Monday, May 18, 2015


As I was looking through my past blog posts from the start of this blog in 2012, I realized I didn't have many patient stories, actually, any patient stories! Which made me sad that I haven't shared with you all the beautiful people I get to love-on day in and day out. Sooo I decided to start sharing some stories of the ladies that I learn from on a daily basis. I'm keeping their names for them, but you'll still get to know them and their sweet spirits. 

This is 'B.'  You wouldn't know by looking at her, but she is a riot! 

To help pass the time on the ward we often paint nails, braid bracelets, or braid hair...ya know, girly things. What else is there to do with a room full of 20 female patients, 3 female Translators, and 5 female nurses?? (Oh, I forgot to mention that among all this estrogen there are 2-3 male translators who often partake in the girly activities). Well, one day the ladies were all sitting in bed doing an assortment of the aforementioned girly activities when 'B' and her neighbor started bursting out laughing. One of said male translators was talking to 'B,' and she told him, and I quote,"The men in our village are Casanovas, and better looking than you. Now when we go back to our village we'll know how to do our hair, paint our nails, and look nice. We'll all get husbands."  

Women are the same on both sides of the sea...

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Transformation...inside and out

I often get wrapped up in VVF Land and forget to look around me. Not only are lives changed on my ward with the ladies, but all around me lives are changing. Limbs that were crooked are now straight; noses that weren't there, are now there; devastation from burns, healed. There are too many amazing surgeries are happening on the wards surrounding me to not mention them here. Take a look for yourself, transformation is so clear, not just on the outside...






These are just a few examples of the life changing work being done here. One word comes to mind when I think of these patients, 'Trust.'  They trust God enough to sell all their belongings to make it to the big white ship for healing; they trust enough to not listen to the words of naysayers who speak lies and fear; they trust enough to walk up the gangway and down into the belly of the ship; they trust us with their lives when they roll into that operating room, and into a world of unknown.

I need to learn from them...

Where do I need to trust God when fear is taking over?  I can think of a few...  

Friday, May 15, 2015

Restoring Homes

This is what I get to be a part of here, and why my heart is continually pulled back here. 


Friday, May 1, 2015


These past two weeks have been interesting...

     From raging fevers to patients hemorrhaging at 6 in the morning, to tears of sadness as hope is shattered with one word "tis maina" 'not dry', to celebrations of dryness. I could hardly catch my breath before the next challenge hit. In the midst of the chaos I was acutely aware that I was not the One in control. I have never felt so out of control and relied on God so heavily in all my times here. There's something that happens when things are slipping from your grip and you're reminded of life's fragility. I'm so blown away by the community of faith that I serve alongside. I realized what lucky a gal I am to have friends and strangers covering me and my ladies in prayer when I walked into the ward the next morning to find men and women from different departments on the ship standing outside my ward praying together for the VVF ladies.  

     I'm amazed by God's timing of events over and over again. I didn't know that when I woke up that Thursday morning and went down to my ward early, that right at that exact moment a nurse caring for my patient on the next ward over, would be coming to ask for help for a patient that had started bleeding. Within 30 minutes the patient was stabilized and the whole OR team was ready and wheeling her into the OR. If she was at a local hospital she would have no doubt bled to death.  I also had no idea in that moment that that patient going back to OR would tip the balance and the ward nurses over the edge and we had to postpone surgeries the next day and resume surgeries on Monday.  Who knew that afternoon a dental patient would have a cyst removed from under her tongue that would start bleeding 30 mins later and nearly obstruct her airway? Just millimeters from not being able to breathe when we just happened to have an open OR to take her into because VVF wasn't operating that day. I could go on and on with ways God has shown up in the midst of chaos, and worked the bad for His good. It blows me away. Every. Time. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dear precious one,

I'm amazed by your faith,
      that whether you've had your fistula for 5 months or 10 years, you took that first step onto the gangway hoping for a new life; freedom from ridicule, embarrassment, and shame. 

I'm amazed by your perseverance,
     that you would leave your family, all that is familiar and safe, to venture thousands of kilometers into the unknown--all for healing. 

I'm amazed by your trust,
     in God and us. You willingly put your life in our hands.  You trust us with the most painful and private areas of your life. Allowing us to care for you in ways only your family would.  You are vulnerable and trusting. 

I'm amazed by your love,
     despite all that you've been through.  I'm in awe of how much love you hold in your hearts, and how freely you share it with the nurses, and day crew.  Not a trace of bitterness towards God or people, just love. You've lost a lot in your short lives: babies, husbands, family, and function.  One event in your life has changed the course of your life forever. But have hope, there's a new life ahead!

I'm amazed how love transforms.
     My desire, dear one, is that you would know you are loved regardless of whether you are wet or dry; that your identity doesn't have to rest on that one broken part of you. I love seeing you turn into the fun, silly girls you are as you're loved on and cared for.   


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Same same but different

     Of course my best intentions were to write a blog at minimum every week, but alas here it is the end of week 4 of surgeries, and not one letter has made it to this page! It has been an amazing 5 weeks since I arrived, I can tell you that! In my last post I mentioned how it's always hard for me to leave my family and come here, but every time I come here God gently reminds me that I have family on this side of the ocean, too. It doesn't make me miss my family less, but it's like having salve for a wound. I feel so at home here, so known by those around me, so comfortable and with so many amazing people who wouldn't!? 

     A lot has happened in these 5 weeks, but I'll try and fill you all in! My first week back was so full. I barely blinked and before I knew it, it was Sunday and a bus full of ladies had arrived from very far away. I got a page that my ladies were on the ship, my favorite moment! (see this post) As I walked into reception it was immediately apparent why these beautiful ladies had suffered obstructed labor that left a hole in their bladder.  They were all well under 5 feet tall! Most of them looked like little girls even though they had all been mothers at one time.

    Madagascar is so different than any West African country I've been to so far.  The people are more quiet, and reserved; they dress differently; the country is green and lush; but the reasons women suffer fistulas is the same here as it is everywhere: young girls that are underdeveloped; lack of access to quality emergency obstetric services; and villages so far away from hospitals it would take days to walk to help. The ladies here carry the same stoic shell; they hide well the pain and misery-buried deep and covered with hard work and a smile when prodded. Sometimes I forget how much they've endured in their short lives. Pregnancy is not always a joyous occasion for a woman here. For some it's a guarantee of a difficult labor, loss of a child, and loss of function. 

     But there is hope! Function can be restored, hearts can be mended, and lives changed. Last week we had our first Dress Ceremony. A celebration not only of their physical healing, but also their emotional healing. A new dress is a symbol of a new life, a new hope, a new beginning. How precious are these women!? I love to see their transformations...they go from shy and quiet to silly and funny. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ready or not, here I come!

     I'm not sure where to start; it's been a while since I've put fingers to keys to write a blog! I've not done a very god job keeping ya'll updated with what's going on in my life here in New York or what's been happening with the ship abroad! Quick update on me: I've been living in New York for the past 6 months, and loving it! Watching my niece grow up has been the best part of the past 6 months. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you know that's pretty much all I post about! Well, enough about me, more importantly what has been happening with the ship?! The ship has had a much more eventful 6 months. If you're not living under a rock then you probably know at least a little about the Ebola situation. The ship was originally supposed to be going to Guinea for the next field service come August. BUT the Ebola outbreak happened earlier in the year, and was not slowing down at a rate that Mercy Ships felt comfortable with. So they made the hard decision to postpone going to Guinea and change course to Benin. The ship had been to Benin before so it would be easier to set everything up given the new, shorter time frame. BUT Ebola followed our course and came too close for comfort in the neighboring country of Nigeria.  As you can imagine, any risk is too much risk given the tight living and working quarters on the ship; not to mention our patient selection process that involves gathering thousands of people together in one location to be seen by doctors and nurses. It would not be wise, nor beneficial to put patients and crew at risk for life-saving, but still elective surgeries. where can the ship go since West Africa is pretty much out of the question? Why Madagascar, of course! I'm not entirely sure the how this came to be, except that our new Managing Director's wife is from there. It's quite perfect, actually.  It's far enough from the Ebola outbreak, and there is a huge need.  God managed to orchestrate all the necessary necessities like visa waivers, car registration, nursing licenses, etc. in a record amount of time! I'll get to the need in a minute, but first let me give you a little history...

    Back in May of this year when I was in Congo working as the VVF Team Leader I committed to coming back to Guinea as the VVF Team Leader in 2015. It seemed like the right decision at the time- I would get to go back to the place where I first became Team Leader; I would get to see all my previous patients and Day Crew (Translators); and I would get a do-over. There were a few things I would have done differently now that I have some experience under my belt and know what I'm doing. Plus, a surgeon I worked with in Congo agreed to come again and that sealed the deal-easy peasy, right?  Welll...God threw a wrench in my perfect little plan! I don't know if you remember this time last year, but I do.  I was at the same place I am now-- grappling with the decision to go back to the ship, and pretty much for the same reasons.  Have you ever thought 'man, I'm such a different person than last year, I've grown so much' but then when faced with the same situation you respond in the exact same way?! Yeah, that's where I'm at. So much for growth! I obviously need to learn this lesson because I keep coming back to it. I'm that kind of person that can live pretty much anywhere and I would settle in, find my niche, and be comfortable. I've done it in California, I've done it in Africa, and now I've managed to do it here in New York. But, it isn't always good to be comfortable.  In the discomfort of a challenge is growth; an unexpected gem or discovery lies just on the other side of your/my comfort zone and I don't want to miss out! I'm uprooting my life once again. I'm trusting that God will take care of all the details. Big details like who is going to rent my room for the 3 months while I'm away; or where will I live when I come back and only have one month to decide; or where I will get the $1800 that I need to raise to pay for the rest of my flight and room and board.  He always know and holds the small details, too.  So here I go, ready or not here I come Madagascar!  My friends who are already exploring beautiful Madagascar are telling me about my lovely VVF ladies who are patiently awaiting my arrival.  Come March we'll start chipping away at the enormous need there.  It's been reported that there's some 50,000 VVF ladies needing surgery, and 5,000 new cases each year!  The need is overwhelming, but God is a God of details.

     Please start praying for the VVF program. Keep me in your prayers, too.  Pray that I would lead well, and love even better; that I would be able to provide the emotional and spiritual support my nurses and patients will need; For my nurses, vetted with the difficult task of caring for these special ladies physically, spiritually, and emotionally. They have a big job ahead of them. There will be success's that bring tears of joy, and celebration, but there will be tears of sadness that comes with the surgeries that aren't successful.  There will be wounds that are deep from loss of child, loss of identity as a woman, and years of isolation and injustice. Healing is more than closure of physical wounds-it comes with unconditional love, it comes with unconditional acceptance.

Thank you to all of you who have loved me and supported me and make it possible for me to go time and again.