“The First to Know…”…Mercy Ships in Benin – Week 12

During week 12, I realized something…

I’m always the first to know.

When it comes to our patients official radiology report, I’m always the first to know what their exam showed. What their official diagnosis  is. And sometimes, it’s not the best news…

I’m struggling with that fact.

With the fact that I’m the one who reads the report & then has to pass that news on to our doctors. Although this isn’t always the case, with our critical patients, I always page our doctors to give the results as soon as possible. And I’m finding that with every digit I dial, a small piece of my heart goes with it. Because I’ll never forget that moment.

I’ll never forget all the emotions that emerged as I read that report & how they crashed over me when I had to speak those words of bad news.

While we all try to stay positive in these critical situations, we also try to remain realistic.

It’s hard to confirm that the “worst case scenario” pathology that we were all praying wasn’t happening, is indeed what is going on. That realistically, there’s nothing more we can really do for this pathology. That everything we’ve done may not be enough. The patient will either improve, or they won’t.

But no matter the outcome, God has the entire situation under His watchful eye & in His hands. Our knowledge of these patients is not even a spark compared to His blazing flare of understanding. He knows every single thing they need.

It’s His will, not our own, that will be done.

“You hem me in behind & before, & you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” -Psalm 139:5-6

And it’s because of that very reason, that we’re in the middle of watching yet another miracle unfold before us. This particular patient came to us extremely sick, so very close to deaths door. While they are not out of the woods yet…not by a long shot…they are still with us & they are still improving. And that, in & of itself, is a miracle.


I realized something else in week 12…

I’m in big trouble when it comes to our ortho kids…

BIG trouble. 

A group of potential Ortho patients stand on the dock.

Djazim waits on the dock for an appointment,

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Yasmine stands on the dock waiting for an appointment before surgery.

They had me totally & completely wrapped before they even made it into the room…& they knew it. Seriously, they could not be more adorable.

Some of the simplest things in life, things we all take for granted, these children have never been able to do…

Walk without pain.

Run.

Climb into a chair by themselves.

Kick a ball.

Valerie stands on the dock before surgery to correct her severely bowed legs.

Valerie stands on the dock before surgery to correct her severely bowed legs.

I can’t wait to watch these sweet kiddos discover what it’s like to walk normally & on straight legs. To watching them discover that walking doesn’t have to be…& shouldn’t be…painful. Watching them take of running for the first time in their life. Watching them climb into a chair…or up onto the x-ray table…by themselves.

Oh how I’m looking forward to all those moments.

-Please join us in prayer for all of our patients, both critical & non-critical alike. Pray for comfort & peace throughout their time with us. That their healing will be swift & without complications. Pray for all of our little ortho patients as they go in for their surgery & as they began their road to recovery. Pray for all of their caregivers & parents as they try to provide comfort.-

Until next time…

– Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships. –

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“The Miracle Continues…”…Mercy Ships in Benin – Weeks 10 & 11

I stand in total & complete awe of our God. 

He never ceases to amaze me.

The last time you heard from me, you learned about the miracle that unfolded before our eyes here on the Africa Mercy at the end of week 9. Well that miracle has continued through weeks 10 & 11.

Our aneurysm patient, whom we almost lost, has continued to make great strides in his recovery.

In week 10, over the span of a few short days, we witnessed him go from:

  • Unresponsive to responsive & able to follow commands…
  • From responsive & reclined in bed to being able to sit up in bed…
  • From being able to sit up in bed to being able to sit up on the side of the bed unassisted…
  • From sitting up on the side of the bed to being able to stand to join ward worship…
  • From standing for ward worship to slowly walking around the ward…
  • From slowly walking around the ward to slowly walking in the hallway
  • From slowly walking in the hallway to steadily walking down the hallway to visit his friends…

How? How is that possible considering he almost lost his life just a few days earlier?

Only. God.

“Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth.” – Jeremiah 33:6

And what an abundance of healing, peace & truth He brought. I think everyone on board could feel His presence as we began a new week. He renewed our hopes for this patient & our spirits for our purpose here.



Weeks 10 & 11 also began our orthopedic screenings.

All of these little guys & gals are such troopers.

The severity of their bowed legs & knocked knees is unbelievable.

Yes, I’ve seen lower extremities bend in that way before, but as the result of a horrible accident.

Yet there they are, laying on our x-ray table…with us twisting & turning them every which way trying to accomplish the view we need…in complete stillness & quiet. And every time they look at you, they give you the sweetest little smile. It doesn’t matter that their right knee & foot are twisted to left & their left knee & foot are twisted to the right…

(think 5th position in ballet, but backwards)

A group of potential Ortho patients stand on the dock.

…they’re still content & overall, happy.

I love seeing our hallway full of these sweet kiddos & hearing their bursts of laughter. I love to see their eyes light up as we give them their own sticker covered balloon. My coworker, day crew & I love to hit the balloon back & forth with them while waiting for are images to process. You would be surprised at how quickly they can move on those little bowed legs of theirs!

After a few really difficult & emotional weeks, it’s been so refreshing to look at these precious faces everyday.

I’m truly enjoying every single step taken upon this path. Even those that I’m unsure I will be able to take. Because with every step I take on this path, I become stronger…both in myself & in my walk with God.

And I’m humbled, grateful & honored that He laid this path before me. It’s a privilege to be traveling it. 

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” -Psalm 16:11

-Please continue to pray for our patients & their healing..especially these kiddos who are about to undergo surgery to realign their lower extremities! Pray for peace & comfort for all who are in the process of being treated & their families/caregivers.-

Until next time…

– Note: So sorry for the delay of my week 10 blog! I was struggling with a kidney stone last weekend, so my blog was pushed to the back-burner. Thank you so much to every single one of you who are reading & following my journey! It means more than you know! –

– Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships. –

“Goodbye; One of the hardest words to say…”…Mercy Ships in Benin – Week 8

It’s astounding how in the course of 8 weeks, complete strangers can become your favorite people to do life with.

How in so little time, they become like family & you can’t imagine not having them by your side for the rest of your current journey…& life in general.

And then, the hard part comes…

You have to say goodbye.

Here on board the Africa Mercy, crew are constantly coming & going. Every week we lose a few (or a dozen) & gain a few (or again, a dozen). And while I love having the opportunity to get to know those who are new, I have a soft heart for those who I met first.

There’s a group of 9 of us who all arrived the same weekend & pretty much bonded instantaneously. From our personalities to our beliefs, we’re pretty much on the same page. And to say it’s a blessing would be a total understatement, because we’re all together, 99% of the time. And not just because we’re on a ship docked in Africa…although that may be a slight factor.

We truly enjoy spending time together. Whether it’s at meals, in midships or out exploring Benin…we enjoy each others company. We can be talking & laughing, playing a game or simply just sitting around in silence, each of us working on something individually.

Then the time came this past weekend for 2 of our group to leave…

“NOOOOO!!! How is it already time for them to leave? We just got here!” – The reaction from every single one of us.

Everyone (except me because I was on call & therefore, could not leave the ship) went out to dinner Saturday night & while they were gone, I made a apple crisp & some chocolate chip cookie dough dip for us to enjoy when they got back. We all met up to enjoy some time together, eating dessert, chatting & laughing…you know, our usual. We then gathered around to play a game, like we have fairly often over the past 8 weeks. (Again…we’re on a ship docked in Africa…what else is there to really do after 8:00 on a Saturday night? Exactly.)

We snapped a picture together & then proceeded with our game. It wasn’t until I finally made it back to my cabin & began to look at & edit the picture, that the realization really hit me…

That was our last group picture together. 

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Front: (L to R) Sietska, Des, Liz, Heather-Ann, Catherine | Back: (L to R) Joy, Michelle, myself & Mo

I don’t say that with a single ounce of drama, simply realness.

When will we all be together again? Are we all planning to serve with Mercy Ships again? And if we do, will we all be serving at the same time?

Chances are no, we will not. So we must accept that difficult fact. That most likely, we will not all be together again at the same time, in the same place.

And that’s one truth that is extremely hard to come to terms with.

Because these friends are not just friends, they are your family when you have given up time with your biological family. They are that ones that are there for you night & day, for anything.

If you’re homesick, they’re there to step in to remind you that you’re loved here & to help you feel at home.

When you have a hard day & you need to talk, vent &/or cry, they’re there with open ears that listen, open arms to hug your neck & strong shoulders to lean on. 

When you’re not feeling your best, they’re there, almost constantly, asking if you need anything.

They’re there. Always. (And willingly.)

I’m not sure words can express how abundantly blessed I feel to simply have these wonderful, kind, compassionate, giving, loving, caring, Christ-like, hilarious girls in my life. They’ve taught me so much in the time we’ve been together.

God has reminded me recently that it’s not about the quantity of something, but the quality.

I know that sounds completely cliche, but it’s true.

The past 8 weeks have not been defined by the amount of time that the 9 of us spent together, but by the quality of that time. 

And while I’m sad that our time as 9 has come to an end, I’m so incredibly thankful for every moment I was able to spend with Heather-Ann & Mo. I treasure the time we had together this field service & I can’t wait to reunite with them again…hopefully on the “soon” side…

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Heather-Ann; Sweet. Kind. Compassionate. Gorgeous blue eyes. Knitter of socks & master of Peanut Butter cookies.

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Mo; Loving. Caring. Wise. Cute as a button. Storyteller Extraordinaire. Coolest cat of the group. Aka: Grand-Mo Wiggles.

Heather-Ann & Mo,

Thank you for every word of encouragement you gave to me these past 8 weeks. The kind & generous heart within each of you is palpable just by being around you. Your passion to serve those around you is evident in everything you do. Thank you for all the laughs & especially for all the love.

The ship isn’t the same without you. Miss y’all bunches & love you always!

Sietska, Des, Liz, Catherine, Joy, & Michelle,

I love you all & look forward to the remaining time we have to serve Benin together!

I’m so thankful & grateful to have you all by my side, traveling this path with me.

#MercyShipSisters #SquadGoals

– Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships. –

Africa Mercy; The Tour – Mercy Ships in Benin – Week 6

Welcome to the Africa Mercy!

( This post is 6 weeks overdue, but better late than never! )

When you first board the Africa Mercy, you enter into the reception area. It’s here that  you receive your badge, call for taxi’s, exc…

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Directly behind reception is the dining hall. This is the place my friends & I meet up to not only eat, but to catch up with each other & discuss how our day has been. We’ve also been known to sit for an hour or so after dinner is over, in continuous fits of laughter.

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Opposite of reception is our Cafe, Ship Shop & Starbucks…where you can get a latte for 75 cents. Until recently, the Starbucks on board the Africa Mercy was the only Starbucks in Africa.

This is also the location of #WaffleFriday, again, where you can get a waffle for 75 cents. Needless to say, this is easily one of our favorite places on board.

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Above the Cafe & Starbucks is MidShips, our other favorite, the place we all gather after hours & on weekends to decompress, chat, read, play games, & surf the net.

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 Down the hall from MidShips is the laundry room. Each washer/dryer has a signup sheet with different times available, so each week, we all sign up for a designated washer/dryer at a designated time.

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And down the hall from the laundry room is our on board academy for the children who’s parents are serving with Mercy Ships.

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Down below the academy is the library…which I absolutely love! I can go spend an hour just looking. It’s so peaceful & quiet, which is always welcomed while on board with 400+ other people.

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Now on to the hospital…

Deck 3 is home to our wards, operating theaters & all other supporting departments, like lab, supply & radiology.

 

My home in the radiology department is on the opposite hallway from the wards, just separated by a tiny little corridor.

 The department is a super quick 22 seconds from my cabin, which is absolutely wonderful!

And speaking of my cabin…

I’m blessed to be in a 4-berth cabin, which means I only have 3 roommates (we have up to 10-berth cabins). This also means that we have a small love-seat & refrigerator, as well as a window looking out into the port. Again, a total blessing.

And that’s pretty much it! It’s amazing how little space you actually need to house 400+ crew, 40-50+ patients, 5 operating theaters, & all the support services…it’s tight quarters, but in a cozy kind of way.

Not pictured:

– The Crew Galley, where we are able to cook & bake if we like.

-The Port, where our admissions, rehab & screening tents are set up.

-The International Lounge, where we have all of our meetings & worship services.

– Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships. –

“In a months time…”…Mercy Ships in Benin – Week 4

I can’t believe I’ve been on board the Africa Mercy for 4 weeks! It seems like I just got here a few days ago, yet it also seems like I’ve been here for so much longer. It’s such a oxymoron-ish feeling. With every passing day, we feel more & more at home aboard this hospital ship. All routines have been adjusted & schedules have been established.

My friends & I are truly settling into ship-life…the constant (& sometimes quite extreme) rocking of the ship, all our different meetings that take place each week, the ever rotating door of people leaving & new folks joining us, laundry schedules, what foods to hoard & when, & if 2-minute ship showers were an Olympic event, we would win the gold. We’ve discovered what time of day is best used as our quiet & alone time, & when we can find each other hanging out in midships.

The sense of community on board is unbelievable. Everyone speaks to everyone, everyone encourages one another, prays for one another…because we know that we are all here for a common purpose & that together, we are stronger than individually.

| “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…” – Hebrews 10:24-25 |

| “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 |

And it’s incredibly refreshing. So often in healthcare, you come across those who are only in healthcare for selfish reasons, not because it’s their hearts desire to serve & help others. So having the opportunity to be surrounded by those who have the same passions & goals as you, is absolutely wonderful & does your heart good.

AND OUR PATIENTS!!!

Gladys on the dock before receiving treatment for her neglected club foot.

Gladys on the dock before receiving treatment for her neglected club foot.


Israel sits on the dock before being admitted for cleft lip surgery.

Israel sits on the dock before being admitted for cleft lip surgery.


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Herve on the dock before receiving treatment for his bilateral neglected club feet.

Let’s face it, they have us totally wrapped. I mean, LOOK AT THOSE FACES!!!

Honest to goodness, we have some of the sweetest patients I’ve ever come across in my 12 years of healthcare. So polite, so grateful, so kind. I had the opportunity to spend some time in the wards on Friday after we finished our radiology exams & I loved every single minute of it. I decided to make all of our pediatric patients a personalized “Sticker Book” to keep throughout their stay with us & to take with them when leave. Stickers are a huge deal here on the Africa Mercy, to kids & adults alike. Think “Pokèmon Go”, everywhere they go…the OR, rehab, radiology…they collect stickers. But then, they end up tearing their sticker or losing it, which almost always results in tears. So I figured I would make them a collection booklet so that they can keep up with all the stickers they are rewarded. And since I am my parents child, I colored grass, palm trees, water, the sun, & birds so they could create their own little safari with the abundance of animal stickers we have.

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Don’t judge…

You would think I just gave them all the new iPhone 7.

No. Joke.

I felt like Santa in September.

As soon as I handed them their sticker book, their eyes would light up like you wouldn’t believe! And when they saw that their name was on it, that it was theirs & theirs only, & that they got to keep it, their excitement was enough to bring tears to my eyes. When I brought out the balloons & bubbles, it was mayhem! The best kind of mayhem you can imagine. There were smiles all around, both for pediatrics & their parents/caregivers. Some of these patients are not yet allowed to go to deck 7 (where we have swings & a basketball goal, a general play area for our peds patients) in the afternoon, so this was a treat for them as they got to participate. One little one, who’s name happens to be Miracle (I mean, COME ON!!! So precious!), was quite unhappy when I arrived. At only 2 years old, he was both bored & hurting…he currently has pins extending out of most of his fingers…& they we’re unable to get him settled. But that changed when he received his sticker book. And then, just as soon as he had perked up, he was unhappy again because he was unable to hold on to his book & stickers due to his bilateral hand splinting. So I moved on to balloons. He quickly got down off his bed & came with me out to the center of the floor, where he kicked the balloons for 30 mins, his smile never leaving his face.

It’s 30 minutes & a smile I’ll never forget.

I’m always blown away at how much we take for granted.

I’m so very grateful to God for presenting me with this opportunity. An opportunity to serve others in His name. To grow as His child. To truly realize that He is all I need in this world. That all the accommodations I’m used to are not necessary for living a meaningful life for Him. That all you really need to reach people for Him is a kind smile, an understanding eye, a listening ear, & a loving heart.

One month down, nine to go…& I can’t wait!

Until next week…

| Picture Credit: Miguel Ottaviano | All photos used with permission from the patients & organization. |

*A tour of the Africa Mercy is coming up soon! Stay tuned! *

– Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships. –

Mercy Ships in Benin – Week 3…

As of Monday, we were officially open as a hospital as the first surgeries began. We began the week with a prayer circle down & around the hallways of the hospital. Dr. Gary Parker, who has volunteered with Mercy Ships as a maxillofacial surgeon for decades, came over our announcement system & led us all in prayer before his first surgery case. It was an amazing start to our week, as we gathered together & prayed for our mission as an organization. The bible tells us in Matthew 18:20 that, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”…& there’s no doubt that He was with us as we gathered hand-in-hand.

I LOVE walking down the hallway & seeing patients in the ward! Absolutely love it. It makes our purpose here real. The past two weeks of prepping was necessary but kinda left us all feeling like, “What’s going on & what are we doing?”. Trust me, none of us really knew what was happening day-to-day the past few weeks.

All that seemed to evaporate Monday.

As the first patients arrived Sunday night to be prepped for surgery Monday morning, we finally started to feel like, “Ah, THIS is why we’re here”. And what a feeling that is. It’s very surreal to sit here & think about how God brought us all together for one purpose…to serve the people of Benin & to share His love, grace & mercy with them.

And I’m SO grateful for those who answered His call & are here serving with me. Everyone here is amazing. Negativity is practically nonexistent! The motto, “We’re all in this together…”…is something that is truly lived out here.

These girls for example…

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While we all clicked pretty instantaneously when we arrived, this week I feel like we’ve become even closer. We’ve almost reached the point of reading each others minds. They’ve become what I hashtag as #MercyShipSisters. We’re together everyday, every meal. Our meal times are our time to catch up with one another. We keep each other laughing constantly, which is a wonderful blessing. The Mercy Ships experience can be hard & trying, your heart breaks at least once or twice everyday…but then you get together with your friends, who are becoming your family, & you’re able to talk & discuss, & then move on to continuous fits of laughter.

Don’t tell them, but I’m starting to love having these girls in my life.

They have such amazing hearts & their love of God & serving others is evident just by  being around them. I’m so very grateful to God for bringing us all together to serve. I love traveling this path with these lovelies by my side.

Being around them reminds me Philippians 2:1-11, which states, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”…This is the mindset of our group. I love it & am so very thankful for it.

Seriously, our #MercyShipSquad is GOALS!!!

Another thing that has truly touched my heart this week is hearing our patients worship our Savior in the mornings. Every morning around 10-10:30, the wards fill with praise from our nurse, day crew & patients. I’ve gone to join in a few times & it’s a amazing thing to see. Even though most of these patients are recovering from surgery, they still take part in worship. The sight of that really does your heart good. It’s quickly become one of my favorite parts of the day. (I’ll upload a short video soon!)

Please continue to pray for our doctors & surgeons as they continue with surgery this coming week. Pray for minimal pain & anxiety within our patients as they undergo their treatment & begin their recovery. Pray that God will continue to guard our hearts & lead us to those who need us most, that we will not become weak or tired. Pray that throughout their time with us, that our patients will see a constant example of the love & goodness of God & our Savior within us. That we may help restore their spirits, that through their time with us, they will come to see themselves in a new light.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:16

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Up next is a tour of the Africa Mercy…Stay tuned!

Until then…

– Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships. –

Mercy Ships in Benin – Week 2…

As I sit here & think back on this past week, I find that there are no words to describe what my heart is feeling. There are no words in the dictionary that can accurately portray my thoughts.

Because what we see here at Mercy Ships is indescribable. You can read the stories, look at pictures & watch the videos, but until you’re actually here, there’s no way to truly understand this experience.

This week was the end of our screening here in Cotonou. Thousands of people filled our line at our screening center over the past 3 weeks, hopeful that we may be able to help them. Hundreds received a “Yes”, followed by a surgeon screening card (a guaranteed consultation with one of our surgeons) & a new hope of treatment & a second chance at a normal life, while thousands received a “No, I’m sorry but all those surgery slots are filled.” or “I’m sorry, but we’re not equipped to handle that type of medical treatment”, & left full of sadness.

Because unfortunately, we’re not able to see & treat everyone. And it’s heartbreaking.

The amount of suffering these loving, kind people go through is palpable just by looking into their eyes. No words are necessary to understand the pain they feel every moment of every day. To understand what they have to endure because of their medical abnormality & the lack of healthcare they so desperately need.

This week also began our surgeon screenings. Our doctors arrived last weekend & began meeting with patients bright & early Monday morning. As the surgeons meet & evaluate the patients, they send them our way to have imaging done. We began the week with Plastics (burn contractures, syndactyly, polydactyly, gigantism) & all these little guys & gals captured my heart! Most of them were under the age of 13 & were so very cute. And sweet. And obedient. Plus, you’ve never seen a child SO HAPPY to receive a sticker in your life! I’m really looking forward to watching them recover…to watching them discover that they can now move their fingers & toes independently…to watching them realize that they are no longer bound by their burn contractures, some that are so severe, they’re unable to stand up straight, straighten their arm, or lift their chin. It will be a completely new sense of freedom to them! And I can’t wait to see their amazing progress.

Next up was our MaxFacs (maxillofacial – cysts, tumors, growths, exc. on the head, face & neck) patients. Every one of these patients also captured my heart. My mind can’t even begin to understand the amount of pain they must go through everyday. Yet, each one came to us in radiology with a smile on their face…well, those who are still able to smile. Some have lost that ability due to their abnormality. Again, you can read the stories, look at the pictures & watch the videos, but until you’re actually here, seeing things in person & with your own eyes, there’s simply no way you can really understand the feeling you get within your heart when you look these precious people in the eye. There’s no way to prepare yourself for what you will see. For in their eyes, you see every emotion possible. Joy, nervousness, sadness, insecurities, thankfulness, love, hope…so many things. And every time, it completely grabs your heart.

Then, you have those moments after you complete their scan & realize, “That is so very vascular, I don’t think we’re equipped to handle that here”…and then your heart breaks all over again. Because someone will have to break that news to them. They come into radiology hoping (& I think, truly believing) that this is simply a pre-op scan, but sometimes, it turns out to be a “I’m sorry, but we can’t help you…”…but again, they don’t expect that. It’s so hard to hear them say “Thank you!” continuously throughout the exam & then watch them wave bye to you, huge smile on their face (if able), knowing that most likely, there’s nothing we can do medically to help them. I’m finding that those moments are the ones I’m struggling with most. Yes, hundreds will be treated & healed while we are here in Benin, & I know God is going to use us in a mighty way in the lives of those patients. But I pray that each of us shined the Light of our Savior while in contact with those who were told “No”. That even though we are unable to help them medically, that we were sufficient in helping them spiritually. That us serving them, even if it was only for a short time, allowed them to see that they have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be embarrassed about, that they are not cursed & that they do matter…not only to God & our Savior, but to us as well. That we love them & accept them for who they are, with or without their abnormality. That as Children of God, their abnormality will never & could never define them. That they are loved, cared about & just as important as any other.

I hope & pray that we provided those things for them.

Please join us in prayer as we begin surgeries this coming week! Pray that He would guide the hands of our surgeons, as well as provide comfort & peace within our patients as they begin their recovery. Pray that He will strengthen & protect our hearts, so that we can be our absolute best while serving! That He would continue to lead us to those who need us most. That we would be a constant example of His love, grace & mercy. 

Until next week…

•••So sorry for the delay! I had some technical difficulties over the weekend that required my attention! #LifeOnAShipDockedInAfrica 😊•••

•••••Edited to add: All images, both pictures & radiographs, are used with permission by the organization & patients. 👌🏼😊•••••

– Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships. –

Mercy Ships in Benin – Week 1… “Welcome!”

Hey everyone!

I’m officially a crewmate of Mercy Ships & I’m loving every single minute.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a definite trial on my way over here as Satan grabbed hold of every little fear & nervousness I had but…NOT TODAY SATAN-YOU’LL NEVER WIN!

Overall, this first week has been kind of crazy & totally chill at the same time. The first week at/in a new organization…let alone a hospital ship that’s docked in Africa…is always kind of crazy with orientations & figuring out where everything is. Yet, here in the radiology department, it’s been a very chill week because surgeon screening doesn’t begin until Monday…therefore, radiology begins Monday. So aside from doing a little bit of organizing in the department, there’s not much to be done. Which is nice because it’s allowing me some time to recover from jetlag & my allergy flare up from the down pillows in our cabins. So I’m taking full advantage of this unusual downtime because as of Monday, our days will be filled with patients!

I’m so very excited about Monday!

Because that’s what I’m looking forward to most, serving the unserved. Serving those who have never been served before.

While I’ve helped save lives in the ER, this will be a whole other level of saving lives. Because we will completely change the life of every single one of our patients. Some who have been deemed “cursed” by their community & therefore abandoned, some who have large tumors slowly crushing their trachea, children with legs so bowed backwards they can barely walk.

And not only are we able to restore their health, we get to restore their spirit. We get to love on them, share Christ with them, pray with them…& I can’t wait!

Thank you all for your love & support! Until next week…

-Holly

*If you have any questions, post them in the Comment section below & I’ll answer them ASAP!*

Mercy Ships; What they’re all about & why I’m all about them…

Hi everyone!

Welcome to “A Path to Mercy”, a blog that will solely focus on my time serving in Africa with Mercy Ships. It’s here that I will be able to go into greater details about all that is happening aboard the Africa Mercy & what God is doing in each of our hearts, both patients & volunteers alike.

*Now, if you’re connected with me on any of the social media platforms, Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, you’ve most likely read what I’ll be sharing next.*

What is Mercy Ships, what do they do & why am I determined to spend time volunteering with them?

Let me start with why I feel led to serve & why I want to be the hands, feet & love of Christ in this darkened world.

The Bible states, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” -1 Peter 4:10.

Growing up as the daughter of a Children’s Minister, I watched my parents serve others continuously, both of them having a true heart of a servant. They helped plant in me that same heart & the desire to serve others, just as Jesus did for so many.

My desire is to take all the gifts that God has blessed me with & give all that I am to serving others, those in need of help, hope, prayer, & love!

From August 2016 through May 2017, I will be volunteering as Senior Radiologic Technologist with Mercy Ships in Cotonou, Benin – Africa! I’m so excited to have the opportunity to serve with such an amazing, Christ centered organization.

Mercy Ships is a non-governmental medical organization that provides life-changing medical care to some of the poorest, most underprivileged people in need, completely FREE of charge.

Aboard a retired ocean liner turned hospital, they provide life-changing medical care including but not limited to: numerous surgical procedures, orthopedic care, dental care, physical therapies, eye care, exc. Also, while many patients require inpatient care aboard the Africa Mercy, other medical crew members hold dental clinics & medical clinics for those in need of lesser more minor care. In addition, the Mercy Africa provides a classroom setting to teach community healthcare education, as well as training in construction & agriculture. So when the Africa Mercy departs, they, the community, will have a better knowledge of certain of diseases & conditions & how to properly care & treat them. They will also have a greater knowledge of how to better provide for their family using what they have.

The values of Mercy Ships are as follows:

“Desiring to follow the model of Jesus, we seek to; Love God. Love & serve others. Be people of integrity. Be people of excellence in all we say & do.”

Their mission, based on Jesus & His example on loving EVERYONE, bringing hope to EVERYONE, & healing EVERYONE who is in need. Regardless of their circumstances. All they see are people in need of love, hope, help, & healing…& that’s exactly what they provide to some of the world’s most poor & forgotten people.

And I’m so very honored they have asked me to be apart of this mission! Everyone serving aboard the Africa Mercy is serving as a volunteer. Some serve for weeks, some months & some serve for years.

But they (we) all have the same common goal:

To love & serve others as our Savior has done & as He has taught us to do. To take our individual gifts that He instilled in us & use them to help restore health & wellbeing among those in need, & more importantly share His message to everyone we meet in the process.

If you feel led & would like to donate, you will be helping provide free, life-changing & life-saving medical care to so many in Africa. People who walk for days & days, miles upon miles from their homes just to be screened & seen my our medical staff. 

So please, open your hearts & pray about supporting this amazing cause! Every penny given in support of Mercy Ships & their volunteers will help more people than you could ever imagine. And not just physically, but spiritually as well. All prayer for our service in Benin are greatly appreciated & I send my sincerest thanks for all of your love & support!

God Bless & until next time…

~ Holly Franklin

If you would like to DONATE, please visit: https://gofundme.com/mercyshipsholly

To purchase a t-shirt that I designed to represent my journey with Mercy Ships, please visit: https://booster.com/give_love_serve

To learn more about Mercy Ships, please visit: https://youtu.be/vWL4MujgWRw