KRB Update – Madagascar II

KRB Update #2203 – Madagascar II
Keith R. Brinkman with Mercy Ships               01 January 2015

Happy & Blessed New Year 2015 / Feliz y bendecido año nuevo 2015
Heureuse nouvelle année 2015
Tratry Ny Taona 2015 (in case you are wondering this is Malagasy)

The big news we learned before the holidays was that our next field service will be here in Madagascar.  This is similar to the back to back field services in 2007 and 2008 in Liberia.  I am excited for the additional time and the great opportunities together we will have here – below is the official press release.



Mercy Ships executive board has confirmed acceptance of an invitation by the government of Madagascar to continue serving the people of this island nation with the services of its hospital ship the Africa Mercy through summer of 2016.

Operations onboard are expected to take a short pause from mid-June through end of July 2015 while the ship undergoes yearly maintenance work in Durban South Africa. The second field service for the ship is expected to begin again from early August through mid-2016.

“There is tremendous need and opportunity to deepen our partnership in Madagascar. A second field service gives us the chance to make an even deeper and more meaningful impact in support of the nation’s improving health infrastructure,” stated Mercy Ships Group Managing Director, Donovan Palmer.

The Mercy Ship will continue to with surgical projects through this second field service its areas of expertise including maxillofacial, orthopaedic, plastics, women’s health, ophthalmological and general surgeries. Additionally dental, healthcare education and training courses for Malagasy medical professionals including basic surgical skills, a safe obstetric anesthesia course, ward nurse and surgeon mentoring will also continue through to the second field service. The Mercy Ship arrived into the port of Toamasina (Tamatave), Republic of Madagascar, October 25, 2014.

Thank you all my friends and family – may you have a great start to this New Year 2015.

A few verses from our reflection time last night from Psalm 37 “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness”, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.”  “… for there is a future for the man of peace.

KRB Update – Trip to US / Ebola / Mada

KRB Update #2202 – Trip to US / Ebola / Mada
Keith R. Brinkman with Mercy Ships               23 November 2014
When I joined Mercy Ships in 1989, it was just prior to my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary.  I assisted with some preparations for the surprise party but was not able to be there.  As we talked about their upcoming 50th anniversary, there was no way I was going to miss celebrating with Mom and Dad.  I committed to get from Africa to Florida and bring them to Indiana for the celebration and then bring them back to Florida and then I would return to Africa.  The travel arrangements got complicated with the change of the ship’s schedule due to the ebola virus disease in West Africa.  Though, I made it and we had a great celebration – a family dinner at Jay and Laura’s house on the night of their anniversary.  Then the celebration at Mark and Lisa’s church on Saturday afternoon – many family and friends came to join us in honor and respect for our parents.  I am so thankful for all those who participated.  We enjoyed the week staying at Mark and Lisa’s house and had quality and quantity time also with my nephews and nieces.

At the same time of getting ready for the celebration, I was also praying and preparing for sharing at my home church, Indianapolis Christian Fellowship on that Sunday.  Our missions coordinator and friend of over 20 years, Allen, prepared some surprises for me, including a skit of my life performed by the children, children parading in with hand created flags from the nations I have visited as a missionary, and after my sharing a prayer of re-commissioning.  It was an amazing morning and entire day as we had a luncheon afterwards and later in the evening with a family I have known for 28 years.  Nate’s daughter mentioned wanting to hear a story about a girl her age in Africa and so I am intentionally keeping my eyes open for a patient who I can share with Sophia about.

A question that came up often while in the US for this quick visit was about ebola and the great impact on our region.  As you know, we postponed Guinea that is where ebola started earlier this year and so instead sent our Advance Team to Benin, but then ebola spread in neighboring Nigeria just 60 miles away and so we postponed Benin, and accepted the invitation to go to Madagascar for this field service.  Even though we are a hospital ship, we are not able to test for ebola or isolate patients and we don’t want to be the one who brings ebola into a country by attracting desperate people.  Plus if we had ebola on board we would be ordered to sea for weeks before being considered by any port to come in.  Please pray for the people of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia – the stop of new cases and care for those infected for their recovery.  This disease was had a huge impact – my friend Robert’s uncle got sick and all his family cared for him and they all died.  A pastor friend from Guinea was helping to share with people how to stay safe from ebola and false rumors were spread and they were all murdered and left in the ditch – it is serious and huge impact for all involved.

My return journey was 3 but felt like 4 days to my home on the ship in Mada, it is great to be back.  After serving here on the Advance Team and imaging the ship in port and now to see it and the arrangements dockside – it is an exciting time.  I plan to share much about this nation and its people – I wish that you get to know Madagascar for more than the cartoon movie by the same name.  Tomorrow, we conduct our Partner’s Reception with guests coming from the local area and the Prime Minister and others from the capital.  The hospital is open; patients are in the operating rooms and wards.  We shared the story of the Good Samaritan at our ward service this morning.  Please pray for the right patients, the participants for healthcare education and that together we may bring hope and healing as we love God and love and serve the Malagasy people.

KRB Update – Madagascar

KRB Update #2201 – Madagascar
Keith R. Brinkman with Mercy Ships               15 September 2014
“Salama tompodo Ny anarako dia Lahimatoa” (Hello – my name is Lahimatoa – which is my Malagasy name – it means first born son – many of you know that I enjoy using my given African names).  I am excited to send you this update and let you know where we are going for our next field service – Madagascar.  Actually I am already in Madagascar in the capital serving with the Advance/Assessment Team.  The ship is sailing to South Africa and then here to Madagascar.  It is an exciting time.  You will hear more from me over the upcoming weeks.  “Misaotra tompoko”  Thank you.
Lahimatoa Keith


–Press Release–

Las Palmas, Grand Canaria (PRWEB) September 15, 2014

Mercy Ships announced this week that they have accepted the invitation from of the President of the Republic of Madagascar, His Excellency Hery Rajaonarimampianina, to bring the world’s largest civilian hospital ship to Madagascar for its next field service until middle of 2015.

“We are honored to be able to come alongside the island nation of Madagascar and their government’s effort to strengthen their healthcare infrastructure through the training and capacity building Mercy Ships offers, free of charge. Thousands of patients are suffering from pathologies which the specialists on the Mercy Ship are equipped to assist through the surgical expertise of our dedicated professionals.” stated Mercy Ships President and Founder, Don Stephens.

The hospital ship’s Managing Director, Roland Decorvet from Switzerland, completed the discussions with representatives of the Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health, Mr. Kolo Roger, securing the necessary agreements following an invitation from the President of the world’s fourth largest island nation. The Mercy Ship is expected to sail from the Canary Islands by mid-September with a stopover in Cape Town, South Africa, at the end of the month for refueling and crewing. Anticipated arrival into Tamatave, Madagascar, is by the end of October.

The Mercy Ship is equipped with five state-of-the- art operating rooms and is a fully modern hospital specializing in maxillofacial, reconstructive, plastics, orthopaedic, ophthalmic, dental and obstetric fistula surgeries. Doctors onboard anticipate operating on thousands of patients during the 16,500-ton hospital ship’s stay of several months in port. The surgeries and care are provided at no cost to the Malagasy people, and the focus of care is on the population which have very little or no access to specialized surgical healthcare.

Madagascar is located off the southeastern coast of Africa. More than 43% of its more than 22 million inhabitants are under the age of 20, and the nation is positioned 151 out of 187 countries in the U.N. Human Development Index. A protracted political crisis in recent years has endangered the nation’s ability to meet a number of millennium development goals and has taken a heavy toll on Madagascar’s economy and people, especially the most vulnerable.

According to the President’s office, there is a clear and important need for the expertise that Mercy Ships can bring to the nation, both in terms of specialized operations as well as in education and capacity building alongside Malagasy professionals working in medical care and surgical need. Mercy Ships will work closely with the Government of Madagascar to evaluate the exact needs, pathologies, and regional priorities, according to the government spokesperson.

Donovan Palmer, Mercy Ships Group Managing Director, added, “While we had been looking at the possibility of coming to Madagascar, we have decided to come earlier and to postpone our plans with Guinea and Benin due to the Ebola crisis in the West Africa region.”

The Mercy Ship is a specialized surgical ship with multi-bed wards and limited isolation facilities. With a crew of more than 400 from around 40 nations, including families with small children, the Mercy Ship is not designed to quarantine Ebola patients, stated Palmer.

Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, capacity building and sustainable development to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $ 1 billion, treating more than 2.5 million direct beneficiaries. Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,600 volunteers from more than 40 nations. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time.
The last visit of a Mercy Ship to Madagascar was in 1996.
–End of Press Release–

KRB Update – Mafugi / Change

KRB Update #2200 – Mafugi / Change
Keith R. Brinkman with Mercy Ships                         30 August 2014

Greetings to you all around the world – amazing to think that with the internet we are able to communicate with people in most parts of the earth.  Awhile back, I remember writing on the thin blue aerograms and folding them and mailing them to only one address.

I thought you would like to have an update on one of my patients from our time in Guinea, though he comes from the slender nation of The Gambia.  His name is Mafugi and I called him ‘miboy’.  Mary from another organization was aware of the boy’s problem with his leg and through a series of inquiries, they were able to send Mafugi and his mother to us while in Conakry, Guinea in 2012.  He arrived speaking no French or English.  He was surrounded by other orthopaedic patients speaking Krio (from Sierra Leone), Susu (from Conakry), English and French and so his language grew and included all of those plus his mother tongue (sometimes in the same sentence).  I loved seeing Mafugi’s smile and his love for food – I can’t tell you how many kilograms he added during his time with us in the hospital and at the HOPE Center as he enjoyed three nutritious meals a day.  After about five months his care for his leg was completed, it was time for him to leave.  I volunteered to drive him and his mother to the airport – emotionally it was hard to say goodbye to him – he on the other hand was laughing and smiling and ready for his trip – not fully realizing that he was leaving leaving.  Due to the remoteness of his village, I didn’t think there would be any opportunity to hear how he did with his transition home – no cell phone coverage.  But this is where Mary and her organization came in and she occasionally sends Ebrima to visit Mafugi’s village and shared that I could send a letter via email and he would print it out and take it with them.  I can’t tell you the joy to be able to reconnect with him.  Ebrima traveled by taxi, then a rickety wooden boat up the Gambia River and then a 7 kilometer walk to the Village of Burong.  Mafugi’s head teacher wrote a letter back to me, he writes, “Mafugi has recovered a great deal and can run fast, kick and walk normally.  As you can see in the pictures, he enjoys playing football in school with his friends and neighbors.  He loves children, parents and teachers.  Mafugi is well mannered and really ready to learn.”  Ebrima was able to send back many photos.  A life transformed physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually.

On Thursday, our leaders announced that due to the continued uncertainty of the ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, we have postponed our field service to Cotonou, Benin (we had been scheduled to arrive on Tuesday this week).  We are working diligently on other possibilities for our field service.

Please pray *All those effected by ebola in West Africa (a region where I have many friends from years serving here)
*Final Technical Work in Engineering to be completed  *Our advance team as soon we will shift them to another country  *Talks about where we should go next and *Safety for our sail back to the continent of Africa

KRB Update – Preparing for Benin

KRB Update #2199 – Preparing for Benin
Keith R. Brinkman                                                       01 July 2014

Greetings from the shipyard in Gran Canaria, Spain after almost a two week sail from the Republic of Congo as we finished our ten month field service in central Africa.  It was a good sail for most of the time and I was able to accomplish much work on Congo and Benin during that time.  Sailing provides a time of transition to close out one season and to begin to prepare for the next season and for us that is technical and the field service to Benin.  I am thankful for the time of transition.

You may ask what are you doing in Gran Canaria – well the answer is shipyard and drydock work.  We have two possible location options: Canary Islands (geographically Africa just off Morocco) and South Africa.  The decision was to return to the Canary Islands for the work needed which includes removing the drive shaft, propellers and rudder for inspection, repairs and maintenance plus work on our fresh water pipes throughout and some renovations in the hospital on flooring, etc.


Our Advance Team is already in Cotonou, Benin to prepare the way – with all the relationships with the government, church, port, sites for the Dental Clinic, Eye Clinic and HOPE Center, immigration, healthcare education participants, advertising for patient selection, and many other duties.  Our managing director always encouraged us to try to accomplish as much as possible ahead of time to allow a smoother and quicker start once the ship arrives.  Some have asked “What are the plans for Benin field service?” – we plan to offer maxillofacial, plastics, eye, pediatric orthopaedics, women’s health and general surgeries, dental care, palliative care, eye care and Education projects including mentoring for surgeons, anaesthesia providers, ward nurses, operating room nurses, sterile processing technicians and courses in Basis Surgical Skills, Radiology, Primary Trauma Care, Medical Leadership, Leadership for Community Leaders, SAFE Obstetric Anaesthesia, WHO Checklist/Lifebox Team Training, Newborn Resuscitation and others – it will be an exciting season.

I have finished most of my work on 29 individual project reports from Congo – the sections most important in these reports are Challenges/Responses/Recommendations and Worked Well in addition to the financial sections on our budget and actual expenses.  We want to identify challenges and suggest recommendations to improve our future projects.  I am now taking a break to rest and also to see some friends in Europe, thanks to cheap airfares with Ryan Air.  After my break, I will work diligently preparing for the Benin field service.

Please pray *Our advance team in Benin preparing the way *Safety for everyone during the technical phase of the ship  *For the right day crew to join us in Benin  *For the patients and healthcare education participants from in and around Benin