Sunday, December 22, 2013

Africa Mercy - Heartwarming Stories: One Nurse's Journey

Just in time for Christmas, here are two heartwarming stories from Marilyn in the Congo. Learn more about the African people this amazing ship serves, and how faith in God is behind it all. ---Sharon

(This is a running email post written by a volunteer nurse serving on the
Africa Mercy, a hospital ship that travels the African coast. In your charitable donations please remember this worthy organization).

December 20, 2013
Greetings, my friends,

I like to share two stories with you, stories that make me smile, stories that make me grateful to God not only for my own blessings and good health, but also for the privilege of being here to help extend God's compassion to the people of Congo.
Earlier this week, our field team conducted a routine eye screening at a small out-of-the-way church in one of the residential neighborhoods of Pointe Noire. What wasn't routine, however, was the appearance of one of the first people in line. A twelve year old boy stood there with his father, his face disfigured by a large, weeping tumor covered in bandages. Nothing wrong with his eyes? Good, go home!  Next!...No, that's not how it played out.

He wasn't a candidate for cataract surgery, but he sure would have been a candidate for maxiofacial surgery, had we been screening for that. So, stop the presses. What can we do? Ask more questions.

It turns out that the boy lives far away, and they only heard about    Mercy Ships last week.  Filled with hope, father and son traveled for ten hours to reach the ship.  They couldn't find a screening for tumor surgery (that was done last September...), but undeterred, they sought us out anyway by coming to the eye screening site. How they found us at that little church, I'll never know.

It took a few phone calls, but we got clearance to bring the boy to the ship for further work-up on that very day.  He and his father rode to the ship in the eye team vehicle after the screening was done. That boy was radiant with joy, and full of hope. By the end of the day, he'd had a CAT scan and lab work done; he'll most likely have surgery sometime in January.  What a different life he'll have without that tumor on his face. What initiative and perseverence his father showed to give him that chance.

My second story concerns a young man, age 19, who has been completely blind for many years with dense cataracts.  His mother was afraid for him and refused to allow surgery by the local surgeons. (From what I have seen, she was probably wise in that decision...) Sadly, his mother died a year ago, so now he lives with his aunt. Mercy Ships came to town, and together, they decided to risk surgery. He had his first cataract surgery a week ago. He was brave, but during surgery, he called out to mama...her dreams for his future, grief, and hope all intermingled in that one word.  Well, her dreams and his hope were rewarded--he had nearly perfect vision in that eye even on the day after surgery.

A week later, we operated on his other eye. Oh, oh. According to the measurements, he needed a very different lens in that eye--four diopters different, which is huge. That's not usually the case--people's eyes tend to come in a matched set. What to do? Were the measurements wrong? Dr. Wodome, a very competent and confident surgeon, was in a dilemma over which lens to implant, one that matched the measurements, or one that matched the other eye, since that one had worked so well? The team stopped for prayer, and the surgeon chose to match the lens to the measurements. Results? Nearly perfect vision in the second eye also. His two eyeballs really were different lengths. It's good to work with a surgeon who seeks God's guidance in making decisions.
A new year is soon here, and what blessings will we find awaiting us? I feel like I'm living in a wonderful pagaent of God's grace. It reminds me of the Exodus miracles--not so dramatic, of course, but clear evidence all around me of His compassion and His active involvement in the affairs of men. I am blessed every day just by being here, in my ringside seat.


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

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