We are coming to the end of our first month of our Cameroon field service, with legs being straightened, tumours being removed and lives being changed onboard the world’s largest charity hospital ship.
This month a number of orthopedic surgeries were completed onboard, and last week several orthopedic patients overcame a huge milestone: their first steps after surgery.
Among those taking their first steps was three-year-old Cecilia, who stole the heart of everyone who watched her bravely beam around the hospital wards in her miniature walker. Suffering from a knocked knee that has now been set straight, the only person who seemed more overjoyed than Cecilia was her father, Emmanuel. His smile never left his face as he helped his little girl take her first steps after surgery, commenting how Cecilia’s future is now “bright and full of possibilities”.
Alexandra Osborn, Ward Nurse, playing with Cecilia.
Cecilia will undergo more treatment as doctors and physiotherapists help her walk properly for the first time in her life, something that couldn’t happen without the support of volunteers and donors. Thanks to this support it won’t be long before Cecilia is able to depart the ship with a new knee, and a new life.
Cecilia, before surgery with her dad.
This is only the beginning, and the hospital wards of the Africa Mercy are filled with patients who will be given free life-changing surgeries and medical treatments this field service. Keep checking the blog for more patient stories as many more life-changing transformations happen onboard the Africa Mercy as we continue our field service in Cameroon!
Nurse Erin Muyres from Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, has volunteered multiple times with Mercy Ships. We recently caught up with Erin to ask her a few questions…
What went through your mind when you walked up the Africa Mercy’s gangway for the first time?
It was a dream come true. I couldn’t believe I was finally seeing the ship. I definitely cried seeing the ship for the first time and walking up the gangway. There was a feeling of excitement and expectation for my time on board, knowing God had brought me here for this time and I couldn’t wait to see what He was going to do.
Tell us about your time on the ship, what gave you strength – what took it away?
As a nurse, I got to be in the thick of seeing lives changed. I know sometimes it was hard for people who didn’t work in the hospital to see or to feel the value of their work. But I got to go to work every day and see God’s faithfulness in the patients lives and in the way their faces were transformed. This always gave me strength, no matter what was going on, I could go to work and feel peace and love and confidence in where God brought me. The community also gave me strength. The people you meet from all over the world, coming together for one purpose. You build fast and strong friendships because you literally spend all your time together, from work, to meals, to adventures off ship, to sleeping in a small cabin with 5 other people. You experience your ups and downs together. Sometimes this is a reason for stress or frustration, but it is also a reason for beauty and thankfulness.
Were you ever burned out – why? What helped you to recover?
There were times that I felt burned out or overwhelmed. Many often feel overwhelmed by the burden lack of healthcare creates. We help so many, but we are also unable to help even more. We don’t always get the desired outcome or things don’t go perfectly. It was important to remember that we are helping people and that the work we do is making an incredible difference in the lives of so many. You don’t know how far that difference will carry. It’s normal to feel the ups and downs of ship life. Everyone feels it so it is important to remind yourself it is not just you.
Was there a song/singer/band etc. that got you through your time of service?
I listened to a lot of Bethel while on board. Jesus Culture’s album ‘Let It Echo’ came out during my time on the ship and it was on repeat for months. Specifically, the song ‘Miracles’ perfectly reflected how I saw God during that time. He performs miracles every day on the ship and it was a reminder to look for them.
Did you read a new book on board – what was it?
I read so much on board! You have extra free time with less day to day responsibilities. I’ve read so many books that inspired me. ‘Extreme Medicine’ is about the innovators of health care and how they discovered and changed the face of medicine. “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Paul Farmer is an inspiring story about a doctor who was part of improving care for patients with TB and HIV in Haiti. “A Million Miles In A Thousand Years” also inspired me to live a better story and to make my life the adventure that I want it to be. There is a library on board and there are lots of readers so be prepared for your ‘To Read’ list to get exponentially longer.
How did you celebrate a job well done?
We celebrated all together onboard in various ways, music, games, meals etc…. the wins belong to everyone.
Talk to us about your transition back home. What has been a joy? What has been difficult?
It has been both a joy and difficult. I was on the ship for nearly 2 years so there are good days and bad days. It is so good to be home with family and friends again, to be with people who know you and love you so well. There is so much comfort in being with these people again. But it is also difficult to try and find your place again after being away for so long in such a different environment. Some days it’s so wonderful to be home in a cooler climate, to have space to myself, to be able to eat whenever I want and eat whatever I want. Some days are just overwhelming and there are tears for reasons I don’t even know, and I miss having people everywhere. It is all a part of the journey, God calls us to the Africa Mercy and He calls us home. I have known his faithfulness during my time on the ship and I have known his faithfulness in this transition. Through all the good and the hard, I know this is right and I trust God’s goodness for me here too. I’m still sorting through this transition, so I’ll let you know in a couple months!
What would you tell someone who is thinking to apply to serve with Mercy Ships?
Absolutely do it! Apply! Right now. You will be so glad you did. It is an honour to be a part of the Mercy Ships crew and to love and serve the people of whichever country you serve in. If it feels like a long time to be away, it goes by so so quickly, and you will blink and be back home wondering if it even happened. Two months, two years, whatever you can manage you have to do it.
Share your favorite quote or some words of wisdom with us!
It’s okay to not know what to expect and it may be better that way. It’s going to be nothing like you expected it to be in all the best ways. It’s hard and it’s beautiful. And being able to take that courageous step into the unknown is part of the beauty. We all did it and survived. And now looking back at how little we knew of what we were getting ourselves into, it seems like a lifetime ago. But it’s part of the journey and it’s okay to be nervous about it.
Do you have any Africa Mercy hacks you can share with us?
Magnets are your best friend. The entire ship is magnetic so hanging pictures or decorations in your cabin, using hook magnets to dry your laundry, hanging your towel in the bathroom, hanging IV lines from the ceiling, we use them for everything. Bring a headlamp for night shift! It will make your life so much easier. If you are a coffee lover, there is always coffee in the dining room but it isn’t to everyones liking. Bring some coffee and a small press and you will be so much better at handling the breakfast crowd. At least I was 🙂 Before I got to the AFM, I didn’t know I could send myself stuff on the containers. If you are there for a while, send yourself new toiletries or your heavier favourite items on the container. It will take a little while to get there but you wont have to pay to receive it on the ship. Bring a journal. It’s a great way to process everything you experience, and you have more time to spend reflecting and journaling than you do at home, so even if you aren’t a journaler now, try it out on the ship!
Our first patient up the gangway in Cameroon, 11-year-old Justine’s smile says it all – free surgeries can truly change lives.
Suffering from bowed legs, Justine has grown up struggling to walk properly, play with other kids and live a normal life. Without surgery, life would become increasingly difficult as she grew older.
Now, thanks to donors and volunteers, Justine has received free surgery to repair her bent legs! She is now continuing to receive treatment onboard the Africa Mercy that will help her walk properly with straight legs for the first time in her life.
Donors and volunteers from around the world are coming together to support the Mercy Ships field service in Cameroon, helping change lives like Justine’s. This support means that many more children like her will find hope and healing in coming months.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the Cameroon field service so far, we are so grateful to witness the amazing transformations that love and generosity are creating in the world’s poorest nations.
At 90, I’m rather stupid re-sending a photo of a card sample so am sending one I made yesterday for you to use and a bookmark. It may not be until late fall that I will have made enough to have a sale…with proceeds to Mercy Ships! (not a large amount). I’m going to a grandson’s wedding in a hotel near Frankfurt, Germany followed by a Rhine cruise from Basel Switzerland to Amsterdam with the groom’s mother my daughter #3.
– Sincerely, Maryan
At age 90 Maryan is still taking life by the reigns and giving back to others. Enjoy that cruise Maryan!
We are so grateful for our Shipmates who give what they can…some more, some less, but whatever the amount, their gift will change a life.
By becoming a Shipmate you can support patients month to month making an even greater impact
Watching the HOPE Center come alive these past few weeks has been amazing! Snuggled in beside the Nylon Hospital and a bustling market, our new HOPE Center, freshly painted and ready to go has been going full speed preparing rooms ready for patients.
This past week the buses arrived with patients: Orthopedic, Women’s Health, Maxillo-facial and care givers for pediatric patients. Today if you visit you will find over 100 Cameroonians, many from the far north west making the HOPE Center ‘home’. Meals are flowing from the kitchen, washed clothes are draped all over the clothes lines, children are growing in confidence and playing enthusiastically, their eyes wide in wonder. The adults are gathering in smaller groups getting to know one another. Many of them have said how happy they are to be finally here. One mumma tells me, God has had a plan for this time for over 30 years ever since her facial tumor grew.
Our 41 day crew (local workers) are very busy now, learning the routines. They are already a BIG blessing! Their smiles are beaming! They were humbled and amazed at the severity of disability of these first patients, especially among the orthopedic cases. They expressed their surprise to us and their desire to serve and love these patients. One day crew wanted to change her heart and increase in compassion, another wanted to use their gifts to serve another was humbled by what he saw and wanted to grow in character. Another was grateful to be a part of the Mercy Ships work.
Already we’ve seen the first few days of dockside screening! What a privilege to escort the first screening patients to the ship. Our van carried ten silent passengers. Once in the port the Africa Mercy came into view. Eyes widened and everyone was staring at the ship. No-one said a word. For most it was the first ship they have ever seen. Imagine their surprise at entering inside and going down to the Hospital deck. I asked them later about their first impressions;
‘The ship is wonderful!’
‘The people inside were smiling and kind’
‘It’s like a big house inside, rooms and stairs…no… more like a large village, a city!’
Written by HOPE Center Facilitator – Susie Drysdale
Thanks to the generosity of YOU our Canadian donors, renovations of the Cameroon HOPE Centre were made possible. We can’t thank you enough, this life-changing work could not be done without you.