Welcome to my Mercy Ship Adventure.
Please feel free to read about my journey and post a comment!

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas is for the brokenhearted

Well, It's Christmas eve...and it is raining. Raining outside on the snow-covered earth and raining inside my heart these days. Christmas can be a funny time for me. Sometimes it is a hard season - the end of the year, time of reflection - am I who I want to be? Have I accomplished anything at all since last year at this time? And Christmas is a wonderful time too - filled with family and friends and warm memories and lights and trees and gifts. This year every minute my feelings about Christmas seem to change.
Today I was talking to a close friend about how I feel about Christmas these days and our plans for Christmas day came up. She invited me over, said she is having other people over that are brokenhearted too. I said, "oh you are having the Christmas for the brokenhearted this year". And that is when it hit me. Christmas is the greatest gift of love - specifically for the brokenhearted. Yes, Christmas is about presents, friends, family, food. It is about lights and songs, traditions. But, the precious reality of it all is that at the heart of it is God's gift to us. God's gift of hope and redemption amidst a broken world. It is light and joy and indescribable peace offered to all of us who endure moments of broken-heartedness. Merry Christmas - and may you all know the greatest gift given to you, Jesus Christ.
Psalm 34:18
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Things I am Grateful For...

(in no particular order)
1. That my dad is in heaven tonight and that his suffering has come to an end.
2. That God extends His grace so freely and lovingly to me - I am so undeserving it is ridiculous.
3. That Doug and Jordon were at my side today - loving me through the hardest day of my life so far.
4. For a family that has grown closer together in the last few months. Some days there is no one that can comfort you like your own mother.
5. For the opportunity to watch my brother love his family well. It has been a treasured gift to watch my brother care for my father at his bedside. To watch my brother comfort my father, encourage my father, do physical therapy with my father. And then for him to leave the hospital room and head to my mom's house to fix the snow blower, to hang Christmas lights, to helping me move furniture ;)
6. For a small group that have lived out "doing life together" in every way possible. For walking with me diligently at my side, for encouraging me, listening to me, for "lifting up my arms" when I was weary.
7. For my "family" of Kristin & Larry, Dan & Julie. For crying along side me, for praying with me when I had no words.
8. For the AMAZING nurses in the SICU at Troy Beaumont. I have never been more proud to be a nurse. They have come to be like family and they have loved my father like their own.
9. For my Mercy Ships family. We spent a summer taking care of Africa together, and from across the ocean you have taken care of me. I loved the flowers, the emails, the songs being sung on my voicemails.
10. For "my girls". Girls weekend 2008 was the greatest reprieve during this season of heartache. No where else can I let my hair down and act as crazy as when I am with you three. I am so glad God gave us each other so many years ago. There is a comfort with you Kristin, Kimmi K and Weez that is immeasurable and irreplaceable.
11. For everyone that has made a phone call to me, a facebook message, an email...a girl could not ask for better people to walk through life with. I am not alone and God has made that abundantly clear.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


And now for a quick update on where things are at in my journey back to Mercy Ships...

As everyone knows by now, my dad suffered a heart attack back in the beginning of October. The heart attack itself didn't cause too much damage, but my dad needed open heart surgery. Unfortunately, because of some complications and some of my dad's previous health history - the recovery from the surgery has been anything but smooth. It has been 2 1/2 months now and he is still in the ICU. There is some hope that he will be able to go to a long term critical care setting soon.

Because of all that is going on with my dad, I have put my plans for returning to Mercy Ships on hold. I certainly still plan to be back in Africa next year - but I am not exactly sure of the timing. A lot depends on my dad's recovery. I am grateful to God that all that has happened has occurred while I was here - and not 16 hours and 2 plane rides away.

In the meantime, I still am making some progress in getting back to serving with Mercy Ships. In the end of October I spoke at my church, Genesis, about my journey. Through some very generous contributions from the Genesis community - God is providing for my financial needs to get back to Africa. Also, through speaking at Genesis I have another opportunity to share my journey during a chapel time at Southfield Christian Schools coming up in January. I am so excited for this - I love high schools girls and I look forward to sharing with them.

I am still working on renting out my house...kind of on hold until after the holidays. Thank you to everyone who has offered me a place to stay. It is beautiful to watch how God provides for us through others!!!

So that is the quick update on how things are going. I still firmly believe God wants me to go, I just need to keep on trusting Him for the timing.

Victory is Ours

A few weeks ago in church my pastor was speaking about how the victory is already ours. He was talking about the fact that for those of us who believe in Jesus Christ as our savior- the victory over death is ours. Victory is ours in that Christ died for us on the cross - the ultimate battle has been won. However, the world we live in is far from what God intended for us in the beginning. From the moment sin first took place the battle began for all of us, and will continue on until the end. It sounds discouraging, but really it was one of the most encouraging reminders I have heard in awhile. The fact is that for those who believe- we have great cause to celebrate and rejoice - we know how the story ends! We know where we will spend eternity, we know there will come a day when good really will triumph over evil - once and for all. But... until that time - we daily wake up and face a battle of some sort. There are battles for us everywhere we turn: work, home, our minds, our hearts, how we spend our money, how we spend our time, what we think about, what we say...and it goes on and on.

Lately for me and my family it feels like a really long battle. I think my dad is trying to set a record for # of consecutive days spent in an ICU. This battle is one I am certain I don't have the strength for - and it brings me to my knees in surrender to the One who does have the strength for it - God Almighty.

Be encouraged my friends, for the battles may rage in us and around us - but victory will be ours.

I am grateful for this truth - that I have hope when it seems hopeless, I have peace that defies understanding, I have assurance when uncertainty is all around me.

1 John 5:3-5 (New International Version)
3This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Storm Tossed

Well, it has been a LONG time since I have posted anything here. A lot is going on these days, and not all good. Hence the title of this post - Storm Tossed. As I write this, my dad is fighting to stay alive in the ICU, where he has been a patient for over a month now. This has been the most difficult time of my life. I have an intense appreciation for all who have ever endured this type of experience. The days are long and I just want life to go back to normal, but fear it never will.

As I was walking through the ICU this weekend to visit my dad, a nurse stopped and asked me if I was the nurse from Beaumont that went to Africa this past summer. I was surprised that she would recognize me. She told me that she had seen the link to my blog on our Beaumont employee website and had been following my journey. Then my brother told me that someone from his race track asked about my blog a few weeks ago too. So - I get the hint. It is time to resume sharing my journey with anyone who cares to share in it.

Since I have returned from Africa, my life has been out of control. I have experienced so many highs and lows. I have returned to so many loving friends and family. I am blessed beyond words for all the people in my life who continually show me an outpouring of love that I do not deserve. I have returned to co-workers who gladly put up with me and my daily longing to be back in Africa. I have had a harder transition back into my life than I ever imagined. And I think a large part of that is because I no longer fit into the life I had. For this, I am grateful. I am grateful that I got to have an experience of a lifetime and be forever changed. No one could ever go where I have been and see what I have seen - and not be changed.

So, for me the challenge has been to ask myself, "what's next"? At first I thought I knew exactly what was next - leaving as soon as possible to get back to Africa. But, over the past 3 months, I know more than ever what God is saying - and what is next is obedience. The past year of my life has been a gigantic lesson in obedience. I feel God saying to me that there is obedience in going back to Africa, but there is also obedience in seeking what God is asking of me while here. The challenge is to remain obedient wherever God has placed me. For now, I am grateful that I am home. I see God's providence in having me home and I am forever grateful to have this time with my dad.

The challenge for me and for many of us is the obedience to seek after God. To seek after God in the midst of being storm-tossed. To seek after God in the midst of times of happiness and prosperity. To seek after God in times of uncertainty and anxiety. To seek after God when everything is going well and for a moment we feel like we've got it all together. To choose to seek God instead of a million other things that seem to so easily distract us from what really matters in this life.

I for one have struggled at different times in my journey with all of these. Just this past week I have struggled to seek after God in the midst of my own anger towards Him. I am angry over broken dreams and a hope that seems to be dimming with each passing day. Until today I hadn't been ready to make nice with God just yet. But, in the midst of my anger I am reminded again and again of God's unchanging goodness and love towards me. Even as I write this I don't want to admit it, I want to hold onto being angry. But if I am honest the only one my anger is hurting is me. Over the past week I have had some really good yelling sessions at God. I have screamed at Him how I feel like this is so unfair, how I feel so alone. And then I realize these are all just feelings. And feelings are fickle at best. When things get really tough, I am frightened to realize that although I am angry at the situation I cannot be angry at God. Because the only way I will ever make it through this is by running to God, not from Him. He is the only way I can make it through this. And in the moment of my surrender, God is there. I realize I may feel alone, but the truth is I never am. I may feel this is unfair, and it may be but there was never a promise that life would be fair. But, there is a promise that God will never leave me or forsake me. I may leave Him, but He never leaves me. I am so thankful for my relationship with God. That in good times and bad, in times of raging anger, God is big enough to take it, and forgive it. Not only does God forgive, but he also gives comfort like nothing else on earth ever could. There is no food, no drink, no person, no new gadget or material thing that can comfort like Father, God.

" For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, And my covenant of peace will not be shaken, says the Lord who has compassion on you. O, afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, Behold I will set your stones in antimony, and your foundations I will lay in sapphires. Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies and your gates of crystal, and your entire wall of precious stones. In righteousness you will be established; you will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; and from terror for it will not come near you." Isaiah 54v.10-12,14.

"For I will turn their mourning into joy, And will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow. Jeremiah 31 v.13

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thoughts on Re-entry...

Hello faithful readers -
It has been 3 weeks since I have been home and have re-entered my life as I once knew it. I have to say I knew it was going to be difficult to come home, but I had no idea the roller-coaster of emotions I would be on. I haven't posted anything on the blog- mostly because I am at a loss for words on how to truly describe where I am at. Also, I cannot seem to go one day without crying - and looking at the blog makes me cry all the more. You may be wondering why I would be such a cry-baby. If you are wondering that then you must not know me very well. Truth be told I have been crying tears of joy since I left Africa. I cannot say I haven't had moments of sadness because for sure I miss Africa more than I thought possible. I have had moments of sadness, anger, irritation, irrationality, peace, and moments of joy. I have been all over the map in the emotions department. A special thank you to everyone that I have interacted with since being home - a thank you for putting up with me.
I have to truly thank ALL of my family, friends, co-workers, etc. for how welcoming everyone has been. The first night I came home, I came home to a freshly cleaned house, pizza, diet coke and family and friends. I rested for a few days and then headed to Grand Rapids. While in Grand Rapids I got to hang with my gang of friends by Aaron's pool (no better place to be) and I got to go to the beach with my friends Virginia, Jordon and Marcia. Virginia - thank you again for spoiling me beyond reason!
Once home again I spent time with my family, made it to a Tigers game and have been hanging out with friends from church.
This past week I returned to work. To my utter amazement my co-workers surprised me with a card full of money. They had a surprise fundraiser while I was gone to make sure when I came home that I would still be taken care of financially.
So, there has been blessing after blessing since my arrival home. It has been wonderful to get to see everyone and spend time catching up.
What has been the most difficult thing about re-entry into my life is that I miss Africa so much. This is actually a wonderful problem to be experiencing. I feel as though I got a taste of what my soul longs for - and then it was time to come home. Once you have tasted what you feel you were created for you don't want to go back to anything else. This is mostly how I have been feeling in the past few weeks. My deepest desire is to return to Africa as soon as possible.
I am grateful to God for the path that He has put me on. I have never felt with such passion the desire to return to Africa. I have never felt such certainty that the time will come sooner than later. I am moving forward with plans to return to Mercy Ships in January 2009. Stay tuned for more on my journey forward from here. Thank you is simply not a good enough word to express to all of you how grateful I am for all of your support and encouragement. Not only has my life been changed forever, but that of so many people in Africa that Mercy Ships serves. Thank you for your part in it all.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Being Loved by God...

Hello everyone,
Well, I have been in Brussels the past 2 days - but for all I know I have died and gone to heaven. I LOVE being here. Who wouldn't love chocolate, cheese, bread, shopping, beautiful weather? All those little things I have been looking forward to I have gotten to do in the last few days. I have had a long shower, slept in a big bed, gone shopping by myself, been to the grocery store, eaten fresh fruits and veggies!!!

Getting to stay with my dear friend Jodi has been an unspeakable blessing. Jodi is an amazing woman of God and she has been so good to me. She is a listening ear, a wise word of wisdom, a truth teller, patient and loving. She has been just the person to help me transition out of Africa. She too is going through some similar experiences, so it is God's loving kindness that Jodi and I have these few days together. Which is why I titled this blog entry, "Being Loved by God". I was telling Jodi of all the blessings of the past few days and it was her that pointed it out to me - this is God loving me, taking care of me, helping me transition.

God has been giving me so much I am overwhelmed. For starters, I got the best send off from the Africa Mercy that I could've ever hoped for. Usually when someone leaves the ship their group of friends gather on the dock to say goodbye, give hugs, and then send them off. When I left the ship on Sunday afternoon it was pouring rain and windy. I didn't really expect anyone to go out in that weather. All of my close friends came out to say goodbye. Even one of my past patients - Joanna and her daughter Angela walked through the rain and wind from town to come to the ship-yard and send me off. Not only that, but Joanna loves to sing - so before I got in the Land Rover she started singing some lovely African worship songs and soon everyone joined in. There we were huddled in a circle of about 10 people, all getting soaking wet, singing that God will carry our load, and that he will be our guide. It was hard to tell if I was soaking wet from the rain or from my tears. It was a moment that I wished I had captured with my camera, but then I think it was a moment that no picture would ever do justice.

When I arrived in Brussels I made it to Jodi's without a problem. The past 2 days have been amazing. I have gotten to see a lot of Brussels, and I have had some wonderful time to myself. Jodi is working while I am here, so during the day I go off exploring and she goes to work. At night we go out and experience Brussels together. Tonight we had a hilarious adventure of aerobics in the park. I will have to post pictures to truly describe what happened. But, imagine a large, historic, beautiful park (picture Central Park) and then add about 300 Belgian people all doing aerobics together. It was so fun and I got to meet some of Jodi's friends.

Going home is bittersweet to be sure, but I am grateful beyond words to God and His love and care for me no matter what part of the world I am in. See you all soon!!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Leaving - Part 2

Ok, so yesterday when I posted on the blog I was definitely sad about leaving. Today I am leaving in 3 hours and I am still sad about leaving. However, last night after I blogged, God who is always faithful brought some great surprises to cheer me up. First of all, a new shipment of Diet Coke has arrived, so for my last night all the world was happy as we drank Diet Coke. Then we had a dance party on the dock and it was fabulous. It was a perfect night and we had great music and lots of dancing - until the rain came. But, even then many of us kept on dancing! It was a great way to end my time here. Also, I have to say receiving an email from my good sister, Tracy - your words of encouragement were perfect timing!

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Tomorrow I have to leave Africa. That is all there is to say. I hope I will get to come back soon, but for now I have to go. I am definitely sad to be leaving, but so grateful I even got to come. I have been busy this week so I haven't had too much time to even think about leaving. Today I spent the day packing and spent time with some of my most cherished friends here - Kat and Wendy. Tonight we are having a dance party on the dock for my goodbye party. I am glad that God provides- that even here in Africa I have found friends that love to dance!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Hello all,

I just wanted to say hello and say thank you again to everyone who has been so supportive, and for faithfully following me on my journey. This week is turning out to be very busy. There are not enough hours in the day this week. I am busy getting ready to leave the ship :( There are things to do in order to "disembark" the ship, there are friends to hang out with, patients to see. I have only 2 more shifts to work. We went back to working 8 hour shifts so I work 2-10pm tonight and then 7-3pm on Friday. Thursday I am going to a construction site - to work. I am excited to get to go to a construction site and actually do some work. My friend Jodi and I are going so we will see how it goes. Luckily the construction project is near the beach so if we get in over our heads with the construction we have been promised by our friends that manage the construction site that we can go to the beach instead! I just want to do so many things and only a few days to do them. I am going to be stopping in Belgium for a few days (thank you Jodi for hosting me!!!!) and I think it will be a welcomed rest for me. Seems I am almost as busy this week as I was the week before I left to come here.

All this week too I have been trying to think about what has happened in the past 2 months. What has happened in Liberia, what has happened in me. Way to much to try to blog about - which is why I look forward to coming home and talking face to face with all of you! The bottom line is that God is good. He called me to Mercy Ships and has been faithful to me every step of the way. He has given me the strength to be here. It has been a gift to be here and I am grateful God allowed me to come. There is no greater joy or contentment than knowing you are doing what you were created for - and that has been the greatest gift for me over the past 2 months. There is a song that says that "the glory of God is man fully alive". I can say that is absolutely true. I have never felt more alive and I know that brings glory to God. That is why I am immensely grateful to everyone in my life for encouraging me (all these years) and for helping me, for coming along side me to get me here- because it has changed me. I have learned that obedience to God brings life, hope, peace, joy, love, confidence, faith, contentment, and a thirst for more!!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Some Things are Universal...

The other day I was taking care of a man in his 20's that was here for a repair to his arm. He had a gunshot wound from years ago that hadn't healed properly. I sent him off to surgery and knew I wouldn't see him back in his bed for a few hours at least. My good friend Wendy that I always talk about is a recovery room nurse. So, she usually takes care of the patients I send her and then she brings them back to me. When my patient woke up from the anesthesia the first thing he told Wendy was, "Where is Jennifer? I need Jennifer." (That is pronounced "Jenni-fah" in Liberian English). Wendy tried to explain to the young man that I would be waiting for him back at the ward and that as soon as he was awake enough he could go back there. He replied, " I am hungry, I want to eat, Jennifer will get me something to eat." Wendy told him he would have to wait a little longer, that once he was fully awake he could return to the ward. He looked at her and said, " I am fully awake, return me to Jennifer". So, as the patient is being wheeled into the ward I can hear him calling my name from the stretcher, not even in the room yet. I couldn't believe that he even remembered my name. All he kept saying was, "Jennifer, I want to eat, I know you will let me eat". So, once we got him settled in his bed and the monitor on him, I went for something for him to eat. When I came back I had to feed him, because his right arm was all bandaged and casted. As he was eating I asked if he was comfortable, if he needed anything else. He replied, " I need chocolate". I guess some things are universal. Who doesn't need chocolate???

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mercy Projects

Mercy Ships is more than just the hospital on board the ship. Every day teams go out into Monrovia and surrounding villages to help the area rebuild after 14 years of war. Yesterday I went on a tour to see a few of the projects Mercy Ships is working on. The first stop was a project that the president of Liberia specifically asked Mercy Ships to help with. Mercy Ships is working with local people to rebuild a medical clinic that was destroyed in the war. My pictures are kind of hazy as it was pouring rain for most of our tour.

Our next stop was an agricultural project. A team from Mercy Ships has partnered with the local villages to teach community farming and to teach about other crops that can be grown. The crops that are usually grown are plantains (a type of banana) and Kasava (a root vegetable). They are working on growing corn, melons, and other vegetables. They are also introducing the concept of using compost piles.

The last place we visited was the dental clinic. The local hospital in Monrovia allows Mercy Ships to borrow space from them to set up the dental clinic. All procedures are performed for free.

We also visited with the nurse who runs the community health programs for Mercy Ships. The day we were there her team was out visiting in several villages distributing mosquito netting for beds to prevent the spread of Malaria. I am hoping to go out with the community health team next week.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Around the Ward

Hello Everyone...I just got done working the midnight shift this past weekend. I am adjusting back to sleeping at night and living during the day. On one of my midnight shifts I took some time to take a few pictures of the ward. After all, this is where I have spent the majority of my time the last 2 months. We are not allowed to take pictures of patients while they are on the ward, so the pictures are of an empty ward. Most of the time the ward is filled with people. When a patient comes in for surgery, more often than not, they bring family with them. Usually this is because the patient is a mother who brings her children with her or the patient is a child who needs to have a parent with them. Last weekend I took care of a patient here for a thyroidectomy who had 6 month old twins with her. I spent more time taking care of her twins, Hope & Joy, than I did actually looking after the patient. (No complaints here - the children were lovely and so cute). So, in the pictures the ward might actually look big. However, when you add in family members sleeping on the floor, kids playing and running everywhere, patients and nurses the room gets filled up quickly.

This first picture is our Intesive Care Unit (ICU). Thank God we haven't had to use it too much since I have been here. This is a 3 bed ICU with 2 isolation rooms as well.

This is a picture of one of our four wards all cleaned up and ready for patients.

This is our "nurses" station. Now imagine 4 nurses all crowded around the cabinets at 8am trying to all get to the same medicine for the patients. It is the same here as at home, the nurses station is never big enough!

This is our medicine cabinet. Mostly pain meds, antibiotics, antifungals, de-worming meds, and vitamins.

And this last picture is one of my favorites. This is a picture of what hangs on the wall in the ward bathrooms for the patients. It is pictures depicting for the patients what NOT to do in the toilet. The toilets are not for doing laundry and not for standing on. Most of our patients have never seen toilets as we know then, so sometimes they need a bit of instruction.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pictures from the Orphanage

Finally I have some pictures from my trip to the orphanage last weekend.

Me helping some of the kids with the craft.

Playing a game similar to Duck, Duck , Goose.

The children line up to play a game.


Remember that old song, Father Abraham? Some songs are classics. On either side of me are the girls that braided my hair - Korpo is on the left and Siannah on the right.

Relay races...this girl can jump.

One of the orphanage workers getting some chores done while we were there. Laundry by hand.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What I Am Looking Forward To...

Well, I cannot believe that I will leave the Africa Mercy in just two short weeks! No one is more surprised than me that time has flown by. I have to say, I think I will be back here though. We'll see what God has for me, but I hope it is more of Africa. I am having a hard time comprehending that I will be leaving, and an even harder time imagining life resuming at home. I have decided to make a list of what I am most looking forward to upon coming home. So, when I get sad about leaving I will think of these things...
1. Seeing all of my beloved family and friends. My friends here are wonderful,but there is nothing like the people that know you so well, have cheered you on so much and who cannot wait to see you too!!
2. Summertime in Michigan. Summertime in Africa right now is ok, it is sunny and hot most of the time. But I am limited in what I can do here. In order to enjoy the weather you either go for a walk on the dock, or sit outside on the dock and stare out at the ocean. I cannot wait to go fishing with my dad and take walks to the ice cream stand with my small group girls. Seeing green grass instead of red dirt and mud sounds nice too.
3. Freedom to move about the earth on your own. Here in Liberia for our own safety we are not allowed to go off the ship alone, you must be with at least one person. Also, going into town is such an experience - I cannot do it justice by writing about it. So, I am looking forward to getting in my car and driving to wherever - the grocery store, the bank, Target. Of course I know gas prices are out of control. In case you are wondering, the same is going on here. Just this past week almost all of the taxis went on strike for a day due to gas prices. It made it harder than ever to get a taxi. Already taxis here are filled way over capacity with people sitting on laps, etc. I didn't think that there could be more people walking on the streets than there already were - but the streets were filled with people forced to walk to their destination instead of get a taxi. The strike was over in 1 day.
4. Eating whatever I want, whenever I want. The food here on the ship is good, I definitely have no complaints about that. But in a cafeteria type set up if you don't eat when the food is out, you don't eat. So, even when you aren't all that hungry you go to the cafeteria to at least see what is being offered. I am also looking forward to all of the good fruits and vegetables that Michigan summer has to offer. Here we are very limited to what is available. Every day for lunch and dinner we eat pineapple, cucumbers and tomatoes. Every day.
5. Sleeping in my own bed, in a room that I have all to myself. Currently I share a small cabin with 4 other girls. My new bunk-mate will arrive tomorrow. So, I go back to sharing a very small space with one other girl.
6. Change of clothing. I have to say I think I did pretty well in packing good and appropriate clothing for this trip. I am however, tired of the clothes I brought. I am looking forward to a change in scenery of my wardrobe...and some different flip-flops.
7. A long hot shower. Here due to water supplies we are limited to 2 minute showers. The usual routine is turn shower on to get wet, turn shower off and soap up, turn shower on to rinse. Turn shower off and step out. It isn't that big of a sacrifice, but I have forgotten what a nice long shower feels like.
8. Silence. Living on a ship of over 400 people there isn't much in the way of solitude. Even when it is bedtime and most of the crew are sleeping there is always some sort of generator running somewhere. I don't know much about large ships, but it seems there are always strange noises coming from the walls.
9. Windows. I currently don't have a window of my own. My cabin is on deck 3 which is a window-less deck. I also happen to work at the hospital on board the ship, which is also on Deck #3. I could go all day and all night and never look outside. I have to admit, sometimes I haven't seen day or night at all. It will be so nice to sit in my living room, holding Johnny Cash (my cat) and looking outside.
10. Diet Coke. Not that I am addicted to the stuff or anything, however I am sad to report that the ship ran out of their supply of Diet Coke about a month ago.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Orphanage, Church and Saying Goodbye...

This weekend I got to go to one of the orphanages that Mercy Ships works with. Besides the hospital-ship, Mercy Ships has many other land-based ministries going on while here in Liberia. Saturday morning I had the privilege to go to a local orphanage and help with the Saturday morning program that Mercy Ship runs. The orphanage also has a school and it is run by a husband and wife from Liberia.

As soon as kids see the white land rovers from the road they come running, waving, smiling, laughing. They yell things like, "white people!!!" very excitedly. As soon as you get out of the car you have made friends. Girls and boys latch onto you and want to hold your hand, want you to walk with them, play with them.

Brenda who runs the program had many things for us to do while there. We started off with some singing, and then did lots of relay races. It was so fun to watch kids of various ages run while jumping, or run while throwing a ball, or run and skip at the same time. Some of the very young kids had no idea what they were doing, they just knew when they got to the front of the line they were suppose to run!

After all the running and games it was time for a bible story and a craft. And after that we got free time with all the kids. During that time I made quick friends with a few of the teenage girls. Korpo, Siannah, and Naomi and I became friends while they played with my hair. I left the orphanage with African style braids and new friends.

I loved every minute of being at the orphanage - playing with the kids, giving them attention, playing jump rope and painting their nails. I have to work next Saturday, but the Saturday after that I will be back there - Siannah, Naomi, Korpo and I are counting the days. I wasn't permitted to take pictures at the orphanage, but Brenda took a few general pictures so I will post them as soon as they are available.

I also went back to Bethel World Outreach Church this weekend. Once again, I loved every minute of it. At one point I looked around the church and knew this is what heaven must look like. There were people dancing everywhere in their brightly colored and patterned African dress. And again, women were praising God with whistles. Below are a few pictures - from my first visit to the church, that I couldn't seem to post last time. The first picture is of me with the head pastor, Sister Josephine. The next is me and my friend Neil, and the last is a view of the church.

The other thing I did this weekend was say good bye to some of my Mercy Ships friends. My friend Neil from Southern Indiana left today, as well as my bunk-mate, Rhea from Connecticut. So, this is what it feels like to be constantly making new friends only to have them leave. Below is a not-so-flattering picture of myself and Rhea. We were on the Bong Mine train speeding through the African countryside.

All in all I have had a great weekend. The only thing that makes me sad about it is the realization that I only have 2 more full weekends here. I cannot believe how time is flying by and I cannot fathom how I will ever return to my life as I knew it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

On the Streets of Monrovia

Here are a few pictures of Monrovia that give you an idea of what I see when I walk past the gates of the shipyard here. It is difficult to take pictures, but I will try my best to get some to give you a really good idea of the city. For now, here are a few...

This is a typical "store". When I say I am going to the market, or to the tailor - this is very similar to what it looks like.

And this is a typical street scene. Yellow taxis overcrowd the roads, and people selling things out of wheel-barrels are the usual.

Hand painted billboards are very common as well, usually with a public service message.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hallelujah Choir

Last Sunday night we had the privilege of having a choir come from a local church and put on a concert for us at the ship. The choir was amazing and once again, I love their worship. Is wasn't long before the whole thing turned into a dance party. This time there really was a conga line and at one point the choir director whipped off his robe and was swinging it above his head. They sure do know how to celebrate here.

And this is how the choir travelled to get here. This is very common on the roads- cars and taxis overflowing with people.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The View from Here

I am so grateful to everyone who is keeping up with the blog and my journey. It means a lot to me that you all are reading. I have had a few requests for some more pictures of my surroundings, view from the ship, etc. So, here you are...

This first picture is of the dock, and the walkway up to the ship. It is our "front porch". Everyone is always coming and going from here.

This picture is the view looking the opposite way from the walkway. In the foreground are our tent clinics. They are an extension of the hospital on the ship. One tent serves as our "admissions" area where people coming to be admitted to the hospital get checked in. The other tent is our eye clinic. We are currently performing about 35 cataract surgeries per day. This tent is where people come after their surgeries to get eye care instructions, and follow up check ups. In the background is a ship that was seized by the government because they found cocaine on board. Rumor has it that millions of dollars of cocaine were found. The ship has been docked for months.

This picture is of me, with Monrovia in the background. This was taken from Deck 7 from the ship.

And this is the view from the front of the ship. We are in one of a few different harbors around the coast of Monrovia.

And this is the view from the back of the ship. This is the first view of the ship that you see as you drive up the dock.

I am working midnight shift this weekend - 7pm until 7am, so I have had a quiet Saturday as I try to sleep to stay up all night. We are also on a "ship holiday". Every few months the ship-workers (except the nurses) get a long weekend. So it is quiet on the ship today. Oh, and as you can see, rainy season hasn't completely taken over. It does rain here, but we still get wonderful warm sunny days too - thank you God!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Darling Boy

Today I am off and I had some plans...but they got cancelled as the true meaning of "rainy season" seems to be making itself clear. Torrential down pouring - no matter how big the umbrella or how good the raincoat. So, a walk to town was out of the question. If not for the rain, then especially for the mud that would surely be everywhere in the streets today. So, instead I enjoyed some indoors relaxation - a book, a movie with friends. Catching up on emails!

This also gives me a chance to catch you up on some of my patients that I have had the absolute privilege to take care of this week. Below is a picture of a boy that has captured my heart. His name is Darling Boy and he lives up to his name in every way. There are many patients with first names that describe them. There was a woman named, "old woman", other common first names for children are "prince" or "princess".

Darling Boy is here getting some wound care for a surgery that Mercy Ships performed on his shoulder. I have had the immense gift of being his nurse the past 2 days. One of the true gifts of being here is that you actually have time to spend with your patients - usually, anyway. So, whenever I had some down time, Darling Boy wanted to play with me. He enjoys blocks and coloring, but his favorite by far has been the math flash cards we have on the ward. That's right - math flash cards! And when those ran out, he wanted me to make up more math problems for him. We worked on addition, subtraction, and eventually some alphabet flash cards too. In between taking care of my other patients, I was a "teacher" too. I loved every minute of it. Even my fourteen year old patient, Fatou, wanted to join in the flash cards. You could tell Fatou had not had much education, she had a very hard time with the flash cards that Darling Boy (who is 6) was breezing through. She kept using her fingers and toes to count, except one foot is in a cast so she had less toes to count with so she used my fingers too.

This next picture is of one of my group of women patients that I call the "Women's Club". For several evening shifts in a row I took care of two women - Bendu and Joanna. Bendu, Joanna, myself, and anyone else that wanted to join in played Uno long into the night. It took a short time but quickly the women caught onto the concept of Uno - and LOVED it when someone forgot to say "uno" and had to pick up a whole pile of cards.

Bendu was badly burned when her mattress that she was sleeping on caught fire from the fire the family uses to cook and keep warm with. She was burned in March of this year, and she is here for skin grafting.

This next patient is Joanna and her daughter Angela. Joanna is also here for some skin grafting. Mercy Ships does a lot of repairing peoples wounds that haven't healed properly because they were never treated when the wound first occurred, or things that were "fixed" years ago in the local hospitals. There is a lot of cosmetic surgery to correct skin and bone issues.

The last 2 days I also took care of this man. He had a tumor removed from his back. I love this man and his beautiful smile.

This last picture is a group photo of some of the patients. The hospital ward is located on the third deck where there are no windows. So, every day we take the patients that can walk, outside for fresh air. This was during our "deck" time. The patients love to go outside, and it provides us a chance to just be with our patients. We sit and talk, share stories, play games with the children. It is a great way to spend an hour of your shift.