"It’s not about you. It’s not about me. The moon models our role. What does the moon do? She generates no light...Apart from the sun, the moon is nothing more than a pitch black, pockmarked rock. But properly positioned, the moon beams. The moon reflects the greater light.
What would happen if we accepted our place as Son reflectors?" Max Lucado
9 months ago, a big white ship sailed into the Port of Douala, Cameroon with some lofty goals and even bigger hopes and dreams for the future! And now, just days before that ship will sail towards the open seas once again, I wanted to give a final update from this beautiful country I've called home for almost 1 year. No amount of words, numbers, stories or images truly can capture the miracles we've seen God doing here but I've chosen just a few to summarize an amazing year: Cameroon Field Service: September 2017-May 2018 Surgeries: 2,743 for 2,508 patients Mentoring Participants: 89 Training Participants: 1,433 Dental Patients: 9,220 Bibles Distributed: 675 Balloons, stickers and bubbles distributed: countless :)
One of the most memorable patients I had the honor to care for this year was Fanta. She was a plastic surgery patient who had a large mass growing under her arm. Interestingly enough, Fanta is a nurse here in Cameroon but as this mass grew larger over the years, she was unable to work or care for patients anymore. There were two things that stood out to me about Fanta from the moment I met her: her expert style in using her dress designs to hide this tumor from the public and her gorgeous smile that shone brightly even through the struggles she has faced with this disease. As she left the ward after recovering from surgery, she could not stop thanking the doctors, nurses and God for bring Mercy Ships to give her hope for the future again!
Bernard's neurofibroma started growing when he was just 4 years old. While his parents tried to get him help, the local doctors told them he needed a specialist that would cost too much money. The 19 year old does not let that get him down though, pushing against the odds to stay in school and achieve his goals. His teachers told him about Mercy Ships and encouraged him to be seen - however, he was hesitant to tell his friends, not believing anyone could truly help him. After receiving his free surgery and returning to school, his classmates barely recognized him! Bernard said, "Before the surgery people would keep their distance, but now people approach me. It's given me more confidence and self-esteem, and I now have more opportunities than I had before! Thank you, Mercy Ships!"
One of our favorite transformations on the ship come from cleft lip repairs. Often they are babies or small children, but every once in a while there is an older patient who never had the chance to have their lip repaired like Fadimatou, from the very far north region of Cameroon. After a short surgery and a few days recovery in the hospital, these patients can return home without fear of rejection or being treated as 'cursed' any longer. And we get to enjoy the gift a many beautiful smiles in return! Below: Left- Remember Baby Paul? (one of our first patients back in September who was treated in our Infant Feeding Program to help gain weight) Right- He finally had his 2nd surgery to close the hole in roof of his mouth just before his 1st birthday and he's now home again, fat and happy!
Another Cameroonian patient with an amazing smile was Zidane! He had an infection on his ankle that ate down to the bone and forced his foot to be stuck in an abnormal position. After several surgeries and a skin graft, he was able to put his foot flat on the ground for the first time in years! We had several teenage boys in the ward together around the same time who became fast friends. And what was their favorite Rehab activity? Playing basketball out on the dock with the rim attached to a wall of containers!
One of the programs I don't mention very often is our Ophthalmic Surgeries. However, it is not because they do not have a great impact - consistently operating on over 50 patients per week for a total of 1,500+ surgeries this field service in Cameroon! The majority of patients come for cataract removal, a common problem related to diabetes, poor health or old age. Imagine slowly losing your vision over time but having no power to do anything about it, knowing that one day you will be blind. With a surgery that takes less than 5 minutes, Mercy Ships is helping the blind to see, following the model of Jesus.
We could not do anything we do without the help of our awesome Day Crew! This is the group I have worked with most of the last 9 months. They are a fun, intelligent and hard working bunch of Cameroonians who have helped with translating, caring for our patients and keeping the ward running smoothly. Over 200 day crew are needed all over the ship to make it possible to serve in this country. I am so thankful for them!!
Safety and good weather during the 2 week sail from Cameroon to Las Palmas, Spain in the beginning of June
Rest and rejuvenation for many exhausted crew members after a long, busy and hard field service
Successful shipyard period in June and July for ship maintenance and repairs
Lots of crew members will be coming and going over the next few months, either for vacation time or leaving to return home - pray for safety, smooth transitions, enjoyable times with friends and family and successful support visits
Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships.