☀️ 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.
#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.


Fake news and Truth-tellers

Advisory: deep thoughts ahead.

It’s one of the first basic principles we teach our children: “Tell me the truth…who really broke the vase.” You would think by adulthood we would all have this down. Telling the truth: good. Lying: bad. Right? Apparently not.

Instead, we become more conniving and refined in the art of deception.

  • We lie about ourselves:

When we walk out into the world every morning, we are putting a certian “foot” forward…maybe our “best” foot, maybe just a slightly enhanced version!
My point is that we control what parts of us the world gets to see from the outside. We dress, talk, and behave in whatever way we need to–to create the person most people see. I’m not proposing that we walk around dressed like a bum or stop using filters on Instagram. I just want us to acknowledge that we probably don’t show our true self to everyone all the time.

In reality, that is wise. Being deeply vulnerable with everyone we meet is neither smart nor productive. However, we DO need to be cognizant that in our small-talk moments, we can put forward a completely uncharacteristic costume to please the crowd–and then never take it off long enough for people to ever REALLY know us. Sometimes we look in the mirror, see our real self, and then immediately forget who we are when we step outside.

Living so long in a costume that insulates from our real self is harmful on a couple levels: We don’t give people a chance to love us. We don’t bless others with the gift of who God created us to be.

Maybe some of you don’t struggle with being vulnerable, but I definitely do. [In fact, this blog post has been only a draft since February. 9 months. It’s as if I had to give birth to it.]
However, the reward of vulnerability is hard to refute. I have been encouraged and corrected in the most loving ways when I choose to come to people with my heart and just start talking, BEFORE I have sorted myself out and tied up my flaws and concerns in a neat little bow.

  • We lie to ourselves:

Our communications director shared several weeks ago a message about growth in community. She used two visuals to help us take hold of it. 1) Flowers grow through dirt. Growing together is messy. 2) Our heart is like a house. We must invite God into each and every one of its rooms. Sometimes we need people to help us “clean house.”

I tell myself far too often that “I’m fine.” Sometimes when I say it aloud to others, it rolls off the tongue so easily because I’ve repeated it often enough to myself. That’s a generic example of course. Realtalk? I let my walls down for the first time in a long time last weekend. And you know what lie came rolling off my tongue? “Invisible,” I said without flinching.
A piece of my identity that I had let take root in my heart almost a decade ago.
As they continued to listen, “unwanted,” I whispered.
I had succeeded (or so I thought) in guarding my heart from the bad boys, but I had let a devastating false truth take root and spread until it occupied almost every room of my heart-house.

Now that those lies have been dug up, the work begins of replacing them with truth. I wonder if there’s more to it than simply repeating positive affirmations. In fact, I know there’s more.

James 1:22-25
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Also, this:
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another.” Hebrews 10:25
I cannot express to you how important it has been for me to be in community with people. With people who have boldly gotten to know me. People who have included me. People who have straightened me right out and reminded me who I am in Christ.

  • We lie about the world:

Considering the lengths we go to to hide our true selves from the world, considering the ease with which we lie to ourselves…. is it any wonder that some have taken this to a whole other level with “fake news”? Its no longer enough to manipulate the world’s view of us. Now we have to manipulate the world’s view of others? Sound like middle-school drama to me.

Just as I am thankful for the people in my life who have been truth tellers to me, I pray that courageous truth-tellers will rise up in media.

The truth-tellers in my life don’t go along with a narrative. They challenge my way of thinking about myself and the world. They don’t say what they think I agree with or what they know will please my ears.

These people care more about me than a flattering friend ever could.

A witness saves lives when he tells the truth; when he tells lies, he betrays people. Proverbs 14:25

In ancient times, soldiers wore certain pieces of armor for protection, and some say that the the belt was the most important piece because it held the rest in place. With that knowledge, it’s interesting how the apostle Paul used armor as an analogy of essential qualities a Christ-follower should acquire or possess.
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.” Ephesians 6:13-14

As you go into the world today, prepare yourself with the word of God. Don’t merely identify and listen to the truth. Act as if you already wholeheartedly believe it to be true.

Kirsten out.

“I Got the Power!”

Cheesy title, I know. I
I couldn’t help myself. I am my mother’s daughter. Sidebar: Kinda sad that one day my last name won’t be Murphy and I won’t be able to take on the name “Mama Murph”.

So I have another culture lesson for us today. This may be my last one on this topic, but the learning never stops!

A few weeks ago, a missionary family came to share some insights with the crew. They were such a voice of wisdom.

Towards the end of their talk, they shared about an important difference in how this [African] culture is motivated–and how to apply that to our conversations about God.

My culture is motivated by justice. So a truth about God that is likely to be very meaningful is that Christ lovingly sacrificed himself for me–while I was clearly in the wrong and deserving of punishment. Of all God’s attributes, God’s LOVE is what we talk about almost constantly.

This culture’s primary motivator is power/fear. This does not mean that the love of God is not appreciated. However, it means that speaking about God’s power over the world and all its trouble is far MORE moving. Do I still appreciate God’s power? Sure, but I haven’t really been motivated to exclusively study it out until now.

Another Thursday, we were graced by a talk from a local member of the leadership in Campus Crusade for Christ, Cameroon. His talk confirmed the statements of the two missionaries who had visited us. While the gospel story is beautiful to every culture, the “crux” of the gospel here is different. The gospel truth has not changed, but the accent is moved to a different truth within it. The majority of Cameroonians readily accept and acknowledge the presence of the spiritual realm–they believe in the existence of evil spirits and darkness. For this reason, they live in fear of displeasing them. So they make sacrifices for everything–they make a sacrifice when something good happens and when something bad happens. All this is an attempt to appease a real, but vague presence of evil.

So according to Mr. Kennedy (the Cru leader), the gospel here hinges on this: People are captivated when they learn about Jesus’ resurrection and how he has power over death and darkness. He states, “People want to identify with the guy who has the POWER over the darkness that they FEAR.” Like, preach!!! That’s my God!

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2

He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 In this way, he disarmed[d]the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. Colossians 2

You know what I love? I love that God has made a way for you and for me. I love that He has exhausted every effort to reach us WHERE WE ARE. He has done what he has to do to get our attention in every culture. There is not a single culture that hears the truth of the gospel and doesn’t find an indispensable treasure in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus–my Savior, your Savior, your neighbors’ Savior.

You need love? He’s got it. You need mercy? He’s got it. You need power over darkness? He’s got it. You need freedom from shame? He’s got it. This is the God I serve. He loved me before I loved Him. He covered my sin with royal garments before I even had a chance to “clean up my act.” Let us never forget that God revealed His love for us BEFORE we decided to follow Him. Let us never forget that “living a good life” will never make us earn more of His love. Jesus’ sacrifice–leaving his glorified body, coming to earth as an eating/sleeping/pooping human, and allowing himself to be shamed and punished for all the ways I have dishonored HIM…is unfathomable. And IT IS FINISHED. He paid it all–so I could come back home. I’m getting emotional just writing that. How DARE I insult the sacrifice of the cross by trying to earn a shred of His love. He FULLY PAID my debts! I am wasting my time if I live a single second of my life attempting to “do good” in order to make up for my “badness.” God, forgive me for insulting your Goodness with my own goodness. Forgive me for ever trying to be my own Savior.

Join with me today as I recommit to pursuing God for God himself. In Christ is more Goodness than the political conservatives and more Freedom than the political liberals. The only true Goodness and Freedom are found in Jesus. He is the only person who can put the world right again.

We must be willing to follow a God who came into the world and upset our order of things. The Jesus that the “religious right” despised and even plotted to kill. The One who looked at our  “5 easy steps to succeed in life” formulas and rolled His eyes.

“The truth is there are a million steps, and we don’t even know what the steps are, and worse, at any given moment we may not be willing or even able to take them; and still worse, they are different for you and for me and they are always changing.
I have come to believe the sooner we find this truth beautiful, the sooner we will fall in love with the God who keeps shaking things up, keeps changing the path, keeps rocking the boat to test our faith in Him, teaching us to not rely on easy answers, bullet points, magic mantras, or genies in lamps, but rather in His guidance, His existence, His mercy, and His love.”
-Donald Miller, Searching for God Knows What

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: “Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love.” Psalm 62:11
One thing I ask from the Lord, this ONLY do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4

Let us live our lives in pursuit of Christ alone.

It was always you,
It was always you,
You found me//
I’ve made up my mind,
I’m never going back,
I’m never going back//
There’s nothing that I have need of,
Cuz there’s nothing you haven’t done
You make my soul alive” -United Pursuit