May 03 2012

Transformation Ceremony

The African dresses and head pieces are beautiful. I was able to see some African women all dressed up on the ship and their dresses were by far the most beautiful I’ve seen. Not so much because of the fabric or style but because of the women wearing them.

Before they get these dresses onboard – you have to hear how they got to this point. In Africa, childbirth is a lot different then in America. Doctors are rarely involved and many women are left alone to labor. Complications are common. If problems arise, the women almost always lose their baby and they’re left with a lot of physical damage. One woman I met was in labor for two weeks – trying to push out the baby while running from rebels during war.
 
With the damage, ladies are considered outcasts - disowned by their family and friends…sometimes left in the bush to live alone for years. The medical problems are usually either too complicated or too expensive tofix.
 
But Mercy Ships can help. Not only physically, but spiritually.  Throughout the entire process, the women meet with doctors for the surgery and spiritual counselors to help them rediscover their self-worth and significance in Christ. Once they’ve healed and are ready to leave, there is a “Transformation Ceremony” on the ship. This is were I spotted the most beautiful African dresses….and the most beautiful African women!

The ceremony is a pretty big deal…it symbolizes a new life for the women. They get all dressed up in a new dress and make-up (similar to a woman preparing for her wedding day). For some, it’s been decades since they’ve felt so pretty. There’s music, dancing, singing and praying at the ceremony and the women share their stories. All of them thanking Jesus for Mercy Ships, admitting because of the love and acceptance of the volunteers – they’ve been transformed from the inside out. These ladies are my heroes. Just look at the joy on their faces….and it’s all because of Jesus using a ship.

 

 

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May 03 2012

A few pictures from Mercy Ship Africa

Amy and Jessica, Promotions Manager for K-LOVE in Louisiana, in front of the Africa Mercy.

Amy, Jessica, and Ameza (Akou's mommy)

Doc checking Akou's eyes - she can go home!

 

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May 02 2012

Wednesday's Journey

Today was a very emotional day. Early this morning we watched Dr. Glenn take the bandages off baby Akou’s eyes. She was SCREAMING and finally when she opened her eyes and realized she could see….she went silent and started looking around. The baby stared – mama smiled. It was beautiful. 

 


After a final check-up, the doctor told them they could go home.  Typically, the patients have to find their own transportation to and from the ship but because of the relationship I built with Ameze and Akou we offered to take her back to hervillage. She was very thankful.
 
We had an interpreter with us for her trip home and ofcourse, I had to ask questions. I found out Ameze is a single mom of two. She loves to make jewelry and even made the bracelet she gave me. She’s also studying to be a tailor. She has 7 brothers and sisters (some live with her) and she loves spaghetti (YUMMY)! In the middle of our conversation, I really felt like I was talking to a good friend. With each one of my questions she would laugh at me almost as if to say…”Oh, Amy, you’re crazy… but I love you.” The feeling is mutual, I love Ameze, too. I will miss her.
 


Her home is not like mine…her face is not like mine… but our hearts are the same. We’re both moms who love our babies and want the best for them. I’m so thankful to be serving on Mercy Ships so I could be a small part of helping Akou see.
 
What blows me away is the fact that Akou’s story is not unusual. So many families in need are helped through the medical procedures on the ship. I heard a story from a nurse today about a young boy who got surgery on the ship two years ago for his club feet.  Just recently, they traveled 16 hours from their village to tell thevolunteers thank-you. 16 HOURS…and sometimes I complain about waiting 5 minutes in line at the grocery. 
 
Lord, thank you for giving me perspective on the ship. What really matters is that I have a relationship with you and my family is happy and healthy….and thanks to the work you’re doing through Mercy Ships – Ameze and her family are too.

 

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May 01 2012

Day 2 on the Ship

It’s day two on the Africa Mercy. This morning was baby Akou’s cataracts surgery. It was a success and soon she will be able to see clearly. I spent some time in recovery with mom, Ameze, and the baby. Ameze can’t stop saying thank you.
 
I met another woman in recovery with an amazing story. The Mercy Ships medical team did work on her mouth. For the last forty years she has not be able to talk and barely eat because a tumor inside her cheek hadgrown so large it had locked her jaw.  The tumor was removed and she’s learning to use her mouth and eat normal foods. She showed me a thank you card she wrote for the doctor who did her surgery….it said: Thank you, Dr. Gary, for helping me find my smile!
 
While visiting my new friends at the hospital, I saw/heard the ‘praise and worship’ team. They travel from ward to ward with drums and tambourines singing songs to Jesus as the patients recover. Many of the patients sing along and several even get up and dance, if they can.
 
From singing to surgeries, the love of Jesus is evident on the ship. Patients know they’re loved…like never before. One patient recently came to the ship with a large tumor on his neck. A nurse spotted him and walked right over to start examining him. The nurse put his hand on the mans shoulder and he started sobbing. Because of the tumor he was an outcast – no one would get near him…the touch of the nurse was the first time anyone came near him in over a decade. He felt love again.
 
These are the stories I’m hearing over and over again. Thanks to the volunteers on Mercy Ships, patients once unloved, feel love….patients once hopeless, have hope.  Tomorrow I’ll be at a dental clinic and a special dress ceremony for women who have had surgery to repair damage caused by childbirth. I’ll keep you posted!

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