I spent the second half of last week, three hours up north, in the town of Abomey.
Despite the very bumpy road, I was so jet lagged, that I manged to sleep for a good portion of the ride up Wednesday morning. When I wasn't sleeping, Eileen, our videographer, filled me in on the patients we were visiting.
The first patient we visited was a 14-year-old girl, named Edith. When Edith was 12, a fast-growing facial tumor overtook her face, threatening her life. A local missionary couple paid for Edith to have surgery at a local hospital. Her surgeon was an ears, nose, and throat specialist, with no maxillo-facial or plastics experience. He removed the tumor, saving Ediths life, but left her extremely disfigured. When Edith awoke from surgery, her right eye was permanently closed, along with half her nose and mouth. She was horrified when she looked in the mirror. She spent the next two years hiding in her house, completely isolated from her village.
You would have never known that on Wednesday.
The same couple who sponsored Edith's first surgery, heard of Mercy Ships, and made sure Edith came to the screening in February. Edith received reconstructive surgery on the Africa Mercy. Her face isn't "perfect", but both her eyes and nostrils are opened, and she looks remarkably better than before.
Most importantly, Edith is no longer hiding in her room. She's again a part of her village. Recently, she even took first in her class at school.
Edith is beautiful and has a gentle and sweet spirit. While being interviewed by the videographer, she broke down crying midway. The entire village had gathered around her to watch and the attention made her uncomfortable. So she cried.
When she wasn't being interviewed, Edith insisted on having her little brother in her arms. It was beautiful to watch her gently sooth and care for him. Her compassionate heart shined.
Seeing Edith in her village added a new dimension to the spectrum in which I view our patients. On the ward, it was hard to imagine my patients in their homes with, their families, living their day to day lives. As a nurse, I was a part of a crisis period, far removed from daily living.
But in the villages, I gained a small glimpse into their worlds. I saw the direct impact and dramatic change Mercy Ships is having in the lives of daily life individuals.
The most powerful part of our patients transformation is never physical.
The most powerful part is the new found sparkle in their eyes, the joy in their smiles, and the confidence which being loved brings.
Giving someone free surgery is such a powerful way to demonstrate God's love. I'm sure the Father's heart is delighted when Edith smiles.