Category Archives: Mercy Ships

The Journey of Jordan

I can’t say that this is a great piece of journalism. It’s pretty awful in that respect, actually. Below is a timeline of one particular patient that was dear to me this year. There are lots of patients I’ve loved, but I wanted to pick one and collect little details along the way to create a more cohesive story for you. Obviously, I’m here living it. So I see the “whole story” all the time, but for some of you the pictures and moments I share about patients are simply snapshots. So here is the Journey of Jordan, through my eyes. (**Most sections in quotes are straight from my journal.)

8 November
“Syvano is going to surgery today and I get to watch. His left wrist is severly contracted–knuckles to forearm. He was so playful last night.”

8 November (the accounts of 7 November)
“I was charge nurse on evening shift when he was admitted. I gave him and Mama a big, warm welcome and he took the bait.

He, Maeva and Boris quickly made friends and began playing together. First Hungry Hippo (the loudest, most obnoxious game ever), then Jenga. Well at first just stacking up the blocks until I taught him how to actually play. One of the first things I did (even before all that) was give him a yellow, smiley-face balloon, and he loved it.

Before bed as we were shutting off all the lights, I told him that if it was alright I was going to watch his surgery and “make sure the doctors do a good job.” He smirked. Then I told him “and Jesus will be watching your surgery too. He will protect you.” His face got serious. I asked quietly, “Do you believe in Jesus?” “Oui,” he said with a huge smile. “Well, Jesus loves you and he will protect you. You can rest and sleep soundly tonight. You have nothing to worry about.” We high-fived and I wished him goodnight.”

Nurse Michelle Scalley with Maeva and Boris

8 November
“This morning I went to visit just as the 30 minute call came to prepare him for surgery. He was still smiling and eager! :)”

Gosh, watching his surgery this day was incredible. Plastic surgeons basically do professional “arts and crafts.” A fat flap from here, a thin piece of skin there and Voila! Now his fingers are straight and his wrist is in a neutral position. Surgery fills me with awe. Incredible.

9 November
“Visited Syvano this afternoon and Desré was doing some range of motion with his fingers. I could see he was in pain, but when I approached and waved he gave his big smile again. I held his other hand while Des continued. He was such a champ!”

Also, this is the day I found out he goes by “Jordan”. Des is so good at finding that out instead of just reading the “first” name on their ID card.

(Below is Mufi, Des, Mama, BJ and Jordan)

Physical therapist, Desre Bates, and academy student, Brandon Barki, say goodbye to their patient and friend on the dock as he leaves on his long journey home.

Des is a therapist who specializes in hand therapy. Since Jordan had become accustomed to his wrist being bent completely backwards, he would need quite a lot of rehab to gain strength in a hand that had essentially been out of use. Also, Jordan’s scar tissue from his original injury had all but decimated the flexor tendons on the back of his hand. So he would never achieve full movement again, but our therapists are here to make sure that they gain as much function as possible!

28 November
I took out all 5 of Jordan’s K-wires today during his dressing change. He was, and still is, so brave!

This is not Jordan’s xray. This is just an example of K-wires. We do not put patients under anesthesia to remove these–just some extra pain meds for him and elbow grease for me.

1 December
Jordan has such a personality. He has also developed a friendship with Tressor (the patient below with the pink balloon), in addition to everyone else that loves him. Communications kind of wishes that they had followed him. He might not have had a sparkling personality when we first met him, but now he is so social and well integrated into life on the wards. He has light in his eyes.

Aisha Wainwright with plastic patients including Maeva, Tresor and Jordan.
Aisha Wainwright with plastic patients including Maeva, Tresor and Jordan

6 December
Almost a month after surgery, Jordan was discharged to the HOPE center. The HOPE center is our “hospital outpatient extension”–a place for patients to stay while they still need to come back regularly for follow-up appointments (ie: dressings and rehab).


14 December
I saw Jordan briefly at the HOPE center during the Ponseti (Clubbed-Feet) clinic celebration I attended. His eyes lit up when he saw me! I know I’m not the only one, but it’s nice to be remembered.

2 January
Jordan came into the ship for a dressing change on a busy day when outpatients* needed help. Today, I let him have one of his favorite little trinkets that we used to play with in the ward hallways–a blue popper! Also, I told him that my Dad was coming to the ship for a visit.
*Typically, after discharge from the hospital, patients will have their  rehab and dressing needs met on the dock in our tents instead of coming on board each time. I am part of the in-patient dressings team. So our first priority is the patients on the ship and then we will do some of the outpatients dressings afterwards if needed.


10 January
My Dad arrived to the ship the night before, so I’m giving him a tour. While we were on an upper deck, I peered down and saw Jordan and Tressor on the dock waiting for their rehab/outpatients appointments. I had told Jordan the week before that my Dad was coming. While Dad and I were walking down the gangway, the boys spotted me and started waving. “Tante Kirsten!” Then all of a sudden Jordan looked to Dad coming down after me and his eyes went wide, “Tante…Papa?” I could not believe he had made the connection while we were still at a distance coming down the gangway. “Oui!” I exclaimed. I think my heart about burst in that moment. My two loves were colliding. Not specifically Jordan and my Dad, but rather my love for Mercy Ships and my love for home. It was probably one of the most memorable moments of my time in Cameroon so far.

18 January
Jordan danced with me and Dad at the HOPE center during Mercy Ministries today. Dad got to participate in a dramatic telling of the paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof by his friends and healed by Jesus.


6 February
I was on my way to the HOPE center hoping to visit with Jordan, but he happened to be on the dock waiting for a physical therapy appointment. I was so happy to see him though. I thought he had gone home, and I was so sad that I didn’t get a chance to give a last goodbye. His wounds are 100% healed. Now to get those muscles stronger!

16 February
Jordan finally was able to go home today. There are a lot of goodbyes on this ship. Not just with crew who leave, but also with patients and their caregivers. However limited, I know that our connection was one I treasured.

As I hugged and kissed his Mama goodbye, she held me and said (through translation) “thank you. Thank you for everything you have done.” So many of us on the ship connected with Jordan and his Mama. What was done in His life was testament to the value of a functioning “body of Christ.” When we each play our part, God’s work is done. We are a team.

I am so grateful for each person who played a role in Jordan’s healing and rehabilitation. I am so grateful that I got to join in. I am so grateful to all those who have supported me. I do not like goodbyes, but I am grateful for this one.


Ward nurse, Victoria Martin, and Wound Care nurse, Kirsten Murphy, say goodbye to Jordan and him mom on the dock.

God, I bless Jordan and his family on this journey through life. I pray that your power would be a mighty testimony when they return home. And I ask that we will have a heavenly reunion one day.

 

 

 

The Significance of One

1 February 2018

Each 10-month field service in a country, our surgical schedule on Mercy Ships is determined by:
1) The assessed surgical needs of the country
2) The availability of surgeons for each specialty

Of course, some of the preparation is still a leap of faith, but Mercy Ships tries to plan out what they can.

Dr. Tertius Venter is a plastic surgeon who has been coming to do surgeries since BEFORE the Africa Mercy embarked in 2007. In the years I have served, he has completed two “blocks” of surgeries in each field service. Although he could crank them all out consecutively, many of his surgeries rely on our access to physical and occupational therapy to rehabilitate our patients. They would simply be overrun if he did not have a break in his surgical schedule each field service. He also does surgery in some African country hospitals. There, he says, “I will not do any burn-contracture related surgery. If there are no PTs and OTs to follow up, there is no point.” This fact makes the care we give on the Africa Mercy very special as Tertius performs many burn contracture released on the ship.

I have seen, now, hundreds of patients affected by severe burn contractures. Sometimes, the need seems far too great. When I sat through the scheduling process last fall and watched each patient’s screening form be assigned to a surgical slot, my heart sunk as I saw the forms that remained.

Last night Doctor Tertius taught a medical in-service about flaps and grafts (aka surgical arts and crafts) that he uses in his surgeries. Some of which have been invented by Mercy Ships surgeons (because first-world text books do not deal with such advanced surgical problems). At the end of his talk, he reminded us that our main objective is to see each patient’s value and love them. We must do the very best we can for each one.

Luke 15 “Then Jesus told them this parable:…”
The Parable of the Lost Sheep:
Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

The Parable of the Lost Coin:
Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins[a] and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?

The Parable of the Lost Son:
A son disrespects his father and lives unrighteously. However, when he returns, the father spares no expense in celebrating. When the faithful son became angry at the extravagance, the father replied:
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

You know what the conclusion of each of these stories is? “______ calls his/her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost _____”

So today, I rejoice over the one. I rejoice over the one who gets to encounter the love on this ship. The one who had no hope. The one who gets to see Jesus at work in our midst. The one who got surgery–even if it meant several others could not.

The more I experience this mission, the more I am convinced that “light” and “dark” emotions can coexist. I could block out the memory of patients we could not help, but that would be dishonest. Now that I have seen, I cannot become blind again. Instead, I choose to rejoice in the one we helped, and I choose to (especially) pray for the one we could not.


What/who is “the one” in your life that you need to take action for?

A song that has inspired me is Albertine by Brooke Fraser
Here is the story behind the song: The Story of Albertine


Feeling pretty good about my social media break at the moment. Day one and I was already motivated to write! (Even though I just posted a blog yesterday.) So that’s cool. Now to finish some of the books I’ve been reading…

I Will Change Their Shame Into Praise

Today, I’m going to share a bit from my journal. I think I may start doing a bit more of that. This particular entry was written after attending church with my patients this past Sunday. The story we learned about was the story of the ten lepers Jesus healed from Luke 17. Here is an excerpt to bring you up to speed:

“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

The typical format of a service like this is for the story to be told in depth by one of our chaplains. Then we tell it to each other. Then the chaplain talks over it again bit by bit while asking us open ended questions that allow us to draw meaning from the passage. Usually she also asks if anyone has experienced anything similar to the story–and almost without fail, someone stands and shares.

This day however, three patients whose wounds I have dressed, shared their testimonies at the beginning of the service and gave praise to God for their healing. Another also shared her testimony at the end.

Here is my journal entry from immediately after the service concluded. I couldn’t get to my cabin fast enough. The tears just started coming.

28 January 2018

After Rose (a patient who previously had a neurofibroma tumor on her face) shared her testimony, she sang this (in French):
“He sees you,
He knows,
If you confide/trust in Him,
He will see you through.”

It was off-pitch and soft, but seeing her closed eyes and hearing her shaking voice give glory to her God was far too beautiful to describe.

Story today: 10 lepers healed in Luke
Exit song: “I Know Who I Am”

Overcome w/ emotion today. When I read through Jesus’ miracles, I don’t really identify with being sick or lame or outcast. But when I listen to a story of Jesus healing people while in the presence of my patients I cannot help but be overwhelmed.

I hear their grateful testimonies (4 today) and am simultaneously overcome with sadness and joy. Grief over their suffering & joy that God is still healing the sick & restoring the outcasts into their communities today.

What I didn’t write about in my entry was the fourth and final testimony. A mama stood after the story was told and shared about her experience of being outcast. When her baby was born, her in-laws said “we don’t know what kind of baby this is but it is not of our family. Get it out of here. Take care of it (unclear what that meant exactly).” Now, after surgery, she is confident that her child will be accepted and she will not have to hide.

If anyone ever asked me, “Kirsten, do you have any experiences similar to being a leper?” It would be a quick “no.” For this reason, I think I  do not easily grasp the depth of Christ’s ministry. He wasn’t just healing physical infirmities.
He was restoring.
He was giving people their lives back.

This is the work he is still doing through us.
This is this work we must do.

And I will save the lame
    and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
    and renown in all the earth.
Zephaniah 3:19

Maeva before surgery to help with burn contractures on her left leg and hand.

Maeva, plastics patient, at the HOPE Center in a pretty pink dress and shoes that she couldn’t wear before.

How to Have a Better Year

3 January 2018

I am fortunate that I have rarely ever defined an entire year of my life a “good” or “bad” year. It just was. I’m a cynic like that sometimes.

I am also an analytic. I love to track progress and check off lists and be productive! However, as I have matured through my relationship with God, I have come to realize that those checklists (while useful) do not necessarily have eternal worth. So, the only way I really care to summarize my year is this: I obeyed. I loved. I moved forward.

I think God probably looks at everything else in between and goes,
“Oh how cute! ANOTHER stick figure drawing of me and…is that a T-rex?”
“It’s a lamb.”
“Right, right of course! A drawing of me and a lamb. Got it. Very nice hunny.”
He is a loving Father. He loves our pure efforts to love and please Him, but I think we all need to take it down a notch on how great our stick-figure accomplishments are.

I obeyed. I loved. I moved forward.
Is there anything else really worth saying?

As a child of God, every year isn’t “my year.”
It’s His year. And His will.
As a child of God, I happen to inherit whatever that means. All of the glory and all of the suffering.

“I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” Philippians 3

So let’s not stew too long on our past “good” or “bad” year.

Let’s keep our focus on the Kingdom of God.
Let’s move forward in obedience and love.
And maybe let’s upgrade our crayons.

Bonne année du Cameroun,
Kirsten

May Love Make You Whole

Greetings from Cameroon!

It’s been a few years since I last wrote the family Christmas letter, and today I feel inspired to write one for myself. I am not really sure why. With the advent of social media, everyone gets to brag about their kids (and themselves) all the time. If you follow me at all, you’ve seen my “Transformation Tuesday” posts and my blogs about patients in Madagascar, Benin and Cameroon. Writing this will likely reach the exact same audience. So I suppose, I’m simply writing for myself.

Two years ago, I embarked on my first overseas flight with a racing heart. I was stepping into the future I had planned for so long, but I was so nervous. I knew it was exactly what I was supposed to be doing, but I felt so unprepared. As I got my first glimpses of financial poverty through experience with Mercy Ships, I also found richness of relationships. I was heartbroken by stories of hardship and tragedy, but also caught off-guard by beauty. Over the last two years I have seen miracles, incredible faith and courage, countercultural commitment, and a wealth that I envy. I have witnessed love make people whole again.

Let me put it in these terms. Your financial situation is not what makes you whole. Your health situation is not what makes you whole. Love is what makes you whole.

I attended a dress ceremony a bit ago here on the ship. This is when the women with longstanding obstetric fistulas (google VVF) and crew gather and celebrate their healing. The women are prepared for the celebration with a beautiful new dress and all the accessories. After they dance their way into the room of awaiting attendees, they each get the opportunity to share their testimony/give thanks. Most of them are similar. I suffered for X amount of years. I found out about Mercy Ships. Thank you to the doctors, nurses and God for my healing. AND I’ve never experienced love like this before. One woman testified, “When I came onto this ark, I met angels. Angels that took care of me and loved me day and night. I feel like falling sick again so I can come back.” Effective surgery healed these women’s bodies, but love—love made them whole again.

Do not pity the people of Africa. I pity us. We are people driven by lust (of everything) and exhausted by pursuit. We are relationally malnourished. There is no special plant or NGO to combat this famine. The sickness is in our hearts and minds. In a culture—like Africa—  that acknowledges the very real presence of a spirit world, I see the supernatural take place. However, in a nation that avoids the mystical, I see more subversive tactics of the enemy. He whispers into our minds and plants seeds of deception that we nourish. It is no mystery to me why we struggle more with mental illness than most “poor” Africans I have met. We fail to admit that our enemy is real and unrelenting in his mission to destroy. And even worse, we fail to admit our need for an even stronger Messiah.

Very soon we will celebrate the birth of Jesus, but did you know that December 25th is not actually the day of His birth? It is the day that the Three Kings/Wise Men discovered him. Consider this. Our Savior is alive. Has been! But that is not quite enough. We need to find him for ourselves. This Christmas as you give gifts to others just as the wise men gave gifts to Jesus, remember that believing a Savior is at the other end of a bright star in the sky isn’t the point. Don’t just believe. Go find Him this Christmas; and give him the gifts of your heart, soul, mind and strength. He is the only thing that can save us from ourselves.

24 ‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
25 May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’ Numbers 6

And may LOVE make you whole as you seek Him above ALL else.

I wish you a very merry Christmas,

Kirsten Murphy

Hospital chaplain Clementine Tengue dressing one of the OBF patient for the ceremony
Hospital chaplain Clementine Tengue dressing one of the OBF patient for the ceremony
Hospital chaplain Clementine Tengue dressing one of the OBF patient for the ceremony
Dress ceremony in E ward
Dress ceremony in E ward
Dress ceremony in E ward
Dress ceremony in E ward
Dress ceremony in E ward

P.s. Just in case you actually wanted a summary of my year:

Did my first solo travel exploring Belgium and acquiring a taste for quality beer and waffles. Experienced Christmas culture shock when I came home from Benin. Went on a few dates. Put so much effort into connecting with a community. (It’s so much easier on the ship.) Got more involved at church painting, coffeeing, small-group leading, decorating, greeting, singing, praying etc. Spent a lot of time re-developing relationships with my sisters. Snow skied a LOT. Starting dating someone 🙂 Discovered that I really love a good telling of a true story. Attended my first music festival. Got really attached to a neighbor’s cat, Lionel. Wholly enjoyed small home improvement projects. Explored Acadia for the first time with my family. Came back  to Mercy Ships and jumped into all the things that go on here in the hospital and in the community. I LOVE serving. Currently really missing peanut butter (it’s coming soon), fresh milk, hard cheese and…snow. It has been a great year!

She is fierce. Meet Marie Therese

19 October 2017
Douala, Cameroon

During the last week of orthopedic surgeries this year, I met an 11-year-old patient whose spirit inspired me. Her name is Marie Therese. From the moment her plaster cast was reinforced with fiberglass and she was allowed out of bed, she has shown her grit and determination. Even in bed, she does her leg exercises without being told and rarely complains.

Watching her hoist her two long-leg, heavy casts out of bed–gosh, you should have seen it. Just picture a seesaw made out of concrete, but with the fulcrum at one end of the plank instead of the middle. Now picture those concrete seesaw planks are your legs.
So, when I say she hoisted her legs out of bed, I really mean it. Out of bed…into the bathroom… up and down the hallway…back into bed…over and over again.

Her upper body strength was a big contributor of course–her defined triceps were something to be admired–but I just felt that there was something more to it. There was something unbreakable in her spirit.

I asked her as she took yet another walk that day, “What is the first thing you’re going to do when you get these casts off?” She replied, “Walk straight into school!”
“That’s pretty cool,” I thought, “maybe she has never been to school.” After some questioning by a few of the day crew (our translators), they found out that she had already completed grade six and would soon be able to take her exam to progress from primary school to “pre-secondary” school. A significant accomplishment judging from the expressions on their faces.

They were impressed.
I was astounded.

Many children drop out when the bullying starts regarding their bent legs. Marie Therese had persisted in her studies–not knowing if her physical situation would ever change. What a lesson in faith for all of us!

And now that her circumstance has changed, she isn’t sitting back on her haunches. She is pursuing her goals and dreams full force–this time, on straight legs. Indeed, nothing can hold her back.

She is my hero.


She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. Proverbs 31:17


Ward nurse Kirsten Murphy with one of her patients

Meet Ulrich

16 September 2017
Douala, Cameroon

Entry from my journal:

“Finally worked a bit more this past week! It was so great to interact with patients more. (Cleaning gets old pretty fast.) I was Ulrich’s nurse yesterday. I sat next to his bed on a stool as I charted, and he saw his preop medical photos. He asked if he could take them when he goes home… this boy, twelve years old hasn’t even taken his first steps on straight legs yet and he is already envisioning a future where he will need photos to remind him of his crooked-legged past.
What faith.
And what a blessing to be able to walk through this process with him. I told him that I was happy to see the work God was doing in his legs, and I told him that I hoped that w/ this new healing he would serve God with his new legs. His face got serious and he gave a small nod. God I pray that you bring healing and flexion/function that we didn’t think was possible. Amen.”

Do you remember Ulrich?! I posted about him on my Instagram story a couple times asking for prayers. His case was severe and his outcome was hard to predict because we simply do not see untreated orthopedic abnormalities like this back home.
•••
His knees had been dislocated since birth. This would have been a simple fix in infancy, but now his body had grown to the size of a young man. It never had to come to this.
•••
Despite all that, I am thrilled to report that through multiple surgeries and LOTS of rehab, he can walk on his own two feet. He can stand tall.
•••

•••
The first time he stood on his newly straight legs, physical therapist Robyn Porep said, “he reached his hands up to see if he could touch the ceiling.” And the first time he walked, it was straight into his mother’s embrace. The first time he had been able to hug her standing tall.
•••

•••
Ulrich even gave his old wooden walking sticks to Dr. Frank Haydon (pictured) as a gift. He wouldn’t need them anymore.

Do you want to be a part of this adventure? Sponsor an orthopedic surgery here: The Lame Walk

“Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” Matthew 11:4-6

This is the mission of Jesus: reconciliation.
Turning around the consequences of a broken world. On earth as it is in heaven.

Dr. James Lau and Frank Haydon, Orthopedic Surgeons, performing and operation.

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

Cleft Lip No Longer

24 October, 2017
Douala, Cameroon

It was a long, quiet night shift on B-ward.

Only two pre-op patients to take care of. No pain issues. All maxillofacial patients sleeping. Just a few VVF (vesico-vaginal fistula) ladies to check on…

…until about 5am when there was a stir in the stillness. One of our “hotel” patients (no longer need nursing care), 5-month-old baby boy Issa, woke up and would not fall back asleep. He had had his cleft lip repaired just days before. He was not hungry. He was not cranky. He just did NOT want Mama Issa to sleep. She approached me with baby Issa and asked–hurriedly in French–if I would hold him while she “freshened up.”

Well, that was an easy yes!
I did not want to keep anyone awake in the ward, so I took to the ward hallway with bright-eyed Issa and started singing.

First, “Hills and Valleys”…
then “Fullness”…
“O Come to the Altar”…

Song after song, he still did not seem even a bit drowsy. My night shift brain was running out of inspiration…

…then I thought of a song I had sung on the worship team with Manda weeks before. “God of Angel Armies.”

This time, I sang directly to baby Issa with some modified lyrics:

“Nothing formed against YOU shall stand,
HE holds the whole world in HIS hands//
I’m holding on to THESE promises,
He is faithful, He is faithful…”

This time, as I sang, I was looking straight into his eyes and declaring these words over his life. He looked back at me–eyes locked with mine.

And just like that, Issa closed his eyes and slept soundly.


It occurred to me as I was rocking baby Issa that he would never know what it is like to grow up with a cleft lip. It will never be the cause of bullying, avoidance of school, trouble getting work or difficulty marrying. He may struggle in this life, but his cleft lip will not be the cause of it. What a beautiful thing it is to give a gift like that. Thank you to each and every supporter of Mercy Ships (click to give.)

“He is faithful, he is faithful…”


Psalm 108

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth. 


Side note: the featured photo is not Baby Issa. This is another cleft lip baby that we helped in Madagascar. If I do come across an official photo of baby Issa, I will post it here!

☀️ Meet Fadimatou ☀️

October 4th, 2017
Douala, Cameroon

‎In the wake the tragedy in Las Vegas, here’s a little sunshine for you! Meet Fadimatou:


November 5, 2017
Douala, Cameroon

“Nothing is more beautiful than a face that has struggled through tears.”

I originally posted the below photos following the massacre in Las Vegas. Today, with a few thoughts about inner beauty.

Cleft lip patient Fadimatou at the surgeon screening on the dock
Cleft lip patient Fadimatou at the surgeon screening on the dock
Cleft lip patient Fadimatou after surgery to repair her cleft lip
Cleft lip patient Fadimatou after
Cleft lip patient Fadimatou after

How many of us can say that our countenance displays joy like this when we can’t seem to shake the circumstance/struggle that has followed us our whole life?

She has suffered from a cleft lip her whole life, and yet… I get the feeling she has a confidence that does not depend on anything external. Just look at that smile.

‎This is the most ageless of beauty.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.” 1 Peter 3

For some reason, the phrase “put their hope in God” was not a phrase that I remember associated with this type of beauty. Righteousness–yes. But hope? This made me want to dig a little deeper. Maybe there is something else to be learned here. I get to give hope to those without access to safe, effective surgery. Or at least that’s how the newsletter tagline would go. What if hope was already alive in their hearts? What if I my service is only a materialization of that hope? Maybe these BEAUTIful, HOPEful people can teach me something.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 1 Timothy 6

If hope is an asset, how are you investing yours?

Meet Ernest

Ernest, Maxillofacial patient, before surgery,
Ernest, Maxillofacial patient, before surgery with wrap around face.
Ernest, Maxillofacial patient, before surgery with wrap around face.

Meet Ernest, the first Cameroonian patient I took care of on the ship. It was the week before surgery when our team found his blood count to be quite low—and his tumor actively bleeding. He was admitted into our still empty hospital wards given a blood transfusion and monitored.
•••
And that’s where I entered his story. We played a few rounds of Connect Four before bed, I changed the gauze over the open part of his tumor, and then I watched over him while he peacefully slept.
•••
He probably won’t remember his one-time night shift nurse, but I’ll remember him. I’ll remember his persistence. I’ll remember his new-found hope. And I’ll remember the huge grin that spread across his face when he came to visit the orthopedic ward sometime after his surgery, and I said “Wow, look at you! So handsome Ernest!” And in his eyes you could see… he believed it, gosh darn it.
He believed it.
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#MercyShips #mercyshipsnurse #allthefeels #coffeewithkirsten #transformationtuesday #itstuesdaysomewhere #hopeandhealing #globalhealth

Ernest in the ward on his first day after surgery doing lip exercises
Ernest in the ward on his first day after surgery looking into the mirror
Ernest, maxillofacial patient, looks at his face for the first time after having his tumor removed.
Ernest, maxillofacial patient, looks at his face for the first time after having his tumor removed.