Friday, February 29, 2008

national geographic

A photo I took is on National You can see it here

Thursday, February 28, 2008

ICU, baby

Tonight I am finally off. Six consecutive shifts is a bit much for an American 12 hour shift girl who works three days a week and regularly uses her vacation days. Today I decided I might want to work on a part time basis when I get home.

I have spent the past two nights in the ICU caring for a four year old with advanced Burkitt's lymphoma. Burkitt's lymphoma is a form of cancer in children that is predominantly found in Africa. it should not be deadly. When found and treated in an efficient manner it is usually curable.

Sadie is four. Six weeks ago he was running around playing with his friends. Six weeks ago he was eating rice with his father. Six weeks ago he was playing soccer. Six weeks ago he was wearing the small, pink "slipper" (flip flops) that are now lying empty at the foot of his bed.

Now he's sick. Very sick. A true ICU patient.

About four weeks ago a tumor stared growing in Sadie's face. It was growing very quickly but his father had no place to take Sadie for treatment. When he arrived on the ship on Tuesday it had overtaken his entire jaw. His baby teeth were all swimming loosely by the obtrusive tumor and small beads of awkward flesh were oozing from his mouth.

My heart breaks for little Sadie. Last night he was terribly uncomfortable for the first five hours of my shift. We were able to perform several pharmaceutical interventions that made him comfortable, but getting there was awful. I really hate seeing kids in pain; I think it might be the thing I hate the most.

Last night there were four patients in the ICU and two of them were true, unstable ICU patients. I only worked in the ICU once since June so I was a bit apprehensive about being placed there. But as I think about returning to American nursing, I found it comforting to find that being a nurse is in many ways like riding a bike and your unused critical thinking skills can actually experience a rather fast revival.

However, caring for an Pediatric ICU patient on a hospital ship in West Africa is a bit unnerving.At home, I work in the world's oldest and largest PICU at the #1 pediatric hospital in America. The resources are endless. There are nurses and doctors in abundance. There are supplies and computerized charts. There are 24 hour lab and diagnostic technicians.

Last night there was Stephanie and I (and Rachel and Alli next door). There was an assortment of donated mis-matched supplies that must be used carefully because we do not have unlimited resources. There was a paper with orders. There were doctors on call that you felt terrible waking up because you knew how long and hard they had worked all day. And how long and hard they would work the next day.

I told Stephanie it was like working in the ICU minus the ICU. It was a bit nerve wrecking; a bit stressful; a bit scary.

Please keep Sadie in your prayers. Please keep our nurses in your prayers. Please keep our doctors in your prayers. Please keeps Sadie's dad in your prayers.

As I cared for little Sadie I felt sad for him. His face is so cute. It's easy to imagine him running around in his little slippers. We are doing all we can for him, but the truth is, if he was in a western country, this would of never happened. His tumor would have been dealt with before he ever got to this point. Rather simple interventions would have stopped the cascade of degradation if they were accessible.

It's sad that where you live still determines whether you live or die.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

screening day photos

here is a brief tour of screening day

to be

"We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the center: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision." C.S. Lewis

This was a busy week too. Too busy really. Stress and tiredness make me miss my family and reaffirm the value I place on enjoying someone's conversation over a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

Several of my good friends and I are leaving in June and we are all praying the same, "Dear Lord, what the heck should I do with my life prayer." Not necessarily a prayer of doubt of fear, but rather an open and honest dialog. The world is a rather large oyster.

Michelle, my bunkmate, put a poll on her blog, asking what she should do now. Currently, the results seem to be sending her on an adventure to Alaska, this choice is followed by a close second adopting a Liberian child.

Today I thought it might be a good idea to work at Starbucks, to which Michelle answered,"Don't say that..I don't want any more ideas. I might want to do that too."

Too bad her poll is already in process.

My severe interest ADD makes me really want to do everything, but I am beginning to realize more and more the importance of knowing yourself and knowing what you value so that you can delineate the proper boundaries of devoting time to work, time with family, time with friends, and investing in spiritual health.

I found a quote in my Bible today from Dave Cummings that said,

"Everything in my life can fall apart, but as long as I have peace with Christ, I can go anywhere, or do anything, or be anyone."

At a first glance it might appear to be a plea to save the world. To be a hero. TO do something loud. But I would rather think of it as a challenge to be no one. TO learn contentment. To show love that goes unnoticed.

We are all only two or three generations from extinction. There are very few men and women throughout the billions of people in time that have walked the planet whose names we actually remember. Very few.

I think often of my Poppop, who died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 62. He was a quiet, humble soft spoken man who worked hard, loved the Lord, and loved his family. He was married to the same woman for over 40 years. He was the first Christian in a Mormon family. He didn't preach any sermons but faithfully lead a home fellowship every Thursday night in his home. He had times of success and times of failure, but there was a steadiness in his character that always remained unrifled. In high school I played softball and was in the paper alot. My Poppop was always so proud. I still have a box full of newspaper clippings from the multiple papers he would by every time my name was even lightly mentioned.

He died on a Thursday night. Most Wednesday nights he worked in the tape library at my church. The last time I talked to him was when I was (of course) running late for the service. I remember stopping to say hello, telling him how crazy nursing school was, making plans to eat dinner soon with him and my Nana, and leaving with a kiss on the cheek.
At his service they played a slideshow to the Nicole Nordamen song "Legacy".
The chorus says,

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to You enough To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy

I will never forget looking back at the two rows that contained our family as the song played and seeing all 14 grandchildren, four children, four son and daughter in laws, and one wife; all crying; all sad he was gone.

I think that's the finale everyone hopes for when they die.

I'm really rather boring. I like watching sunsets. I like sitting on my couch on Saturday mornings, drinking coffee, and talking to my parents. I like playing guitar and singing with my brothers. I like craft day's with Veronica. I like laughing hard with my hysterical friends.
But I think that living is rather simple; we love Christ and we love others.

Even if in my lifetime I was able to do all the most important things, and meet all the most important people, and "be someone great", there is very little chance that my name would even be recognized in 100 years.

So none of that will ever be my goal.

In the future I hope to watch more sunsets, too drink more coffee with my parents, to sing more with my brothers, and to create an endless array of bags and necklaces with my best friend Veronica. All the while hoping to learn the words in Paul's letter to the Ephesians

"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor."

Monday, February 25, 2008


I really love African children.

Today a little 3 year old boy, Roger, was my patient. He is having surgery to repair a fissure between his nose and mouth.

Roger was fast asleep when his mother carried him into the ward. We get before photos of all our patients and we needed a picture of the inside of Roger's mouth. Sadly, this required us waking him up and attempting to have him open his mouth wide enough to get the needed photo. It was not the best way to become friends with Roger. He cried and grasped for his mom as she tried to open his mouth wide.

I have found that 2 and 3 year old's experience the stranger anxiety/environment stress when they come to the ward. These children have never been in an environment like our ship and some have never even seen white skin.

When I first arrived I took it personal that the children here find me scary and my heart was broken for about two weeks. I did not feel better until I finally realized they were just going to be scared and there was nothing I could do about it.

About an hour after the photo incident I was trying to make amends with Roger by sitting at his bed and gently reaching out my hand so that he could see I was not going to hurt him. He was sitting on his bed eating his dinner of rice covered in palm oil. When he saw my hand he reached with his spoon into his bowl and placed a lump of oily rice into the palm of my hands.

What a generous little boy. I guess that means we are friends now. Or maybe he just has exceptional manners.

Either way, he made my day.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

a photo

Here is a photo I took on screeing day. I will post more as soon as I figure out how to wartermark them :).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

flip flops

Today I walked a discharged patient, Samson, out to the gate. He had a hernia repair done and I realized it would not be a good idea for him to take the ½ mile walk carrying them. So I got some mid-shift exercise. Always appreciated.

Liberia doesn’t overwhelm me the way it did when I first got here. I fell my no longer wide eyes are finally becoming more sensitive to the small things. Like the holes is Samsons’s flip-flops.
I made him walk around the ward this morning and instructed him to first put on his “slippers”. As he slid them onto his feet, I noticed a palm-sized hole on the sole of the right foam flip flop. They were his only shoes. They are what he walked to the gate in.

Foam flip flops can be bought on the street for 60 LD (Liberian dollars) or one US dollar. I’m not really sure how many pairs of shoes I have, but I know I would never wear them if their soles had a palm-sized hole.

As Samson and I walked to the gate I inquired about his family. He is married and has two grown children. He is from the interior; rather far away. He paid 1800 LD for transportation to our screening day on Monday; a huge sum of money for someone who cannot afford a 60 LD pair of flip flops.

And he spent that money just to get to the screening, not knowing if he would even be chosen to receive surgery.

I’m glad he came. I’m glad we could help him.


How can you resist his cute little face? I think it's rather impossible.

back on the ward

Yesterday I was a nurse again.

As I went to bed the night before I was a little nervous. Hoping that I'd remember quickly what I was doing. Fortunately, yesterday was a light day and went quite smoothly; my memory had stayed nicely intact.

It's really nice to see the hospital filling with patients again. Surgeries began on Thursday and many of the patients we are now caring for were screened on Monday, a pretty quick turn around.

I took care of the cutest little 6 year old boy, Adolpho. It was been over three months since I have regularly interacted with children and I was very happy to see a small face again.Adolpho had a growth on his ear that was just slightly smaller than a ping pong ball removed. He was the first survival case of the day. He was quite the compliant patient.

He needed to have some labs drawn before his surgery, which did not make me very excited. Most 6 year olds scream and cry at the thought of a needle and I was expecting to use all of my brute strength to hold him down. But Adolpho simply held out his arm and did not bat an eye when we stuck him. When it was time for him to go to the OR he excitedly jumped out of bed with a large smile and grabbed my hand as we walked down the hallway to the OR waiting area.

Later in the day, after he came back from surgery, we spent some quality time building with blocks on the ward. I built a large block bridge for him to wheel his toy car under. We ended the shift by going up to deck seven and looking at the large boats on our dock; which he enjoyed. He then was the recipient of a rather animated reading of the Dr. Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham.

The entire time he wore a shy, tender smile and every so often would say something about football or school in a soft voice. He was adorable.

It's fun to be with patients again.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

presidential happenings

President Bush was in Liberia today. The crew was advised not to leave the ship as many of the main roads were closed for security reasons. There was also the possibility that all cell phones would be shut off for a few hours as well.

To my knowledge the president visited the university in Monrovia as well as the Liberian presidential mansion. It's rather exciting for an American girl to have her president visit Liberia. I wish I could have seen him, but I don't even want to imagine how insane security must have been. The President's security team had quite a challenge, I am sure.

On Tuesday, The Africa Mercy had the honor of hosting Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia. She has visited Mercy Ships several times before, but this was the first time I had seen her.

When Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took on the presidency, she took on an enormous task. The deep complexity of Liberia's problems and the countries severe lack of infrastructure make the task of rebuilding overwhelming.

It's a job I would never want, but she has courageously it taken on.

I have always been impressed by what I have heard and read about Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She is a Harvard educated, Godly woman who could have lived a successful life in the western world but has instead chosen to serve her countryman.

When she walked into the international lounge on Tuesday, I was stuck by her radiance. By her elegance. By her humility. By her love.

The eight minute speech she gave was both heartfelt and inspiring. You could see the deep care and concern she has for her people; the people of Liberia.

As she continues to work hard to rebuild her country, please keep Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in your prayers. She is a Godly woman whose life is really at risk, as evidenced by the stern body guards who kept a close watch during her visit, because of the amazing challenge she has undertaken.

She is a beautiful, courageous woman and I am so grateful that I was able to hear her speak.


All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be the blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king. ~J.R.R. Tolkien
this is just beautiful.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

screening day snippets

Mary: a five year old little girl with a growing facial tumor. He mother said the swollen like appearance of her face makes it painful for her to eat. I was trying to make Mary smile. I got down on my knees and gave me best attempt to be her friend.

She would not budge. She had the sense of shame I have seen painted on so many of our patient; a unique and sober intrevertedness and fear.

I got my camera out and asked Mary if she'd like her picture taken. Instantly, the little girl emerged.

She looked up and smiled a classis cheeser-show-all-your-baby-teeth-kindergarden smile. As I am editing (and editing..and editing..and editing..) Through my photos; I tear up when I come across Mary's photos and her cheesy baby teeth.

Nancy: A seven year old girl whose is missing her left hand. When she was 3 months old soldiers cut off her hand and burned her arm. All she has now in a contracted stump.

Musu: As I was walking through the lines of people; talking to potential patients and collecting photos, I felt a tug at my leg. I looked down and was greeted by a beautiful smile I had seen many times before. It was Musu. She had stopped by the screening to say hello.

That made me rather happy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

screeing day

Last night I went to bed at 9:30 pm. I think that's a Mercy Ships first for me.

Yesterday was screening day. A long day. A hot and humid day. A tiring day. A great day.

Screening was advertised throughout the country by radio and flyers and people from throughout the country arrived hoping we'd be able to help them. Crew from every department was involved with screening day, with some crew member s leaving as early as 4:30 Am. I was working with communications and met the rest of our team in the office at 5:30 am to gather equipment and head out to the appointed Land Rovers. By 6 Am we were on the road.

When we arrived we were greeted by an already long line of people waiting for the screening to started. It is estimated that over 700 people were there by 7 Am. Some had traveled hours and days to just to come to the screening. It's sort of comparable to how people travel long distances and camp out hoping to audition for American Idol.

Except these were people hoping for a chance to walk on two feet. Or that their babies cleft lip could be fixed. Or their mothers large facial tumor could be removed.

Actually, it's quite different than American Idol.

The screening was held in the Samuel Doe Stadium. Possible patients we first seen by pre-screeners; experienced staff who decided who could pass through the gate. Those with problems we could potential help were able to pass through the gate and continue with the screening process. Those with infirmities outside of the services we perform had to go home.

Being a prescreener, having to tell people there is no way we can help them, it a very tough job.

Once making it through the gate, potential patients waited. And then waited a little more. In the heat. In the sun. With their small kids and elderly parents. They waited with elated hopes; they had made it through the first round, maybe their dream would come true and they or their loved one would receive a golden ticket; a green surgery date card. While they waited crew members passed out water, bread, played worship music, and played with the children. There was a kids station set up where kids could have their faces painted, color, play games, or have a balloon animal made.

The kids here are so stinking cute. This pediatric nurse was extremely happy to interact with children again.

Once they made it through the line, each person went through a series of station manned by our HR personal and medical teams. The flow through the room was as follows:

1. Registration: ran by our Human Resource department

2. Patient History: taken by nurses

3. Surgeons Assessment: physical assessment by surgeons

4. Medical examination: anesthesiologists determine if patient is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia

5. Labs: Pre surgical lab work.

6. Pharmacy: each patient receives Iron and multivitamins to strengthen the patient for surgery.

7. Communications: before photo

Crew were at the stadium until 9 pm caring for the last patients. I personally left at 8 pm. The screening was impressively organized and went very smoothly. I was able to talk with, hold, and love on the people waiting which was a wonderful privilege I have missed since the ward closed. I really love being with the Liberian people. Their joy and hope is unnerving, their suffering heartbreaking, and their smiles beautiful.

I will divulge in a more personal testimony tomorrow, but now I must attend to the massive amount of photo editing and story waiting that awaits me.

Good thing I just made coffee.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Yesterday I was standing across from the gangway door at the copier machine when a familiar petite frame caught my eye. As second glance confirmed my suspicions; it was Mary.

In my mind I flashed back to taking care of Mary the day of her surgery. Her jaw had been permanently locked, disabling her speaking ability, and we had performed a release. I remembered giving her frequent nebulizers to keep her air way clear. I remembered her large feeding tube and multiple IV's. I remembered the painful eyes that stared at me as she awoke from anesthesia. I remembered changing her bed after she threw up gobs of old blood that had been sitting in her stomach.

Mary had no family members with her and would have been alone if it was not for Sally Peet, one of the moms on board, who was her adopt a patient crew member. Sally held her hand while she threw up and helped me change Mary's linens.

Mary was back on the ship to visit Sally and her family.

Mary was on the ward during, as I like to call it, "The Hope Ward Girls Club" phase of the outreach. She was one of a group of seven spunky dear females that I found incredibly wonderful. When I would talk and laugh with the girls Mary would always sit on the hand of her bed, listening, but obviously feeling like an outsider to the group. I would always have to invite her over before she would join in.

It was clear that she was use to being the outsider. I am quite certain she had very few, if any, friends.

But Mary had a sweet, sweet, spirit. She ate up every hug, every backrub, every hand hold, and every smile you gave her, and she would affectively echo back each response. I left my papers on the copier and ran past reception and enveloped Mary in a giant bear hug. She quietly smiled at me and slowly began to tell me she was in school and she had a test on Monday.

It was so exciting to hold and hug Mary; to see her doing well. It makes me anxious to meet our new patients.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

earthen vessels

2 Corinthians 4:7
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.

I was thinking about this verse today. It's so relieving to know that there is no glory in myself. No task to accomplish. No performance based evaluations. No one to please.
At the end of my life when I stand before God I am certain I will not have in hand a list of accomplishments, or complaints, or questions, but instead will fall on my knees awestruck and join the chorus of heaven in singing

"Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty. Who was and is and is to come."

Only my pride would cause me to think God needed me at all. Therefore I will gladly boast in simply being an earthen vessel.

the calm

This has been a bit of a manic week. The multi faceted ward nurse task force has been hard at work making preparations for screening day as well as the opening of the hospital next week. We have been moving boxes (of coarse !), organizing supplies, updating policies, and setting up dockside tents.

Also, this week has been quite meeting filled. There has been general "Liberia" orientation, nurse orientation, and preparation for screening day.

Today is calm. I'm trying to get myself somewhat mentally prepared for how busy this week will most likely be.

Screening day is Monday. I am quite excited and a bit nervous. I have participated in dockside screenings, so I have a miniature picture of how things work, but I think it is impossible to really know what to expect. On Monday, hundreds of people will come from through out Liberia with various strange and serious medical conditions, hoping that we will offer them help. I am told it is an extremely emotional and long day. There is the joy of offering a desperate individual a scheduled date for needed surgery and the pain of watching someone go through the entire screening process, with hopes elevated, only to find out at the end of the line that we can't help them.

The day is long; some crew members will be leaving the ship at 4:30 am and we won't pack up until as late as 8 pm. (I need to be ready to go at 5:30 am...good thing I'm such an early riser) Crew members from throughout the ship will be involved with the screening assisting in registration, security, serving water/bread to the crowd, driving, escorting patients through the screening stations, praying for patients, and children's ministry. Of coarse, the medical staff will be obtaining medical histories, lab work, and performing physical evaluations.

I have the prevailed of working for communications and will be taking pictures of the screening. I am really excited but a bit nervous.

If you would keep us in your prayers Monday it would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

happy valentine's day

This is my homemade valentine card that I plastered all over my friends door with some dependable blue tack and an attached werthers candy. Holidays always seem to accentuate cultural differences and us North Americans have been the primary wearers of red and pink today. Although I've never celebrated it romantically, I have always thought valentines day quite fun (like in elementary school when your homemade desk top "mailbox" got filled with cards and candy).
My mother always decorated our table with a red table cloth and heart decorations; and we’d eat some chocolate. My mom emailed and assured me she was wearing a hot pink shirt and that the family would remember me tonight as they dined around the specially decorated table. It's nice to be loved!
happy valentines day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


The ship is filling up again; this weekend we had almost 40 new nurses arrive. The culture of Hello/goodbye is again taking over the ship.

One of the most amazing things about being in the ship is living and working with people of different cultures, different ages, different vocations, different walks of life, and different lengths of service.

One of the most difficult things about being on the ship is living and working with people of different cultures, different ages, different vocations, different walks of life, and different lengths of service.

I clearly remember my first few weeks of ship life. I was new and I felt it. There was an understood reserve that separated those who were long term and those who had just arrived. I didn't really understand it.

I have spent 8 months on the ship. I have been able to build some great relationships with people. Things finally feel a bit more comfortable; a bit more "home like".

I have also said goodbye to some really dear people. The sadness in the constant saying goodbye to friends is not something I could have ever really prepared myself for. And not something I would have expected.

I remember my first goodbye to my kindred spirit friend Crystal. I would not describe myself as a part curly sensitive or emotional individual (despite my being female) but I was really, really, sad when she left. Even a little emotional. Even a little sensitive.

All this to say, I can now better understand the reserve of the long term crew members that I found a bit unnerving when I first arrived. Relationships take energy, time, and vulnerability.At the end of the day you only have so much energy and it can be difficult to find the balance between making new friends and cherishing your old ones; who substitute as your family on board. It's especially hard when you know your going to say goodbye soon anyway.

Today I hole punched and sorted papers for seven hours and the mindless activity provided me some good thinking time. My mind drifted towards heaven I started thinking and how wonderful it will be.

It will be so nice to spend eternity with the assortment of lovely people I am having the privilege of meeting in this lifetime. To have the time that we often don't get here, to sit down with a freshly brewed cup of coffee and talk and laugh for countless hours. It's nice to think that someday we could all love each other perfectly; experience perfect fellowship, have no seeds of discord, and no goodbyes. We won't struggle with each other; we won't struggle with ourselves.

It's a comforting thought to know that as Christians we are all part of an eternal family and that our hearts, minds, and energies ought to be pointed towards heaven rather that the small grain of time our lives become. It's comforting to know that the goodbyes we temporally make here; whether it be a friend we knew for three months in Africa or brother we've known our whole lives, will be exponentially compensated for in heaven.

Already I have met some really lovely people. I just had a "creative night" with a new friend, (she is a real artisit who does exhibits..I simple colored with my pastels). I discovered yesterday that one of the new nurses works in the Cardiac ICU at my home hospital, CHOP. And I might be the same person as my new friend Ali :).

I hope that my list of favorite people will continue to grow.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

more medical open house

Nurses dressed like patients for the "Africa Mercy Nurse Academy". Crew members were given nursing tasks to perform on their "patients", so they could experience what it's like to be a nurse.
Margarita, our x ray/CT scan technician and one of my cabinmates, demonstrates how to use the x ray machine on a crew member.

Winnie the Pooh gets a Cat Scan.

Dr. Gary Parker teaches crew members the fine art of suturing. Dr. Gary is a maxio-facial surgeon who has served with Mercy Ships for over 20 years. He lives on board with his wife and two kids and is one of the most remarkable, meekest people I ever met.

Nigel, an anestesiologist, teaches crew members how to intabate a patient (for the those not medically inclined it means inserting a breathing tube)

Tyrone holds one of our youngest crew members. Tyrone is our cook and the crew has deeply appreciated his services! He arrived in January with his wife, Stephanie, who is a ward nurse and a really great person! You can check out their blog at

Yvonne and Josh intently work on David. I had the pleasure of working with Yvonne and David in the dining room over the past weeks. Unbelievably, they still want to be my friend, even after being around me at 6 am (when we set up for breakfast). They definetly made working in the dining room fun...from food line dance parties to "the dining room olympiad" (how fast can you bus a cart of dirty dishes?), to the creation of "Hombre Ensalada" (a face composed entirely of items from the salad bar which was proudly displayed during lunch and later consumed).
Good, grease filled times.

The Koontz children perform surgery on their dad, Peter. Peter is the food services manager on the ship, and was my boss during my time spent in the dining room. Incidentally, he is a great boss and I really enjoyed working for his department. Food services can be a very tough job...

Two of my friends, Katherine and Ruthie, perform surgery on the always hysterical Academy teacher, Miss Paige. She looks very confident in their skills.

Monday, February 11, 2008

open house

I really needed some help.
Lucky for me, Ans and Allison, two of our supervisors, are always ready to go the extra mile!
you can see the intensity in my face as I remove a facial tumor from my good friend Red
Another success story!

Tonight we had a medical open house. The ward and OR nurse set up stations throughout the hospital that crew members had the opportunity to visit. During the outreach, the crew has limited access to the hospital. The open house provided them with an opportunity to visit before patietns come and it becomes a bit more restricted.

I ran a photo booth where crew members could dress up like a surgeon or patient. These are a few "test" photos.


a portion of the new road
the road is still being worked on
On Saturday night I had my first Liberian outing. Seven girls piled into a Landover and I once again got to relive the excitement sitting in the back trying to balance my coffee cup, while taking a picture, while avoiding hitting my head as we pass over the large potholes.
Ahhh. After two months away, it's good to be back.
As we drove to Monrovia things looked pretty much the same. Mass amounts of people walking along the streets, carry large items on their heads and babies on their back, street sellers offering grilled cassava and other specialties, old yellow taxi's buzzing through the streets like anxious bees. But halfway through out drive on Broad street, a road that runs through the center of town, something exciting happened. We stopped hitting potholes.
We were shocked to find a beautiful, freshly paved road that ran for (I would guess) at least two miles. Not only was it a smooth ride, the first I had experienced in Monrovia, but the trash on the sides of the road had been removed. Later that night, we also realized that the same street was now lined with lit street lights.
The excitement we derived from a paved road and few street lights was enormous. We laughed thinking of what people at home would think if they knew we were screaming and cheering over a paved road and a few lights (uuh..what do you think?)
But it was progress, a small step, but a step in the right direction. My friend Sarah commented that seeing this progress reinforces your belief in what your doing; it confirms that the long days and hard work are really doing something.
I'm still pretty excited about it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

a poll

Michelle, my bunkmate, really made a "what should I do with my life after Mercy Ships" poll. According to the latest polls, it looks like she will be heading to Alaska. You can vote for what she should do next and check out her blog at

Saturday, February 9, 2008

4 months

This week I received my official end date from HR. I will be leaving Liberia on June 9th, which means, as of today, I have exactly four months of my Mercy Ships experience left.

I find that rather hard to believe. The time has gone by so quickly and I feel certain that the last few months will be even busier and go by even faster.

Yesterday, my bunkmate Michelle and I were discussing the reality of leaving the ship and the age old question that again arises of "what the heck am I going to do with my life?" We agreed that this experience has given us a thousand ideas (well, maybe not quite a thousand :) of things to do but, yet no real idea what actually to do. Being single and debt free further perpetuates the idea; seeing that I really could do whatever I wanted (within a reasonable context of course).

Michelle had a brilliant idea. Eblogger has a poll you can create and post. She suggested I just created a poll of "what I should so next" and just went with whatever got the most votes. I'm glad we're bunkmates.

Regardless, I echo the words of Anne from Anne of Green Gables, who after attending an elegant lunch party with Aunt Josephine said, "This will ruin everyday life forever."

Being here has definitely ruined everyday life in some ways.

I find that the people who come to Mercy Ships generally possess the same inward restlessness. A certain type discontentment with everyday life. I think about the 1 1/2 years before I came. I thought about Africa almost everyday and as my family would attest, did some rather exhaustive Google searching trying to learn whatever I could about what the ship was doing. It wasn't that I didn't love my home, or my family, or my friends, or my church, or my job, but there was some sort of inward longing for something else.

Ultimately, that desire is for Christ; we will never be fully satisfied here. But, I do believe the Lord has created us all for a specific and different calling. No calling is in itself better or worse, more or less spiritual, but rather they are a individual out working of a personal faith in Christ.

Michelle and I also discussed the torn feeling that the desire to work in a place like Liberia causes.

I really do enjoy working in Africa. I love meeting new people and having adventures. I love getting to physically help the helpless. I feel blessed and privileged to be here. I want to be here.

But I equally love Bucks County. I adore my family and friends. I am so grateful for my church and the beautiful people it's filled with. Sometimes you can almost feel guilty for leaving everyone behind.

For example, Michelle has a photo of her adorable 7 year old niece on her bed. It's really difficult to explain to a seven year old, who is asking you not to leave, that your going back to Liberia.

But that's what Michelle was called to do, so she's here, and she's happy to be here. I know the patients she takes care of are happy she’s here too.

I'm glad that God is faithful. I'm glad He has plans and not problems. It's exciting to not know what's next.

But I readily admit, I wouldn’t mind having the five year plan. I'd even settle for the two year plan.

I guess I'll find out in five years.

Friday, February 8, 2008


here are a few more photos of our arrival in Liberia.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

24 hours

I have been in Liberia for over 24 hours. The past 24 hours have been rather busy. I’ve been spending countless hours in front of my laptop. AAhh.. Good thing I enjoy working on my computer :)

We arrived yesterday morning to the port of Monrovia, Liberia. Awaiting us was two African choir's as well as the Highest ranking Liberian Health official, Dr. Bernice T. Dahn.As previously mentioned I was working with communications and was able to enjoy (and sweat through) the ceremony from the dock while the rest of the crew watched from the ship. It was a little nerve racking seeing I have never really done anything similar to that before, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I'm always up for learning something new.

It feels quite comfortable to come back. I'm not shocked by the trash on the street or the crazy taxi's (I vividly remember the sensory overload I experienced during my first ride in a Liberian taxi). And I am excited about the ward reopening.Today, all the nurses reported back to health care services. We have all spent the past two months in various departments, like hospitality, food services, and crew services (cleaning). I had been working in the dining room, which I didn't really mind because I was able to move around, listen to music, and talk to people as they came through the line. Being a nurse on the ship, you are a bit disconnected to the rest of the community because you work weird hours and end up spending a lot of time on the ward, neatly secluded form the rest of the Africa Mercy. It was nice to work a schedule more similar to everyone else’s', it made my independent self (gasp) appreciate community living.

But today the nurses reunited and we started to unpack the ward. Which I assure you is no small task. As we sat in the ward for a meeting, I starting naming patients that were on certain beds in my head. Adorable Muhammad who was quite a player with all us nurses (he was a three year old who totally knew how to work a room :). Sassy Esther with her tenacious spunk and crazy platts. Hysterical Musu, with her contagious wide smile and her persistence that I was going to marry her brother ("My brother will have a fine woman, Meggee).

It will be fun to have the beds filled again.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

we're back

Well, we are officially back in Liberia. We arrived around 8:30 am. We then had an arrival ceremony which was quite enjoyable. I was working with communications today, so I was one of the only crew members on the dock for the ceremony, which was pretty cool. Well, actually, it was incredibly hot. My entire body was covered in un-evaporated sweat. But this is Africa. I am coming to terms with the fact that, despite my plans to look somewhat normal, it's back to looking like an old sweaty t shirt again.
oh well. there are much worse things in life, huh?
I am quite a tired girl, so I will simply post a picture and retire to my six berth cabin.

Monday, February 4, 2008

to love

Tomorrow at this time I will be Liberia. Hard to believe, but the humid heat, the need to wear a skirt tomorrow, and the already increased sense of business make it quite real.

Sailing has been relatively smooth and mildly relaxing. I even got to read a book for an hour today and watched Napoleon Dynamite with some friends.

I'm excited to go back. To be in a routine. To work hard. But I find that it's very easy to wrap myself in what I'm doing and forget that it's really about love. God’s love. His love for us. Our love for Him. And His love working it's way through us to the world we live in.

2 Corinthians 12:15 says

And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you the less I be loved.

To spend and be spent. To be selfless. To love when it is not recipricated. We don't see much of that love in our world. I don't see much of that love in myself. But I would like to learn it.

Charles Spurgeon said

The first thing for our soul's health, the first thing for His Glory, and the first thing for our own usefulness, is to keep ourselves in perpetual communion with the Lord Jesus, and to see that the vital spirituality of our religion is maintained over an above everything else in the world.

A friend explained a theory of Christian Psychology to me, which stressed the importance of children seeing their parents love one another. The love between parents can, in essence, spill over into the lives of the children, therefore making them feel loved and secure.

I think that's how our lived need to be with Christ. The intimate fellowship and love we have for Him and with Him should spill out from our lives and effect the world around us. It's really the only way. We can't share the love of Christ if we aren't experiencing it ourselves.

I have heard it said that as Christians we need to keep the main thing the main thing. But I would rather echo David who said "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life," and keep the one thing the one thing.

And as our hearts are filled with the love of God, they will naturally spill into the world around us.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

leaving Tenerife

a few photos from our departure