The thoughts of a woman trying to live simply yet abundantly, contentedly yet expectantly, wisely yet adventurously... all for His glory.

2.23.2010

finally in Togo

Friends, forgive me... I have been silent for far too long.


When I last wrote I was at sea, just barely this side of seasick and trying not to roll out of my top bunk. For the record: the seas calmed after two days, I never did roll out of my bunk, and we arrived safely in Lomé, Togo, on February 10th. I never did see dolphins, but I did see lots of flying fish (really quite amazing; go look them up online), several whales (just dorsal fins and the blow, but still amazing), and a sea turtle. I quite like sailing, especially standing at the bow looking for marine life while the wind wreaks havoc with my hair and the sun gently slides into the ocean.

(Togolese people welcoming the Africa Mercy into Lomé)


After arriving in Togo we promptly started cleaning and setting up the hospital. I spent more hours than I care to remember on my hands and knees stripping wax off the floors: a modern-day Cinderella lightheaded from the fumes of the wax-stripping chemicals. The wax stripper was so noxious that it it removed my toenail polish, peeled a layer of skin off of my hands and knees, and I don't even want to think about how many poor little brain cells it killed (I need those, you know!). I also spent a day working in the laundry room where I managed to give myself blisters on my hands while trying to wring out steaming hot laundry. (Lesson learned: put it straight into the dryer no matter how sopping wet.)

But it's done! Floors are freshly waxed, sheets and blankets crisply tucked into hospital corners on beds, supplies restocked, and every available surface (including the ceiling) double-bleached. We're ready for patients.

Somewhere in amongst all this cleaning flurry I had a chance to meet some Togolese health officials who have been researching the social and emotional effects of VVF. Thanks to the researchers we have a list of women that we may be able to provide surgery for which is greatly encouraging.

Speaking of VVF, I am slowly growing into my new job. I've realized just how deep an appreciation I have for order, planning ahead, and a good orientation-- all things I wish were a little more prevalent at the moment. But I have enjoyed the organizational and planning aspects so far, and I like being able to see the big picture and plan accordingly.

Prayer requests:

  • Patients arrive at the hospital on Wednesday and our first surgeries are Thursday. Please pray for a smooth start as many of the staff are new. We also have about 75 Togolese volunteers who will be working with us as translators in the hospital, so please pray for good teamwork as we all try to help each other figure out how this whole thing works.
  • Mercy Ships is having lots of small patient screenings (small meaning anywhere between 100-500 plus people) as opposed to one large screening as in years past (with several thousand people). There are many people that we must say "no" to as the ship has very specialized surgeons and we only have so many surgical slots. Our hope and prayer is that people will see the love of God in us regardless of what answer we give them. 
  • I would appreciate prayer as I continue to grow into my various jobs (I have three, two of which are new).  I am being trained as a charge nurse this week, and will alternate working as a regular nurse and a charge nurse on the wards for two months (after which I will go to VVF full time--VVF surgery starts late May). 
  • The Togolese elections happen March 4th--please join with the people of Togo in praying for peace. I don't understand the political situation here but we are all praying for a peaceful election, results period (results are announced several days to a week afterwards) and for a peaceful transition of power. 

2.05.2010

walking to beautiful

I'll be serving in a different role with Mercy Ships for this year's outreach in Togo. Last year in Benin I served as a ward nurse, taking care of patients before and after surgery.

But this year? This year I am in a new role, something altogether thrilling and terrifying all at once: VVF Specialty Care Co-Coordinator. Basically that's a fancy way of saying that my friend Maggie and I will work together to coordinate the VVF program, trying to keep things running smoothly. Maggie and I will be some of the first people these women meet as they come seeking hope and healing, and we'll walk with them through the peaks and valleys of their time in the hospital.

I love each and every one of these women--they are so incredibly strong and beautiful and I learn so much from them, things both simple and profound. See some of my previous blog posts to learn more about VVF and some of the joys and heartaches that come with working in VVF.

And I highly, highly recommend watching a documentary called A Walk to Beautiful that you can watch entirely for free online. Filmed in Ethiopia, "A Walk to Beautiful" follows several women suffering from VVF as they journey from their remote homes towards a VVF clinic, searching for hope and healing.
(Gnuipanga, a VVF patient last year in Benin, just before a dress ceremony--photo by Mercy Ships communications team)

More than anything I can ever say in this blog, this documentary paints a perfect picture of why I am so honored to work with these women.

2.02.2010

adventures at sea


(Africa Mercy sailing away from Tenerife)

I've been holding seasickness at bay for the moment by regularly taking anti-nausea meds. It doesn't help, though, that I have leadership meetings in one of the topmost rooms of the ship (topmost = rocks the most) for 4 hours every day this week. I'm going to the meetings early so I can sit centrally and look out the windows on the bow at the only horizon that doesn't buck wildly, appearing and disappearing like so much magic.

We all stagger about drunkenly; even walking down the hall is a challenge when you ricochet off the sides like a bowling ball off the gutter guards. Suddenly crossing the dining room from one side to the other requires enormous amounts of skill and energy--first you climb your way up the incline, then dig your toes in as the floor suddenly pitches and you're racing downhill.

"Keep two feet on deck," they say--to which I might add, "and one hand on the railing." I'd hate to fall overboard, to be sure, but I'd also hate to take a tumble down the stairs, so I hold on tight as I strategize how best to ascend or descend.

In my room, I wince as I hear things smash about inside cupboards and closets. The mirror on our wall swings like the pendulum of a grandfather clock, and I scheme about how to measure the angle of our incline by tracing its path on the wall. At night I wedge one knee tightly against the small guard rail on my top bunk, praying I don't roll out. (I did roll off the top bunk once at summer camp in Montana, waking up with a scream when I hit the ground. After all, how many of your falling dreams actually turned out to be the real thing?)

This little flat-bottomed ferry was never meant for the open seas. Yet we chug steadily along, somewhere off the coast of northern Africa, headed towards Togo. And we are reminded:

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. 
Psalm 29:3

2.01.2010

en route (one day in Paris, and a quick stop in Barcelona)

Continuing my journey from Houston to meet the Africa Mercy in Tenerife, I spent one day in Paris. Last time I was in Paris (on my way home from Benin) I was ecstatically overjoyed at every little thing. This time I enjoyed Paris with a quieter joy, content to simply wander and take pictures. A few of my favorite pictures are below for your viewing pleasure.

No grand stories this time of my day in Paris, other than it was bitterly cold. I managed to stop my teeth from chattering long enough for a quick picture while on Pont Neuf.




I managed to capture in a picture some light breaking through the clouds over Paris, 
the light as always a reminder to me that God has already defeated the darkness





I once again sought a few moments of rest in Notre Dame, 
which drew my eyes toward the heavens and my heart toward God.




I found my way to the iconic Arc De Triomphe which from all accounts is simply stunning at night. Since I had no intentions of wandering around Paris after dark my myself, I was content to visit during the day.




My last stop for the day was the tallest point in Paris, Montmartre (the Hill of Martyrs), where the Sacre-Coeur watches over Paris. I enjoyed the contrast between the sacredness of the cathedral and the marketplace worldliness just below the cathedral. The street below was filled with people visiting shops and restaurants or taking a quick spin on a vintage carousel.




From Paris I flew to Barcelona for a quick layover before boarding a plane for my last flight of the journey into Tenerife. I wish I'd had a day in Barcelona to wander around and soak up the sun, but then again I hardly speak a word of Spanish so perhaps it's better this way. As it was, the sun streaming in the terminal windows was a nice respite from the cramped, dim plane rides.





I'm currently sailing on the ship from Tenerife towards Togo... using the computer can make seasickness worse (depends on the person) but I hope to post some pictures from Tenerife soon. And I'm still hoping for dolphins and whales and flying fish... none so far, but I did glimpse a sea turtle coming up for air in the 30 seconds I ducked outside for my own breath of air today.