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

Love Letters in the Sand

November 4, 2017
Limbe, Cameroon

“I am yours, and you are mine”,
Etched in sand for my God to see.
Wiped away by the water’s line,
Stored in His heart eternally.

Definitely not a poet.
Walking on the beach today, I thought of how thankful I am for Miss Kathy and her “favorite things.” I am thankful that she always wrote love notes to Jesus on the beach. I’m thankful for the childlike wonder in her eye—amazed at all that God has made.
Shoutout to Kathy Griswold for being such an impactful babysitter. Thank you to Mom and Dad for going on dates!

#fromAfricawithlove #cameroon #mercyshipsnurse

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!