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

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