The BEST Christmas present EVER!!

As most of your know Christmas is by far my favorite season of the year.  The family time, the giving, the receiving (yea that means presents), the songs, the lights, the tree, the games, the movies, the snowboarding, the cookies, the cinnamon rolls, the candy canes, etc.  (etc actually just means more food items.. hehe).  But as the Christmas season approached most of these things were not on the ship, or if they were it just wasn’t the same.  Maybe I was being a bit Scrooge-ish but all of these things made me sit and think, “What does Christmas mean to me?”

Christmas is when we all get to come together to celebrate the birth of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.  But do I really think that way or is it more about the list I stated above.

Ugh.  Once again God showed me that MAYBE my thinking was a bit off.  So I decided to take some time to really look into the reason for the season.  I started looking through the Old Testament at the many, MANY references that prophesize the coming of our Messiah.  Isaiah, Hosea, Micah, Psalms; the list goes on and I was amazed at all the texts that point to Jesus.  Virgin birth, government on his shoulders, from Bethlehem, the kings will worship, nations will serve him, ruler over Israel.  I know, I know, you have probably heard these things 100x’s BUT it was so reassuring to look at these passages and to see how God had this all planned out from the beginning of time.

I started reading over the gospels at the telling of Jesus’ birth.  God’s son, born to a virgin, in a random stable, and laid in a manger.  Talk about humble beginnings.  Why would God do that? Why wouldn’t he send his Son to this earth in a more powerful and amazing way? Or did He?

Think about it. Think about how amazing and powerful it is that God sent his only Son, the creator of the earth, to live here on earth as an average guy.  Now lets say he had come down as an earthly king, how could we possibly relate to Him? The story continues, not only did he come down to this sinful world He also lived in it.  He actually dealt with all the temptations this world has to offer yet didn’t sin.   So Jesus came and lived as an example to follow and left us an instruction manual to read (Bible) to show us how to live.  Then he goes out spreading the good news only to find that many despise him and want to kill him, sometimes even family and friends.  How bout that? Jesus comes down from heaven to save his precious children (the one’s he formed in the womb) and instead they threaten to kill him.  Ouch!  Yet not only did Jesus come into this world to be an example for us to follow he came to save us from sin by dying on the cross.  Jesus knew he would be able to deal with whatever our sinful world threw at Him because He would conquer sin once and for all and then we seated at the right hand of his father.  All Jesus asks of us is to believe. We don’t have to reach a certain mark, we don’t have to do so many good deeds, all we have to do is believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died for us. 

For the past few weeks I had been praying that God would comfort me and give me peace during this Christmas season since I wouldn’t be with my family and friends.   And He did. 

What does Christmas mean to me?  It means that I am loved because my Father sacrificed his only Son to bring me love, grace, mercy, truth, and salvation.

 Talk about an awesome Christmas present!!


I’m walking on solid ground!

 After 11 days of sailing from Africa to Spain,we officially made it to Tenerife. 

The sail was absolutely breathtaking.  I got up every morning at 530am to do some praying and then I would go and watch the beautiful sunrises.   My work day would then start around 8am where we would have hospital devotions on the bow.  This was extra special since normally the nurses and hospital staff don’t get to have morning devotions due to us having to take care of patients BUT now since the hospital is closed we were able to get together every morning and have a time fellowshipping together.


One morning as we all collected on the bow, a couple of the nurses screamed out as we walked up the stairs “DOLPHINS!”  Now there have been a few dolphin sightings on the sail, which have been amazing as we stare at them swimming in the distance.  As I walked towards the other nurses I looked out to see where they were looking and instead they pointed down.  My heart leaped as I saw about 20 dolphins swimming WITH the ship.  You could practically touch them, well if you were 6 levels down and had really long arms.  They were swimming and jumping right along with the ship.  It was so cool!!

The first 8 days of the sail were especially great.  The ship had a slight rock and as we sailed along the Atlantic Ocean it felt like we were sailing across Lake Sunapee.  The whole atmosphere of the ship and the anxieties and frustrations that weighed us down in Benin were quickly lifted.  We were smack dab in the middle of God’s creation and loving every minute of it. 

(The girls and I doing a 'Pirate Watch' dressed as pirates... arrr!)

But, all good things must come to an end.  Hence days numbers 9 and 10. It started the night of the 8th as the ship felt a little rockier but didn’t think much of it until about 3am when my roommate and I were suddenly awoken by a jar of Ragu flying across the room.  We switched on the light to see what all the commotion was about only to find most of our loose belongings strung around the cabin.   After tucking away most of the casualties we tried to go back to bed.  Even though this was a good idea in theory the rocking of the ship nearly rocked us right out of bed and by 6am we were both forced up out of bed.  As we walked up to breakfast you saw the dark bags and pale faces of all the crewmembers that got just as much sleep as we did.  That morning the stories slowly made it round about the many things that were broken or damaged from the rocky night and day.  A $50,000 eye machine was broken, the Galley had a food fight with itself, filing cabinets dumped out all their contents, and bed ladders attacked innocent crewmembers.  We all did our best to work that day only to find that the following night was just as bad as the last. 

So by the 10th night you could say that we were all more than ready to walk on solid ground.  By 9am on the 19th of December we were safely trumpeted into the port in Tenerife and by 10am me and my 2 friends were running the streets of Tenerife… Hooray!!!(This man plays his trumpet every time Mercy Ships comes in or leaves the port in Tenerife)


Becca T is finally at sea!

"The engines are overheating", "The radar isn't working", "There is no way we are going to leave by Tuesday."  These are some of the many things that I was hearing as I walked through the ship.  Our plan has always been to leave on December 8th but for some reason ALL these things were going wrong.  The deck and engine department were working overtime to try and get everything ready to leave but some things that were out of their control.  
Hmm funny, this seems to be a reoccurring theme throughout this trip, well actually throughout life.  God is quite funny I must say.  Anyway we all banded together and prayed for the ship and all the technicalities that needed to be worked out and guess what?!

Tuesday morning at 1030 the first mooring line were lifted and by 1130 we had officially left east dock zone 4 Cotonou, Benin.
It is weird to think after being here for almost 4 months that this ship actually sails.  In August when I arrived on the ship  I definitely felt a slight shift from side to side but after awhile I didnt feel it anymore.  You go to work, go to the dining room, go to the gym, go to your room, etc., you kind of forget that it's a ship.  SO as we pulled away from the port my stomach turned a bit as if to say "are you sure we should be doing this? does this thing reallllly work?"
   (Just in case you are wondering, it worked, the ship does actually sail! Yay!) 
 As we pulled out of the port waving goodbye to all our brothers and sisters, I prayed that God would bless them and use them  in amazing ways.  I pray that God will continue to break strongholds here in Benin.
    I pray that God will bless this sail and keep up safe from harm and keep the engines working and keep all the crew bellies calm. So far so good!


My Benin friends..

Last Friday was a very sad day.  We had to say goodbye to the translators and day workers that have been serving with Mercy Ships for the past 10 months of this Benin outreach. Even though I have only been here for 3 months, the friendships that I have made are truly God given. Working with the translators on the ward as been such a blessing and playing soccer with the soccer team has been SOOO much fun. The many conversations that we've shared that have been both lighthearted and  deep; fun activities included going to a beach to teach William and Diodenne how to swim (point of advice: always bring a boogie board just in case), taking Mary to a day at the pool and realizing that she is a fish, walking around town with many of these friends, visiting other villages, invitations to visit families, and becoming a part of each others lives. These friendships were truly God given.

As we were saying goodbye, I realized that this was going to be the first of many goodbyes I would be making as I serve with Mercy Ships moving from country to country. But then as I looked around the packed room I realized how many relationships have been built not just in my life me but for the 1000+ crew members that have come and gone through Mercy Ships.
Romans 15:5-6
May the God who gives us endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus so that with one heart and one mind you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

My family has grown and I know one day we will all be worshipping together again.  
God I pray that you will pour blessings upon all of my Benin friends and upon my entire football team.  I pray that you will guide them and use them in ways they never thought possible.  Also as this outreach comes to a close I pray that you will continue to shine your light through all the patients and families that have been touched by us being here in Benin.  Thank you Jesus for all you have done for each and everyone of us! 
Amen or in Fon- Ame


Dinner at the Presidents!

Dinner with the President! Yes you read correctly, I was invited to eat at  at the presidents palace, well me and 350 other crew members.  hehe!   Here is the article printed after this very memorable event:

Mercy Ships Is Honored by the Republic of Benin  

Cotonou, Benin, West Africa, November 17, 2009 - Mercy Ships received a high honor given by the President of the Republic of Benin, H.E. Dr Thomas Yayi Boni, for bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor. At a special State Dinner, H.E. President Boni conveyed the gratitude of his government and the people of Benin to those who serve on the Africa Mercy.  All the Cabinet members from President Boni’s administration were in attendance.  Busses carried 350 crew members, representing over 30 different nations, to the Governmental Palace in Contonou for the formal dinner.  The guests were also entertained by a performance troupe displaying native dance and musical performance. The President was insistent that all Mercy Ships crew were honored and thoughtfully delivered the same native cuisine served at the event to the estimated 80 crew members who remained in service onboard the Africa Mercy.   


In addition to the state dinner, Medals were awarded to Mercy Ships crew at the Palace that bestowed diplomatic status and privilege to report directly to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in honor of the 2009 Mercy Ships Field Service.  This rare privilege is primarily reserved for national diplomats and not charitable organizations. Commendations of Commandeur de l'Ordre National du Benin (or Commanders of the Republic) award were given to Mercy Ships co-founders, Don and Deyon Stephens, and to Chief Eye Surgeon on the Africa Mercy, Dr. Glenn Strauss. This medal is highly regarded in all nations and is a lifetime award. 


President Boni conveyed his thanks to Mercy Ships for their second visit to his nation this decade and for the love and care they showed the people of Benin. Mercy Ships follows the 2000-year-old model of Jesus in bringing hope and healing to all the people they serve– without regard to religion, ethnicity, or color. 




Sunday morning I arrived to work to start my 12 hour shift. I was a little sad because on this day was the big soccer match with the Crew vs. Day workers in which they got to play on a real GRASS field. The night before I was talking to a friend and he said that there was probably a good reason that God wanted me to work and not play. Suuuurre, I thought and prayed that if so God would show me.
I had 4 children that day. Two of whom were not too happy with me and actually one of them told the translator that I was a witch and I was trying to kill her because I kept making her drink things that made her vomit. Ugh! The other little girl had what we call “Yovo phobia”. Yovo is the name they use for white people, and this little one was VERY afraid of all whites but I just made things worse as I tried to pour medicine down her throat and ripped off tape on her face. Yeah she hated me too and if she could talk she probably would have said I was a witch as well. Ugh!
As you can see my day was a little tougher than I had wanted. Near the end of my shift Yovo phobia girl let me hold her and soon we were playing soccer together and witch girl wellll we’re still working on that. Anyway near the end of my shift a little boy walked in. He was holding tightly to his Aunt’s hand as tears streamed down his face. I waved and said “Bonswa” and then the Aunt pointed to his eyes and motioned that he was blind. I thought about how scary this must be to walk into a cold dark ship with people all around speaking another language knowing that you were going to be cut open soon. I walked over to the little boy and put his hand in mine and said “Bonswa, Je ma pel Becca.” His Aunt looked at me and said motioned that his name was “Ephriam”. I soon found out that Ephriam was a 10 year old boy in which 2 years ago was struck with an illness that took his sight. Then about one year ago he started developing a tumor in his maxilla that now took over the entire right side of his face. My heart went out to this little boy and I prayed that God would help me touch his heart.
I looked around the room trying to think of what I could do or what I could get that would help this little boy. Ding I got an idea. I ran over to our clean utility room and grabbed two wash basins. I walked over to Ephriam and took his hands gently and placed it on one of the basins that lay upside down. I then took my basin and played “Bop bop bop” I then took his hands and did the same “Bop bop bop”. And then again “Bop bop bop”… This time he repeated by himself “Bop bop bop.” Then away we went “Boping” away. Soon his tears stopped and a smile slowly appeared on his face. Then one of the other patient’s mothers started singing one of the church songs that we play. “Ba ba o loo a oh shea” I took Ephriams hands in mine and let him listen to the sound of the song and the beat that he heard. Soon he was playing along with the song. Soon the smile spread widely across his face and you could see the joy in his eyes. Soon this smile spread from bed to bed until the whole ward was clapping along. Soon one of my patient’s mothers yelled out “Becca dance!” So up I went, dancing around the ward to the music sent from God himself. My heart was overflowing with joy and appreciation to God for helping me to reach this little boy.
That night after I finished work I saw a bunch of the guys from the soccer team. The crew had won the came in a penalty shoot out and they told me about how great of a game it was. As I listened to them tell about the game my heart was filled with the love of Christ and thankfulness to him for keeping me on the ship and placing Ephriam in my life.

Over the next week I took care of little Ephriam and continued to play drums with him and even helped him ride his first tricycle. God is good!

Don’t let the busyness of life distract you from what God is trying to show you.


Gorgeous Ghana

So after a 4 day vacation in Ghana I am feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. There was 11 of us total; 6 from USA, 1 Canadian, 1 Norwegian, 1 Swedish, and 2 Ghanaians. Getting to Ghana was a bit of an adventure in itself but after 3 breakdowns, 4 cars, and 2 immigration processes we made it.

First was the Canopy walkway. One of 4 in the entire world.

Next we went to Elmina Castle located in Cape Coast. This castle was used as a slave castle for many years and shows another period of darkness in this sinful world. Even though the information was heavy God graced us with a beautiful sunset to assure us that he is in control.

Next we went to Boti falls where we did some hiking which was SOOO great!

and then of course we went to the falls themselves. (ignore the signs.. hehe)

At the end of the trip we were talking about what our favorite part of the trip was. I thought back to the Canopy walk, the castle at sunset, the Crocodile Hostel (Hans), Boti falls. But then I realized that none of those compared to what truly ended up being my favorite part of this trip and that was getting to know these 11 people more intimately. We went through different ups and downs throughout the trip but God unified us more than I could have ever imagined. The conversations, laughs, and prayers shared throughout this trip will be with me forever. God was definitely glorified in and through this trip.


Reality check..

This past week has definitely been a huge reality check for me.  There have been a lot of hard things that have happened over this past week and my heart was definitely feeling pretty heavy.  I felt like it was just one thing after another and whenever I felt like ‘Okay God this is all I can handle. You can stop now’, something else would get piled on. Since I have been on the ship, I have seen so many different miracles and healings take place that I pushed the possibility of bad things happening aside.  But this past week it was just one thing after another and I realized that yes God is definitely in this place but a reality check that we are also living in a fallen world.

I think, no wait, I KNOW God had a reason for halting my thoughts as I went to write out this entry.  Over the past 2 weeks as I went to write this entry most of the heart wrenching situations turned into something beautiful.  Bear with me now. 

As most of you know my friend Chitra, one of the guards, got hit by a motobike and was quickly brought to our ICU.  At first I was sad and confused thinking why would God let this happen? But now I realize how lucky he was to treated at a a top of the line hospital in Benin.  Then the prayer and love that was poured upon him from people all over the world was astounding.  Because of this, he is alive and well.  Praise God! 

The other heart breakers came from working on the wards.  I had two infants who were mentally disabled, with cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder and most likely will never walk or talk.  Now don’t get me wrong, through Gods grace and mercy we were able to successfully do surgery on both of these patients (one was a cleft lip/palate repair and the other we removed a 1.5kg encephalocele and placed a VP shunt) but my heart ached feeling like we were just putting a band-aid on a much bigger problem. Welllll… I found out today while at work that there is an organization, in Benin, that helps families just like these.  Hoorrayyy!! So far, so good.  I also had a patient whose father had passed away unexpectedly 2 weeks prior.  He told me that he wasn’t allowed to go to his own fathers’ funeral.  The community wouldn’t let him due to the fact they thought he was demon possessed because of the tumor in his jaw.  SHUT UP! (in my head, not outloud) It got me so mad/sad.  Over the next couple days I was able to talk with this patient more and we ended up having some conversations about Gods love for each of his children no matter what the outward appearance.  Later in the week that patient left with a big smile on his new face and hopefully some seeds were planted in his heart.

These types of cases happen everyday all over the world.  People are hit by motobikes and have no medical care.  Children are born everyday and aren’t provided with the services they need to live.  People are pushed out of communities just by what they look like.  But God placed these patients here for a reason, each specific one.  Life is so much more than physical healing as most of us know.  We could be the most beautiful and wealthy people and be miserable.  The love I have seen to patients and from patients is straight from God himself. 

 My good friend Leah gave me this song called “Praise you in the storm” months ago but it was something that helped me this past week.  The gist of the song is that we need to praise God amidst the storms in our lives.  We may stumble and cry out to God and he will lift us up again.  When we feel like our strength is gone and we can’t go on, God strengthens us.  Even though thunder booms around us we just have to listen for His whisper that says, “I am with you.”  Sometimes he gives us things and sometimes he takes away but we need to praise him through it all.  The song is called Praise you in this storm.   God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He sees every tear that falls and he holds them tightly in His hands.  He will NEVER leave your side.  So when you feel like your heart is torn, praise Him.


*-For the glory of God-*

1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

I have now been in Africa for almost 2 months serving on the Africa Mercy. I am still settling in and feeling 'comfortable' but defintiely know that it'll be awhile before I can truly call this ship my home.

Working on the wards has been unbelieveable. The nurses that I work with come from all around the world and they have all come for one purpose and that is to serve God. It is amazing to see how God works through a bunch of strangers who are obeying His will for their life. One of the most special things to me about serving as a nurse on the ship is the freedom to be able to pray. At first it was pretty awkward since for my ENTIRE nursing career this was a big NO NO but it is so amazing to see how God truly does hear our prayers and also how much He comforts the family and patient. Not only do we pray with the patients on the wards but also at the beginning of every shift all the nurses gather and pray together. God is so evident in this place and you can see his hands at work not just in the hospital but all around the ship and even off the ship as well.
Another great thing about working in the wards has been the opportunity to get to know some of the translators from Benin. Living on the ship is like living in a mini version of America so it has been great talking with adn getting to know some of Benin coworkers. It has also been great to see their passion and heart to serve the Lord and also to help their fellow countrymen.

One of the things I have struggled with is feeling like I should do more. Whenever I have a day off I think "Okay what can I do to serve the people of Benin." I feel like I need to go go go but God has shown me time and time again that it is NOT about doing as much as it is about seeking after Him and obeying Him. You think I would have learned after my whole arm thang that God does want me to just love him but i still get sidetracked at times. One of the things I had asked for prayer about was in regards to my prayer life. It's funny because I get all frustrated that i want to have a better prayer life and hear God in new ways but as I thought about it more i realized that my prayer life has increased 10 fold since signing up with Mercy Ships; It had to. I mean come on now, how crazy is it to leave my family, all my friends, my dream job, my new home, and all the other comforts of life to go and volunteer on a ship in Africa. Yea my prayer life has definitely increased. hehe. Anyway I have definitely felt your prayers for my prayers. (*if you would like to know specifics write back and i'll fill you in... it has been so cool!!) God has continued to draw close to me and I to Him in ways I never imagined.

Last week for the first time since arriving in Africa I can truly say that I missed my family. It is easy for me to be all strong and tough when saying "Yea I'll see my family in 2 years" but when seeing one of my friends get upset about missing her sister I started realizing how much I missed mine as well. Its kind of like watching a sad movie if no one cries then you are all set but the second someone drops a tear the waterfall begins. ugh! Anyway I started feeling all bad for myself and then started thinking about all the other things I was missing. Hugs from my parents, Duncan, the Buckley baby, Emily's birthday, huggin friends who are going through hard times, holidays, normal length shorts, the fall season... but as I sat there I had to think about 'Why am I here?' I knew in coming here that this would not be easy but God never said life would be easy actually he said it would be hard but thats why we have hope and peace knowing that this isnt all there is to life. As I thought more about these things my tears dried up and a smiled fell across my face because I KNOW that for now God wants me here and I have never had such peace and joy as I do now that I am here.

As I stare out over the ocean with the sunsetting in front of me I realize how truly wonderful and magnificent God is. I just want to encourage each and everyone of you that read this blog to keep your focus on God and God alone. Glorify God with your lives and by doing so also remember to love one another. We are all Gods missionaries whether it be in a foreign land or at home. No matter what your life circumstances are right now know that God is with you and is preparing you for something. I am sending an internet HUG to you all and some love as well.

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.


day of rest...

So I woke up this morning and went up to breakfast to start my day before work.  I then took my 2 minute commute to work, one floor below the dining hall.  Once I arrived on the ward they asked if I would be willing to come back for the evening shift because they have been having a lot of sick calls and weren't sure if they would be short staffed.  I said that was fine and off I went.  Now a normal person at this point would most likely go back to bed BUT Im not normal so there I was at 7:05 with 7 hours of waiting ahead.  Yipee!  
As most of you know I am not a very patient person but this is one of the many things I had been praying for so I guess I should be saying "Thanks God!"  After a couple hours of hanging out on deck 8 listening to some music and doing some writing I decided to go walk along the dock.  As I walked listening to my ipod, trying to focus my mind I looked up ahead and instantly a smile broke out across my face and I yelled out, "Abla!" She turned around and ran toward me, right into my arms. I did my 'charades' talk/dance for her and her mother and found out that they were going back to their village today.  After walking and 'talking' with them I then gave one last hug and let them know I'd be praying for them (charades for prayer: put hands together as if praying and mouth 'I'll be praying for you').  
I know it is hard for me to just wait on the Lord and be patient with his timing for my life.  Today as I waited around God placed people and situations in my life that helped me see how he truly is in control of everything.  Now this doesn't mean we just need to sit back and enjoy the ride.  We need to show our faith through our actions.  We need to obey God and wait for his timing and deal with the situations that are placed before us as he would.  Both good and bad.
As most of you know I have been working on my prayer life and this week God has definitely showed me himself in different ways.  One of the biggest things he has taught me is that while I pray I need to fully BELIEVE that what I am praying for God is hearing and will act upon according to his will.  
God is revealing himself to me in new ways everyday 
True friendships both on and off the ship
My friend Danae who hurt her knee while playing soccer wont need surgery!
Nobody asked if i was pregnant this week (wearing baggy shirts helped..hehe..jk)
For Mercy Ships to continue to shine Jesus' light to all; in port and at home
The people of Benin and their continued belief that practicing voodoo is 'okay'
The health of the crew


Shine Abla Shine

God has definitely been working in my heart in amazing ways over this past month.  As you all know I had asked you to pray for a special little patient of mine named Abla.  God used this little girl to touch my heart and show me another dimension of his love and how he uses all things to make his light shine to all people and all nations.

Little Abla:  My evening shift started like any other shift; after getting report, I went around and assessed my patients, started doing vital signs, passing out meds, etc.  As I stood at the bedside of one of my patients out of the corner of my eye I noticed this little girl come in and quickly huddle behind her mothers leg.  As the translators explained to her and her mother different things about what they needed to do I watched her carefully.  This little girl had a sheet draped over her head and looked downcast at the floor and stayed close to her mom.  The translator then brought her and her mother over to the bathroom for her pre-operation shower.  After getting handed all of the shower supplies the mother took the sheet off the little girls head.  Under this sheet stood a skinny 8-year-old little girl with sad eyes and a downcast face.  Around her lower jaw sat a rag that was wet, dirty, and malodorous.  Once the sheet had been taken off of her head she quickly huddled closer to her mother and then off into the shower they went.  A few minutes later the charge nurse approached me to tell me I would be getting a new admission, a little 8 year old girl who would be getting a mandiblectomy and tumor debulking in 2 days.  Guess who?

Once the little girl had showered I showed her and her mother to their bed.  I introduced myself and mom shyly introduced her and her daughter Abla to me.  I soon found out that they had traveled many hours to get to the ship and spoke a dialect that most of our translators could not speak.  So after talking with them for a bit I went off to see what the plan would be for the night.  As I went about my business I glanced over at Abla to see how she was doing my heart instantly stung as I saw this little girl cuddled in a ball under blankets with her face turned away in embarrassment towards the wall.  I took a deep breath and held my tears back…

How do I speak to this little girl? How do I let her know that she is loved? How do I reach out to her? I said prayer, then grabbed some goods, and started to work my magic.  It is amazing to me how much you can say without words.  Over the next 8 hours Abla and I colored together (she had NEVER colored before and didn’t even know how to hold a crayon/pencil), she listened to her heart with my stethoscope, she showed me the correct way to hold a baby doll (in this culture if you have a deformity you are demon possessed and an outcast, due to this Abla is rarely around other people especially babies).   By the end of my shift her mother had fallen asleep and Abla waved me over because she needed to go to the bathroom so I picked her up and as we started walking towards the bathroom her little hand slipped into mine (another tear jerking moment).  She trusted me and knew that she was loved. 

The next evening I came back and was able to have another blessed shift with Abla and her mother.  I used some of the skills taught by my beloved child life specialists and grabbed a little baby doll and showed Abla what the dressings would look like when she got out of surgery, I helped answer some of her moms questions and anxieties and did my best to pour love over them both.  Later in the evening the pre op picture guys came in to get some photos.  Since 

Abla had come in she had not removed the rag from her bottom jaw except to eat and shower and even then she always made sure she was hidden.  Well poor Abla had to take off her rag and have multiple pictures taken of her tumor.  The tumor stuck out about 2 inches from her jaw was about 4 inches long and hit her upper jaw.   AS soon as they finished taking their photos she quickly covered herself under the blankets and turned back towards the wall.  My heart fell again thinking that everything that we had accomplished over the past 2 days had just been thrown into the water.  But to my great surprise about 15 minutes later I saw this little hand pop out from under the blankets and her summon me over.  Phew!

The next morning Abla went into surgery and was in and out in about 3 hours.  The surgery went way better than the doctor had originally thought.  He thought he was going to have to talk out her lower jaw and basically form her a new one but once he got in there he basically only had to cut out the tumor.  Thank you for all of you who prayed for Abla during this time, the prayers were definitely felt. 

I came onto shift just as she was getting back from surgery.  Unlike in America when a patient comes back from surgery they still are pretty full of anesthesia so I gave her a few hours to wake up.  After giving her some water, bread and pain meds and seeing that she was able to sit up and stay awake I said a prayer and then brought a mirror over to Abla so that she would see what she looked like.  I was excited, nervous, and scared all at once.  As Abla took the mirror in her hand and held it up to her face she stared at her face for about 3 seconds my thoughts ran imagining the joy she must be feeling seeing her new face for the first time BUT instead she quickly slammed the mirror down and looked away towards the wall.  My heart sank, my stomach turned and my mind fizzled.  ‘What is she thinking? Why is she upset? God comfort 

her be with her.’  I gave her a few minutes and through a translator talked with mom and asked her to give Abla the mirror again when she thinks she is ready.  About 5 minutes later Abla slowly picked up the mirror and stared at her mouth as if it wasn’t really hers.  She then handed me the mirror and raised her hand to touch her jaw where the tumor once was.  A single tear pooled in her eye and streamed down her face.  I then grabbed her mom and then the tears starting pouring.  Over the next few hours Abla would intermittently grab her mirror and then just touch her face and EVERY TIME my heart would melt. 

Today at church we listened to the song “Shine Jesus Shine” and as I sang God popped a little picture of Abla in my mind.  Everyday I ask myself how can I be a better disciple, friend, nurse, sister, daughter etc.? How can I be most effective for you God? How can I shine your light to those who are in darkness? How do I spread the good news to all those who have been unreached? And then I realized that that is exactly what Mercy Ships is doing.  Abla will be WAY more effective and influential then I will ever be.  Sending Abla back to her village and having all of those people that have treated her as if she was demon possessed and shunning her from their village, to see her come back with a bright and joyful smile speaks louder and clearer than any words ever would.  Abla truly will shine Jesus’ light.

Mark 2:  Jesus heals a paralytic " I tell you, get up, take your mat, and go home".. "this amazed everyone and they praised God."  Shine Jesus shine, fill this nation with grace and mercy!

on a lighter note...

Soccer!! Okay so you all know how much I love soccer.  I know I know its been a few years since I have really played but soccer will always hold a special place in my heart.  Anyway over the past 2 months of training and now in Africa I have had multiple soccer situations.  Now mind you i am not in soccer shape AT ALL but it was nice to play around.  Anyway so this past week I was able to play 2 days.  The team is made up of mainly Mercy Ships crew members and then day workers and translators who work on the ship.  There are definitely some differences in playing soccer here vs at home.  The main difference is that we play on a big sand field (pretty much looks like a beach) which makes it quite difficult to sprint, turn, or pretty much do anything, but it is very entertaining to watch us westerners.  Keeps us humble!

Zimmi- chicken races: Soo they have these moto bikes called Zimmi-johns that are very dangerous and are not covered under my insurance so no mom i wont ride on one even though i really wa
nt to.  ANYWAY so the other day a friend and I decided to run home after playing a game.  Well for all of you who know the game of chicken i basically played this scary little game about 20 times on my run back.  eekk! But no wounds were obtained! Hoorayy! Anyway here are some pictures of the many things that people travel with on these little bikes.  The most people i saw on one bike was 5.  Talk about car pooling!

Hevie Opening Ceremony:  The other day i had the pleasure of going to the opening ceremony for the Hevie Agriculture Dormitory.  Once we got to the ceremony we were greeted by all the villagers in the community plus all of the trainees and trainers involved with the Agriculture center.  The purpose of this dormitory and agriculture program is to teach and instruct the selected pupils in how to care for and work with the land.  All of the trainees in the program will be living in this dormitory which makes the program much more effective and a lot more efficient.  Intermittently throughout the 5 hour program we had African singing and dancing going on which totally made me want to get up and dance but i decided to restrain myself.. maybe next time. hehe

80s party: This to me was such a huge comfort to me.  I know you may be thinking how is an 80s party a comfort WELLL theme parties has always been a favorite past time for me and my best friends.  All my Ellison 18 girls, Julie, 7th floor angels.  I have definitely been missing my close friends a lot recently and this was just what the doctor ordered.  Miss you girls and don't worry I represented! woo woo!

Mom this last one is for you: This one is short but sweet. While out in town it is strongly recommended that we wear dresses/skirts and nice shirts, so I always do (after the "knees" incident i am following the rules to a T).  As i was about to get back into our Land Rover one of the women day workers came over to me and asked " Ohhh are you pregnant?!" with a big excited grin on her face.  I, as nicely as possible, quickly replied "No, that's just my belly."  So mom after 26 years of telling me to suck in my stomach when i am standing I now see why.  


Some random stories:

Back flip FLOP: So a few days after i arrived in Benin a friend suggested that a bunch of us go to a nearby swimming pool.  Once we arrived I instantly noticed a tall diving platform and the ideas started streaming.  My friend, Elliot, decided he would do a back flip off of this 5 meter platform.  Jump up, flip around all the way, SPLASH!  "Psshh I can totally do that" I thought to myself.  I climbed up and yelled down for some quick instructions and then off I went.  Jump up, flip around... half way and FLOP! Yea that's right, flat on my face, red and white streaks up my legs and the "ouuu" from the crowd of people around the pool.  
(update: I made myself go back up and try again and made it all the way, but my pride was still bruised)

2am Shower: I'm back on doing night shifts at work.  I actually don't mind doing night shifts it's the sleeping during the day that is hard for me.  But now that I am on the ship this is a requirement and so far so good.  During my 2nd night shift I was taking care of a little boy that was VERY sick.  Continuous albuteral nebs, chest PT, fluids, IV antibiotics, the works.  So basically I was one to one with this child even though i had 9 other children on various wards.  As you can imagine this boy did not like me patting his chest and putting a plastic cup around his face all night.  At one point he was batting my hand away, again, and I held my ground and continued on with the treatment.  Well next thing I know as i stood there the little boy started peeing all over his mom and by the time I noticed what was going on he redirected his stream, intentionally, and peed all over me.  For the first time that night the little boy smiled.  Little boy 1 Becca 0.  

Africa Shorts: In the ship handbook they talk about proper dress attire.  In their it reads that you are allowed to wear athletic clothes as long as you are working out but besides that nothing above the knee.  Wellll... my friend Jamie and I went on our morning walk and then after dashed over to breakfast which gets put away at 730am.  We grabbed our breakfast and then went over to sit and eat.  As we sat their some friends came over and one said basically that we were breaking ship rules.  (side note: my shorts sit RIGHT above my knee when i stand just to clarify).  Utterly confused and thinking he was kidding i asked "for real?"  He then continued to explain to us that anything that shows the knee is considered R-rated (knees= chest and chest= knees).  As he talked i slowly took in my surroundings and realized we truly were the only 2 people with our knees showing.  Jamie and i quickly finished eating and ran off to our cabins to repent and change.  PS mom please send me longer shorts! love your inappropriate-shorts-wearing daughter

Be careful what you pray for: So now that i am feeling better i have been trying my best to continue to apply all that i learned during that time.  Keeping my focus on God, remembering why i am here, and getting to know him more.  But i am also wanting to do more things, meet new people, get out and see Africa, etc.  Now i can do both of these things simultaneously but sometimes my priorities get askew.  The other night as I went to bed i prayed that God would give me a better prayer life.  I have a list of people and things to pray for but at times I feel like my heart isn't truly in it.  The next morning i woke up to work my day shift.  I got up at 6a to do my bible time then went down to work at 7a.  As i went from ward to ward to see which one i was in I got to the last ward only to find out i wasn't working a day shift but an evening shift (starts at 2p).  Hmm, be careful what you pray for! Over the next few hours of 'free time'  I was able to clear my head and truly spend time in prayer.  Pray for me so i can be better at praying for you.  heheh 

Okay that is it for now.  I know there will be plenty of funny/weird/awkward stories to come. 



 My view every morning!!
Before I forget I want to update you all on my arm.  My arm is doing great.  I had a friend ask the other day and I said " It looks so good" she then said "Becca, good is not the word, it looks better but not good." So basically my aspirations of becoming an arm model are out but I could spokes person for why to wear Deet repellant.  hehe! 
Anyway so now on to what you all really want to hear about. 
First off my living quarters: I am in a 4 bunk room with a little bathroom which does include a shower.
Secondly the hospital.  THere are 3 wards in use right now which holds around 50 patients.  Currently all the wards are mixed with different ages and genders but it is actually kind of nice to see everyone communing together.  Infectious disease would probably freak out and HIPPA forget about it, but it works.  I usually have 4 patients for day shift, 5-6 for evenings, and 10 for night shifts.  I am still doing pediatrics but they are ALL post-op surgical patients and definitely keep us all running.  

Okay now for the ship.  The ship is great.  I continually got lost for about the first week i was here but now i pretty much can get my way around.  The food has been great and i am even getting use to the Milch (boxed milk) and have found my new favorite sweet is bagged ice cream -Fan-choco... yumm! Whenever new ships come in and out of port you can definitely feel the sway but besides that things are pretty steady.  And I am slowly getting down the ship lingo (thanks Leo and Jim S.)

Now that I am back to normal (stupid bug bite) i have been able to do a couple different day trips.  One day i was able to go to an orphanage to help care for 20 infants and toddlers so that the caregivers could get computer trained.  The yesterday i went to Oidah which is known as "the point of no return" which was the site where thousands of African slaves were shipped off to America, Brazil, and Haiti.  It was nice to be able to see and hear more about Benin and its history.
And last but not least, and actually maybe i should have put it first, is my God walk.  Now that I am feeling good i have to constantly remind myself of the lessons I learned during my infection.  It is so easy for me to go go go (ask my parents) but for me to stop and put time aside to rest and be in silence can be realllly hard.  BUT God definitely taught me a lot and now my prayer is that i will keep that in mind at all times.  

Psalm 118: 14 "The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation"

(This is a memorial site for all the slaves that were sent from Africa)