Monday, December 17, 2012

Hope Reborn...and a dress ceremony to celebrate!

Today was an unusual day.  There was an excitement and joy buzzing around the air from the moment the ladies woke up.  I don't know if they sensed that something exciting was happening today, or if it was just by chance, but they were unusually cheery.   I love to see how God brings light to the darkness.  It's amazing the transformation that has happened since last week.  I had to look at a calendar to make sure that only a week and a few days had passed since Dr. Lauri left because it has felt like an eternity has passed!  The dark mood that was inhabiting the ward has lifted, and left in it's place is laughter, fun, and dancing!   It's almost as if we have an entirely different ward of ladies.

After 4.5 llloonnnggg weeks of emotional ups and downs, joys and sorrows, tears and laughter, wet and dry, we FINALLY had a dress ceremony! The dress ceremony is the symbol of Hope Reborn.  It's 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.


"I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God. 
For He has clothed me with garments 
of salvation 
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness." Isaiah 61:10

 So today we witnessed great delight and rejoicing with testimonies of healing; songs of hope and thankfulness; and tears of gladness.  The pounding of the drums, the sweet melody of their voices, and the tears of joy falling from their faces still reverberate in my mind....it's a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth.





Sunday, December 16, 2012

You've done a good work

The past few weeks of VVF have been intense, to say the least. It has been one complication after another, with many of the women with failed surgeries. The mood on the ward has been somber, and without hope.  That is until the first two ladies had their catheters removed, and remained dry! That marked a turn around on the ward, for the patients and nurses alike.  The women started cheering and smiling for the first time in a while. 

On a random Tuesday one of the women decided to go for a walk down the hall. I stopped her at the door and told her she had to take some more women with her if she wanted to go for a walk. You see, the women have gotten lazy- demanding the nurses to get their water for them, while it is just an arms reach away! Along with that behavior they developed a dislike of getting out of bed.

Practically every patient that could get out of bed did! They proceeded to walk up and down the halls singing praises! It was so loud that many people came down from two floors above and thought they were missing a dress ceremony!! (more on that later...) When they came back into the ward, they all huddled by the door and were singing the same song over and over.  The song goes as such:


"Doctor you've done a good work

You don't what good you've done

So I'm gonna tell you"


and also...

"You've given us meat

You've given us rice

You've given us water

We're strong now

So can we go?"

Who says you have to be a professional song-writer to sing good songs! Love them so much!
 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Never too old to color

It's amazing how fast time goes by. I feel like I say this a lot. Sorry it's been so long since I've posted anything, a picture would probably suffice, but some days the effort of getting the picture from my camera to computer then on my blog is just too much!

We are halfway through the second week of the fistula surgeries, and there isn't really a word to describe how it's going. Heart wrenching, difficult, and defeating are some words that immediately come to mind. These past two weeks have been a constant reminder that God is in control, and outcomes are his domain.  Sometimes I get a little focused on outcomes, and lose sight of who we are helping. God gently reminded me this past week that it’s not about the outcomes. It’s about the individual. It’s about loving these ladies that have scarcely been shown what love is.  It’s not about wet or dry, it’s not about the numbers, it’s about the individual, it's about love and acceptance.

One of the ladies told me that she’s been mistreated by the nurses in the fistula program at a local hospital.  The nurse told her that her condition is a result of God being angry at her; that she sinned and brought this on herself.
Wow.
How can someone say that!

Realizing that many of the ladies on the ward had been treated at this same facility, I figured out that many had been told this same lie.  So we sat them all down, told them how much God loves them, how it is not their fault, and we set out to explain what really happened to them.
It’s amazing how thirsty these women are for education. I pulled out a big poster of a woman about 9 months pregnant, and within a second had about 10 women surrounding me all eager to hear what I had to say.  Through a translator (thank God for her!) we explained what happened during childbirth, and why they leaked urine after.  They were in awe! They all thought it was their husband’s fault! hahaha we’ll work on that another day and time.
That’s all for now.

P.S. my favorite memory from this week...
I turned from my computer to find 3 grown women sitting very proper in bed, coloring in coloring books; they all wore the same serious, focused looks on their faces. hilarious.
you're never too old to color in a coloring book.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tears of hope



This past week I had the most amazing opportunity to go to Kissidougou with the director of USAID, Nancy Estes; Luciana, communications assistant (there isn't a title that would be descriptive enough of all that she does!); Dr. Balde, and Dr. Balde, two of my favorite Guineans; and Diawara and Alpha...the amazing drivers that got us safely through the many potholes, and craters in the Guinean roads!

The trip started off visiting various sites that USAID supports, and culminated with the most joyous celebration for the opening of the Fistula Wing of the Regional Kissidougou hospital. I can't even begin to describe all the emotions that flooded me as I stepped out of the car to see nurses, doctors, and local Guineans lined up to greet and welcome us. The sound of African tamborines, and women serenading us in their beautiful local tongue, so loud it was reverberating my heart.  The sight of men, women, and children present to support the women, and chanting "√©liminer les fistules" over and over.  Not a dry eye in the house as a woman suffering from Obstetric Fistula recounted her story, with the hope of being treated in the new Fistula Wing.  As I walked into the ward after the ceremonial ribbon cutting, I suddenly felt hands on my back, pushing me aside. As I turned around, the sight of hordes of fistula patients pushing through the crowds to get to the beds filled the room.  Tears of hope in their eyes. It was a beautiful thing.


Along the way I took some snaps of cute kids, beautiful scenery, interesting transportation and the beautiful fistula ladies...enjoy!

the sweetest kids ever!





Celebrations galore for the opening of the Fistula Wing at Kissidougou Hospital





The interesting transportation of people and animals...


 the beautiful scenery!
 
   

sunrises
 
sunsets



The team...


Dr. Balde #2 (the medical doctor one)

Dr. Balde, Mr. Jean Keita (Mayor of Kissidougou), Nancy Estes (Director of USAID), and me!
the lovely Luciana

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Masked














Children, grown men, pregnant moms bearing their 9th child, nurses, and patients alike all partaking in masked delight....thought I'd start your week with some sweet pics.  My personal fave, the masked mustached patient; serious with a twist. Enjoy!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Heavy


     My heart is heavy today.  It's full of mixed emotions. On one hand I'm excited, and elated that the hospital is open, and life-saving surgeries are happening.  On the other hand, the realization that we can't help everyone is tangible. This is so hard for me to understand at times. It makes me so aware of our human condition, and the limitations of this world. It is physically impossible to help everyone and the need is overwhelming. It is beyond our control, ability, and responsibility. But with that I'm reminded that God is in control, and that is far better than me being in control.  He loves and cares for everyone in a way that I'm unable. 

     Yesterday I had to look into the tear-filled eyes of a man crying out for help, and tell him that we couldn't help him.  I'll call him "A." A had surgery with Mercy Ships just one short year ago in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  He had a mass growing in the back of his throat, and after removing the mass we found out that it was cancer.  In a set of seemingly random circumstances, "A" made it to the port gates just in time to run into one of our nurses, and crew members.  "A's" cancer had come back and was blocking his throat again.  With his voice at a forced whisper, he tells me "just take it out and I'll leave tomorrow."  Unable to eat, or even swallow his own saliva,  "A" was severely emaciated.  I wish I could say that we were able to take it out and everything was fine, but it wasn't.  Myself, our surgeon, doctor, and a counselor had to explain to him that we couldn't just remove it and everything would be fine.  It would come back, as it already had.  He went through the stages of dying right in front my very eyes, and to my surprise, ended with a thankful blessing on us and our families. I walked him to the gangway with a bag of nutritional supplements, and tears in my eyes.

    I can't accept God's blessings without also accepting hard times. Proverbs 3:5 says to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding."  I don't understand why God allowed "A" to make it all the way to the ship from Sierra Leone, to only be turned away by us. But I have to trust and know that God is good.  He will leave a multitude to find the one that is lost.  I am confident that we were able to love and care for "A" despite not doing surgery; and that is Love in action.  Pray for "A."  Pray for me.

     


Friday, August 24, 2012

Oh Africa, how I've missed thee!

       We arrived on African soil two days ago, but didn't get a chance to get off the ship until last night. I can't describe how awesome it feels to be back in Africa!! A small group of us walked around the town to get our bearings, and happened upon some things that captured my heart and some of the many reasons why I love Africa...

* "One-way" streets that change direction depending on the time of day
*  Urban soccer games being played in the middle of the streets. Metal goal posts, uniforms, and all
* Following the sound of music to the end of a street crowded with hoards of people watching a soccer game in the middle of a busy street
* One-by-one kids coming up and shaking our hands
* All the bonjours and bonsoirs
* The understanding conveyed through just a look, no words necessary
* A monkey on a leash doing tricks on a soccer ball
* A leashed cat
* Walking through the port and everyone helping direct us just based on the questioning look on our faces
* The juxtaposition of abject poverty on one side of the street, and a Mac store on the other
* Shawarma
* My last and personal favorite: walking on the street and getting peed on by a man just peeing in the middle of the road~ TIA!


On another note, we are setting up the hospital finally!!! I can't explain how exciting it is to set up the hospital, envisioning the beds filled with patients. I can literally hear the raucous already! I was a stripper yesterday, it's hard work I tell you! It's not what you think, I stripped and waxed the floors! It felt so good to do some physical, hard work. Today I get to meet the day workers that I'll be working with for the next 10 months. I am so excited to meet them and get to work alongside them. 

That's all for now. I've upped my blogging goal to at least once a week so hopefully you'll be hearing from me more! Oh and pictures to come, I didn't bring my camera out this time but I will definitely get some pics soon. 

 P.S.
I made it in the newspaper, here's the link 

  
 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Filled

Sometimes I wish I had a pen and paper with me at all times so that when things I need to process come to mind I can write them down for later. Whenever I’m sitting down to a media in which I can express myself, nothing comes. But when I’m out and about, and it’s inconvenient I always have thoughts in my mind that need a little bit more delving into. Over the past week what keeps coming to my mind is how thankful I am for my friends and family, how unworthy I am, and how great God is.  Over the past 4 weeks that I’ve been home, I have been lavished on with love and friendship.  Mars Hill and the friendships that have come from that have added so much abundance to my life, and it is solely because they continue to point me to Christ. My faith has been renewed and strengthened through their godly example. I am so thankful that when I come home we instantaneously go right back to where we left off. That is a special gift, because I’ve had the alternative and I know how hard it can be to accept friends back into your “circle” when someone has left, and the group has moved on. I am thankful it’s not this way.  God has brought me through periods of drought and plenty. You don’t realize how dry and weary the land is until you come to plush, green pastures. When I came home I realized what a state of drought my heart had been in for the past few months, and how much I continually need Jesus. Through my friends and community group Jesus has come in and watered the dry and desolate areas of my life.  I have been filled to the brim with His love, and care. I have been tenderly taken care of, gently shown areas of lacking His Spirit, and brought closer to the feet of Jesus. As I embark on the next endeavor of my life to minister to the oppressed, and brokenhearted I realize how much I need Jesus to minister to me. The only way I can love these VVF ladies is because He loved me first.  I don’t have all the answers, but I have the only one that can make a difference. And that’s Jesus. And I’m thankful for that.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thankful

The past 6 months have gone by so fast! It feels like yesterday when God put it on my heart to leave Orange County and go to Africa. I can still remember talking to my small group at Church and having one month before I left for 6 months, which seemed like such a long time! But I blinked once and here I am. Over the past 6 months God has done huge things in my life and in the lives of the patients. I have seen physical transformations in the burn and maxillofacial patients; patients go from death to eternal life through Jesus; and VVF patients be healed from the very condition that outcasted them from society. I have cuddled more babies than I can count, laughed so hard I cried on numerous occasions, and danced with the patients to my heart's contentment. God has emptied me, only to fill me with joy to the point of spilling over.

I absolutely could not have done it without the support of my parents, friends, and amazing supporters that believed in me enough to send me off filled with love!



So, you might be wondering what's next?
I have been accepted as a Team Leader for VVF! You know, those amazing women who have suffered such terrible tragedies yet live, laugh, and love...the one's I fell in love with. I get the wonderful honor to serve and love on these ladies again, and lead a wonderful team of special nurses to care for them. Please pray for me that God would lead me and guide me in how to be Team Leader as it is a brand new position for me. Pray that God would help me lead the nurses in a loving, Christ-centered way. For the patients, please pray:
1. God would select the exact patients he wants us to help
2. Safe travels for the ladies, and that God would provide a way to transport them all from remote areas
3. 100% physical healing of their VVF
4. Emotional and spiritual healing of the emotional wounds they've endure
5. That they would feel the love of Jesus through every interaction with the nurses, doctors, and translators.

Thanks again for supporting me through this amazing time, and allowing me the opportunity to go back for round two!!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Nostalgia

I love Africa. There is not really any other way to describe my feelings. The past couple days have been worship-filled. Right now as I sit in the hallway of my "home" I can hear the rhythmic sounds of drumming; the Africans, nurses, and patients singing praises to God at the top of their lungs; I can see them dancing, clapping, and smiling. Yesterday on the dock we had a celebration of June birthdays, really it was just an excuse to get everyone together to dance and sing. It was phenomenal. The patients even joined us! Some got dressed for the occasion, others just wore their patient gowns, but all of them had smiles from ear to ear. Friday we had another celebration on the ward because it was the official last day of surgery, and we worshipped and danced and sang for nearly 2 hours! It was glorious! I cannot begin to explain the joy that wells up inside my heart when I get to dance and sing with my patients, as we worship the same God. It's beautiful. They are beautiful and I love them. I can't believe I only have one more week left! It has gone by so fast. As I look forward to Guinea, I look back on Togo and know that it holds a special place in my heart that no other place can compare.

Fond farewell Togo!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Transformation Part Deux

You got to see a glimpse of the transformation the plastic patients have made, now I get to tell you about the beautiful ladies I have the honor of taking care of! They are the most beautiful, strong, and loving women I know (apart from my own mother of course!) I wish all of you could meet them! They have suffered through childbirth only to deliver a stillborn baby after 3+ days in labor, and then are left with a devastating condition that causes them to leak urine or stool all the time. They are outcasted, shunned, and even left to suffer alone. One woman told us the other day that the people in her village won't let her go to the well to get water because they are afraid she will pass on her condition to them; they throw rocks and sticks at her to keep her away. She has to live in a hut by herself, away from contact from other people just because she smells of urine.

These ladies suffer from Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF), also known as Obstetric Fistula. A term foreign in the developed world, but much too common in Africa. According to VVF surgeon Dr. Lauri Romanzi, who served on the Africa Mercy this year, obstetric fistulas are 100% preventable. In the states we are well aware of the issues with access to medical insurance and affordable medical care, but what if there wasn't access to a hospital for days. For most of these women, the nearest hospital to have a c-section is days away. They either walk, or drum up enough money to get a ride to the nearest hospital, which is usually a day or two after beginning labor, and when they have the okay from their husband or head of the house.

Having surgery to fix the fistulas is an absolute God-send. These women have been suffering 10+ years with their fistulas, and have been on a waiting list since 2010 when the ship was in Togo last. After they have surgery to correct the fistula we give the women dresses to symbolize their new life! Here are some pics of the women, they speak a thousand words...you'll love them, I do.













Sunday, May 13, 2012

Transformation

Soooo...I've been meaning to write for a while now. It's amazing how fast time goes. I've been taking care of the plastics patients for a couple months now, but plastics is all wrapped up, short of a couple patients, and now VVF is here (and almost gone now...eek this was supposed to be posted 3 weeks ago!)...You might be wondering what VVF is, and why I'm so excited..I'll get there, but first let me show you some of the transformations of our plastics patients! Yay pictures!


Beaugua after we did a burn contracture release of his left wrist & hand.
He now has function and movement of his wrist! He is such a godly man,
he was always the leader of the impromptu worship sessions on the
ward! 

Beaugua Before....




  


This is Prudencia before, with two thumbs...

...and after with one thumb! She is the sweetest thing!




Komla's leg was burned and healed in a 90 degree angle, making his left leg unusable. He came to screening walking on his right knee and using a small wooden stick as a crutch.


 


 










Komla after surgery with his leg straight, playing soccer,
and running around!



Richara after! She has truly transformed into
a new person!!! The joy is evident in her face.
She stayed so long that she started learning
English phrases...our favorites:
"How are you I'm fine"
"I love you tomorrow"


 


Those are just some of the amazing patients that changed my life with their love, laughs, and transformations! I wish you could meet them all and hear all of their stories...Thank you for helping me be here, I am truly blessed!

...the next chapter of this story will be for another time...