Saturday, March 24, 2018

March

So Here is a little update for you.
March looks a little different in Cameroon than in Virginia. There the snow is flying and folks are praying for spring and warm weather. Here the short rainy season has begun. Most days we get some amount of measurable rain. I am usually unaware as both my living quarters and working quarters are without windows. That is the price you pay to live at or below the water line. Haha. Usually when I go upstairs for meals I peek out the windows and get an idea of what the day is like. One of the nice things about rain is it washes most of the dust and pollution from the air.  So this week the air quality has been good and Mt Cameroon has been visible for the first time in a few months.  So I was sure to get some time outdoors to enjoy being able to see our volcano and enjoy the warm weather.

Other things that are happening....Surgeries continue to roll on. Some major facial surgeries occurred this week and patients are healing. As I went from ward to ward with supplies this week I watched different ones exploring their new faces in the mirrors they are given. You can see the disbelief on their faces as they try to comprehend how different they now look. It is a joy to be able to witness such moments. Another man this week was able to open his mouth for the first time in 19 years. The moment was recorded on video. I hope to be able to share it some time in the future. The first thing he did was shout for joy and raise his hands to the heavens. I cried my eyes out as I watched it unfold. May God get the glory for his transformation.
Many of you are asking about my plans to come home. I still can not answer those questions fully but hope to be able to in a week or so. It is looking very likely that I will come home for a short time and then return for another 2 years. I am very exciting about the possibility of this but it is ultimately up to God. I would love to return and continue to be a part of the amazing work that is happening here. It is so fulfilling to be even a small part of changing peoples lives. Being a tiny part of the miracles occurring in the hearts and bodies. Many ask why not do it at home? The simplistic answer is it is just different here. My hands are not tied. I am not only allowed to share my faith with my patients, co-workers and friends, I am encouraged to do so. There is nothing that can really describe the moments when you see a spark ignite in the heart of someone. When the understand that they are truly loved. That there is something more. That life and eternity can be different. That they are not excluded for being different.

There is also the joy of what God is doing in my heart and spirit. As he shows me areas in  my own life that need changing, refining and growth. New friendships  and new experiences. Learning to live with less and focus on things eternal rather than things of the world that so easily entice me. It is a daily journey and somehow seems easier for me to see or understand here. And here I am often better able to see how my gifts and talents can add to the equation. Don't get me wrong. I KNOW that all of these things are possible at home, and there are needs there too. But somehow there is a peace and a belonging that a feel here that make me know that I am where I should be for as long as God chooses me to be here.

There are hard parts to being here. Times of loneliness. Missing those I love more than I can convey. It can be challenging to witness the level of suffering we see on a daily basis. There are many we help, but so many more that we can not. Pray for them, and pray for me as it is hard to bear. There are times when I miss the freedom to jump in my car and go where ever I want. It is not easy to do that here. There are police check points, bad roads and corruption that make those things difficult. But then there is the beauty of Africa, people who are kind and generous despite having little. People who have much to share in the hearts and minds and spirits, and we are joined together by a common goal.

It is also hard to be away as I read updates from home that are hard. Things I wish I could be a part of. Things I wish I could fix. Situations that only God can take care of. Unmet needs, wandering family members and the loss of loved ones. How I wish I could be there to walk through those moments with you. To pray with you, to give generously. For now, I can only do it from here. But know that I do. I go before the throne of God, and by His spirit I pray and intercede for you. I pray that each of your needs is met. That your pain and loss is comforted. That the Fathers love for you is never doubted.

For King and kingdom,
Jennifer




Ulrich's Joy

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” someone asked 12-year-old Ulrich.
“I want to be tall like my friends,” he answered with a smile.
Even experienced nurses onboard the Africa Mercy had never seen a case quite like Ulrich’s.  He was born with dislocated knees and a condition known as Quadriceps Contracture—a condition in which the leg muscles don’t develop at the same rate as the bones, causing the legs to bend drastically backward.
His mother, Georgette, tried desperately to find Ulrich the surgery he needed. But the cost of surgery and the severity of his condition defeated her hopes. “Surgeons wouldn’t touch him,” Georgette recalls. “It was hard to see him hurting. When he hurts, I hurt.”
Despite constant stares and ridicule, Ulrich adapted to his condition. He learned to walk with sticks made from sturdy branches. He even learned to climb trees higher than any other boy in his village! “When they couldn’t reach the tallest papaya, they’d call me! I’d be able to get it,” said Ulrich.
But his determination to be like other boys took its toll. He developed pain in his hands and joints from supporting his body weight and from walking long distances. “I was worried that if I was feeling such pain now, it was only going to get worse as I got older,” he said.
It broke his heart that it was increasingly difficult for him to help his mother by helping out around the house, collecting firewood, and fetching water. “I was scared to grow up like that. I didn’t want this to be all my life was ever going to be.”
The day Ulrich arrived on the Africa Mercy for his free surgery, volunteer surgeon Dr. Frank Haydon (USA), who has volunteered with Mercy Ships for eight years, was shocked. “He moved like an insect … like a cricket. I’d never seen anything quite like it. Just when I think I’ve seen the worst case in my career, I meet the next Ulrich, and it keeps me going.”
After several complex surgeries, Ulrich woke up with two straight legs in casts. He had a hard time believing they were actually his legs. The first time he stood up, he reached up to see if he could touch the ceiling. “The first time he walked, he went straight into his mother’s embrace. It was the first time he had been able to hug her since standing tall,” said volunteer nurse Kirsten Murphy (USA).
And now, Ulrich is walking straight and tall into acceptance and into his dream of an education.
"Before, when I would walk in the street, people would stare at me. They thought I was just a handicapped person, and they treated me differently. Now, they will look again,” smiled Ulrich.
Before Ulrich left the Africa Mercy, he slowly walked up to Dr. Haydon and handed him a very special gift … his old walking sticks. He won’t need them anymore, thanks to mercy.
Written by Georgia Ainsworth
Edited by Karis Johnson and Nancy Predaina
Photographs by Saul Loubassa Bighonda, Shawn Thompson and Marina Schmid




Saturday, March 10, 2018

Adama

We as a ship spent the last few days in a prayer campaign for this young women.I would ask that you help those prayers continue on into the days ahead. Her name is Adama. She had a cleft that extended from her face into her skull and brain, giving the appearance that her face was divided in two. She has already had multiple surgeries on her brain, skull and facial soft tissues and she's been an inpatient for more than 90 days due to difficult healing - longer than any other patient by far this year. She just had her 6th surgery. She has been through much to say the least. Would you please pray for her. Pray for healing. Pray for strength, endurance and courage. Pray for encouragement. Pray that the light of Christ would be seen in everyone she encounters. Pray that this 6th surgery she just endured would be successful and her healing would be complete. Pray specifically against infection or complications. Most of all pray as the Lord leads. Thank you for taking the time to go to the throne for this woman. May His name be glorified.

(A portion of this writing was taken from other writers post. authors unknown and Photo by Mercy ship photographers)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Out of the darkness

A Decade of Darkness: Lydienne's Story

For 10 years, Lydienne’s world grew darker … and darker …
lowly losing her eyesight from cataracts felt like a lifelong prison sentence for the 65-year-old seamstress. The blindness stole her independence because she was forced to rely on family members to be her eyes. Even simple walks to the market, down streets she’d known her entire life, became almost impossible to navigate on her own. All she could see were clouded shadows and pinpricks of light.
The blindness also stole her livelihood and her life’s calling. She could no longer work as a seamstress and had to depend on her younger sister for help. But the worst part was losing her ability to travel around Cameroon and evangelize, which she’d always felt called to do.
Without money to pay for cataract surgery, Lydienne almost gave up hope. But one day, her pastor told her, “The ship is coming. You will have your sight restored.” And immediately Lydienne believed with all her heart that the hospital ship would change her life.
She arrived at the Mercy Ships eye screenings, nervous and full of hope. On the scheduled day for her long-desired cataract surgery, she arrived at the ship bright and early in the morning. “God has His eye on me,” she said confidently before being led up the gangway.
Removing her cataracts was a quick surgical procedure. The very next day, Lydienne’s eye patch was removed. It was the moment of truth – had the surgery been successful?  And the answer was YES!  After a decade of darkness, she could see again!
“I went home shouting in excitement. I could see everything! Even seeing buildings again makes me so happy,” she said.
At first, her relatives couldn’t believe it, and they jokingly tested her to make sure she really could see. “They’ll ask me what they’re holding or ask me to read things to them. When I do, they all applaud. I don’t mind being treated like a child in this way – I can see it’s all in joy,” smiled Lydienne.
Now, with her eyesight and independence restored, Lydienne can resume her work as a seamstress. And she’s even more excited about being able to once again travel around the city, speaking with people about God’s love and sharing her own story with them.
“I believe my sight has been anointed. Even if my clothes are fading and getting old, I see them in the brightest colors now!”

Written by Rose TalbotPhotography by Saul Loubassa BighondaEdited by Karis Johnson and Nancy Predaina



Sixty-five-year-old Lydienne came to Mercy Ships for surgery to remove the cataracts that had clouded her vision for over 10 years.



Without money to pay for cataract surgery, Lydienne almost gave up hope. But when she arrived the Mercy Ships eye screenings, she was nervous and full of hope.  “God has His eye on me,” she said confidently.



Lydienne awaits her turn to go into the operating room. The cataract surgery took less than a half an hour, but it changed Lydienne’s life.



The day after surgery, Lydienne’s eye patch was removed. It was the moment of truth – had the surgery been successful? And the answer was YES! After a decade of darkness, she could see again! “Even seeing buildings again makes me so happy,” she said.



Six weeks after surgery, Lydienne was all smiles at her Celebration of Sight. She sang and danced with unrestrained energy as she celebrated her renewed vision alongside eye team staff and other cataract patients.



“I believe my sight has been anointed. Even if my clothes are fading and getting old, I see them in the brightest colors now.”

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Little Cecilia

Stepping into a Brighter Future: Cecilia’s Story

With her fluffy pink dress and shiny shoes, three-year-old Cecilia is an undisputed princess—and no one is prouder of this ray of sunshine than her father, Emmanuel. She’s brimming with delightful energy, and Emmanuel is always one step behind her, ready to help her in the right direction. But, until recently, Cecilia needed more help than most little girls.
“She smiles all of the time,” said Emmanuel, “but she needs help to walk.”
Her legs appeared normal at birth, but as she grew, one of her knees formed abnormally. She was diagnosed with knock knees—a condition that causes the knees to angle together, and makes it nearly impossible for the legs to stay straight. Over time, it can cause serious pain and impair walking. Cecilia’s parents watched their bright-eyed child grow from baby to toddler—and her knock knee continued to worsen.
Finally, Emmanuel brought his daughter to Mercy Ships in search of a miracle. They left behind Cecilia’s mother and baby brother in hopes that when they reunited, Cecilia’s legs would be straight and her future brighter.
On the dock, father and daughter sat together on a wooden bench together while the monsoon rain poured down. Their warm smiles didn’t betray their long journey or hours of waiting.
“I’m so thankful for Mercy Ships coming to serve my people, who are in need,” said Emmanuel.
The family spent over a year waiting for a surgery that took little over an hour on the Africa Mercy. It was a simple procedure that would have enormous effects on little Cecilia’s life.
Cecilia was a source of joy in the hospital wards, and it wasn’t long after her surgery before she bravely took her first steps with her miniature walker. The only one smiling bigger than her was Emmanuel, who said her future now looks “bright and full of possibilities.”
Cecilia’s recovery time onboard the ship was filled with laughter as she played with bubbles and had her nails painted by nurses. Six weeks after surgery, it was time for her cast to come off! Her rehabilitation helped her grow comfortable walking on her straightened leg. When the time came for Cecilia and Emmanuel to go home, the volunteer team sent them home with lively singing and dancing.
Now, Cecilia can step forward into a life of limitless opportunities. She may only be three years old, but Emmanuel is already dreaming big for his little girl.
“My dream for her is to grow up and become a doctor, so she can change people's lives,” Emmanuel said. “Just like the doctors here have changed hers.”

Written by: Rose Talbot
Edited by: Karis Johnson
Photographs by: Shawn Thompson
 used with permission from Mercy Ships


Three-year-old Cecilia’s knock knee has grown painfully inward for over a year.



Cecilia’s father, Emmanuel, is always ready to offer a helping hand.



Big smiles celebrate a big moment as Cecilia takes her first steps after surgery with the help of her father!


Cecilia’s bright pink cast matches her colorful personality.



Even with the new sights and sounds of the hospital environment, Cecilia only needs to hold onto her dad’s finger to be reassured that everything is alright.



Cecilia takes careful steps to recovery with the help of Stefanie Neeb (DEU), the volunteer rehabilitation team leader.



Emmanuel stood by his little princess every step of the way.



Cecilia now stands straight and tall—ready to step confidently forward into her future!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

a sweet little girl

A New Reason to Smile: Fadimatou’s Story

With a beaming smile and large, striking eyes, Fadimatou’s cleft lip isn’t the first thing you’d see. But, thirteen years of looking different from everyone else took its toll on her confidence and self-esteem.
Adorned in beads and colorful fabrics, Fadimatou enjoyed dressing up and ‘acting pretty’ like other girls. But, any glimpse of her smile was quickly wiped away by memories of teasing and ridicule—a reminder of the lies she’d been told too many times, that she isn’t pretty and shouldn’t smile. Her place in society, her sense of belonging among her 14 siblings and even her identity as a twin was questioned because of her cleft lip.
Filled with desperation, her journey with Mercy Ships began when she and her father made the 18-hour trek from their village to the coast of Cameroon. Ahead of them was her once-in-a-lifetime chance at transformation.
Her father had to wait 13 years to find help for his little girl, and after she was approved for surgery he proudly walked Fadimatou up the gangway. A surgery that took an hour to complete on the Africa Mercy resulted in a life changed forever.
Fresh out of surgery, her emotional transformation began. Fadimatou, who once could barely keep eye contact, was now hungry for interaction. Each day, her physical scars healed alongside her wounds of torment, shame and embarrassment.
While she once did everything she could to go unnoticed, Fadimatou now has a reason to hold her head high. Filled with pride and hope for the future, she's now shining with a newfound confidence she’d never had before.
Story by Georgia Ainsworth
Edited by Karis Johnson
Photos by Saul Loubassa Bighonda and Shawn Thompson
used with permission from Mercy Ships




We catch a rare, but stunning glimpse of Fadimatou’s smile on screening day as she awaits the chance to be seen by a surgeon.



A surgery that took an hour to complete on the Africa Mercy resulted in a life changed forever.



Fadmiatou looks into the mirror at her face for the first time since surgery.



Fadimatou continues to be one of the most colorful patients on the ward. Her cleft lip is long gone, along with her shame and embarrassment.



While she once did everything she could to go unnoticed, Fadimatou now has a reason to hold her head high.



Filled with pride and hope for the future, she's now shining with a newfound confidence she’d never had before.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A 30 year burden

Thank You for your part in changing lives. This is Christina whose tumor started growing at age 23. Today Christina is 53, and no longer lives with this burden thanks to free surgery on-board the Africa Mercy.  

Letting Go of a 30-Year Burden

You can hear Christina’s contagious laugh from across the room and instinctively know that she’s a woman who never lets circumstances rob her of joy. But, her smile is interrupted with a facial tumor that has been slowly growing for over 30 years, with no hope of being removed.
Christina first noticed the tumor, which was then just a small growth on her left cheek, when she was only 23 years old. She was a young bride, raising a family with her whole future ahead of her. The tumor was painful, but surgery to remove it was not an option. She and her husband, Emmanuel, worked as farmers—their maize, yam and beans put food on the table, but didn’t provide enough money to cover hospital expenses. All Christina could do was take medicine to ease the pain, and resign herself to the reality that this would always be a part of her life.
As Christina’s children grew, so did her tumor, eventually stretching from her ear to her jaw. But, her exuberant spirit and love for those around her never faded. When asked about her positivity she simply said, “The spirit of God is touching me, giving me peace.”
When she first heard of Mercy Ships, she couldn’t believe her ears—a ship with surgeons that would remove her tumor for free? Her children barely saw her without it in the last three decades, let alone her grandchildren. She knew she had to take the chance. Leaving her family behind, she traveled to the ship in hopes of receiving surgery on board. Even when her appointments were postponed, Christina waited patiently, peacefully, with a twinkle in her eye. Change was coming. She just had to hold on.
Finally, her surgery date came. After several hours in the operating room, the tumor was gone! “Look at me!” she said after the operation, turning her face so you could see the graceful slope of her neck, now tumor-free. “My family will not believe it.”

Her bubbly laugh and genuine interest in those around her made Christina a favorite to patients and crew alike on the Africa Mercy. And after her surgery, she returned home without the burden she’d carried for 30 years, and with a new hope for the future.

Story by: Rose Talbot
Edited by: Karis Johnson
Photographer: Shawn Thompson
used with permission from Mercy Ships

Christina’s tumor has been growing since she was 23 years old – without hope of ever having it removed.



Christina is all smiles relaxing on Deck 7 as she recovers from surgery.



Christina’s signature smile could not be more contagious as she prepares to return home to her family after surgery.


Christina beams as she shows off her neck — tumor-free for the first time in over 30 years!