Dresses and Dressings

Today is going to be of an update blog. I know I haven’t posted anything in a week, so here goes nothing:

Hospital updates: Ponseti (casting method to gradually fix clubfoot without invasive surgeries.) clinic opened Monday, Sept 7th. Our team will be teaching the locals how to perform this method and run the clinic. Legacy, legacy, legacy. Also, our dental team officially opened the dental clinic in town and began procedures. THE FIRST SURGERY! General surgeries started Tuesday, Sept 8th with great excitement. MaxFax (maxillofacial) surgeries started Wednesday, Sept 9th. OBF (obstetric fistula) repair surgeries began! Next week, September 22nd we open an OBF clinic in town that will sustain the work we’ve started- with a coalition with the Freedom from Fistula Foundation. Legacy, legacy, legacy.

General surgeries can be hernia repairs, simple growth removals etc.
MaxFax or the ones that grab media attention the quickest- large facial tumors.
OBF…If you’re reading this, you probably don’t know a single woman affected by an obstetric fistula. It has been all but eradicated in the developed world. Instead of retyping a definition, let me direct you to this link: https://www.fistulafoundation.org/what-is-fistula/

These women…sigh…have literally been through hell. And over the last 48 hours I have finally had the opportunity to start work on the wards–specifically the ward caring for these ladies. I’ve been educated to the social realities they face prior to all this, but reading out of my patient’s chart that she: labored for days, lost a child (or children), has lived with continuous incontinence (fecal or urinary), was abandoned by her husband because she can’t give him children, became depressed etc… I struggled to withhold tears as I read each of my patient’s charts while sitting at the foot of their bed. The stories didn’t seem like they could possibly be real. How could life be this cruel? How could people be this cruel? Before you all burst into heaving sobs, let me just say this: A candle shines brighter in a dark room. The Africa Mercy has come to bring hope. God’s favorite solution to the world’s problems is not lightning bolts or solo divine intervention. God’s method is a man. God has moved in the heart of man to bring his supernatural hope, peace, love, and healing to the nations. It has been amazing to see the patients’ interactions from admission to postop. They discover that they are accepted. They are in loving community. We have amazing male and female daycrew from Madagascar that work alongside us to help with daily activities and translation. It interesting to see how valuable men AND women are to this healing process. The women band together and encourage one another–as God intended. These patients start to find value and purpose in community again. In addition to that, these women have suffered abandonment by the gender God intented to “guard and care” for women. So to have a man from your culture look you in the eye, joke with you, and treat you as a human being again–it seems too good to be true. The process is slower for some, but it is amazing to see the transformation on a woman’s face when she is able to let down her guard and be wholly feminine.

I feel that I am doing a terrible job of describing this transformation. Please just understand that it is incredible and holistic. What good would we have done if we repaired the fistula, but never mended the heart. Yesterday concluded my last orientation

Last week in market I purchases a beautiful long skirt that I cannot wait to wear–to the Dress Ceremony! Recovery is about 2 weeks for these ladies. So in about that time frame, I will attempt to attend a discharge ceremony that involves getting the ladies dolled up in brand new CLEAN dresses…and lots of singing and dancing. 🙂 Above is a photo from one of last year’s dress ceremonies in Madagascar 1.

I could talk about those women forever. Oh! There’s a book ya’ll should check out- Hospital by the River by Catherine Hamlin.

Moving on, ahhh!

So. Some of you may know. I LOVE crazy, gross, complicated wounds. (Sitting in orientation for my first nursing job, I met a Wound Care Coordinator. And I fell in love…with her job.)  As a result of the complex plastic surgery patients we have (release of burn contractures involves harvesting of “donor skin” as well as a “graft site”), the Plastics patients have their dressings changed by a Dressing Team comprised of 4-5 nurses. I just happened to mention my love of wounds to my Team Leader during orientation (thinking the dressing team was already formed)…on September 10th she casually interviewed me (because of my interest and my willingness to potentially extend beyond my 4 month commitment)…on September 14th I was welcomed to the Dressing Team! I cannot tell you just how excited I am to be a part of the team! The Plastic surgeon arrives this coming Sunday and surgeries begin Monday!!! Whoot! Until then, I’ll be working on the general surgery ward and making frequent visits to my OBF ladies 🙂 We colored mosaics yesterday. Maybe nail polish tonight!

Anyways…I know that was messy and poorly organized, but I wanted to get you all up to speed 🙂 I spent last weekend at a beach hotel (pictures coming), so blogging did not even cross my mind. New post coming soon though!


Closest Thing to Heaven

September 6th, 2015

Today I had the pleasure and privilege of attending a Malagasy local church. I was completely overwhelmed by a combination of factors- one being straight culture-shock. Feeling out of place- different language, skin, customs…  Speaking only one language in a place where most locals speak 2 or 3 is a little disconcerting to say the least. I attended church with other Mercy Ships volunteers, so I can’t say I was the only light-skinned attendee, but I sure did feel like a spotlight was on me as I walked to my seat. In Madagascar, expect to be greeted. And not in the passive, American “how are you”-with-no-answer. Direct eye contact, wide smile, “salama” or “tonga soa”, and probably a firm handshake. Walking down the halls or street in your own little world is unacceptable here.  So there is no slipping in unnoticed.  [Hah! Local New-englanders are going to be freaked out when I get back.]
After making it awkwardly to my seat, my discomfort began to make a transition. During the first song, I sang along to a familiar song, closed my eyes, and lifted my hands to the exact same God I worship halfway across the world. When I opened my eyes, I was overwhelmed again, but in a new way. Here I was worshiping God for His faithfulness, goodness and sovereignty among brothers and sisters, not strangers. As the singing continued, Malagasy verses mixed with English choruses, and we began to sing this song:
You Are Good
I was no longer desparately aware of my skin, but rather acutely aware of joyfilled unity. I couldn’t wipe the grin from my face or stop the hot tears from streaming down my cheeks (as I made eye contact with a Malagasy sister singing on stage).
IMAGINE MY JOY– “people from every nation and tongue” worshiping OUR Lord together. I was home. This is where I BELONGED. Yeah, yeah–worship is a supernatural experience on any continent. But today…today was the closest I’ve ever been to heaven. One day this will be our reality. One day, every day.
Revelation 7:9-14

 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.15 Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
    will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’[a]
    nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’[b]
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’[c]

I can’t wait for that day.

Until then, I will pursue unity. I have a tendency to withdraw into my shell when I’m uncomfortable, but Jesus changes everything. I know it won’t be perfect, but I now recognize that I am missing out on something much greater when I fail to step into commUNITY.

Psalm 133

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore.

*Above is a shot taken at the lemur park in Antananarivo (aka Tana) with fellow volunteers*

Define “Need”

Monday, August 31st 1:30pm en route to Tamatave, Madagascar (6:30am back home)

Finally! We are a few hours bus ride away from the ship!
The journey is said to be at least 8 hours from Tana to Tamatave (although google maps says only 4 haha). We got an early start at about 6:40am this morning to beat the Tana city traffic. The changing countryside throughout our travels have been absolutely beautiful. Rice fields, brick farms, laundry laid out to dry in the grass on the side of the roads…changed to rolling mountains, forests and rivers.
There was a type of “city-poverty” I’d seen that is not unlike that of New York City- on a smaller scale of course. However, as the kilometers were added to our trip I observed a type of rural poverty that is causing me to question myself, my life, and my altruistic desires.

Were the living conditions I saw….acceptable? Was this ok? The kids were playing, waving, and smiling, after all…what needed fixing? What did they really need? What did I have to offer them? What do I really need? ….Define need.

In our pride we change the standard of righteousness so that we feel we can accomplish it in our own goodness and strength. In truth, the standard has never changed and we fall short… until. Until we acknowledge our weakness and accept God’s grace.

I find myself doing the same as I look into the lives of the Malagasy. It hurts to choose humility. In God’s family, he does not want one to be in need. He wants me to care for orphans and widows. Heal the sick. Feed the poor. I will never be able to fulfill that requirement, but I cannot change the standard as I often do with righteousness. I must acknowledge my inadequacy and accept God’s grace.

In Christ is my hope. I need Him. He fulfills my every need.

It is from this foundation that I can begin to give what I have been given.
It is because of Christ that I can attempt to co-labor with Him in healing the sick.

Too much is at stake to wax prideful. There is work to do.