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

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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.