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.

KRB Update #2214 Mothers

Keith R. Brinkman with Mercy Ships                      07 May 2016

Mother’s Day is celebrated in different ways around the world on different days as sons and daughters celebrate and honor their mothers.  In this update and Mother’s Day weekend in the USA, I wish to share some short quotes <captured by our communications team> from mothers who have come to Mercy Ships for healing for their children this field service in Madagascar.

I was sad because all children [in our village] have normal feet but not my daughter,” recalls Emiliana. “I still had hope that her feet would be fixed.” After two months of casting, Cyriane had a small surgery to release the tendon that pulled her feet into an incorrect position. This was followed by more casting and a month of rehab after her surgery. Finally Cyriane’s joyous moment came. It was her turn to wear shoes! And the first person she wanted to see her new shoes was the caring volunteer physical therapist that had become her friend.  “Cyriane has taught me a lot,” says Michelle. “Her whole world has gotten so much bigger because of her mom’s bravery.”   Emiliana is filled with hope for Cyriane’s future – a future that now includes shoes on her daughter’s feet instead of her hands and the realization that Cyriane is finally able to walk on straight feet just like her big sister and all the other children in their village.

At almost seven months old, Haingo weighed only 4.8 pounds (2.2 kilograms). She was severely malnourished because of her cleft palate.  The medical team explained to Viviaby, her mother, she had managed against all odds to save her daughter’s life.  Five months after their arrival to Mercy Ships, Haingo was finally scheduled for surgery to repair her cleft lip and part of her palate.  Viviaby rushed to gather Haingo in her arms as the infant came out of recovery after her operations. “She’s beautiful!” was all the overwhelmed mother could manage to say.  Two weeks later, Viviaby and Haingo returned to their remote village. “They won’t believe it’s the same baby!” anticipated Viviaby. She gratefully clutched a handful of photos documenting Haingo’s healing journey to show her family.

Fifalina whispers “At school I’m always left behind. I can’t play with the other kids. I’ll play with the other kids when I’m healed.”  They learned of a patient screening nearby. “I believed they could fix my legs!” exclaims Fifalina.  When her leg casts were first removed, Fifalina declared, “I’m going to learn to walk again!”  Her mother Ludvine shares “Now she will be able to walk and just hold my hand!”

If you would like to read the fuller stories on these patients, they are available here on my web site in ‘KRB Archives’.

Prayer Points:  Remaining surgeries and patients health as we prepare to close our hospital late this month / that we would finish strong and well here in Madagascar / our preparations for the upcoming field service in Benin

Dedicated to my Mom on this special Mother’s Day – I love you Mom.

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

KRB Update 2213 – Easter on the Africa Mercy

He is not here, for HE HAS RISEN just as he said would happen”  Matthew 28:6
Easter is the Christian holiday celebrated here on board the ship and I would like to share with you about Easter in this update.  Our Chaplaincy department’s focus is to provide and facilitate pastoral care for all crew.  They do an amazing job year around and in particular at this season for meaningful opportunities especially considering our crew come from around 40 different nations and even more different Christian denominations.  Prior to Holy Week, Ash Wednesday service and the Sundays of Lent took place.  Then for Holy Week starting with Palm Sunday with story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the international lounge was adorned with palm branches and sounds of Hosanna.  Often during the week, one of the Easter-themed movies is shown.  The children from our Academy provided a Creative Arts Presentation with music, readings, dance, video clips, and playing instruments – their theme this year was ‘Every Blessing You Pour Out…’ as they praised God through the skills and talents He blessed them with – I was amazed at all the talent.  Maundy Thursday included a few options from the stations of the cross and communion in an Upper Room Experience, Foot Washing out on deck 7, and the main lounge set up as a Garden of Gethsemane for quiet prayer, reflection and waiting on the Lord.  I pondered on if I was in Jerusalem during that week 2,000 years ago, where I would be, what I would be thinking, feeling, sensing.  Then thoughts about if I was Simon just coming into the city with my sons and being demanded to carry the cross for Jesus.  Good Friday started with a somber morning service reflected on Jesus’ death – a wooden cross was in the room and you could write on a small piece of paper and hammer it in with a nail.  In the evening on the dock, we showed the Jesus Film in the Malagasy language for the children for a girl’s orphanage who were staying with us.  Saturday was quiet – though we continued with our regular visits to two of our Mercy Ministries partners – sharing the Easter story with the children and teens at a local orphanage, Enfants de Soleil (see photo as we worked on the craft) and with Love n’ Care for the homeless outreach.

Sunday started with joy and jubilation early with a sunrise service on the dock with songs of praise including ‘Forever He is glorified!  Forever He is lifted high!  Forever He is risen: He is alive!, and Because He Lives a song which I remember from Kingsway Christian Church back in Avon, Indiana and scripture readings from the Gospels.  As a community of faith, we gathered in a bright International Lounge for the Easter Celebration Service with our choir sharing, scripture readings, the call to worship that dates back to the early years of Mercy Ships with the m/v Anastasis (Greek for Resurrection) in the late 70’s and early 80’s with Christos Anesti, Alithos Anesti, He is risen!, a time of celebration of the Lord’s supper and placing fresh flowers in the holes on the cross.  Then, I joined with others for a short service in the hospital ward led by Clementine for our patients and caregivers – sharing the importance of Easter, worship in Malagasy and some testimonies.  Then together, we joined the second seating for the biggest meal of the year, the Easter brunch.

A few short patient updates – Sitraka and Mosolo have both returned home to their villages.  Berthelin continues to do well walking without the assistance of the braces, he is getting stronger and looking forward to the two day small boat journey to take him home.  Another patient, Jimmy, is doing good and so overjoyed to be without pain; he too will be discharged soon.  Delon returned for a checkup and everything is fine and he is returning to his family in the south.  Stani Junior returned for this third surgery and shared the good news that he has married and has a newborn daughter and is overjoyed to be a father.  Mohamed from Toliara is coming this week for his maxillofacial surgery.

KRB Update #2212 – My Patients

Passing a balloon like it was a soccer/football from patient to patient using head, hands and feet while in their hospital beds on bed rest – rolling a ball in the hallway with a small boy with his arm at a 90 degree angle set for healing following burn scar contracture release surgery due to horrible burns – short petite Malagasy women as small as my niece shuffling along the hallway singing praises to God softly as they await their healing and discharge after obstetric fistula surgery and are no longer wet.  This is a taste of life in our hospital where I live and serve.  My commute from my 13’ x 8’ (4 x 2.4 meters) cabin to my office involves walking down one set of stairs and then through the halls of our hospital and takes a total sum of 90 seconds.  That time is if I don’t stop to greet the patients from one of the five hospital wards if they are walking, singing, playing with balloons, or on ride-on-toys in the hallway.

Weekly when calling my Mom, I will ask if she would like to hear a patient story.  I wish to share a few with you:

©2015 Mercy Ships - Photo Credit Elie Sergio Benarson

©2015 Mercy Ships – Photo Credit Elie Sergio Benarson

Mosolo – 10 years old and from a remote village – came to the screening and accepted for surgery for extreme bowed legs (genu varus) – Dr. Frank and team performed the surgery in November and he was in casts for both legs till early February, now they are removed and he has intensive physical therapy – amazing kid.  When I would visit him at Masolo on Stairs IMG_7814 cropped 2the HOPE Center – we walked all around and for one set of stairs, he grabs my hand, his hand on the edge and would swing both legs out and go down two or even three steps at a time (see photo).  He will be discharged soon to start the journey home with his healing and hope restored having been loved and cared for, knowing more of the Father’s love for him.

Berthelin at HCBerthelin – 16 years old from a coastal village north of Toamasina – two days sail in a small boat (he said he slept with lifejacket on).  His before photos of his feet are too horrific to post – but that is not who he is.  He is an artist and an eager-to-learn young man.  He drew a picture for me – I proudly put on my small refrigerator in my cabin and like any artist, I had him sign his name.  His smile lights up Ward A.  He was come twice to Mercy Ships for his surgeries, which included the amputation of his right foot.  He just had ‘bed rest’ restrictions lifted and he is so ‘faly faly’ (happy in Malagasy).  I will have more time with him as we are not sure when he will be finally discharged.

Sitraka –MGC09109B_SITRAKA_PLS_SB02_LO cropped I first met this 13 year old at HOPE Center as he became friends with Mosolo.  He was born with cleft lip, one of the most common birth defect in the world.  In the US or Europe, surgery would be scheduled and performed as an infant.  In Madagascar, this care is not as accessible.  Sitraka has lived all these years with this – regretfully he has not attended school.  Though, he does worship at his local church and wow can he sing praises to God.  Thankfully, he received his surgery on Tuesday this week and it took a couple days for him to feel better – to look in the Sitraka IMG_7821 croppedmirror and feel his upper lip healed.  Currently, he is at the HOPE Center for a few more days and then he and his cousin can return home restored.

Hope is powerful and I am in awe of how the Lord brings hope back into the lives of our patients and in further awe that He has allowed me to a small part of their stories over these many years.  “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm, and secure.” Hebrews 6:19

Prayer Points:  *our patients full recovery  *those patients still coming as the hospital is open till late May *our patients who have returned home healed *those we were not able to provide surgery for *my own nephew Jeremy, 16 years old, who is fighting cancer back in Indiana

 

KRB Update 2211 – Delon, Eddy & Benin 2016

‘Thank you Mercy Ships’ words from some of our healed patients from Toliara who returned to the screening site in their town to see our screening team there looking for more patients. Happy Thanksgiving to my American family and friends. We all have so much to be thankful for each and every day. Two short stories and some great news.

Delon – from Taolagnaro in the far south sector of the island of Madagascar (a four day and night journey by bus between there and the port city the ship is in). Our Screening Team was there in early September and Delon was one of those selected to come for maxillofacial surgery. I met him while visiting the HOPE Center. He could actually understand my limited French and would translate into Malagasy so that the others understood what I was trying to say. Delon is married and has one young daughter. He works and is also studying to be a pastor in his church. I had my friend call to see how he is doing with his transition back home – he shared it is going well and good to be with his family and community. He is rejoicing as he plans to be water baptized this Saturday.

Eddy – we are in the final weeks of pediatric orthopedic surgery which is done early in the field service so there is time for cast changes and all the therapy needed for these amazing kids and teenagers. I met one of the most friendly little Malagasy kid – his name is Eddy, 7 years old and he had bowed legs. He is from a village, but his mother heard of the screening and brought him. He was accepted, but due to her being in the final months of pregnancy she was not able to come and so his grandmother came with him as his caregiver. When I first met him, he just came up and sat next to me and talked and talked on in Malagasy and I smiled and shook my head. Last week, I saw him again and he has both legs in casts and yet he has started to walk on his own without crutches or a walker. Oh the joy that came, as he just grabbed my hand and we just walked around. Though, when we got to the stairs he needed a bit of help to get down as he swung his legs from step to step. He and all the orthopedic kids have a long road, but we are so excited at the progress so far. Please continue to pray for all of our patients.

Well the announcement we have been waiting for came, here are the details: “After careful consideration, the Executive Committee of the Mercy Ships International Board has approved the deployment of the Africa Mercy to the nation of Benin for the August 2016 – June 2017 field service.
The Africa Mercy was previously scheduled to dock in Benin in 2014, but had to redeploy due to the Ebola outbreak in the region of West Africa. Following the past two years of service in Madagascar, the decision to return to West Africa was taken with great care and deliberation even though Benin was not affected. During the past several months a number of West African countries have been declared Ebola free. In the coming months, Mercy Ships will continue to carefully monitor these encouraging developments, study and make the necessary preparations for this field service.
Despite the stability of both the country and its economic growth, it is still considered one of the poorest nations in the world, ranking at 165 out of 187 countries according to the United Nations Human Development Index in 2013. Benin welcomes support to improve the country’s health system. (1)
Donovan Palmer, Group Managing Director for Mercy Ships, reports, “Since our last visit to Benin, the Mercy Ships programmatic model has expanded. Capacity-building projects are now possible on a scale which did not exist previously. Coupled with the opportunity to build on projects from the past, we believe Mercy Ships efforts have the potential to catalyze change in Benin in ways not possible before now.” The Africa Mercy last visited Benin in 2009. Previous to that time, Mercy Ships have also docked in Cotonou in 2004, 2001, and first served in the nation in 1997.”
I am excited to return to Benin, to see former patients, local workers, partners and dear friends. I thank you all my family and friends around the world. Give Thanks with a grateful heart.