We are a family of three; Andrew, Jodie and Jessica (aged 18) from Tasmania, Australia who are currently serving in Douala, Cameroon, Central Africa on the M/V Africa Mercy, the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world, through Mercy Ships International. God has called us on a journey that has been many years in the making. For this season we call Africa home, as we seek to bring hope and healing to the poorest of the poor.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Getting into the Spirit

Approximately every six weeks the Mercy Ships Academy has a "Spirit Day". Basically this a free dress day with a theme. The kids have great fun with it and despite the limitations of costumes on the ship there are some very creative minds about! Above is Jess at her very first Spirit Day on the sail from South Africa to Sierra Leone in February 2011. In keeping with our destination the theme was African dress. It was a bit of a scramble for us as we didn't have any African clothes as yet. Luckily the Boutique (the ship's op shop) came to the rescue!

Jessica's 4th/5th grade class in their African dress.

Next came pyjama day-an easy one!

This one was a bit more tricky-Compound Word Day. Can you guess what Jessica is? Black mail!

Moving onto grade 6-the infamous 80's Day. This was a fun one. The teachers managed to dig up some music for the occasion. Of course none of the kids were old enough to remember the 80's. All of them were born in the nineties and 2000's. Still it didn't stop many of them being authorities on what their costumes should look like! 

Jessica's 6th grade class in their finest 80's wear! Yes, her class are all boys!

Most recently we had Wacky Day which means anything goes.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Screening Day 2012

Wednesday February 1st, Kegue Stadium Lome, Togo West Africa.......the sun breaks over the horizon as thousands queue, some who have been there all night,  desperate to seek medical intervention from the big white ship docked in their harbour. The word has spread like wildfire through radio jingles and word of mouth. Mercy Ships, Mercy Ships!

The huge stadium is set up the day before by dozens of crew buzzing like flies in order to make preparations for the long day ahead. Stations are set up, logistics languished over and security scrutinized. Before the sun rose the next day hundreds of crew left their beds by 4:00a.m and headed to the stadium to offer whatever help they could......nurses, doctors, surgeons, drivers, security, prayer warriors, children's ministry team, food and water distributors, PR and communications personnel, lab techs, pharmacists, radiographers, data entry and human resource crew and patient escorts all with a single mission; to secure as many surgeries for as many people for the duration of our field service in Togo, while at the same time showing love, respect, compassion and lending dignity and human touch.

An estimated 3,500 people queued as the scorching sun beat upon their backs, the pre-pre-screeners doing their best to identify conditions that we are unable to treat.  Once inside the stadium, potential patients are seen by further medical screeners to assess their suitability for surgery. If the person is considered for surgery they are escorted to have their contact details recorded at the registration area. They then proceed to have their medical history taken.

Once the patient's history is complete they are escorted to their specific area of need such as plastics, maxillo facial, general and VVF (vaginal fistula) surgeries. A surgeon is able to speak with them and greater determine the best course of treatment and options. Sometimes lab samples and biopsies are taken. They are rushed back to the ship for quick examination.

Sadly there are many we cannot help. Being a speciality surgical hospital means many are turned away before they even make it through the stadium gates such as those with some types of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Even entry into the stadium does not guarantee a surgery. Some are given the devastating news that we cannot help them and all we can offer is prayer. Sometimes the need is beyond our resources and skill set, sometimes the surgery schedules are full and others have conditions that are far too extreme for us to address.

It is a complicated business in a complicated land where desperation is tangible, health care is both expensive and limited and animism and corruption are rife. Still we do our best to buck the system and offer surgeries (approx 1,600 this field service) to those in the most need without cost, offering restoration of body, mind and spirit in the name of Jesus.