Saturday, March 22, 2014


I’m flooded with so many emotions right now as I stand on the dock, waving as the Mercy Ships Land Rover carries Dr. Itengre away.  5 am is not my usual time of getting out of bed, and definitely not a preferred hour of starting my day, but he’s worth it. A long held custom on Mercy Ships is gathering on the dock to say good-bye to those people who enter and leave your life so quickly, but impact your life so deeply.

While I was still in New York preparing to come here, I emailed Dr. Steve Arrowsmith, the VVF surgeon that I thought I would be working with come February.  Dr. Steve informed me that instead of coming for 8 weeks as he originally planned, he wasn’t coming at all.  I have to admit that reading those words were a little disheartening.  I was already going back and forth on whether or not I made the right decision to come back to the ship, and not entirely sure if I was ready to lead another round of VVF surgeries.  In his response email, Dr. Steve told me not to worry because he had arranged for one of the African surgeon’s he trained in Danja, Niger to come instead. He described Dr. Itengre as “amazing” and that I would love working with him.  Trusting in God, and Dr. Steve’s opinion didn’t come easy, but all I could do was trust, and so I booked my plane ticket.

Fast forward a few months, and I’m standing on the dock with tears in my eyes waving good-bye-for-now, knowing that this won’t be our final good-bye, it’s more ‘see ya later.’  Amazing doesn’t quite describe Dr. Itengre fully. Over the past four weeks I’ve watched him gather a group of translators and teach about the importance of consenting patients for surgery; I’ve seen him in the middle of a circle of nurses patiently answering questions about the surgeries he’s performing; I’ve witnessed him praying over patients, and sitting by their bed holding their hand; and I’ve seen the many grace-filled responses to frustrating situations, none of which included anger, only patience and understanding.  There really aren’t words to describe how thankful I am, the English language only has one and it isn’t adequate.

The beautiful VVF ladies

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The God of all comfort

Sometimes, well a lot of times, my ladies surprise me.  I spent a good part of my morning talking with one of the ladies (we’ll call her Hope) that just had surgery.  The conversation all started with a complaint of rib pain. As the doctor and I delved deeper to get the full story she revealed that a lot was going on in her life.  About 10 years ago her very well off husband died, leaving her to care for their 3 children alone. As if that wasn’t hard enough, his family took over their house, as is customary here, and left her homeless.  She felt hopeless, and often when she would think of her situation she would consider ending her life.  After praying with her I left her to talk more with the translators.

Later in the day I get a call that one of the ladies I discharged home 2 days ago was back because she was having pain in her leg, and a whole myriad of other problems.  I peeked my head out of the door and saw her hobbling down the corridor with a very stoic look on her face. The moment she entered through the doors of the ward and saw me, the translators, and nurses, she burst into tears.  Mid-sentence of her verbal catharsis of how she hadn’t slept in the past two days because of the pain, none other than Hope runs over to comfort her. Mind you, they have never met before.  This, the very same patient I was talking off a ledge mere hours before. It’s amazing how hope restores, and being comforted enables us to comfort others.

Next time you’re in a situation where you need comfort see it as an opportunity to comfort others. God will use you to comfort someone else--it might be in the next instance, or the next decade, but God will use it.

This came to mind when I saw the hopeless melt from Hope’s face, and in it’s place the beautiful face of compassion...

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5