Is everyone else as excited about this as I am? Probably not, but that’s okay. 🙂
I’ve known I wanted to work in international development since I was a teenager. It’s what I studied in university, it’s where I focused my volunteer efforts and it was what I read/thought/talked about for almost a third of my life. To say that it’s something I’m passionate about would be an understatement. And in May 2012 I got to fulfill my dream and started working in the sector here at Mercy Ships.
While theories around international development have evolved over the years, today we are closer than ever to having a model that not only proves successful, but shows it’s participants grace and mercy along the way. There are three tenets in international development that have always stood out to me, and I’m so proud that Mercy Ships is able to hold true to all of them.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights starts with, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Mercy Ships does such a beautiful job of honoring this. We have people coming to us from all over West Africa with many types of ailments. Our volunteers see patients with tumours so large they must cover their faces, women suffering from fistulas who constantly leak urine and feces, and children whose legs are literally on backwards. Our patients are often shut out from their communities and ostracized from society. When they come to seek treatment from Mercy Ships volunteers, they are only ever treated with the utmost love, respect and dignity. Our volunteers see the person behind the disfigurement, an experience that is rare to many of our patients.
Mercy Ships never goes anywhere we aren’t welcome, in fact before we dock anywhere we have to be invited. Often times that invitation comes many months, even years, before the Africa Mercy actually takes up port in the host country. Prior to our arrival, we engage with local government leaders, listening to them about their needs and the direction their country needs to go. It isn’t only about what Mercy Ships can provide, it’s about how we can work together to achieve amazing results.
A good rule of thumb for any development project is to always ask this question: If we walked away right now and never came back, would this project still be a success? If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track! Whenever the Africa Mercy sails away, the host nation is always better off than when it arrived and not just because of the thousands of transformed lives. I’m talking about our capacity building training programs. Our volunteers spend much of their time training the nation’s doctors, nurses and medical professionals with skills that will last a life time. One of the best examples of this I can think of is from Canadian, Christina Fast, who is transforming health care in West Africa by teaching sterilization techniques to one hospital at a time.
Yesterday, on #GivingTuesdayCA we kicked off #MercyChristmas2013! December is going to be a MARVELOUS month! All donations up to 1.5 million dollars will be MATCHED by a group of donors until December 31st!
Canadians far and wide have the opportunity to give a life changing gift this holiday season. Large or small, every gift means that those such as Grace, Ebenezer, Emmaneol, Thierno and thousands of others will receive the care that they need.
But why Have a ‘Mercy’ Christmas? The word ‘mercy’ holds an incredible amount of meaning, and I want to paint a picture of it for you. Well I want to paint someone else’s picture of it for you…
I can’t think of anything that would describe ‘mercy’ as well as a blog post I read a while ago written by one of our crew members, Ali. Ali defines ‘mercy’ so eloquently and humbly and beautifully and…
I cannot find many more words that make the word ‘mercy’ shine more brightly. Have a Very MERCY Christmas.
There’s the dictionary definition of the word, stuff about compassion and forgiveness and helping to alleviate suffering, and then there’s the heart of the thing, and that’s what I hold in my trembling hands, all these years into it.
Mercy is a big ship full of people gathered from every corner of the world who live with a single purpose: walk in the centuries-old footsteps of the Jewish Carpenter who changed everything.
It’s children born with cleft lips who can raise their hands in the classroom without fear of ridicule. It’s the mama who can finally stretch out her burn-scarred arms to pick up her baby when he cries, the man who no longer shuffles through each day in pain from an untreated hernia. It’s the boy who can kick a soccer ball instead of limping on the sides of his feet and the woman who walks away from years of silent suffering with her head held high and her dress clean and dry.
Mercy speaks to the ones we turn away, too, the ones who plead with us and leave with shattered hearts. It’s there in the smiles we wear like armor to cover our own brokenness, in the shoulders we offer for the weary to lean on and in the heartfelt prayers for the healing we can’t provide. And even though it never feels like enough, we know that we’re not the first ones who have walked this road.
It says that thousands came to see the Carpenter, thousands who had gathered up all their courage and made the journey in hopes that there was finally going to be some way out of the darkness.
I can still see the line when I close my eyes, how it stretched on forever, how every time I looked up there was a new face in front of me, eager, expectant, filled with that same hope in spite of lifetimes of pain. I can still see the hundreds we sent through, the thousands we sent away.
When we finally left, well after dark, the sand in that school yard was covered in footprints. Big and small, straight and twisted, some deeper than others where willing arms had reached out to carry weak frames, all of them filled with hope or joy or heartbreak, all of them accompanied by the strong, unwavering marks left by the Carpenter who walked alongside each of us that day.
In my heart, I slip off my shoes, dig my toes deep into that dirt and know in some quiet, sure way that I stood on holy ground that day.
And as I look back on those footprints, I sink to my knees as I trace the lines of mercy in each one.
To all of you giving what you can and helping make a lifetime impact…
Gratitude is the hearts memory. Thank you so much!
Training is going very well. This week was Compost making, building a Compost Nursery table and planting lettuce,eggplant and tomatoes,building the rabbit house, making yogurt, natural insecticides, Hope for Africa.
Our trainees start the day with one sharing devotions. They have been doing a great job with that. This also gives us a chance to see how they teach. They have asked me to teach them English so we are doing three to five phrases or words a day. It is helping me get past “oui, oui” which is pronounced “we,we” and no it doesn’t mean I have to go to the bathroom.
Without a doubt the highlight of the week has been the yogurt making. Due to the size of the group we have had to split them in two to teach that. This of course has created a little competition. After the first group made their yogurt one of the guys (who was not in the group) said ” any man who says this is not good yogurt is a liar” … He liked it a lot and so do I. The great part about two groups is that we have had awesome yogurt for breakfast two days this week! Making yogurt is new for us.
I sent Eliphaz, our trainer for training this year to help expand our Nutritional emphasis on the program and he learned how to make it there. This training has really opened his eyes to our need for focusing on nutrition. He is now looking at how all we do impacts nutrition. Yogurt is a great nutritional supplement to the diet and another way we can emphasize the importance of nutrition in promoting better health. We even made some Moringa yogurt to pump up the nutrition that much more.
Speaking of Nutrition, here is the definition that the class came up with for Nutritional Agriculture, our program: It is providing food in a necessary quantity and quality to maintain our body balance and good growth and will produces good health. I thought this was a great definition of what we are trying to accomplish.
The Director of Agriculture for the region visited us again this week and was quite complimentary about what has taken place in such a short time. We spoke with him about having our trainees speak on the local radio about what they are learning to help spread the word. He said he could arrange that and also said he would like to have the television station come out and report as well. It’ s starting to take shape!
Yesterday one of our better trainees told us he has gotten a job teaching Agriculture at the school and would have to leave us. We are sorry to see him go but it has now opened up the opportunity we have been praying about to later on have our trainees teach in the school system here.
This is not only a great way for our trainees to learn how to present what we are training them but is a great way to get the information disseminated to the community through the kids. This is why the 4-H youth program got started in the US and those of you who know my background as an Extension Agent for Penn State know that this makes me tick!
– Ken Winebark, Agriculture Program Administrator
They come from far and wide, wearing large headscarves and balaclavas to hide their faces—and their shame. In West Africa, a disproportionate number of children and adults suffer from large, life-threatening facial tumors. Shunned by their communities, and sometimes by their own families, they have nowhere else to turn.
But onboard the Africa Mercy, a floating hospital docked off the coast of Conakry, Guinea, they find hope. Doctors and nurses provide life-changing maxillofacial operations, among other procedures, for these patients who would never be able to afford them. This past spring, five Trinity Western University School of Nursing alumni, including Brian Drebert (’06), served with Mercy Ships on the Africa Mercy.
Drebert’s own journey to the Africa Mercy began about 10 years ago, when, as a second-year nursing student, he visited a Mercy Ships booth at Missions Fest. “That’s when the idea really began to take root,” he says.
Fast-forward a decade and Drebert, who has spent the last 5 years as an Intensive Care Unit nurse at Vancouver General Hospital and Surrey Memorial Hospital, found himself dissatisfied with the direction his life was taking. “I knew I needed to do something drastic to change,” he remembers. “Overseas work had been on my mind but I had put it off. Eventually, I got to the point where I couldn’t not go. I needed to.”
So in the summer of 2012, he completed the Mercy Ships application and started fundraising. The application part was easy. The fundraising was, well, less so. But Drebert persevered, setting up a website for donations, hosting a fundraising event, and, he says, “learning to trust that God would provide.” And God did provide.
For nearly three months, Drebert—along with Trudi Attema (’06), Hannah (Hoffman ’06) Calvert, Karin (Larson ’07) Benson, and Laura Ziulkowski (’05)—watched the transformation the Africa Mercy patients experienced. “When they come in, patients are initially closed off, withdrawn,” he said, “ But when they’re cared for as a person, not just an illness, a transformation takes place. They begin to come alive, as though the disfiguration isn’t even there.” Craving love and acceptance, they find it on the ward from the nurses and other patients.
But the experience isn’t just life-changing for those on the receiving end of the surgeries and care; the caregivers—surgeons, nurses, and support staff—are deeply affected, too. “Some days, I just wanted to head to my room and cry,” says Drebert, who initially didn’t feel equipped to do the work. Over time, his trust in God deepened. He was able to let go of his hesitation and freely serve.
Now back home, Drebert wants to integrate some of his experience into his work here. “The biggest challenge is to enter into my patients’ stories,” he says. “In Africa, much of the patient’s suffering was beyond just the physical. Healing was only possible by listening to their story, entering into their journey, and walking alongside them.”
“My heart is still there, but this is home,” he continues. “I’m feeling challenged to find the same meaning in life in Vancouver as I found in Africa.”
Read more about Drebert’s incredible experience serving on Mercy Ships on his tumblr.
Fellow alumna, Trudi Attema (’06), also blogged about her time on the Africa Mercy here.
Interested in studying nursing at TWU? Learn more about our highly regarded School of Nursing, which offers the only faith-based nursing program in Canada.
Written by: Wendy Delamont Lees