Saturday, October 26, 2013

I'm not in Kansas anymore!

     Well I'm definitely not in Africa anymore! I can't believe my last post was in April, and now here it is already the end of October. The months are flying by!  I am so thankful for my time as VVF Team Leader.  I learned so much about the power of Love in Action and served some of the most amazing, beautiful, and strong women.  After the VVF program finished in Guinea I had some time where I did paperwork and wrapped up my role as Team Leader, but I felt like a mother hen without her chicks. The VVF ladies had all gone home, and the ward was taken over by General Surgery patients.  My wonderful Translator and all around amazing woman, Elizabeth, knew this and planned a surprise party for me and some of the VVF nurses that cared for the ladies!

      The ladies were so excited to see us it felt like we were celebrities and they the paparazzi! They rushed us the minute we got out of the taxi, and in 2 seconds flat we were surrounded by a bunch of women in brightly colored fabric, giant smiles on their faces, and tears streaming down their cheeks.  There was not a dry eye around!  No African party would be complete without a feast of food, dancing, and neighborhood children around. It was an absolute blast!

      Leaving Guinea was bitter-sweet. I was filled with sadness to leave the sweet friends I made from Guinea, but so excited for what God had ahead.  It's an odd feeling to want to be fully present in two places at one time!  From Guinea I headed to New York for two weeks to see my brother and sister-in-law who was 6 months pregnant with my very first niece!! I could not be more thrilled!  When I first found out I was going to be an aunt my heart immediately screamed "I need to move to NY to be close to her!"  So it was then that I started praying, and planning to move to New York for when she was born. 

      It's amazing how much God blessed those plans!  The timing was perfect in so many ways. First, in August my brother informed me that right upstairs from them a room was opening up in September and I would be able to stay for the four months I would be there. And second, my friends from the ship, Sarah and Jeff, were getting married in Texas the week before her due date.  I would just stop off on the way to New York, do Sarah's hair and make-up for her wedding, and leave the next day (hopefully a day or two before she was born).  HA! That baby decided she would come two weeks early and give her mom and dad some alone time with her before all the family started pouring in (including myself). 
Ms. Harper Lee Fiduk~~Born September 30, 2013

The proud parents!

So what's next?
I have the privilege of watching my sweet Harper Lee grow up for the next 4 months, and then I head back to Africa!  It's going to be hard leaving her, but I'm also excited to serve another group of VVF ladies, and show them the love God has for them.  This time around it will be a true sacrifice to the Lord for me to go to Africa.  Pray for me as I soak in all the time I can get with Mike, Sabine, and Harper Lee and prepare for the next journey to Africa that I have ahead of me.  This next time will be in Congo, Brazzaville from January to May.  Thank you so much for your support, and even being brave enough to read this blog!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Renewed's been a long time since I've blogged! It's amazing how "normal" things become here.  I forget that it's not everyday that someone sees transformation and new life like I get to see here daily.  Burned limbs released from their strangling scars;  noses, eaten away by Noma, newly formed from flaps of skin; children walking normally after "making cuts and putting in iron"-the way we explain orthopedic surgery to the patients.

Although I'm sad that I don't get to see my VVF ladies anymore (although two came to the dock yesterday looking for adult diapers!), I've been really loving getting to be a "real nurse." It's amazing how God has answered my prayer for this.  Just a few months ago after VVF ended and I felt like my job was done here, I asked God to give me back my passion for being a nurse. Somewhere between running around like a chicken with my head cut off, and trying to keep track of patients, I thought I had lost it--that love and compassion for caring for people.

One day as I was in charge on the ward, but helping out the nurses because they were busy, I had my ah-hah moment! It stopped me in my track, and I relished in that moment of "I absolutely love being a nurse." And since that moment, God has kept up the momentum. On Good Friday, the day we "celebrate" Jesus' death on the cross, I was flooded with another ah-hah moment. I was sitting with a Max-fax patient who had had a recurring jaw tumor that we removed. She had a plate put in place of her jaw bone and was recovering on the ward. As with most of the jaw patients, she drooled a lot. A LOT.  If she tipped her chin down just in the slightest, a puddle of drool would come pouring out. So I decided to get her a Yankaur suction...they look something like this:
I was sitting by her bed, and we were reading Henri Nouwen's devotional of the Lent season together (she spoke some English--soooo nice--don't ever take that for granted!), when out of nowhere she started playing the song "Hallelujah" on her phone and using the suction to "conduct" the rest of the "choir" (ie. the nurses and other patients singing along!) It was hilarious! The chorus only interrupted with our was the perfect way to "celebrate" Jesus death, by singing Hallelujah engulfed with joy.

Something else that has taken me by surprise is my love of the peds patients! It may not surprise those who've known me since I was young, I've always loved babies. But loving babies, and taking care of them is an entirely different ball game! My friend Jill (and Jaclyn)-avid peds nurses- have been trying to talk me into switching to peds. I've been reluctant, mainly because it's sooo different and scary, but I've got to say, those kiddos are capturing my heart, one shift at a time!

the lovely Jill and beautiful Kristy

the lovely Jill
The hospital is almost closing, and things are winding down here, but my heart is quickening as I prepare to go back to the states for 6 months & I get to be a real nurse :) Thanks for your prayers during the past 8 months, I've felt God's presence ever so closely. If you are faced with change, or in need of direction rest your soul on these words:

The Lord will guide you always (continually);
He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land & will strengthen your fram.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fail.
--Isaiah 58:11

and finally some words of wisdom and truth from Charles Spurgeon...

Like Enoch, walk with God, and you cannot mistake your road. You have infallible wisdom to direct you, immutable love to comfort you, and eternal power to defend you.

Thanks Charles, I needed that.


Saturday, February 16, 2013


Driving past the airport conjured up a memory of a conversation I had two weeks ago with Nana.  It was the day before we were going to take out her catheter.  She had been through this multiple times in the past few months, each time another disappointment.  I told her, "we are going to take out your catheter tomorrow,"  I'll never forget her response..."If I go home dry, then I'll take you home with me, but if I am wet then I'm coming home with you."  Nana has been here since November; she has seen 4 different surgeons, and had 3 different operations by 3 different surgeons to try and close the hole that causes her to leak urine. Before coming to us she has tried 2 other times to close the hole, to no avail.  Her last surgery was in January, and to the glory of God she is dry! 

What were you doing on Valentine's day? Was it filled with romance, roses, and chocolate (all very good things, mind you!)?  I didn't get to enjoy those things this year, instead my day was filled with inexpressible joy from a lady that has captured more of my heart than I knew existed. I got to make true on my promise to go home with Nana if she went home dry.  Myself, and a few others drove her to her village to reunite with her husband, whom she hasn't seen in over 3 months.  Nana is one of the fortunate ones whose husband has stuck by her side while she tries to get healing from this terrible condition.

The whole car ride there was filled with excitement, giggles as she looked out the window at the passing scene, and a little sadness at the thought of leaving us. She sang us songs about how well she has eaten over the months, the quality of our towels (yes the kind you bathe with), and how the white people love her! I am going to miss those songs that I can hear all the way from my room a deck above.

As we drove up the road to her village, family and friends came running up to the Land Rover, excited to see Nana home again.  The best part was seeing the look on Nana and her husband's face when they saw each other for the first time in months, and the tender embraces that ensued.

This Valentine's day far surpassed all the Valentine's that I've had in this life. I can't imagine being able to top it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Just yesterday I made the decision to return as VVF Team Leader with Mercy Ships in January of next are a few moments that happened this week that helped sway me:

 Every day at handover the nurses gather together in a big circle. A few weeks ago a patient or two started joining us. Then something amazing happened. Every day a couple more join us, to where now there is 6 or 7 ladies interspersed between the nurses.  They bow their heads with us when we pray, and today for the first time one of the patients actually prayed out loud with us! I had my head bowed and eyes closed listening intently to the prayers of the nurses; first a prayer in Dutch, then a prayer in French, and then, to my surprise, a prayer in Susu, the local language.  My heart was filled with joy and awe at a God who is doing amazing things.

It’s like a constant slumber party on the ward.  It has the vibe of 20 girls having a sleepover. They like to lay in bed, chat with each other from across the room, and giggle unceasingly.  I am surrounded by constant hair braiding, and nail painting... I love it!

 You’re never too old to sit on someone’s lap.  Today at worship time I peaked around the corner to find a 60+ year old patient sitting, like a child, on the translators lap! It was such a sweet moment of embrace, and comfort.  Everyone needs to be held in loving arms at least once in their life, it was probably hers.

 The dress ceremony.  A time of utter joy and celebration, rejoicing and fun. The joy is infectious, and spreads to all...even those who are not dry. It’s an amazing phenomenon.

The amount of back rubs and head rubs I get on an hourly basis. I have the unfortunate requirement of sitting in front of a computer most of the day. BUT that does not mean I don’t get love and attention every time one of the ladies walks by my desk. Inevitably they stop, rub my back for a bit, and keep on moving.  Awesome.
 The ladies. period. end of story. I love them---they’ve captured my heart.  I know there will be new and different ladies in the Congo, but I know I will love them just the same. There is something special about a lady with VVF...God has blessed them for sure.

On another note, I get to accompany a patient home to be reunited with her husband on Valentine's day!! How sweet, huh?!  Except, no mama-papa business for them--strict doctors orders!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


               "I have gifted you with amazing freedom." 

As I read those words in my devotional Jesus Calling I couldn't help but think of the women in Africa.  Freedom means something completely different for them.  Right now as I'm on the cusp of making decisions that will affect the next year of my life, I have the freedom to choose. I have the freedom to choose where I live, what my profession is, who I marry, what I spend my money on, etc.  Many women here don't have the luxury of many of the freedoms I do.  They don't have the freedom to choose who they marry; currently there is a 16 year old patient on the ward who was married at 10! She got pregnant by age 12 and was in obstructed labor, her baby died, and she was left with a fistula.  She did not have the freedom to say "No" to marriage at 10. She doesn't have the freedom to go to school and get an education. She doesn't get to choose what her profession is, or where she spends her money. 

So all that to open your eyes to what you think freedom is. It opened mine. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The new ten

     Ten upcountry ladies arrived tonight. I was sitting with a group of nurses recounting a conversation one of them had with a patient.  The patient, not dry after multiple attempts to repair the hole in her bladder, was telling the nurse that although she isn't healed physically, she is beginning to heal emotionally.  That is a major feat when you consider what these ladies have been through. They are absolute survivors in so many ways. What continually amazes me is the amount of love they offer us so freely.  When asked 'why,' she said "We don't have money, or anything to repay you, so we are paying you with love."  She just wishes her family, many of whom abandoned her after developing the fistula, could see how much "the white people" love her and care for her.

    It has been my prayer from the beginning that despite whether they are wet or dry, they would sense and know the love God has for them.  It's not about the surgeries, or whether they are wet or dry---I just want them to realize how much they are loved by the King.  "If the next surgeries succeeds or fails, what is more important is that I can go back to my village with confidence knowing that I am loved," said Nana when asked how she would feel if she is never healed.

    Today as I thought about starting up another round of VVF, to be honest, I was burdened. It seemed like running uphill again when I just reached the bottom.  I've known the 20 ladies that are on the ward right now for over a month now. I've grown to love them like they are my proverbial children and I can't imagine loving any more ladies like I love them.  That is, until ten beautiful ladies showed up on my doorstep this evening.

     As I answered a page that would notify me that there were VVF patients on the dock, my excitement grew tremendously.  One of the nurses and I excitedly ran to the gangway and as we looked out we could see the ladies congregating around the taxi.

      I could smell them as I approached---no doubt they were my ladies.  There was a mix of emotions in the air. As we walked up to them, we were bombarded with hugs, kisses, and greetings in local tongues. The sense of desperation was tangible as I checked everyone's name to account for them all. Some began to cry---afraid they would be turned away because they didn't bring ID and their name wasn't on the list.  The tears dried up and smiles returned when I sent the taxi driver away and one by one led the ladies toward the gangway.

     As they stood near the foot of the gangway many of them pointed in the direction of the gangway platform---through charades I informed that indeed they were going to walk up that giant ladder-like apparatus, up a couple stories, to their new home.  Some forged ahead fearless, but the older ladies were reluctant and scared.  One of the translators, a young man, lovingly noticed they were scared and took them by the arm to lead them up the gangway.

     Chitra, one of the Gurkha's--a soldier in the Nepalese army--pantomimed that they must use the hand sanitizer before entering the ship and one-by-one as the ladies passed by the hand sanitizer machine, hands were cleansed.

     We mounted the stairs that would take us into the belly of the ship and their home for the next few days and hopefully weeks as they have surgery and are healed.  I wonder what they're thinking as they mount the stairs; some pause at the top unsure, and others gallantly forge ahead. We reach the corridor that will take them to C ward--a transitional ward, it most recently housed the screening team and hopefully soon will open as a full fledged ward bustling with new life, but for now it's the women's hope center. The ladies will stay here until the next surgeon arrives and examinations begin on Monday.

    As they take the long walk down the corridor to C ward in the quiet of the night I can feel their sense of relief.  I open the door of C ward and find 10 beds all made up and ready for them; Each stocked with a gown, a bag of goodies and a blanket for warmth. There's a warm glow emanating from the ward; the once harsh florescent light has been covered by African fabric giving off a warm cast.

    What happens next is one of the many reasons I love these ladies so much.  One-by-one the VVF ladies on B ward--also awaiting the arrival of the new surgeon--wakes up, gets out of bed and excitedly comes to greet the new ten.  The calm of C ward has been replaced by excitement as greetings and hugs are exchanged, food and water passed out and showers commenced.
     As I leave them to settling in, my heart is so full of thankfulness as God replaces my original fear with utter joy and love for these new ladies.