here. Why we do what we do. Why what we do is so important. And I was able to be a part of the reminder to us all that God did pick each and every one of us to be exactly where we were in that exact moment. Even if we were stuck in the ‘waiting’ we were exactly where He wanted us. I also grew as a person and even more-so as a leader. It was such a beautiful time. I still might not have been the Hope Center Manager, but I was right where He needed me to be and that place had purpose.

I also went cage diving with Great White Sharks, hung out with penguins and went to the top of Table Mountain in South Africa and all was INCREDIBLE!!!

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top of Table Mountain

top of Table Mountain

I also had a surprise visit with a man very dear to my heart whom I haven’t seen in almost 9 years!

Tommy Barnett! :)

Tommy Barnett! 🙂

So we finished up our stay in Cape Town and next was an 8 day sail to Madagascar. FINALLY, we really are almost there! We set sail and all was perfect in my world. Well… that perfection quickly changed to “God, I’m not sure I can make it”… The seas were rough and the Africa Mercy was rolling back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I love sailing and I love the little rolling to rock me to sleep at night, but this was much different than any other sail I’d experienced. One night we reached 31 degree rolls. We could no longer walk without being tossed back and forth between the walls. We couldn’t eat because our time was spent trying to hold on to our plate, utensils and cup while we were also trying to brace ourselves from our chairs sliding back and forth. We could no longer shower because it was just impossible to stand with a shower curtain being the only thing for you to grasp a hold of. I couldn’t work because my office is down on deck 3 where you feel the rolling very intensely and there are no windows to look out to help you from getting sick. We could no longer sleep because lying in bed just became a game of not hitting your head on the ceiling or falling out of bed as we rolled back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. We no longer had coffee because the coffee maker rolled right off the counter, straight to the floor. Every morning everyone had to spend some time just cleaning up from all that had fallen and broken during the night. Although we secured our areas very well, things still managed to break free during that awful sail. “God, why??? We are all so exhausted. We need a break. We need sleep. We need coffee. We need something…” To be completely honest, I was so exhausted and over it all that I started to question God. I questioned if our leadership made the right decision in sending the Africa Mercy to Madagascar. Things were just going so badly that I couldn’t imagine we were following the Lords calling. And then we arrived in Madagascar…

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President and First Lady & the Prime Minister and his wife of Madagascar waving to us from the dock at the Welcome Ceremony

President and First Lady & the Prime Minister and his wife of Madagascar waving to us from the dock at the Welcome Ceremony

KJ and Lisa back together!!! Very happy hearts!

KJ and Lisa back together!!! Very happy hearts!

Advance Team waiting for us on the dock as we arrived in Madagascar. Beautiful moment!

Advance Team waiting for us on the dock as we arrived in Madagascar. Beautiful moment!

Madagascar is exactly where God intended us to be all along. We’ve been here 2 weeks now and my heart is completely at home. The country is beautiful! The people are beautiful! The crew is beautiful! Our Day Crew are beautiful! All is quite perfect here! All the waiting and rough sails were more than worth it to be right here where God brought us. I am finally the Hope Center Manager! We have started screening! Our halls are filling with patients! There is much joy and excitement throughout the ship and it’s just so beautiful! There is so much to share about Madagascar, but for now I’m still processing and soaking it all in so I will just share some pictures.

This will be the HOPE Centre!! Currently under construction, but will be opened soon!

This will be the HOPE Centre!! Currently under construction, but will be opened soon!

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These are all the Day Crew who will be working with me. Beautiful people!

These are all the Day Crew who will be working with me. Beautiful people!

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First day of screening to select our patients!

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  this little one has already been cuddled                                by my arms 🙂                                      definitely love at first sight! 🙂

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And this is some of our first patients arriving to the ship! 🙂

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And I’ll end with a beautiful Madagascar sunset…

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Posted in Madagascar | 1 Comment

Handicapped Tailors

Every Wednesday I have the privilege to take a group of my fellow crew mates to one of my favorite places here in Congo, the Handicapped Tailors workplace. I’m sure you’re curious to know who these handicapped tailors are, right? Well, let me tell you! They are my friends. They each have unique disabilities. Some can’t walk due to deformities they were born with and are confined to wheelchairs or they’re forced to walk with their hands or use a cane. Some are deaf. Others have disabilities that I can’t physically see. And the mamas bring their babies to work with them because they have no one to help take care of them.

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This organization, Handicapped Tailors was started to save people such as my friends, from begging on the streets. Due to their disabilities they are limited in the jobs they can work. The majority of jobs here in Africa are manual labor jobs and sadly, these beautiful people are unable to work those jobs. So they are brought in from begging on the street and taught how to tailor. This way they can work and earn an income in spite of what we all call their ‘disabilities’.

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These people, my friends, are so beautiful! Most would think they would be discouraged or embarrassed by their situations, but that is not the case. These people are completely comfortable and content with who they are. They are strong. They are more concerned with how people perceive them than they are with the deformities they were born with. They are confident in who they are and they only desire for others to see them for the people they are, for their hearts. They are no different than anyone else and that’s how they want to be treated. They support each other in a way I’ve never seen before. They love each other just as they are. There is no judgement when you are with my friends. They simply love the way all of us should love.

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After the first time I met these people I wondered what in the world could I possibly do to better their lives. What could I do to make an impact and a difference in their lives? I still haven’t figured that one out so I go there and I love them. I talk with them, laugh with them, pray with them and give them lots of hugs and high fives. We take beautiful things such as necklaces, bracelets and pictures for them to make for themselves. They spend all their time making beautiful things for other people so we want to give them the opportunity to make beautiful things for themselves. Every week I go back I will see them wearing  whatever it was we made the week before.

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IMG_3441 IMG_3442At times I have felt as though my time there is pointless and insignificant, but recently, Jesus has shown me that’s not true. Just like our patients on board the ship, because of the unfortunate ailments they were born with they aren’t treated like human beings and if they are loved, they are loved from a distance. I get the honor of loving them up close. I get to hug them, laugh with them and hold their hands. I get to show them the love of Jesus which isn’t love they’ve experienced from other people. It’s amazing!     

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Posted in Congo, Africa | 2 Comments

Here are some of the beautiful faces that live just a few feet away from me, next door in our hospital.

This story is just too beautiful not to share.

Story by Catherine Clarke Murphy

Edited by Nancy Predaina

Photos by Catherine Clarke Murphy, Michelle Murrey, Debra Bell

Bernadette is a runaway.

Three weeks ago, she packed her bags, lied to her mother, and bought a one-way ticket on a train bound for the coast. She said that she would be visiting a cousin, and then she disappeared. But someone like Bernadette does not go unnoticed for long.

The tumor over Bernadette’s right eye pushed her brow to her cheekbone, blocking her vision like an eye patch. As she journeyed from her hometown to Pointe Noire, she would lift it up with her right hand so she could use both eyes to see her steps, her path, and, finally, her destination – a hospital ship.

Now in the hospital ward, Bernadette is a little cheeky, almost rebellious. At about 5’ tall, what she lacks in height she makes up for with spunk. She keeps a match tucked in her hair “in case the inside of her ear tickles” and occasionally erupts with loud, happy laughter. Some days, she jumps up and down. Since the operation, Bernadette’s right hand is free to join her left in clapping, pointing, or trying to knit with hot pink yarn. She says she wants to make a chair cushion. The little girl in the next bed watches Bernadette with shy fascination.

Bernadette had no choice but to lie to her mother, she says. When she had a tumor, no one would touch her – except her mother. People would see Bernadette coming, and then they would go the other way. Even so, if Mama Philo had known that her daughter was traveling to a hospital ship for surgery, it would have made her sick from worrying. By running away, Bernadette spared her mother from fear.

Now that her tumor is gone, Bernadette is looking forward to her future. Some day, hopefully soon, she will sell homemade peanut butter to passengers outside the very train station where her great escape began. Bernadette smiles at a thought: not having a tumor is going to be good for business, she says. In fact, she may expand to selling pastries.

The next time Bernadette buys a one-way train ticket, it will take her home. She hopes that her mother will be too happy to be angry. And if she is mad? Well, Mama Philo will have to forgive eventually, because Bernadette is old enough to make her own decisions . . . because Bernadette is 54.

On a hospital ship in Africa, there is a runaway with a bandage on her head and a match in her hair. And if you ask her, “Are you ever too old to spare your mother from worrying?” she will look at you with two eyes and say, no.

Bernadette traveled to Pointe Noire from her village in the Pool District of Congo. Since her surgery, she can see without having to use her right hand to hold up a tumor covering her eye.

Bernadette’s tumor had been growing over her eye for more than 20 years.

Bernadette enjoys knitting and making homemade peanut butter, which she intends to sell when she gets back home. While in D Ward, she worked on a chair cushion.

Since her surgery, Bernadette is able to see out of her right eye again. She thinks her new look “is going to be good for business” and will help her sell more peanut butter.

Bernadette’s mother, Mama Philo, does not know that she has come to Pointe Noire for surgery because Bernadette didn’t want to worry her. Now, she is excited to return home without a tumor and surprise Mama Philo.

Bernadette is looking better every day! Soon the swelling will go down, and she will be back in her village with Mama Philo.

This is, Vernel. These pictures tell his story better than any words ever could.

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Here are some more of our amazing patients we like to call friends, family and neighbors:

This is Ebenezer.

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Ebenezer had carried that tumor for 12 years. Before his surgery he was asked if he was nervous. This was his answer.  “No, I am confident and my heart is strong because of my dream, six years ago I had a dream that I was on a ship filled with people. Now I know this is the ship I dreamed of and I have no worries.”

Dieuveil seeing himself for the first time after his cleft lip repair.

Dieuveil seeing himself for the first time after his cleft lip repair.

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One our first eye patients after surgery and the bandages being removed.
He can finally see!!

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Beni

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Beautiful Grace!

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Emmanoel was blacking out three times a day and would awake gasping for air in the middle of the night. Neither Emmanoel or his mother, Elodie, had slept well in months. The cause: a fist-sized tumor was growing in the back of his throat that would soon cut off his airway completely. A few weeks ago, Emmanoel received a life saving surgery to remove the tumor from his throat. Now Emmanoel can run and play with lungs full of air. Finally, his mama, Elodie can sleep easy, knowing that her son will live to see tomorrow.

Posted in Congo, Africa | 1 Comment

because Grace smiled

Last night I was sitting on Deck 8 watching the sun go down and I found myself in a place of overwhelming thankfulness. I’ve been living on this ship for 6 months now and I’ve seen so many African people healed from cleft lips, club feet, insanely large tumors, hernias and many other deformities. I’ve seen orphans shown love for the first time in their lives. I’ve seen poverty at it’s worst and I’ve seen joy at it’s best. I’ve seen so many beautiful and amazing things, but for some reason it has taken me 6 months to find myself at this place of overwhelming thankfulness. Here is one story that has brought me to this place.

This is Grace: Grace has carried this tumor for nine years.

Photo Credit: Catherine Clarke Murphy;Thankfully, Grace came to Screening Day!

This is Grace after her life changing surgery on Sept. 10th here on board the ship:

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The tumor she has carried for nine years is gone!!!

This is Grace healed and leaving the Africa Mercy:

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Grace and so many others is why I’m overwhelmed with thankfulness. As you see in the first picture, Grace was unable to smile and as you see in the last picture, Grace is smiling! No, I can’t preform these surgeries that completely change lives and bring these beautiful smiles, but I do get to be a small part of all that it takes to bring healing to these beautiful people.  This is why I’m here. Regardless of the job I do each day on the ship, I do it to see Grace and so many others smile.

Life here hasn’t been easy. There have been many days all I wanted to do is pack up and go home. There have been many days that I have painfully missed those I love the most back home and because of that I’ve felt as though I should be back home with them. Thankfully, Grace and so many others smile and once again I see the bigger picture and I’m reminded that I was brought here for a reason.

Posted in Congo, Africa | 2 Comments

when you look down you miss the beauty of the jump

I’ve been skydiving four times.  Aside from simply having always wanted to skydive, the first three jumps I jumped on very significant days. Two out of the four jumps I jumped with the same guy, Chucky. The first time I strapped myself to a strange man (not Chucky) and allowed him to jump out of a perfectly good airplane I was 19 and I was about to go to a potentially, life changing doctors appointment. I was scared of the results I was about to receive so I felt that was the best time to finally make this check on my bucket list. The second time I strapped myself to a strange man (finally, Chucky!!) and allowed him to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, I was 21 and it was fathers day. After my brother in law and I jumped the first time, we had the whole family, with the exception of mom, wanting to strap themselves to strange men and let them jump out of a perfectly good airplane. With mom standing in the landing field, it was an incredible day to jump with the whole family. The third time I strapped myself to the same strange man and allowed him to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, I was 22 and it was my wedding day. Yes, for those of you who did not know, I was engaged for a year and five weeks before our wedding he walked away. Thank God!!! The fourth time I strapped myself to a strange man and allowed him to jump out of a perfectly good airplane I don’t feel the need to talk about. Each of my first three jumps happened on very meaningful days and each jump my heart was changed in very meaningful ways.

The first jump wasn’t too memorable. It was a very typical “first jump” that everyone experiences. However, we were quite lucky because it just so happened to be a cloudy day. Some would say that makes for a terrible jump because you can’t see much, but I found it to be perfect. I believe every person in the world has imagined what it would be like to play in the clouds. This day I experienced that! Falling through the clouds was more amazing than I could ever describe. The clouds were so cold with a slight dampness to them and the freshest smell I’ve ever smelled. Truly incredible!!

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The second jump however, brought much laughter and even some disgust to everyone, but me. Long story short, Chucky decided to do lots of flips and spins after the shoot was released. I’ve never been known to have a weak stomach but for some reason, on that day, my stomach couldn’t handle it. Screaming at the top of my lungs because the wind was so loud, I tried to warn him that I was going to be sick, but he just laughed and kept going. With the loud wind I don’t think he actually understood what I was saying. Once I finally felt as though I couldn’t take it any longer, I laid my head back on his chest, reached down and tightly grasped his pants with my hands because it was the only thing I could find for my hands to squeeze. He finally understood what I was trying to warn him of just minutes before. He stopped all his ‘tricks’ and began sweet talking me, trying to keep me from losing it while still in the air. The ground was finally so close, I could see all of my family standing there, looking up at me because of course, I was the last one to jump. Everyone was waving and smiling with their eyes glued to me. And just before we came into our landing, I lost it…. Luckily, the wind was still strong enough to blow it to the right side so that it didn’t land on us or anyone down below, but that wasn’t the end of it. The nastiness that was coming out of my mouth, didn’t fully let go. It blew to my cheek and instead of blowing away in the wind, it just flapped off the side of my cheek. I reached up and wiped it away but then the next problem came, I had on shorts that were completely covered up by the terribly uncomfortable harness that was keeping me strapped tightly to Chucky. So what do I do with this hand full of vomit?    I reach down to the same place I was just grasping so tightly to a few seconds prior, Chucky’s pants. Not only did I vomit in the air, while being strapped to Chucky, I also wiped the vomit on his pants. Hoping the embarrassment would end there, it didn’t… In the midst of the ‘only happens in movies’ moment I just had, I had forgotten that I paid extra to have a camera man to not only capture pictures of my jump, but to also video my jump. Because he landed just a bit too late, he didn’t see me vomit. What does that mean? That means he was quickly unstrapping his shoot and getting the video camera ready while I was vomiting. Why is that so bad, Lisa? Well, let me tell you… I just needed a second to lie there and breathe and hopefully not vomit again. Instead of getting that, I land and the second I look up there is a camera in my face with a super stoked man behind it asking me to share how incredible my jump was. My pale and covered in vomit face and the fact that I wasn’t jumping up with excitement, but instead, continuing to lay on Chucky, didn’t seem to click with him. He kept asking over and over, “so tell us how your jump was”.  Finally, after a few seconds, which for me felt like 5 hours, Chucky reached up and slapped the guy and told him to go away. After a minute of continuing to lie on Chucky and drink a bit of water, I was just fine. Of course I had to deal with my whole family and all of the staff at Skydive the Farm make fun of me for the rest of the day. Actually, they all still make fun of me three and a half years later.

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Now for the third jump… I should have been in a car, driving to Florida to spend my honeymoon trip with mom, but… I decided I needed to do something much more exciting than that. It was my NOT wedding day after all. Thankfully, I have the greatest best friend in the world, Brookie. She and I woke up way too early and headed out to spend the day with Chucky, jumping out of an airplane. At this point we had both strapped ourselves to him and let him jump out of a perfectly good airplane so we both wanted to jump with him again on this day. The problem with that is, we were both jumping at the same time and since they only allow one person to be strapped to Chucky, we had to decide who was going to be the lucky girl. This is why Brookie is the best. After debating it the whole car ride, as soon as we get there, Brookie says she was just giving me a hard time and of course I’m going to be the one to jump with him since this was ‘my day’. As soon as we get there, Brookie and I both inform everyone that it’s my NOT wedding day. Most of you probably think that it should have been a sad time and I probably received a lot of apologies and hugs… NOPE… it was just the opposite! Everyone, including myself, was happy! The high fives and cheers of the day was, “Happy NOT Wedding Day!!!” It was a celebration to say the least. On the bus ride to the airport it was Brookie and I in a bus with about 20 men. They asked if I had my bachelorette party and I said no. They decided I would then have my bachelorette party on the bus…. I’ll just say that it got a bit crazy. haha! Free dances, kisses and lots of other things I denied were offered. Lots of laughs were had and it was a great time. We finally made it to the airport and just before we climbed into the plane, Brookie says; “this is it, Little Lisa. This is where you leave it all behind. When you jump out of that plane, let it all go. Let him go, let the pain go, let the disappointment go. Leave it all in the past and just fall into your future. It’s going to be a beautiful future, I promise, but you have to leave it all up there in that plane.” Very emotional already to say the least. Once we were all piled into the plane and up in the air, the ‘bachelorette party’ continued. Everyone kept begging me to kiss at least one guy and I kept saying no so just before Chucky strapped us together, he grabbed my face, turned me around and kissed me in front of everyone. With all the cheers that erupted you would have thought we were at a NFL game. I do believe Chucky received a high five from every person in the plane. Then the big moment had arrived…. I was standing at the door, looking out at the world from 14,000 feet, thinking about what Brookie had just told me. This is my moment is what I kept telling myself. No, I wasn’t naive enough to believe that jumping out of this airplane was going to heal my heart, it was simply symbolic and a way of release. It was my moment to put my past behind me and move forward into my future and that’s just what I did. Because Chucky was afraid I would get sick again, as soon as the shoot was released he leaned into my arm and asked how I was feeling. My response was this “I’m feeling just fine, but I’m crying…” Somehow he managed to guide the shoot with just one hand the rest of the time. With his other hand he held tightly to mine the entire time while telling me how amazing my future is going to be. He told me to soak up and take in every second we’re up there because once we put our feet back on the ground my life was only going to look up from there. He also told me how he is so happy that I’m only crying on him this time instead of vomiting on him. Once we made our landing, Chucky wrapped his arms around me and in the sweetest voice ever he said “Happy NOT Wedding Day!” 🙂 Then my dear Brookie comes running towards me and squeezes me as tight as she could. We cried and cried and cried and cried and then we cried a little more. It was truly a life changing moment. It was beautiful! After getting back to the warehouse everyone cheered and partied and continued with the ‘happy not wedding day’ cheers. Chucky silenced everyone and said he had an announcement to make. He informed everyone, including myself that I am the one girl he is always going to remember for two reasons. Reason #1 I was the first person to ever vomit on him while in the air and reason #2 I was the first person to ever cry on him while in the air.

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The reason I’m babbling about these experiences is because there is one thing that Chucky said to me during each jump that years later has played on repeat in my head today. Every time we jumped he would constantly yell in my ear, “Look out, Lisa, don’t look down. When you look down you miss all of the beauty of the jump. There is so much to see, but if you look down you will miss it.” He was right. When I looked down all I saw was the ground getting closer and closer, but when I looked out I saw everything as far as my eye could see. I saw the blue sky, the white clouds, the beautiful mountains, the thousands of green trees and all of that mixed together made for the most beautiful picture possible.

I know this is probably cheesy, but remembering those words he told me years ago has completely changed my current situation. Nine days ago my life completely changed. Everything I thought my life was going to be, disappeared. Needless to say, my head has definitely been down. It’s been down to hide the tears and sadness and it’s been down in hopes people would pass by me without saying anything. Living in community on this ship makes it really hard to have bad days without everyone knowing your business so that is why my head has been down. Looking up would mean I would have to look people in the eye and let them see the sadness in my eyes. If I looked up I would be forced to smile at people and if I looked up I would have to see happy people and that’s certainly the last thing I’ve wanted. I’ve wanted to simply keep my head down and sulk in my own misery. However, with Chucky’s words playing again and again in my head today, today was different. My heart is hurt and broken and walking around with my head down hasn’t made it any better so I decided to try something different. Today I decided to take Chucky’s advice. Today I looked out. Today I looked out at everything going on around me. Today I decided to put my current situation aside and see what’s happening all around me. Today I saw smiling people who made me smile. I saw happy people who made me happy. I saw sweet notes to me from people who love me posted to my door. I saw our sweet patients enjoying the fresh air on deck 7. I saw so many who genuinely love and care about me. I saw the beautiful and endless ocean and sky. I saw the sunset. I’m living in Africa, on a hospital ship so you can imagine there’s was so much for me to see. Today I saw the beauty that surrounds me and brings healing to my broken heart because I decided to look out. Today was beautiful and perfect. I think I’m going to keep looking out instead of looking down. Like my amazing friend, Marije continues to tell me, it’s about finding good moments in the days and then you will soon find that you’re having good days instead of only good moments. She is right! Thanks to Chucky’s skydiving advice and Marije’s words of wisdom, I think my good days are just around the corner!

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hope and a future!

Wednesday morning my alarm went off at a much too early hour, 4:30 am…. I  woke up half an hour early to spend a little time praying for the big day we had ahead of us. As I walked upstairs around 5:05, I saw a very abnormal sight, the ship was awake. The ship doesn’t really come to life until about 7:00 am, but not this morning. People were eating. People were drinking coffee. Everyone was dressed so nicely. Many were praying and many were anxious. It was quite. It was calm. It was peaceful. Yes, it was very early so we were all a bit tired, but that wasn’t what created the incredible calmness and peacefulness that surrounded us.

Wednesday was Screening Day. The biggest day of our 10 month field service in Congo. It was the day we were going to provide so much hope and healing to so many.  It was the day we were going to so quickly fall in love with so many beautiful faces. It was the day we were going to create the biggest smiles. It was the day we would see disease and sickness in a way most people can’t even imagine. It was the day we were going to see why we do what we do. It was the day we were going to see Jesus in way that can’t be described. It was the day we have all worked so long and hard for. Without this day, all that we do over the 10 months in each country wouldn’t happen.

6 days later I’m still trying to process the day to be able to write this blog. I’ve talked with fellow crew mates who experienced exactly what I did on Screening Day. I’ve talked with fellow crew mates who experienced different things on Screening Day. I’ve talked with family from home about Screening Day. I’ve talked to Jesus about all my emotions and thoughts from Screening Day. Still, I have yet to conjure up the accurate words to express my perception, my thoughts and my feelings of Screening Day.

I was stationed just inside the gate. I was to escort ever patient who came through the gate to the pre-screening station. Once they were told a joyous; “yes, we can help you” and given their piece of gold, a laminated card to see the appropriate physician, I was to escort them to the next station. I was so excited to have this job. I was going to be able to greet every patient who walked through the gate. I would get to hold, cuddle and love on every baby that was carried through the gate. I was going to be able to smile, shake hands and use my terrible french with every man or woman who walked through the gate. I would be able to see every smile as we said, yes, we can help you or yes, mama, we can help your precious baby. I had the biggest smile on my face cause I knew I had the best job for Screening Day. What didn’t cross my mind as I was thinking about the amazing job I was going to have for the day was the dreaded words “no, I am so sorry, we can’t help” or “no, I am sorry, mama, we can’t help your precious baby” I would hear again and again… I was so prepared for the glorious word, yes!! but I was not prepared for the heartbreaking word, no… All I envisioned for Screening Day were smiles and tears of joy because, yes, we could help them. I imagined laughter and hugs. I imagined freedom healing and hope to flow in abundance.

The gate opened around 5:30am. I was fortunate to have Bill Foley (amazing leader and an amazing man of God), Diana (she is just simply one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met) and KJ (my very dear friend here on the ship) at my station. Having the three of them there I knew this day was going to be amazing.  People started flooding into the compound. Cleft lip, yes, we can help that one! Club foot, yes, we can help that one! Facial tumor, yes, we can help that one! Blind, yes, we can help that one! Goiter, yes, we can help that one! Burns, yes we can help that one! So many we could help and I knew it even before they made it to the nurse. So many smiles, so many tears of joy, so many happy mamas and so much hope was seen on all those precious faces. I was on such a high, in complete awe of having the opportunity to be apart of this.

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Then a father walked up with his child in his arms, wrapped up in a blanket. I still had a smile on my face cause the only thing I could imagine under that blanket was a beautiful, sleeping baby with a club foot, a cleft lip, a burn, bowed legs, some sort of tumor or another deformity that we could easily fix. As I reached out and took a hold of and kissed the tiny little hand sticking out from under the blanket, mama pulled the blanket back just enough for me to see the beautiful face underneath. I didn’t see a cleft lip. I didn’t see a tumor. I didn’t see a burn. I didn’t see any deformity. My smile faded and tears filled my eyes as my heart broke in that moment. I looked back at the father holding this sweet child and the mama standing next to them. Their eyes were both filled with so much pain but also with so much hope. All I could do was hold this beautiful child’s hand even tighter and with my other hand I gently touched her face before kissing her sweet cheeks.

Cerebral Palsy, this beautiful child has Cerebral Palsy… I’m not a Registered Nurse or a Physician or anyone who can make medical decisions for patients but, I do know that there isn’t anything we can do. I knew the next words these hopeful parents were going to have to hear were, no, I’m so sorry, we can’t help your child. I knew they were going to be heartbroken and devastated. I knew this child’s face was never going to leave my mind. I knew these parents faces were never going to leave my mind.

Without saying a word to my team, I had to step away for a moment. I didn’t have it in me to escort this family to the next nurse because I knew what I would see and I didn’t feel I had the strength inside me to watch that happen. I was finally hit with the realization that we can not help every single person that walks through the gate. I was hit with the realization that this was only the first of many hopeful faces turned into faces filled with tears and brokenness because we couldn’t help them. In all the excitement I was feeling leading up to this day because all I could think about was all the people we were going to be able to help, I never gave much thought to the ones we would have to turn away. In a matter of seconds I had to get it together. I had to put that smile back on my face and I had to continue with my hand shakes, cuddles, broken french and hugs. I had to continue to love each and every person that walked through the gate. I had to not only dance down the sidewalk with the ones we said yes to but I also had to wrap my arms around and listen to the ones we said no to. I couldn’t pick and choose who I showed the love of Jesus to, I had to show the love of Jesus to all of them.

Because of the way I was feeling I didn’t want to speak with too many people here on the ship because I didn’t want to sound negative because it seemed as though every single person was so excited about Screening Day. Everyone was so happy that we set a record for the biggest Screening Day in Mercy Ships history. Everyone was just so incredibly happy and I didn’t feel happy. I spoke with loved ones from home and as much as I love them, that didn’t help too much either. What we do here is so hard to explain and accurately describe so it’s very hard for those who haven’t seen with their own eyes to understand. As I expressed my broken heart because I could only think about and remember all the patients we had to turn away, I was told things such as “you can’t save the world, Lisa” or “why don’t you go to med school so you can physically help every person” or “this is just how the world is, Lisa and it’s impossible to solve the worlds problems” or they tried to come up with every solution when in all reality, there isn’t one. This only broke my heart even more. Why did I feel as though I’m the only one feeling this way? Why can’t I be happy that regardless of the number we had to turn away, we still scheduled , 1,326 for surgery or a follow-up visit? Why am I questioning what we do here? Why am I so angry?

As I’ve continued having these questions for 6 days now, the Lord keeps bringing a scripture back to me:

Jeremiah 29:11 says this;

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

This scripture is the only thing that has brought me peace. I still have yet to find understanding but that’s OK. I have peace because as much as I want to help every hurting person I see, God has his own plan for that individual. For some, God has chosen us to be the ones to help them, but for others he has different plans and I have to trust in that. I felt as though we had taken hope away from so many because we couldn’t help them but Jesus clearly tells us that he has plans to give us hope and a future. That is what I have to trust in.

I’m never going to forget the face of that beautiful child or her mamas face or her fathers face. I will probably always have a sadness in my heart for them but I’m also always going to have trust in God to take care of that child. I’m going to trust in God to make sure that child is always loved and taken care of. I’m going to trust him to continue to give mama and papa the strength to care for their child. I’m going to trust him to provide everything that beautiful child needs. I’m not only going to trust in him for just that one family, but for every single person we had to say the heartbreaking words “no, we can’t help you” to.

As I was just about to post this blog, my dear friend shared some very encouraging words with me and I felt they were so fitting to include. She told me that it’s easy for anyone to be happy with the patients who are told yes. It’s easy to share in the joy the patients have when they are given hope. It’s easy to dance down the sidewalk with them. It’s easy to smile and share in a joyous hug. However, it takes special people to be able to share in the pain and devastation when a person is informed that there is nothing we can do to help. It takes a strong person who has also felt the same emotions to be able to love these people the way they need to be loved in that moment.  My life hasn’t been the greatest or the easiest. I’ve faced traumas. I’ve been greatly hurt, physically and emotionally. Although it may not have been to the extent of some of these people, I know how it feels to suffer because of things that have happened to me that are completely out of my control. I know what loneliness, betrayal and hopelessness feel like. Because of this, God new I would be the perfect person to walk with the no’s. He knew I would be the perfect person to wrap my arms around them, look into their eyes and allow them to see and feel that I do know how they feel and I am sharing in their pain. He knew that I would be able to give the love they needed in that moment of hopelessness. So as hard as it is to not be angry and bitter because of all of the no’s. I have to believe that with each ‘no’ I was able to embrace and love on, God used that moment to allow these people to feel and know His love. These people may have walked away without the medical care they needed, but they also walked away knowing Jesus’ love. It might not have been the hope they came for, but they still walked away with hope.

Photo Credit: Mahesh Patel. Screening Day.

So, although my heart is still heavy and full of sadness, my heart is also filled with joy for the ones we did say, yes!!! to. Thankfully, I was able to watch our first patients walking on board on Sunday. These we can help! These lives we can change! These we are able to provide hope to! These are the ones that brought so much joy to myself and all of my crew mates. These are the ones that made Screening Day a success. These are the ones I get to walk beside as their lives are transformed and healing, hope and joy fill their hearts. These people are the reason why we do what we do.

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Melissa

I am in the presence of greatness.

Don Stephens, founder of Mercy Ships, is an incredible man who has done incredible things. All the incredible things he has done all started with a dream he had at nineteen years old to have a “hospital ship to serve the needy and forgotten poor”. In Don’s book, Ships of Mercy, written in 2005, he says:

“Most such ideas fade away with time. This one didn’t. And I found myself, day after day, year after year, in the middle of an idea that would not let me go. Until one day my imagined crew came to life before my eyes and, amazingly, made the dream set sail.”

“So on October 5, 1978, with a million-dollar loan from the a Swiss bank, the first Mercy Ship was ours. And soon it was towed by tugs to the bay of Elevsis in Greece to begin its renovations.”

“On July 7, 1982, we were ready to sail. At long last, the Mercy Ship Anastasis was sailing into the world.”

“It was easy to be overwhelmed twenty-five years ago; it still is today, because even after helping so many, there are so many more. And we realize that even with this new, mighty twenty-first century ship, we’ll never reach every person in need.”

          “So why bother at all? Why do we continue to sail?”

“Standing here, feeling not only the hum of the mechanical energy that runs the ship but also feeling the wonderful human energy as well, I can think of several good reasons. But maybe the best answer comes from one of Lord McColl’s tiniest patients, a little girl who told her new Mercy Ship friends how she likes to rescue starfish stranded on the beach and put them back in the ocean. When someone pointed out the futility of such action in the grand scheme of things, she said: “It makes a difference to the starfish.”

“Every man, woman and child who finds him- or herself, by accident of birth and geography, out of reach of even the basics of of modern medicine, is like the starfish. We know this deep in our souls: every life is worthy. The best inside of us wants to offer the best to others. Behind every statistic, there’s a person in need of hope and healing. Every one’s a story. Some heart wrenching, some heart stirring-none, though, you can ever forget.”

Don Stephens is someone I admire and respect a great deal and someone I have hoped to have the privilege of meeting since I began working with Mercy Ships in 2006. Sunday night I was finally able to meet him!

Don Stephens and I!

Don Stephens and I

Like the rest of the world, I always like to make a great and memorable first impression, which is why it took 6 days of him being on the ship for me to finally introduce myself to him. I had to be sure I was completely confident and I had to be sure I had all the perfect questions for him. I wanted him to remember me. I wanted to have something more for him than just the same questions he gets from everyone. I so badly wanted to receive some very wise words of wisdom and experiences from him.  However, after our introduction and me telling him my name 5 times, he called me, Melissa… I then show him my badge and repeat my name again and he still called me, Melissa, again….. Talk about all my hopes and dreams being shattered. He completely threw me off my game. I had imagined the worst case scenarios, such as me not remembering anything I wanted to say or me getting nervous and babbling about the most random things in the world. Just as I had imagined the worst things, they happened… I couldn’t remember what I wanted to say and ask because I couldn’t stop thinking about how he thinks my name is Melissa and then I started babbling about my job back home, people he doesn’t know and things he doesn’t understand because I was trying to find something to talk about and I just couldn’t think about anything except… Melissa. So I guess in the end, I did have half of what I hoped for. It was a memorable introduction for me but not a great first impression for him. However, I think the next day made up for it!

I was having a super tough day at work. I was very short staffed and I was also still training my new Day Crew who speak very little English. I was exhausted and a bit frustrated and unfortunately, Don Stephens randomly appeared in my work area and I had the misfortune of him seeing a little bit of my frustration as I talked with my boss. I was quite embarrassed, again…  As I went back to work, feeling even worse than I did before, Don Stephens appeared yet again. I tried my best to avoid any eye contact because I didn’t want to speak with him. I think he could tell I was doing all I could to avoid the eye contact so he reached out and grabbed my arm and this is what he said:

“Thank you for what you do. It matters”

Once again, I couldn’t say anything. As my eyes began to fill with tears I couldn’t control, he says even more:

“Don’t worry, you will get everything sorted out. You have a wonderful, refreshing, kind, happy spirit and that spreads around more than you know and when that spirit is coming from leadership, that means you’re going to have the best department no matter what you’re doing. So like I said, thank you for what you’re doing because it does matter.”

He then smiled at me, let go of my arm and walked away. I might not have had the most memorable and great first impression with Don Stephens but, I did finally receive amazing words of wisdom from him.

Two days later he was in the cafe having coffee so I walked over and said good morning to him. He smiled at me and asked me to sit down with him. After talking for a minute he asks: “Tell me again where you’re from, Melissa?” I couldn’t help but giggle this time. He might not have my name straight but, he does know who I am. And I guess it works out better that I’m Melissa because there are other Lisa’s on the ship but, there is only one Melissa on the ship ! 🙂

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love at first sight…

Dirty feet, the smell of trash and fish, random children jumping in my arms, walking everywhere, African fabric, delicious street meat (sometimes you see the whole butchered animal lying there), constant sweating, overloaded taxi’s, way too much horn blowing, the kissy sound (this is done to get ones attention) lots of cheerleaders (yells, kissy sound, thumbs up) when I run, bartering in the markets and lots of marriage proposals… these are just a few things that constantly remind us, we are back in Africa! However I think my biggest reminder is the “love at first sight”… Just on my 30 minute run this morning, I was informed by about 13 people, they love me. This is something that happens to everyone, all the time, here in Africa. I’ve decided it’s because of one of two reasons; it’s the only English they know OR it really is love at first sight. I’m going with the latter one, although, most would probably assume it’s the first. Either way, I’m flattered every single time I’m told, “I love you” and with a big smile on my face, I always say “I love you too”.

That was a bit of pointless information, but I said all of that to say, WE ARE BACK IN AFRICA!!! We arrived in Pointe Noire, Congo this past Friday. First of all, let me say, this was HUGE for Mercy Ships. This is the first time we have been to Central Africa. It’s a whole new ballgame for us and we are very excited about it. Second of all, since this was such a ground breaking, history in the making moment, Don Stephens, the founder of Mercy Ships, was on the dock, waving to the ship as we pulled in to the dock. This was his first time in 35 years to do this. For myself, and I believe for all the other crew, it was quite an amazing moment. Not only was it amazing to be back in Africa and our first time in Congo, it was amazing to see, Don, standing there waiting for us. He’s not too shabby if I must say so myself.

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My first look at Congo and the amazing Welcome Ceremony that was setup for us.

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Don Stephens walking on board after the ceremony.

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KJ and I waving to our new home 🙂

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Happy to be at my new ‘Home Sweet Home’!

As you can see, it was a lovely day! 🙂

We are now 4 days into our 10 month field service here in Congo (it feels as though we have been here much longer). Everything is getting setup, put back together and it’s all falling into place quite nicely. Yesterday we had our Day Crew (local people we hire to work on the ship while we are in the country) orientation and it went very well. We welcomed over 200 Congolese crew to our home.

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Our new Day Crew!

 Today the Day Crew started working and it’s been so great! I was a bit overwhelmed when I was given 6 additional people, who do not speak the best english (yet!!)  to put to work and train, but my team is definitely the ‘A Team’ so it went really well. I am so excited to be working with these guys for the next 5 months. I think it’s going to be a lovely adventure together! 🙂

More exciting things we have coming up:

  • August 28th – Our massive Screening Day!! We have been told to expect about 4,000 people. Every crew member on the ship goes out to help at this event. Everywhere I go in town, I see fliers of the Screening Day.
  • September 2nd – Surgery begins once more on the Africa Mercy! This is very very exciting because our home just isn’t the same without the patients. Deck 7 play dates will be back in action! 🙂

Alright, now here is some of my heart….   I miss home. I miss my beautiful niece and my handsome nephew. I miss my Kevin. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss my job. I miss my house. I miss my kayak. I miss grass and I miss the smell of fresh cut grass. I miss cold milk (we drink warm, boxed, ‘Milch’). I miss having time alone (until you live in THIS community, you will never understand the depth of that statement). I miss my big, comfy bed. I just miss home… Some days all I want to do is pack my bags, jump on a plane and go home. Some days I feel like I can’t handle another day on this crazy ship I have chosen to live on. Some days I just want to be hugged by the people who love me most. Some days (actually, everyday) I want to go pick up my niece and nephew and take them for a day at the park. Some days I want to quit because it just doesn’t feel worth it anymore. Thankfully, there are always more days with little and even big, moments, random cards stuck to my door, bear hugs, smiles, encouraging words, emails, texts, phone calls and many other things to remind me of why I’m here and to replace my ridiculous, sad tears with smiles, joy and confidence in knowing I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. I’ve recently, finally, grasped a hold of the fact that this isn’t going to last forever. As much as I want to be home with everyone and everything I love, this amazing part of my life isn’t going to last.  I’m not always going to wake up in my tiny little bunk to Romina bringing me coffee in bed before we start our work day of loving, serving and taking care of the people of Africa. I’m not always going to be able to walk out my front door (which is actually called a ‘gangway’ ) and see the beautiful country of Congo. I’m not always going to have sweet babies in my arms who want nothing more than for me to cuddle and tickle them just so they can then take a nap on my shoulder in return. I’m not always going to have my insanely crazy and awesome ‘ship family’  which includes, Romina (RoRo), Michael (Lil Brotha), Marije (Boula Boula), Steven (Woody), Jeremiah (The Harv) and our crazy, Uncle Ken, together every day. I’m not always going to have the opportunity to love on patients, in Africa, on this crazy hospital ship we call home. I’m not always going to have to drink warm, boxed milch. I’m not always going to be in a place where God is so vividly evident in everything I see and everything I hear. I’m not always going to be in a place where the people I’m trying to love on and help are the ones actually loving me and helping me far more than I ever could them simply for just being themselves. I’m not always going to have this opportunity to give up my entire life for 9 months to come to a place where all I’m asked to do is be apart of bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor of Africa. This is why I was determined to take hold, with everything in me that this isn’t going to last forever. Because I have grasped a hold of that truth, this adventure is even more amazing! Yes, I still deeply and sometimes painfully, miss my life back home, but…. this isn’t going to last forever 🙂 Soon, my time here will come to an end and when it does, I have my beautiful life back home still waiting for me. 🙂 But for now my focus is on each moment I’m in, not what’s to come, not what has happened, but on the now. I’m living in each moment and enjoying every second of this adventure, even the moments that aren’t so pleasant. I don’t want to miss out on anything 🙂  You would think with the following quote tattooed on my left side, I wouldn’t be struggling with this right now. haha!

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We only have today. Let us begin.”

  – Mother Teresa-

There is one last thing I would like to share.

I crossed the Golden X!!!!

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The coordinates (0.00°, 0.00°) are the point where the world begins and ends (equator and prime meridian cross).  In the maritime world, someone who has yet to cross the equator is known as a Pollywog, and then once they do cross they become a Shellback, but  we crossed the equator and the prime meridian AT THE SAME TIME. So as og August 5, 2013,  I  have the distinct title of,  Royal Diamond Shellback, Lisa Hart!

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Posted in Congo, Africa | 2 Comments

Guinea’s 10 month field service statistics

At the end of every 10 month field service, Mercy Ships releases the statistics from our time in that country. Here are the numbers from our service in Guinea. These numbers are amazing!

Eye Team

Cataract Surgeries
1,475
Eye Evaluations & Treatments
13,483
Distribution of Glasses
3,706

Hospital

Maxillofacial Surgeries
490
Cleft Repair Surgeries
176
Plastic Reconstructive Surgeries
99
General Surgeries
312
VVF Surgeries
63
Orthopaedic Surgeries
116
Clubfoot Corrections
51
Palliative (Hospice) Care
29

Dental Team

Dental Care – Extrations
12,209 Patients
45,168 Procedures
Dental Hygiene Services
950
Dentures/Replacements
577

Mercy Ministries –

orphanages, prisons, babies without milk, deaf school, hospitals
Partner Ministry Visits
307
People Reaches
10,417

Hospital Chaplaincy

One-On-One Sessions
3,806
Bibles Distributed
192
HIV Counseling Sessions
418

Education

Mentoring African Healthcare Workers
140
Community Health Education
2,962
Training in Organic Agriculture
18

Mental Health

Heath Care Training
71
Church Leaders
36
Social Workers
26

Leadership Conferences

Church Leaders
463
Community Leaders
423
Government Leaders
313
Now here are some pictures so you can put some beautiful faces with those numbers.
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Before
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After!
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I hope these numbers and faces can give you more of an understanding of the incredible things that are being done on this ship. Lives are truly being changed in bigger ways than we could ever imagine.
I am beyond blessed to be a part of this!

Posted in Las Palmas, Spain | 1 Comment

Goodbyes are never easy…

Goodbyes are never easy…  I’ve said goodbye in many ways and for many reasons, but my recent goodbye was one of the most difficult ones to say.

Two weeks ago I said goodbye to the place I called home,

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to the people I called friends,

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And to the children I fell in love with

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I spent a week saying goodbye to all of the places and all of the people I so quickly came to love. With the language barrier, it was a bit difficult to actually say goodbye with words. So I said goodbye with hugs,

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With laughter

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With cuddling

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And with dancing

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Walking away for the last time was so very bittersweet. Bitter because I’m going to miss these little faces more than anything and sweet because I am so thankful to have met them. Each one of them has truly made my life better just from having met them. Their laughter, hugs, games, tickling, Lisa chants, smiles and more hugs, have changed my life. I came to Africa to hopefully, make a difference and possibly change someone’s live, but I’m the one who was changed by them.

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After all the goodbyes we stood on deck 8 and waved goodbye to Guinea

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Tears and sadness were unavoidable, but my heart is still full of happiness for the opportunity to have been a part of life in Guinea. So many stories, memories, miracles, laughter, tears, smiles, joy, heartbreak, prayers and undeniable works of the Lord perfectly explain my time there.

Now here we are in Las Palmas, Spain.

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We like to call it “paradise” and of all the places I’ve been, I definitely qualify Las Palmas as paradise, but I do miss Africa. We will be here for about 5 more weeks while repairs and renovations are being done in the hospital and other various places on the ship. Once we leave Spain, we will be sailing for two weeks to Pointe Noire, Congo for our 10 month field service there. I am so excited to be in Congo and I can’t wait for all the amazing things to come during the 5 months I’m there.

Thank you again to everyone who is supporting me through this adventure. I can’t wait to share all the amazing things to come in Congo!

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment