We have been home now for 6 weeks and what a busy and blessed time it has been.  This past Saturday Hailey turned one year old Hailey's first year.  We have been so blessed by God's provisions and love for us over this past year and we know, having seen God’s faithfulness, that if we trust and obey him, he will direct us according to his will in the future.  

One of our biggest prayer requests before leaving the ship was for Greg to get a job.  We want to tell you that God’s answer couldn’t have been more perfect.  During our time in Chelmsford last summer and fall, Greg had volunteered with the maintenance crew at our church.  When Pastor Dana heard Greg would need a job, he offered him a permanent part-time position on staff with the building and grounds department.  With the experience he had on crew with the ship, Greg is comfortable with hard work and has really put in an all-out effort to beautify the church and grounds.  You should see it for yourselves and come in for a visit while you're there (service is on Sundays at 9am).
Another big answer to prayer was being accepted as a full time grad student in the family nurse practitioner program at UML.  I will be starting this fall and, Lord willing, will graduate spring of 2015.  While I am in class and/or studying, ‘Nana’ (my Mom) will be nanny for Hailey.  If anyone wants to spread the love and have some baby-time let me know and I bet Nana will be willing to give Hailey up for of couple hours.  ;0)

         Our future, like always, is very much in God’s hands.   Thank you for your faithful and obedient support to me and now our family, over these four years.  I can truly say that my life has forever been changed by all that God has shown me and done through me during this time.  We hope to return to Africa in the next 5 years to continue in land-based missions but for now are enjoying every day of being right where God has put us.


Our friend Fodi...

Africa has opened up my eyes to a lot of things, some incredibly joyful, some incredibly heartbreaking.  One of the heartbreaking things that I have seen and learned more about is the terrible effects of poverty particularly related to health.  Most of our patients, if not all, are poor.  Due to this they are not able to provide for their families basic health needs including food, water, shelter, clothes, never mind medical needs (doctor visits, medicines, tests, etc).  There are different levels of poverty but some of the poorest of the poor are the patients that are afflicted with a disease called Noma.  Just google “Noma disease images” and you will see the horrific effects of this disease. This disease starts generally between the ages of 1 and 6 and is due to a combination of poverty, malnutrition, and poor dental hygiene and if the child lives an area with poor sanitation they have an even higher risk of getting this disease.  For those of you reading this that have been to a poor country you can empathize with these risks knowing that most people in poverty are surrounded by these exact disparities.  I think particularly of Haiti and the after effects of the detrimental natural disasters to an already impoverished country.  I bet Noma was high there before the disasters so I can't imagine what they are dealing with now.  This is true for any poor country but then is multiplied by natural disasters, civil war, drought, famine, etc. (*Sudan, Darfur, Irag).  Right now the WHO states that there is about 140,000 new cases each year of Noma.  We need to be made aware of this awful disease so that we are willing to do something about it.  Go, send, pray; which one is your part?

 While in Guinea I have seen more patients with this disease than in the other 6 countries I have been to.  About 80-90% of all Noma patients do not survive due to septicemia, pneumonia, or diarrhea associated with malnutrition.  For the 10 to 20% of Noma patients that do survive they are left with severe disfigurements of the face.  This leads to then being ostracized and tagged demon possessed and/or cursed.   On Mercy Ships we see that 10-20% that have survived.  In the past, while serving on board, I have always cared for them in the wards or doing their wound care but this year God blessed me with a greater gift and that was giving me a friend.

When I started to write about my friend Fodi for this blog I realized that his story and our friendship didn’t carry as much weight if you didn’t understand the disease he has and what he has gone through. The scenario up above about being ostracized and labeled demon possessed is exactly what Fodi endured as a boy and now a man.  Yet the joy, love, kindness and care that this man shows to all who have met him would never let you know.
This outreach has been a bit (*extremely) different for me compared to what I’ve been doing the past years on the ship.  One of the biggest things I missed was getting to know the patients.  So I decided to sign up to “Befriend a patient” where you get to befriend a patient (as the name implies).  I won’t lie to ya, I originally signed up for a middle aged female thinking ‘she’ would be a good match especially because of Hailey.  Thankfully my wise friend Sarah knew that Fodi was our perfect friend.  And she couldn't have been more right!
Upon meeting Fodi I knew he was perfect for us when I asked one of the nurses who he was and she pointed to an older man (51) with a bedazzled bright yellow paper crown sitting firmly on his head.  As soon as Hailey saw this 'crown of glory' she lit up and so did I.  Fodi put on the biggest smile he could and quickly put out his hands to hold Hailey.  This is where our friendship began.

Over the past 4 months Hailey and I have had the joy and pleasure of getting to know Fodi.  During his stay on board he had three separate surgeries in which Dr.Gary basically made him the other side of his mouth.  Through visits down to the hospital, afternoons on Deck 7 playing Jenga or working on his alphabet, or trips over to the Hope Center during his last few days getting treatment, we loved spending time with him.  Each hour spent with him was so precious and even though our conversations were short due to language differences they were always sweet.  I’m happy to report that Fodi went home this past Thursday fully healed and will receive his final surgery by a Guinean doctor trained by Dr.Gary.  Praise God!  Fodi is just one of the many patients gone through during this outreach in Guinea but what an impression he has made on my life and so many others. 
During these 4 years on the ship and seeing some of the poorest of the poor whether it be due to them coming for surgery or begging on the streets this passage gave me new insight, conviction, and hope.  

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’   -Matthew 25

Outside on deck 7
Hope Center


Lazare's Orphanage

One of my good friends, Michelle, has been faithfully going to a local orphanage called Lazare’s Orphanage.  Hearing her talk about the kids and her experiences made me want to go and visit.  So this past Saturday Hailey and I were able to get off the ship to go and visit these amazing kids.  The orphanage is about an hour from the ship but still within the boundaries of Conakry.  The start of this orphanage came when God called a Guinean man named Lazare to give orphans a home.  He currently has 31 kids, over half of which have AIDS.  Most of those with AIDS have lost their parents to this disease.  They now must deal with this awful disease but also makes it much harder for them to get adopted.  Most of the other children still have parent(s) but due to certain situations (finances, school, violence, etc.) are unable to care for their children and are at Lazare's for a period of time.  
As we drove away from the ship Steve, the team leader, pointed out the many ‘signs’ of protesting that cluttered the roads.  Big and small rocks were scattered all over the pavement.  Burnt tire piles continued to smoke from the protests the day before.  Piles of wood sat waiting to be pushed back on the roads to continue the protests.  Every time these demonstrations occur, besides the risk of injury, people are unable to go to work and/or school, marketers are unable to sell, and the overall economy is damaged.  

What are these protests about?  Government problems with a mix of tribal issues.  Since arriving in Guinea I haven’t been able to get out much but I have definitely been aware of the cycle of protests that have been going on throughout this outreach.  As I looked at these different markings sprayed over the roads, these protests became more of a reality to me.  Everyday I move around safely on my little ship when there are people 5 miles outside my door that are dealing with all of this.  I was frustrated with my ignorance to this daily turmoil but mainly my heart ached for all those affected by these protests.  “God bring your peace and love to this land”
Finally we arrived at the door of Lazare’s orphanage.  As we stepped through the big metal gates Hailey was quickly swept out of my arms by a 6 year old girl.  So with my arms free I was bombarded by little excited hands wanting to be picked up.  My eyes quickly fell on one little boy who lay off to the side of the courtyard. He lay belly down with a thin layer of dirt covering his clothes and flies swarming around.  After giving some hugs to those around, I went over and picked up this little guy. My dear friend Michelle came over and introduced me to Jojo or Joseph.  As soon as she said his name I remembered the many stories and pictures that she had shared with me over these past months.  As I held him in my arms I noticed the glaze in his eyes and the limpness of his body and realized that he was one of 100’s of babies throughout the world born in poor conditions, with limited oxygen, resulting in brain damage that permanently disables them.  To make matters worse these children don’t have all the amazing resources that we have to care for children with special needs.  For example physical therapy, wheelchairs, speech therapy, and nutritional resources.  So instead these kiddos are left more handicapped then they need to be.
Jojo! Picture taken by Michelle C.
Little sweet Jojo is 2 years old.  Michelle explained that when Mercy Ships first started coming to the orphanage he was malnourished and couldn’t even sit up.  But after some months, with the help of a PT on board and some extra instruction to the staff, he had fattened up and was able to sit up independently.  Praise God!  Jojo is just another reminder to me about all that God is doing here.  May we continue to pray for Jojo and the long journey that lay ahead of him.
I handed Jojo over to Michelle as Hailey tugged at my skirt to get back in my arms.  We walked around visiting all the kids and everyone was really excited to touch Hailey’s hair (this seems to be an attraction for people of all ages).  Then Steve called everyone together for a Bible story time in the courtyard.  Hailey sat happily in front of me completely engaged by all the faces that surrounded her.  As soon as Hailey was out of my arms (again) I had a line up of children yearning to just sit on my lap.  One by one (or sometimes two by two) my lap became a place for these kids to get some extra love and a cuddle.  As I cuddled with each of these kiddos I couldn’t help but think of the amount of hugs, kisses, and love I pour on Hailey each day and how little of that these kids get.  I got a bit sad but then God reminded me that He is their Father and that he loves them even more than I love Hailey and that he POURS his love upon them and has great plans for each and every one.  
All 31 pairs of eyes sat attentively listening to the Bible story presented.  For a country built on over 85% Islam it was great to have these kids hearing about Jesus.  For the kids that still have a parent and/or those that may get adopted, how great to think about these kids not only being a part of a family  but also that they might be a seed in bringing their parents to faith in Jesus.  May God continue to guide and protect these kids and the plans that He has in store for them. 
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans”
 James 1:27 (NIV).

Hailey says, "Support even just one kid!"

*I'm not sure if you have ever thought on supporting an orphan financially and/or adopting but if you haven't I pray that if nothing else this post will make you consider the possibility.   If you decide that you want to then go and talk to your church, friends, and/or me to get connected.  

 Right now there are over 143 million orphans around the world.  That number is overwhelming to think about but if you can put a name and a face to even just one (or ten) I pray it will touch you to want to become a part of their lives.