KRB Update #2225 – Thankful / Axel

As my home country just celebrated Thanksgiving, I wish to share with you from a letter that Paul the Apostle wrote:  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:2 – 6 – verses of great significance to me over the years.

A short update on Axel as I have mentioned him before, he is my friend and one of our maxillofacial patients here in Cameroon.  He expects to have another surgery on his lower lip this week, though unsure when he will be able to return home.  His family lives two day journey from here, but his grand frère (big brother) recently made the journey to visit him.  We can understand each other better now as more healing has come to his face and mouth.  At times, we use Google translate on my phone to translate words neither of us know.  Though, I am thankful for Sunshine and Chimene, both of whom are day crew translators who help with our conversations. Axel is a follower of Jesus and gives thanks to God for his surgeries and healing.  He will be celebrating his 25th birthday on the 15th of December.  It brings joy to my heart when I asked him what are his plans when he returns home with this church and he shared that he will go and give thanks to God.

Weekly on Wednesdays, our Hospital offers a Medical Inservice, though primarily for our healthcare professionals for continuing education, but open to the entire crew.  I always learn more and gain better understanding even though at times there are words I don’t know.  Last week, the teaching was on Craniofacial Surgery by our Chief Medical Officer.  We are starting two weeks of neurosurgery here on board and will have a local Cameroonian neurosurgeon and together will provide these very specialized surgeries.  Please pray for these patients and those caring for them.

Here on board with an international crew, we don’t celebrate individual nation’s holidays, but we are looking forward to the month of December as do observe Christmas.  There will be various international Christmas activities throughout the month, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  My porthole area and door are decorated.

Our Mission Statement is: we follow the 2000-year-old model of Jesus, bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor.  All services (surgeries, dental and training) provided by Mercy Ships are free of charge.  Please pray that we are reaching those who have the greatest need for hope and the practical services we provide.

Please intercede for the spiritual protection of our crew, patients and ~270 Cameroonian day crew as we serve people from every region of this nation.  We have dozens of new crew members arriving each week, many of whom are visiting Cameroon for the first time.  Please pray for these new team members that they learn quickly and feel at home on the ship and in Cameroon.

KRB Update #2224 – Community of Faith

Recently, our crew, long and short term, had a conversation on the question of ‘What does a Community of Faith look like in a practical sense on a Mercy Ship?’  We started from the top with understanding first and foremost that there is a strong vision from our senior leadership of what this larger Community of Faith looks like – our Core Values – Love God, Love and Serve Others, People of Integrity and Excellence.  Then we practically filled in the details of how we can/do make that happen on a day-to-day basis here on the Africa Mercy.  The Community of Faith Looks Like…

  • Showing God’s love and grace
  • Accepting that everyone has value in the community
  • Accepting that everyone in the community hassomething to give
  • Coming home; creating home
  • Supporting one another
  • Humbly serving in positions that may be less than what an individual’s training suggests (laundry/ housekeeping)
  • Providing acceptance and compassion
  • Forgiving others (particularly in the laundry room)
  • Achieving acommon goal
  • Greeting each other (not passing without speaking)
  • Recognizing that all layers of the community are equal
  • Living with andlearning cultures
  • Showing vulnerability
  • Living like siblings (the good and the bad, loving and forgiving)
  • Looking past one another’s differences
  • Glorifying God
  • Focusing on our passions
  • Sharing the bad days
  • Loving the eclectic
  • Using skills to help others/the organization
  • Worshiping with our hands
  • Dancing to the beat of the same drum
  • Using common languageincluding random phrases from places we’ve been like “Azafady” (which means excuse me or sorry in Malagasy for those who don’t know)
  • Sharing the load
  • Operating like an African village where everyone contributes

“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.  Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also everyone for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus . . .”  Philippians 2:1-5

Prayer Requests:  * Axel (in the photo above) has another surgical treatment tomorrow, please pray for the healing to come
* For more women who are suffering with obstetric fistula as we have surgical slots available for them  * For more adults and children who are blind or severe loss of sight – surgery is available – the blind can see.

KRB Update #2223 – Start of New Field Service

What it is like when we start a new field service in a new country?  Well, our Advance Team would have been in the country four to five months before the arrival of the ship.  I serve as their liaison on board and have been on previous advance teams.  Whatever is possible for them to accomplish before our arrival is done, so that we can have a good start.
* Orientation and Training for over 270 day crew (local workers) who serve in almost every department on board – they are from the local community and we provide them with a stipend and meal.
* Welcoming of hundreds of new crew volunteers – we usually average about 100 people arriving and departing every month – our community is in a constant state of change.  Currently, we have 417 persons including our children from 35 nations.
* Learning how to drive in a new country – who has the right a way in a roundabout – how do you get to the airport, HOPE Center, Eye Clinic, Dental Clinic, Team House, even the market and for the large port of Douala how do you even get to the north and south gates
* Our hospital is secured during shipyard and sailing and so the hospital team work on setting it all back up – but the greatest moment is when the patients come and as I walk between my cabin in the back (aft) part of the ship to the front (bow) where my office is to see the children in the hallways and the women doing their daily walks – life has returned to our hospital – a place we pray that will be an opportunity of hope and healing.
* Arrival Ceremony and Partners Reception help to connect our partners with our teams on board.  Plus many other activities to make all this possible.

For me more specifically, I have a three page Checklist for Arrival at a New Field Service including the following:
* Reporting – Statistical Reports – format, language and how often, for Mercy Ships and for the Government and Partners
* Reporting to the Government, who are our main host, in Cameroon they have requested weekly and monthly narrative reports – 3 to 4 pages in French and English
* Maintain our Field Service Overview sharing about each project we have planned from surgical, non-surgical and all the medical capacity building courses and mentoring and infrastructure.
* Programs Opportunity Sign Up – with all the opportunities the long term and short term crew can sign up and join + similar one for Local Churches, Ward Service and HOPE Center Service on Sundays
* Set up spreadsheets and then monthly compiling, tracking and analyzing our expenses by project against our budgets
* Update our process and facilitate for donations of items to local partners
* Create our Communications Map with the Government and Partners
* Make plans and orchestrate the Programs Reporting Times on Fridays.
* Working with our Mercy Ministries Coordinator for our new partners which often include children’s homes/orphanages, schools for the disabled, prison and sharing the Jesus Film with local churches.  I spent my birthday at one of the children’s home which includes those who are disabled.

Prayer Requests:
1.  Pray for the hearts & spirits of our patients and partners to be touched in greater measure by the hope and love of Jesus.  2.  Additional women with obstetric fistula who we can provide free surgeries for them for a restoration of healing and hope.  3.  Additional ophthalmic patients who have severe vision loss in both eyes, so that sight can be restored.  4.  Safety and security – if you watch international or African news you will see that there are protests and unrest in this country but not in our region– our Captain and Security team take the safety of our people very seriously and restrictions are put in place for that.

KRB Update #2222 – Cameroon

12 August 2017
Greetings from the Africa Mercy as we are safely sailing from Las Palmas where we completed our drydocking and all required repairs and inspections to Douala, Cameroon for our first ever field service to this nation. Our overall summary statement is: “During the Africa Mercy’s 10-month stay in the port of Douala, Republic of Cameroon, Mercy Ships plans to provide 3,112 to 4,148 life-changing surgeries for adult and child patients onboard, to treat over 8,000 at a land-based dental clinic, and provide holistic healthcare training to Cameroonian health care professionals. Mercy Ships Medical Capacity Building Programs foster transformational development within the healthcare structure of the host nation. These projects have been specifically developed to impart knowledge and skills, while modeling and encouraging compassion and a professional work ethic. These projects incorporate one-on-one mentoring opportunities and internationally recognized courses for groups in the Africa Mercy hospital and ashore.”
My first visit to the nation was in March 2014 as I joined our government liaison as we presented Mercy Ships to the Prime Minister and many of his other government ministers. This was during the pre-protocol period – the protocol being the signed agreement between the host government and Mercy Ships. Various ship leaders have made many other visits as together with the government we planned this field service. I continue to be the Advance Team liaison on board and supporting the team there in all ways possible. Currently we have 22 crew members already in country ahead of our arrival.
Information about the Nation and People of Cameroon
* 153 out of 188 on the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) www.hdr.undp.org according to the 2016 report – ranking according to life expectancy, expected years of schooling, adult literacy rate and per capita income. The higher the country score, the more developed they are. Mercy Ships works with countries that are in the bottom third.
* The country has had only two presidents since independence in 1960 – Ahmadou Ahidjo and the current president Paul Biya in power since 1982.
* Their history has involved the French, English, Portuguese and German.
* The flag contains the vertical Pan-African tricolor with a bright yellow star in the center – green stands for hope and the southern forest, red stands for unity and yellow for sunshine, prosperity and the savannahs in the north.
* Geographically, the country is at the crossroads of West and Central Africa and sometimes referred to as the hinge of Africa because it borders six other countries: Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
* Cameroon has ten regions and we trained doctors to go all ten regions in search for suitable surgical patients for our field service from the extreme north to the far east.
* The population of 275 ethnic groups comes to over 24 million people. Primarily Bantu at 70% and then 10% each to Fulani, Kirdi and Other.
* Our home will be Berth #10 in the Port of Douala in the largest city, but not the capital city which is Yaoundé. Douala’s population is over 3 million.
* Unlike the United States and Europe with four seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall – Douala’s weather is Dry season from November to February 21°C to 35°C (72 F – 100 F), March to May Light Rains and Rainy season from June to October. During the rainy season up to 12 feet of rain (3,600 millimeters).
Many thanks to Steve who shared his research at our first country briefing, I will share more in future KRB Updates.
Prayer Requests:
Finding additional women in the rural areas who need obstetric fistula surgery – campaigns are currently underway
Finding blind people who need cataract surgery
The healthcare professional participants to receive mentoring and attend training courses
Patient and caregiver’s travel from all over Cameroon to Douala to receive their healing and hope restored.
In regards to my mother – I made an unexpected visit to Indiana in late June to spend time with her in the nursing home and with my father and family.
Two of our crew members have died recently – one while visiting family in the United States and another who left almost a year ago and returned to her nation of Liberia. Prayers for their families and friends left behind.
PS – no news yet on when the eight episode series of the ‘Surgery Ship’ with National Geographic will be airing in the United States or Canada – I will advise when I know something.
Serving Together, Keith

KRB 2221 Benin – Final

Hello from somewhere off the coast of Africa as we are sailing. This field service, for every surgery performed onboard the Africa Mercy, roughly one West African medical professional received a form of advanced training from the ship.
1,793 people benefited from a free operation, and thousands of others will have the chance at better care under the hands of 1,962 medical professionals who’ve trained with our Medical Capacity Building Team.


Plus the breakdown on chil
dren and adults + gender percents also.
Reporting our statistics on a weekly and monthly basis is part of my responsibility as Programs Administration Manager.

After all of our ‘Thank you – Merci’ to our partners, friends, and day crew in Benin, we set sail for the shipyard phase in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain. While on the journey, I have been working on 34 official final project reports on our hospital and medical capacity building projects + another 10 for our Mercy Ministries partners. Each report needing to be in a set format, correct English, updated statistics, photos with captions and photo file names and finances with our budget vs. expense and explanation when greater than 10% variance. So the sail has been a busy time, thankfully it has been smooth for the most part as my office is in the bow of the ship.

National Geographic’s eight episode special on ‘the Surgery Ship’ continues to be aired in countries around the world, though there is no announcement yet on when it will be shown in the United States and Canada, though I will keep you posted. As the crew of the Africa Mercy, we received special permission to view the episodes and I think they have done a great job.

Prayer Requests: My nephew Jeremy was released from the hospital on Sunday after his fourth major surgery – they removed the cancer and were able to save 90% of his upper lobe of his left lung. He has returned home for his continued recovery and rehabilitation.
My Mom has been moved to another nursing home with higher dependency care for her as she suffers with Alzheimer’s Disease.
All of our patients in Benin for their complete recovery.
Our preparations for the field service in Cameroon, through a new patient screening process, we already have over 11,000 registered as potential patients.

Serving Together, Keith

KRB Update #2220 – Nat Geo Surgery Ship

How many heard about Mercy Ships from Discovery Mighty Ships or CBS 60 Minutes in 2014 who also won best feature story for the ‘Africa Mercy’?  We have another great opportunity with National Geographic.  We’re excited to announce the rollout of the long-awaited eight-episode NatGeo TV series titled “The Surgery Ship” which began on 24 March with world premiere in Holland and Belgium and later in Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey, and Australia (tomorrow) and starting on 06 May in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa.  They will have voice overs or subtitles, either one as with their other documentaries.  It may be on NatGeo Channel or NatGeo People.  For those in the United States, Canada and elsewhere in Europe, we don’t have the dates for the eight episodes, but I will try to keep you posted on my social media posts – Twitter and Facebook so you know.  As far as I know I do not appear in the TV series, but my friends and patients do and so worth watching.  It may be showing a bit later in the evening as there is some footage from surgery which may be difficult for small ones.  In the midst of serious situations and the lives of patients and crew, they have brought in humorous aspects that make you laugh.

Thanks to Madeleine Hetherton & Media Stockage for this two minute #SurgeryShip teaser – you can click on the link below:

Click on this link:  https://vimeo.com/207050695#embed

Do keep this rollout in prayer for His plan and purposes to be accomplished in viewer’s lives around the world, for the crew who are represented and for this to be of ultimate benefit to those we serve in Africa!

Prayer Requests:

  • Final month of surgeries, recovery and health to all of our patients
  • Our preparations in Douala by our Advance Team for our arrival in August
  • Preparations for the field service in Conakry, Guinea for August 2018 – June 2019 – as previously we postponed due to ebola but now we will return to fulfill our promise to the people there.
  • Health and strength for the entire crew.

KRB Update 2219 Blind See !!!

Luke 7:22  “And answering, Jesus said to them, Go and tell John what you have seen and heard; that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the gospel is proclaimed to the poor.”  Luke 4:18  “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me; because of this He has anointed Me to proclaim the Gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim deliverance to the captives, and new sight to the blind, to set at liberty those having been crushed,” Modern King James

There are many verses in both the Old Testament and New Testament about the blind seeing again – we are seeing the same here on the Africa Mercy once again through life-changing surgery for adults, teens and children who are blind primarily from cataracts.  As of March 10th, 461 patients received their sight restored (214 Men, 247 Female – all adults except for 6 children ~ part of the statistics that I report out weekly).  We continue this week and four more weeks of surgery including two weeks of special pediatric eye surgery under general anesthesia for 25 children born blind.  From the donations I have in my office, my day crew and I filled small bag packs with small gifts items for each of the children aged from one to ten years old.  They will be given the gifts at their final discharge.  I can’t wait to hear the results of these special ones surgeries.

Some reports from Dr. Glenn and Kim Strauss about those who have already had their surgery:  “I want to declare this day, the 17th of February, ‘The Day for the Celebration of Sight’!” Says Rita, who dances in her pink patterned dress, able to see for the first time in years. “Every year on this day, you must praise God with your family,” she shouts. “Praise God that we have sight!!!”  A 19-year old woman who was blind for the last three years who now plans to complete her education now that she can see, and an 8-year old boy who now has improved vision and who can carry on life as an independent individual.

Another man was very interested and had recently been given a Bible.  He was excited to know more and was going to use his new eyes to go home and read that Bible!  Others had lost faith due to their blindness and wanted to tell us how their sight had brought their faith back to them.

A mother, who brought her blind 16 year old daughter to our Eye Team, told them that not long ago a local pastor’s wife came into the market sharing Christ.  This woman had accepted Christ then, but the pastor’s wife came back weeks later and told her about Mercy Ships and that she should bring her daughter.  At screening she was told we would only do one eye, but when our ophthalmologist Dr. Glenn saw her, he decided to do both on the same day!

One last short report:  A friend took a picture of a patient because he could now see.  She showed it to him.  When he looked, he let out a loud whoop! And began laughing hysterically!  He had not realized that he had gotten that OLD!!  Hahahahahaha!

Please continue to pray for our surgical patients – for physical healing but also impact on their emotional and spiritual life.

Serving Together,   Keith 

Celebration of Sight at CNHU

The first Celebration of Sight at the Eye Clinic

KRB 2218 – Interview

Indiana – I think most of you know that is where I grew up and where most of my family lives, my home church, some supporters, and many friends.  Though, I haven’t lived there since 1989.  A dear friend who serves in the Marketing department of our US office asked if I would willing to do a television interview over Skype with WTHR 13 – the NBC affiliate in Indianapolis.  I agreed and the reporter sent some possible questions and I thought I would share them with you all.  We went over these and others for the television spot, though they take much footage and reduce as needed.  Here is link to their site:  http://www.wthr.com/article/pursuing-her-purpose-center-grove-woman-to-help-others-from-a-mercy-ship to watch the short video online.  Please note that Jennifer who is featured is arriving tonight and small world – her son graduated with my oldest nephew, Dustin.

Why are you doing this?  After hearing Don Stephens, our founder and president share in 1985 about Mercy Ships, I knew in my heart that I would be involved in this organization – I never knew it would be over 28 years of my life.  By bringing my skills and abilities along with everyone else’s from our crew from + 40 different nations we are making a difference in individual lives, healthcare systems and nations.  Growing up on the West Side of Indy – I never dreamed of living on a hospital ship in Africa.

How do you know you are making an impact?  On the ship, we serve as a team – about 400 people serving as volunteers – half serving in healthcare positions and other half in vital roles on board – engineering, deck, galley, dining room, and the academy.  We are making an impact as we hear our patients share how their life is changed, our medical training participants share that what they have learned will help them take better care of their patients and will share with others – hearing from the president or prime minister what they are seeing during our 10 month visit and afterwards.

What are your responsibilities and the challenges you face?  Responsible for programs oversight which includes planning, finances, reports, statistics, etc.  My first class in Accounting at Ben Davis High School and at IUPUI helped to prepare me for this career.  Previously I served as the Finance Director on an earlier ship.   Challenge – finding the right people with the right skills at the right time to serve with us.

What should we know about the global health crisis you see on a daily basis? Lancet Commission on Global Surgery Globally an estimated 5 billion people do not have access to safe, affordable surgical and anesthesia care when needed.  In low income countries – that can be 90% of the population.  We are responding by both providing surgeries (here in Benin >2,000) and at the same time training  healthcare professionals from the host nation – surgeons, anesthesia providers, nurses, biomedical, sterile technicians, etc.

What challenges do you face? Working with our potential patients and having to say no we are not able to provide them with surgery – especially if it is a child and something that normally we could do but they come too late.  Language at times, but we have over 200 locals who we hire and many serve as translators.

What’s been your “high” moment?  Time with our patients prior to and during their recovery process in our hospital – I can walk 30 seconds from my office or cabin to our hospital – time hearing their story, playing Jenga/memory game – building relationship – primarily with pediatric orthopedic and plastics reconstructive surgical patients are often with us for months to receive their healing.  Sometimes visiting them in their homes – including a village in Sierra Leone to see a cleft lip boy Kalimu – the chief shared that I was the first ‘white’ man in their village and they were so thankful to Mercy Ships for the change in Kalimu.

This update in memory of Berthelin: 17 years old, who died in Madagascar on Friday – he was one of my patients who visited regularly and talked with him after he returned home.  We provided surgery for a better quality of life in his final months/years as he had cancer and there was no treatment available.  I learned of his death this morning before our ward service from our hospital chaplain – she read the scripture of “comfort for those who mourn” – I think of his mom, brother, family and friends.  After crying, I felt in my heart and mind, ‘he is with Me’ referring to God.
Thank you all for being a part of my life and ministry here.

KRB 2216 – Return to Benin

Keith R. Brinkman with Mercy Ships               16 October 2016

With great excitement, we the crew on the m/v Africa Mercy arrived into the port of Cotonou, Benin and back to West Africa on 18 August 2016 for a ten-month field service.  I was here for all of 2009 and short visits in 2010 and 2012.  We are profoundly grateful for the welcome, with the participation of representatives of the government, embassies and other organizations.  During the arrival ceremony, Claudine Gbenagnon Talon, First Lady of the Republic of Benin addressed the crew, saying, “Behind all statistics there is a story, a life, a person who needs a new hope, a treatment, or a cure. I wish that this enriching collaboration of Benin with Mercy Ships will continue to grow year after year for the well-being of the population.”  This is something I believe in – as most of you know I am responsible for reporting out our statistics and reports to our various partners.  Weekly when I pull the surgical numbers from the Patient Database, I remember there is a life behind each of our unique surgical patients and also for our training participants.

Over the many years, Mercy Ships has developed various means of obtaining surgical patients.  In each country, we modify for what would be best.  Here in Benin after three weeks of screening at our Cotonou Screening Center 762 potential patients received appointments to attend individual surgeon screenings where our volunteer surgeons will give the final ok.  Small teams of two incorporating technology (using iForms on iPhones) completed screenings during four weeks in nine cities (Kandi, Bembèrèké, Parakou, Natitingou, Djougou, Dassa, Bohicon, Aplahoué, and Pobè – see the map) 489 potential patients received appointments to be seen by Mercy Ships nurses at one of five screening locations in October or in December.  Through the Cotonou Screening, interior screening and referrals, Mercy Ships surgical opportunities are now full except for obstetric fistula patients.  We are saying many no’s and I am sorry ‘je suis désolé.’ related to surgery.  Though, we have been able to say yes to many also.  Allow me to share about one patient.  His name is Oleg and he is 24 years old.  When he was 20 years old, he was in his family home outside of Cotonou when there was a blazing fire and the flames burned his body in the area of his neck, chest, and leg.  His father searched and searched to find some medical help as the burns caused restriction of mobility for parts of his body but sadly found none.  Years later Oleg heard of the types of surgeries Mercy Ships can provide and he came to the screening.  He was accepted and our South African surgeon and the amazing operating team provided surgery for burn scar contracture releases for him.  He is now in the healing, wound care (I stayed with him for one session which was over 90 minutes of delicate care) and later on he will enter into the therapy stage.  Regretfully his father passed away before seeing his son’s healing.  A verse they strongly believe in is:  Luc 1:37 “Car rien n’est impossible à Dieu.” “For no word from God will ever fail.”  Even though at times, he is home-sick and anxious to leave the hospital, he is so thankful for his healing.  I visit him and Olivier, who also incurred his injury and burn four years ago, on a regular basis here in our hospital.  A card game they have been introduced to is ‘UNO’ – which helps to pass the time and I have taught them a few additional numbers in Español.  I join them for the Sunday morning service which is available to the patients and caregivers and interested crew.

Our care for our patients is not only physical, but for the whole person.  When there are emotional and spiritual concerns, our crew and trained local workers are there for our patients – to listen, to pray, to counsel, to stand together with them.  Through relationship building, a person opens up and is willing to share more about their life when they know people generally love and care for them.  The Bible story shared this morning was of the Good Samaritan and our hospital chaplains use the Simply the Story method of sharing which involves the audience’s participation.  One shared his reflection that we see God in the care that the Samaritan offered to the man on the side of the road.  “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?  The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  Luke 10:30-37

Prayer Points:  *our patients surgery and recovery  *our training participants  *safety and health for the crew and local workers *may people sense God’s spirit here on board the Africa Mercy

Serving Together,   Keith Email:  keith.brinkman@yahoo.com   krb@keithbrinkman.com   www.KeithBrinkman.com

KRB 2215 – Fathers as Caregivers

After great comments on last month’s update on mothers who have come with their children to the Africa Mercy for hope and healing, this month I will focus on fathers.  Today is Father’s Day in the US and in South Africa where we are presently.  Any patient coming to receive surgery who is under 18 years old is required to have a caregiver.  The caregiver may be a mother, father, uncle, aunt, grandparent, older sibling.  This month, I wish to share about Frederic & Clementine, a father whose daughter received healing on board in Madagascar.

Clementine’s family lived a very simple life farming beans, rice and peanuts. Born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate – two splits from her upper lip to her nose and a hole in the roof of her mouth – Clementine found eating and speaking very difficult. Local doctors explained to her father, Frederic, that the only thing that could fix Clementine’s lip and palate was a very costly surgery in a hospital far from their village. Such a surgery was far beyond the family’s reach financially.   “As her father, I’m sad I can’t protect her (from the teasing),” shared Frederic. “We couldn’t do anything. We live so far away!”  After learning of Mercy Ships and within two weeks after her arrival, Clementine was onboard the hospital ship to have her free surgery. Afterward, Clementine began working with a speech therapist to learn how to use her newly constructed palate. Years of speaking with a hole in the roof of her mouth made it a challenge to use her new palate, but Clementine worked as hard at her therapy as she did in her studies and achieved great results. Slowly she learned that all the sounds that were difficult for her to make prior to surgery were a lot easier to make now that her palate was closed. Finally, the day came for Clementine and Frederic to return home. They stopped at the market, and Clementine browsed through the display of earrings. The choices seemed endless. She finally settled on a dangling silver pair with pink stones. As she put them up to her earlobes, she beamed up at her father. Frederic’s heart melted as he realized that just six weeks ago, his daughter had a very different appearance. He returned her smile and said, “Every time you see these earrings, you’ll remember our journey and adventure.” As they departed from the market with Clementine’s new earrings, Clementine hugged her father tightly. His courage and sacrifice in bringing her to the ship had made her new life possible. She would never forget this daddy-daughter adventure, the adventure that changed her life.

If you would like to read the full story on Clementine – A Daddy-Daughter Adventure, it is available on my web site in ‘KRB Archives’.

For our second field service in Madagascar, we provided 1,682 life-changing surgeries to 1,451 unique patients of which 36% were children 14 years and younger & 51% female 49% male.  Over 11,000 adults, teens and children received dental care.  1,451 healthcare professionals attended courses hosted by Mercy Ships in Toamasina, the capital and all the regional hospitals around the country.  29 finished the Nutritional Agriculture course and are now back with their organizations to train hundreds of others over the upcoming years.  Hundreds decided to follow Jesus after viewing the Jesus Film and thousands received prayer.  Our reporting and statistics is one area I am responsible for on board the Africa Mercy and I work hard for integrity and excellence.
Together, we bring hope and healing to the forgotten poor as we follow the example of Jesus.

Prayer Points:  Time in shipyard for required repairs/inspections in Durban, KZN, South Africa / Our preparations for the upcoming field service in Benin in less than two months.

Dedicated to my Dad – I love you.