Sunday, May 19, 2013

Africa Mercy - Neat Story: One Nurse's Journey

Hi . . . Here are two more emails from my friend on the Africa Mercy ship. This is a running post about her work in Africa as a nurse. It is difficult to comprehend the type of tumor she describes in the first email. They appear to be quite common in Africa and one wonders why. Is there something in their environment or the food they eat? I wish I knew. At any rate, this ship has been a real miracle to many Africans

The second email describes the African wedding she was invited to attend . . . 

Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy.


Neat story

One of my fellow nurses told me a neat story about one of her former patients.  He had surgery a couple of years ago when Mercy Ship was in Sierra Leone.  He'd had a huge tumor on his jaw, an ameloblastoma.  It is not cancerous, but it just keeps growing and can be very disfiguring, distorting the mouth, displacing the teeth, etc.  He apparently was so ugly and scary-looking that he was shunned by everyone.  He couldn't hold a job, of course, so he would go out at night to scavenge what he could.  Then one night, an old woman saw him scavenging and was so frightened of him that she fell and broke her arm.  After that, he didn't feel that he could go out even at night.  Then Mercy Ships came and did surgery, and his life was restored.

With this surgery, the surgeon generally has to remove a good bit of jawbone and replace it with a titanium plate.  That's good, but eventually the plate can wear through the soft tissue, especially if the patient doesn't strictly adhere to a soft diet for the rest of his life.

So, once the first surgery is thoroughly healed, we do a second surgery to take bone from the hip and put it around the titanium plate.  The bone actually fuses to the plate and protects it, enabling the patient to return to normal eating patterns and a fully recovered life.

This fellow traveled from Sierra Leone to have this second surgery.  He needed 14,000 Guinea Francs to pay for the trip.  (That's worth about $2.00 USD). He didn't have the money, so he prayed.  In due time, a complete stranger handed him 10,000 Francs, a good start, but not enough.  He prayed some more.  Another stranger in a fancy car stopped and offered him a ride all the way to Mercy Ships.  He gave that person the 10,000 Francs, all he had, and so he arrived for his second surgery.

When my friend encountered this patient a couple of days ago, he had finished recovering from the second surgery and was about ready to go home again.  He looked great, and he was so pleased.  He didn't know how he was going to pay for the trip home, but he was confident that the Lord would cook up something.  Can you imagine living with moment-to-moment faith like that?  Can you imagine not having $2.00 to your name, with a life-changing surgery hanging in the balance?  I can't even wrap my mind around what it would be like to live at that level of poverty. 

The story sounds so melodramatic... and really, it is.  The tumors here really are that melodramatic, and so is the poverty. People get these tumors at home, too, but they are dealt with when they're tiny, and it's no big deal.  We have a level of health care and social services, even for the indigent, that essentially precludes this scenario from happening at home...and yet, it is not at all unusual here.  I'm just glad Mercy Ships can help some of these folks, and glad I get to play a part in it.


18 May 2013

The wedding

Ramata, one of our translators in Admissions, was married today, and we were all invited.  It has been a drama for weeks, because her father has not been happy about this marriage.  Ramata is Christian, but her family is Muslim.  Ramata wanted to marry a Christian man in a Christian ceremony; Papa was offended.  He canceled the wedding twice before, and now he threatened to cancel it again.  Ramata agreed to a Muslim wedding, then planned to have a Christian wedding before the reception the next day.  She tried to keep it a secret, but Papa found out, and another fracas ensued.  An older man, friend of the family, apparently intervened to calm Papa down; he was the one who gave the bride away. Papa didn't come, but at least he allowed the wedding to proceed.

The fun started some time back with the wedding attire.  Ramata picked a fabric for us all to use in having our wedding dresses made.  It was quite colorful--all yellow and orange and brown and black and white in a busy pattern.  Definitely distinctive.  There were probably a dozen people dressed in this fabric, but each with her own dress design and finishing touches.  From Mercy Ships, five of us set out, walking through the port to the taxi place.  We caused quite a stir, dressed alike in African garb.  A couple of the police even wanted to take our pictures!

The wedding was scheduled for 12:00, with reception to follow.  The church was an hour away--or half an hour, or two hours...depending on traffic.  We left at 10:45 to meet the taxi at 11:00.  He came at 11:30.We arrived at the church at 12:45...but not to worry, we were among the first guests to arrive.

The church was small, maybe 15 x 20 feet, with a side room of maybe 15 x 15.  Fully packed, it held about 30 people.  While we waited, the electric keyboard player entertained us with "Jingle Bells", "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", "Oh, Christmas Tree", and other familiar tunes. 

Actually, I think they were pre-programmed into the machine by the manufacturer, and he just triggered them to play for us.  Next, they hauled in a huge amplifier and sound mixer equipment...that was a clue for things to come.

At 1:30, five women got up and started to sing, all with microphones amped to the max, because we could hardly hear them over the full drum set, the African drum, the African gourd shaker, and electronic keyboard that accompanied them.  They sang a song for 45 minutes.  A song, not songs.  Well, actually, five women began the singing, but various people came and took a turn leading.  African worship songs tend to be responsive, with a lead singer singing a phrase and the group singing it back to him.  The same phrase, over and over.  With enthusiasm.  Loudly.

 Accompanied with swaying and mild dancing.  It was a rock concert, African style.  They take their worship seriously--but joyfully.

Around 2:15, the ceremonies began, sort of.  Various pastors were introduced and greeted at length.  One offered a prayer; another preached for half an hour.  He preached in English, but between the accent and the distortion from amplification, I couldn't understand a word he said.  Everything was translated into French, phrase by phrase, also at full volume.

By 3:00, the bride and groom had arrived, so the wedding proper could begin.  It was conducted in English, with translation, and actually was quite similar to what we have at home.  Same vows, exchange of rings, wedding kiss, confetti as they left, etc.  And yet, it wasn't all solomn and "proper" like it would have been at home.  The pastor was teasing the groom and everyone seemed to be having a good time.  It felt unrehersed, and probably was.  After the ceremony, when it was time for the couple to leave, the groom started off down the aisle without the bride...he forgot her.  No problem...a few laughs, and off they went.

Sometime after 4:00, we all packed into cars to travel to the reception. 

 Ramata had told us it was close, walking distance.  We drove at least five miles to get there.  Sure glad I didn't opt to walk!  We didn't stay long at the reception.  More loud music, so you couldn't talk to anyone.  They planned to serve food, but it would probably have been hours later, after the walkers arrived.   We were all hot, tired, hungry, and full up to our ears with loud music, so we left before the reception got properly underway.

Going back to the ship, there were six of us piled into a taxi.  That, apparently, was illegal, so one had to lie down across our laps and one lay behind the back seat, trying to look invisible.  But, hey, we were all dressed in the same fabric, so we blended together quite nicely.

None of the police even looked twice as we passed.

A quick supper, a shower, a two hour nap, and several glasses of water later, I am fully recovered.  I think that Ramata was blessed by our coming, and I am very glad I went...but I wouldn't like to attend a wedding every weekend!  It is definitely an all-day affair, and quite tiring, with the heat and the noise.  But wow!  When they celebrate, these Africans really do it up brown, as my mother would say.  I was reminded of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", feeling a bit like the stiff, somber parents of the groom caught up in the raucous Greek wedding crowd of the bride.  Bottom was "different," but it was fun.



  1. Oh my gosh. As I was reading the first e-mail I was amazed he gave all to the man and was asking "How did he get home?"

    I remember when the kids were very little a co-worker asked if I'd like to go to lunch. I declnied saying I didn't have two nickles to rub together. She smiled and gave me two nickles. I have them to this day.

    I cannot imagine not have $2.00. Puts the world into perspective.

    That wedding. Holy Hanna. Wow.

    I nominated you for the Sunshine Award if you are interested pop on over to my blog. :}

    1. I know what you mean. Her experience has given me a whole new perspective. We are so incredibly fortunate to have been born here!!

    2. P.S. Oh m'gosh!! Thanks for the nomination, Jai. It will take me awhile, but hopefully I can post something next week.

  2. This was such an interesting post. I was really amazed by the tumor story, and the wedding story was heartwarming. My niece (who now lives in Alabama and is a blues singer) spend a lot of her growing up years in Sierra Leone.

    1. So nice to hear from you, Elizabeth. You've been off line a while. Nice connection with your niece. It's such a small world these days.

  3. Hi Sharon. I do like reading your posts on the Mercy Ship voyage. I couldn't help wishing there were pictures for these two stories. It would have been really interesting to see the shot of the man's face after the surgery. I envision him with a smile of joy by the sound of his faith.

    And I would love to see the African wedding party, especially after just having gone through a wedding myself. Thanks for sharing these. God bless, Maria at Delight Directed Living

    1. Hi Maria. I agree. We need pictures....and the wedding was so colorful! I'll email a request.

  4. I never tire of hearing stories about the miraculous intervention of a loving God in this sick, and messed up world.

  5. Me, too. We ARE in a messed up world, aren't me? I'm thankful for those who can give 'hands on' help, but we all can help in our own way! Just writing and commenting about it is a positive step.


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You could call me an eternal optimist, but I'm really just a dreamer. l believe in dream fulfillment, because 'sometimes' dreams come true. This is a blog about my journey as a writer and things that inspire and motivate me.