Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cabin Fever

I've been getting lots of requests for pictures of my cabin. I meant to add it to the ship tour I posted a few months ago but never got around to it, oops! So here's the long awaited Cabin Tour of 3431. Please excuse the mess (although it's relatively clean right now) and the poor photo quality (the lighting in the cabin is horrible). Ok? Thanks!

First up is the view from the doorway coming in. Our cabin is a 'six-berth' (meaning six beds), which is what most nurses live in. There's a huge variety of cabin types on the ship ranging from singles for management positions all the way to 10 berths, which are usually for galley, hospitality and housekeeping crew. The layout of each cabin can also be different depending on what part of the ship it is in.

 As soon as you walk into our cabin, you reach the bathroom on the left side. It's lovely to have our own bathroom in the cabin (not true for everyone), but it's teeny tiny and shared by six girls so you can imagine what a busy place it is ;) You can see here the toilet, sink, mirror shelf and shower. With the curtain closed on the shower there's just barely enough room to turn around without running into a wall! Let's see, other fun facts about the bathrooms on the Africa Mercy: 
  • 2 minute showers (I think I've mentioned this one before- water on, rinse, water off, soap/shampoo, water on, rinse, done).
  • We have surprisingly great water pressure and super hot water available pretty much all the time - which makes the 2 minute showers a little more acceptable.
  • The ship's waste is run by a Vacuum system (imagine like on an airplane) where all water is sucked into our treatment system on Deck 2. It can make flushing the toilet at 2am very noisy!
  • We share a 'Vac' system with the cabin next door so our whole room can hear every time they flush or take a shower, haha!
  • Occasionally we get an overhead announcement something like this: "Deck 6 Vac System down until further notice". (AKA- you can't flush the toilet until we tell you...that's always fun to hear...)
  • Twice a week, we are required to put Toilet Juice in the toilet to keep the Vac system clear. Kind of like Drano, I guess?
  • We have a retractable clothesline that goes across the bathroom...but if it's open, you can't close the shower curtain. And the cabins are constantly damp so everything takes forever to dry anyway.

From this view, you can see into each of the 3 bunk spaces. There is a curtain that closes each section off to help keep out light and noise and for privacy. Each section has basically the same thing, 2 bunks, one wardrobe with a side for each person, a bookshelf and a fold down desk with a chair. I live in the back section straight down this hall.

Here's my section looking in from the opening to the hall. Our cabin is actually right next to a stairwell so it's slightly shorter than the others. Normally the beds are up against the left wall with open space and a desk, but instead our bunks face the other way and we don't have a desk. I've had two bunkmates - one was here for 2 months and worked in the dining room; and the other has been here for 5 months and is a nurse as well. 3 of the 6 girls in my cabin are here for 10 months like me and about 6 others have come and gone. It's pretty common in the six berths to get a new cabin mate every few weeks because crew come and go so often. The atmosphere of the cabin changes every time someone leaves so that has been an adjustment, but overall our cabin group has been very good with no major issues!

Here is my mess of a wardrobe. Besides our small bookshelf and a little bit of room under the bed, this is the only storage in the cabin. It must hold clothes, shoes, beach stuff/towel, office supplies, plus whatever other randomness I can shove in. I like to call it organized chaos because it looks like a mess but I know exactly where everything is! (Thanks to a tip from a Mercy Ships pro, I threw in that hanging shoe rack you see on the front of the door at the last minute and it has been a lifesaver for holding all kinds of small things!)

And finally, here's my cozy little corner of the world. I upgraded to the bottom bunk back in October which was a huge blessing! The mattress isn't very comfy and it was hard to adjust back to a Twin bed, but when I'm exhausted and my head hits that pillow, I consider how it could be so much worse. I love filling my walls with lots of pictures, inspirational quotes and Bible verses so I can look at them every time I get in bed. If you'd like to bless me with some new ones for variety, send away!

Well, that's all I can think of for now! When I come back in July, I will have a new cabin and will try to put up some pictures in less than 6 months ;) Hope you enjoyed seeing my little home away from home.

Now a question for you: What else would you like to read about on this blog? I have a few ideas left to write about, but I'm curious what the readers want to know! I have just a few weeks left in Madagascar and then this blog will probably take a break during my time back in the States so this is your chance to find out all you ever wondered about. Do you have some burning question about the ship? Would you like more Madagascar info? Patient stories? Or just something random? Ask away in the comments or email me and maybe your question will get featured in a coming post!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ready for Mercy Ships Take 2?

A few weeks ago, in another post, I mentioned a big announcement was coming soon. Well, here it is: I'm not done with Mercy Ships yet! I'm sure it doesn't surprise many people that I love this place and am fully committed to this ministry for as long as God continues to allow me to be here. That being said, I will be coming back again for another 10 months starting in August - this time we'll be sailing to Benin in West Africa! 
I've been dying to scream from the mountaintops (or at least Deck 8) about this big news, but I was waiting until everything was official before I let the world know! As much as I miss seeing my friends and family at home, I've been overwhelmingly grateful at the response of those who I've told the news already. It makes such a HUGE difference to know people are excited for me to come back and so supportive of the work we're doing here. So thank you, thank you, thank you for that! Below is the email I sent to those on my update list for anyone who I haven't been able to contact. Feel free to read more of my heart :)

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. -Philippians 1:3-6
 Dear Friends and Family,
As I sit here on the Africa Mercy typing this email, I think of all the ‘good work’ that has been done in Madagascar in the past 7 months. Since September, Mercy Ships has provided 1167 free surgeries, seen over 5,000 dental patients and trained over 1,000 medical professionals - and that’s all with 10 weeks left before the ship will sail away. God is using this ministry to bring hope and healing to the country of Madagascar in many ways. All these numbers and statistics will never be able to capture the other side of the story where people who receive surgery are given dignity again…where parents of a disabled or disfigured child are able to dream for their future again…where hundreds of local workers the ship hires have learned what a difference it makes when work is grounded in the love of Jesus…and where physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists and hospital administrators have been empowered to provide safe care for their patients and make a difference in a broken system. I wish you could meet the people behind each of these stories to truly understand the impact this ministry has had in this place and to know that your support makes it all possible. Above, I used that verse from Philippians because I am so very thankful for your partnership and when I think of all that you’ve done, I am truly filled with JOY!

Patients recovering from plastic/reconstructive surgery enjoy free time on Deck 7
But the good work is not yet completed. There is much, much more to come, which is part of the reason I am writing today. Sadly, our work in Madagascar must come to an end, but that is only because in just a few months, the Africa Mercy will head to Cotonou, Benin and I’m extremely excited to announce that I will be going with it!

Benin is the country in blue and Cotonou is right near the tip of the arrow.
Benin is a small country on the coast of West Africa about the size of Pennsylvania. It’s a relatively stable and safe country that was a major part of the African slave trade and believed to be the birthplace of Voodoo. While Benin is a developing country, a huge portion of the population lives in poverty and there is less than 1 doctor for every 10,000 people. The Africa Mercy is scheduled to dock in Cotonou, the largest port city in Benin, from August 2016 – June 2017. Not only will I be returning for those 10 months, in July I also have the opportunity to sail with the ship to Benin from South Africa, where it will be docked for annual maintenance and repairs.

The Africa Mercy sailing into Madagascar, August 2015
 I’ve spent the last few months in prayer over this decision, but I fully believe God has called me to this place for longer. There are many ifs and buts that have gone through my mind; however, I have been forced to a place of complete trust in His plan and timing. God has shown me over and over again that He has me here for a reason and He will provide for all my needs. You are one of the ways He has done that! Whether you have given financially, prayed daily or sent a note or inspiring word that came at the exact right moment – each of you is so very important to allow this work to continue! Which means your work is not done yet…

Once again, everyone at Mercy Ships is a volunteer and we are required to pay our own travel expenses plus room and board to live on the ship. In the past year, I have been blessed to receive more support than I ever imagined possible, which means some of that will be able to go towards my monthly expenses for Benin. But I will still need to raise about $6000 to cover the rest of the 10 months. If you are one of my generous monthly supporters already, it’s easy to continue giving in the same way you do now. I appreciate you all so much for your consistent support the past year, but I also understand that finances can change and if you are unable to continue giving past your original commitment that will not be a problem! If you are interested in joining my Crewmates team, I encourage you to visit my Donorpages site here: Click the DONATE link to give via credit or debit card. If you’d rather not give online, please reply to this email and let me know so I can send you more information about other donation options. All donations given through Mercy Ships are tax deductible. Again, none of this would be possible without your support and God is using your gifts to further His kingdom!

Sasimeny and I sharing giggles on Deck 7. Read more about Sasimeny's story here: 
I’ve also been blessed by your prayer support and words of encouragement that keep me going on a daily basis. One thing I have experienced the past few months is the power of prayer! This community is built on prayer and it’s beautiful to see the body of Christ come together in this way. There are people all over the world praying for this ship, our patients and this country. I try to post several times a month on my blog ( about what’s happening here and areas that could use prayer. Also follow me on Facebook (Jenny Mullis) or Instagram (username: jennjam23) for pictures, Mercy Ships links and videos, as well as patient stories.

Thank you again for prayerfully considering how you can support Mercy Ships in the coming year! I look forward to sharing more with you as I continue this journey to Benin in a few months.

Love to you all,

PS- Because of this change, I will only be in the US for about 5 weeks in June and July. My schedule will be pretty full but I would love to see you and catch up on life! I plan to be in West Palm Beach from June 28 – July 20 or so with a trip to St Petersburg fit in there somewhere. Please let me know if you want to get together while I’m home!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

My Little Shadow

At 3 years of age, she fell into a fire severely burning her right hand and wrist. Without money to go to the local hospital, her family turned to a Catholic nun nearby for help. Over time, her skin did heal but not without contracting so tightly that her wrist was forced into a bent position and her fingers fused together making them essentially unusable.

Then, they heard about Mercy Ships providing free surgeries and there was hope. This 4 year old little girl and her older brother left their family and traveled for 4 days across Madagascar to the ship for her surgery. They trusted that these white people who didn’t speak their language could possibly heal her arm.

When I first took care of Sasimeny, it was a few hours after her surgery. She lay in her bed, in and out of sleep from anesthesia. Even though she never complained of pain, her grimaced face and the giant tears rolling down her cheek showed evidence of the major surgery she’d just gone through. But she obediently sat up and swallowed every bad tasting medication and tolerated our constant poking and prodding that interrupted her rest. All the while, her brother sat next to her bed patiently stroking her hand and speaking words of comfort that would mean more than anything my English ones ever would.

The first few days are always the worst. That’s what we tell our patients before their operations. Then things get better.

For a while, we all believed Sasimeny was shy and quiet. She kept to herself, coloring in bed or watching the movies that came on TV twice a day. Across the room, there was another 4 year old girl who had surgery around the same time, but she was not shy at all. Variela loved to play and be held by the nurses (and argue with her dad about taking medicine!). Sasimeny would watch from a distance as we played balloon toss or built Lego towers on the floor. Then one day, as I sat holding Variela, Sasimeny reached out to be picked up too. I guess the vazhas (white people) aren’t so bad, now are they? From that moment on, Sasimeny and I have been inseparable.

Sasimeny (right) and her buddy Variela

Now, I call her my ‘little shadow’ because about 95% of my working hours she spends in my arms or very close by. She is a completely different little girl – playful, vibrant and full of life with a bit of a stubborn streak we assume comes from being the baby in a family of 6 older brothers! Some have given her the nickname ‘Sassy’ and it fits well. We taught her to play Jenga, blow bubbles and cover her face in stickers. But her favorite thing is being carried up and down the hallway snuggled in someone’s arms. Occasionally, I force her to walk which usually turns into us racing down the hall holding hands. Secretly, I don’t really mind. She’s been in our hospital now over 50 days and rarely spends a moment in her bed unless she’s sleeping.

Sassy and her balloon with another nurse, Kayla.

One day soon, Sasimeny will leave our ship and move to the Hope Center to wait for several weeks of outpatient appointments and rehab before she can go home. While the surgery we did here will make it possible for her hand to move again, it’s the months of rehab and exercises after the skin heals that will allow her to use it to its full potential. And that really is the goal. Her right arm will never look completely like the left one again. But hopefully, with lots of practice she will be able to pick up a ball, hold a pencil and carry a bowl. Someday, she will be able to go to school and learn like the other kids. And years from now, she will be able to get a job or care for her children. All things that would have been more difficult or impossible without this surgery.

I can’t deny that I won’t be a tiny bit sad when my little shadow walks (or, let’s be honest, gets carried) up the stairs and down the gangway off the ship. She is only 4 years old and will probably not remember much about her time here. But I hope I will never forget her beautiful face or big, inquisitive brown eyes. As much as I hope she will have memories of nestling into my shoulder after running around Deck 7, it’s a tough reminder that this is not about me. My job is to love each patient and take care of them while they recover from surgery – their job is to use the life we’ve restored to its fullest potential! And I have no doubt that Sasimeny will do just that.