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.

KRB Update 2210 – Cameroon 2017

KRB Update #2210 – Cameroon 2017
Keith R. Brinkman with Mercy Ships               03 October 2015
‘Salama’ from the Africa Mercy here in Madagascar.  We have exciting news as seen in the title ‘Cameroon 2017’ that I wish to share with you.  Nearly three years ago, Pierre Christ, our Government Liaison, began faithfully pursuing new relationships in Cameroon in hopes of facilitating a future ship visit.  Since then, two delegations from Cameroon have visited the ship and another two Mercy Ships delegations have visited Cameroon.  I was with the delegation in March 2014 when Pierre and I traveled to Yaoundé, Cameroon.  In order to facilitate a ship visit, we need to have a signed protocol with the host government.  Recently my friends, Harmen and Andrea, went to Cameroon to help with the final stage of protocol negotiations. Then our Group Managing Director Donovan Palmer and Pierre arrived in Cameroon and were able to sign a protocol and committed to work towards a field service for the Africa Mercy there in 2017-2018.

A quote from Donovan, “At the heart of the agreement is a deep desire in the Cameroonian government to partner with Mercy Ships – to treat as many people as possible and offer capacity building projects as well.  In the coming weeks, we will negotiate and sign a secondary agreement called an ‘Accord de Siégé,’ which we hope to complete by mid-November. This agreement will pave the way for assessment teams to conduct research and address issues to be resolved with the government.  We have been invited to come in 2017 in order to allow adequate preparation time for the programs envisioned.  In the meantime, our proposals include capacity building programs that will begin before the arrival of the ship, enabling us to fully leverage the ship’s visit.”

If you can read French, here is a link to the article on the internet: http://www.cameroon-info.net/stories/0,68059,@,cameroun-sante-un-navire-hopital-de-l-ong-americaine-mercy-ships-bientot-au-came.html

For me, I am excited for this new country with a large population, people who are bilingual as it is French/English, which will help me with communications.  I have learned more about Cameroon from recent friends with a Christian missionary organization who have served there many years. I may be on one of the assessment trips, but that has not been determined yet.  Now you may ask “ok that is 2017, what about 2016?”, our leaders are still making a final decision and I will let you know when we know.

Back here in Madagascar, the first new patient I have connected with is Patrick and he comes from Taolagnaro.  He is in his 40’s and a father of four. His work is riding his bike village to village selling used clothes.  He borrowed money for a surgery but it was not successful.  So he has continued to pray for three years for his healing from a maxillofacial tumor.  He heard the announcement on the radio in his local dialect about the patient selection.  He was screened by our team, accepted and made the four day bus journey to get here.  He is a catholic man and so thankful to God for his healing.  His surgery and recovery has gone so well that he will be able to return home to his family and community soon.
Just yesterday I met three young boys with cleft lips, all from Manakara.  A bit shy and not accustomed to foreign people, but it didn’t take long to be doing fist bump.  They will have surgery next week.  I will be visiting them and their parents especially while they are with us on board in our hospital.

Photo:  Patrick on the left in the red coat and Hermann was translating for me – he is in the middle.  We are at the HOPE Center for Sunday worship.

Together we are following the example of Jesus bringing hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.

Serving Together,

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

KRB Update 2209 – Madagascar 2

KRB Update #2209 – Madagascar 2
Keith R. Brinkman with Mercy Ships               06 September 2015
‘Salama’ from the Africa Mercy back in Madagascar.  After a couple delays in South Africa, we set sail and returned to this the fourth largest island in the world and our home for the next ten months.  I am excited for this field service and all that God has in store for our patients, this crew, our partners and for me.  The last time we conducted two back-to-back field services was in Monrovia, Liberia in 2007 and 2008 – I served on the Advance Team for the time in between.  This time, I was the Liaison for the Advance Team on board the ship.  There are some unique opportunities available to us:

  • Extensive screening for surgical patients in the capital for 3 weeks before the ship returned and in ten cities strategically located around the country. In the southern city of Taolagnaro, the pre-screening conducted by a partner and our two days last week – 58 potential patients received appointment cards to come to the ship for their final screening by the operating surgeon. One comment from a potential patient was “so grateful for the fact that Mercy Ships travelled so far down to select patients from my area.”
  • As we learned of the great need for women’s health surgeries during our first visit, we have adjusted our surgical schedule and will offer more obstetric fistula, uterine prolapse and other gynecological surgeries for primarily the rural Malagasy women. For all of our surgical specialties, we are planning on over 2,000 surgeries.
  • Due to the largest number of patients coming from outside the port city area, we expanded our HOPE Center to have 244 beds for patients and caregivers for their stay before surgery and afterwards when they only need outpatient care and not 24/7 nursing care. Plus we have completed two additional infrastructure development projects in June and July at the local government/university hospital and will start the renovations of the operating room block later this month. Helping to improve healthcare delivery in this nation and this region.
  • Medical Capacity Building – having learned more of the types of medical training they need during our first visit, we have been able to formulate our most complete surgery-focused training courses (with training of trainers component) and mentoring opportunities on board. These projects have been specifically developed to impart knowledge and skills, while modeling and encouraging compassion and a professional work ethic. We expect over 500 healthcare professional participants.

In all areas, remembering our vision statement of “Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to transform individuals and serve nations, one at a time.”
For me, I look forward with great expectation to reconnecting with my friends in this nation – day crew (local workers), patients, caregivers and partners.  I am going to be more involved with Befriend-a-Patient for that one-on- one connection with our patients, who are in our hospital just below my cabin and down the hall from my office.  I have one patient who will be returning for a second surgery – Stani Junior – and so I can’t wait to see him again.

Thank you all your support – through your prayers, encouragement, and financial support – together we are following the example of Jesus bringing hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.
Serving Together,   Keith Email:  keith.brinkman@yahoo.com   krb@keithbrinkman.com   www.KeithBrinkman.com

KRB Update 2208 End of Field Service

KRB Update #2208 – End of Field Service
Keith R. Brinkman with Mercy Ships               13 June 2015
Hello from the Africa Mercy somewhere in the Mozambique Channel, Indian Ocean as we have left Madagascar and are heading to Durban, South Africa for our shipyard/drydock phase.  Our field service to Madagascar has come to an end after eight months in this nation.  For me, it has been longer as I had the privilege to come in with the assessment and advance teams back in September.  Here at the end, we hosted our partners on board to thank them for their partnership.  Our thank you event for our amazing Malagasy day crew was filled with great food, fellowship, short performances of song and dance and more food and goodbyes for some, but for most it is only ‘Till August’ when we return.  I am currently in the process of reviewing 35 individual project reports from the hospital, medical capacity building, capacity building and support programs and mercy ministries.  These reports are our official documentation of the project noting our activities, challenges, responses and recommendations, what worked well and success stories and/or participant feedback.  Plus I am writing some summary reports and finalizing our statistics as we strive for excellence and integrity.  Here are a few charts showing some numbers, knowing that each number represents a person’s lives who has been impacted during this field service.

A short update on Sambany:  a small group from the ship joined him for the journey home to his village.  They drove as far as they could go and then a day and half walking.  Along the path, his wife (see the photo) was coming towards them and she didn’t even recognize her husband.  They had a joyful reunion as she thought he had died as it had been so long and there was no means of communications to her or anyone in the village.  Sambany was welcoming home by his village.  The group from the ship that joined on this adventure shared with the entire ship community what the experience was like.  A short update about Stani Junior, I talked with him prior to leaving and he returned home safely to his village, family and friends.  He shared with people that Jesus had healed him.  He inquired of me as that there is another person in his village with a similar problem.  He has encouraged the person to come for the screening for consideration to be selected for surgery.

While we are in South Africa, I am working on our preparations for Madagascar II – all of our project plans including their budgets, being the liaison for the Advance Team in Madagascar and taking some time to rest.  Thank you all your support – through your prayers, encouragement, and financial support – together we were able to bring hope and healing to the people of Madagascar and it is not the end as we return there in early August.

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

KRB Update – Stani Junior

KRB Update #2207 – Stani Junior
Keith R. Brinkman with Mercy Ships 09 May 2015

Salama from Madagascar – thank you for your messages about Sambany – he continues to recover and I see him regularly. In this update, I would love to introduce you to one of my patients – at first I called him Junior and later learned his real name is Stani. His last name is only three letters but is abnormal here as many have last names have over 20 letters. I normally do not even try to attempt to say their last names.

I met Stani during our surgical patient screening in Mahajanga in late January. In the midst of thousands of people, there are ones you meet who you can’t wait till they arrive on the ship for their surgery. Following Stani receiving his appointment for surgeon screening at the ship, my friend Josh and I asked Stani some questions. Josh is our talented videographer in our Communications department. Stani came with his mom and older brother and in the beginning the mom wanted to answer the questions but Stani desired to respond himself. I later learned from Stani it is his grandmother as his mom died when he was only 2 years old. He was raised by his grandmother and uncle.

Stani’s health was horribly affected when he was only 1 year old – he had an infection but received no care and Noma (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noma_%28disease%29) destroyed part of his young face – though he survived and only 10% survive this horrible but preventable disease. Though, the disease left a gap in his face under his eye and part of his nose. He went to school and endured the cruelty of the other children and people in his village. He learned French and that is how we talk, but most of the time I need a translator. He shared since he was 10 years old, he has been following Jesus. After about five years, some of his siblings have also decided to follow Jesus but not his grandmother and uncle. He has been praying for his healing for as long as he can remember, he is 22 years old now. He shared, “Thank God for Mercy Ships and for each of you who care for us.” He knows Jesus has healed him and provided this miracle for his life.
The maxillofacial surgical team provided two surgeries for Stani to restore his face and they have done an outstanding work. He is so pleased and all of us have seen the change. When I asked Stani what are your plans when you return home to your village. He shared, “I am going to tell everyone Jesus has healed me.” He also added he will sit for his ‘high school’ exams in July. We had sat together for the Sunday service and one of the Malagasy day crew shared the story of the blind man who Jesus healed and how he went and told everyone what Jesus had done. I asked Stani if he remembered the story from the gospel and how that sounds like your life now today in 2015 – you are testifying to what Jesus has done. Once it was translated, I could see his head shake in agreement and a smile. Please pray for this young man, his complete healing and his transition home.

KRB Update – Sambany

Salama from Madagascar

Earlier this year, Mercy Ships volunteer surgeons removed the largest tumor (7.46 kg or 16.45 lbs) they had ever seen from a kind, 55-year-old man named Sambany. Much bigger than Alimou for those who remember my friend from Guinea in 2008.  He had walked for two days to get to the Africa Mercy. His operation took 12 hours.

Mercy Ships created this video about him. I think the obstacles Sambany faced are similar to those that many Mercy Ships patients must overcome to access the medical care they need.

I am excited to share his story with you today: www.mercyships.org/sambany. – for the video – below is the story Communications wrote.

SAMBANY, A “DEAD MAN” LIVES  Created by Nancy Predaina

The man trembled up our gangway and did something extraordinary . . . he changed our lives while we were changing his life.

Sambany3 red

Over the next few weeks, his name was spoken across the Africa Mercy’s eight decks, thousands of tears and prayers ascended to God, and social media exploded with his story. What was so special about Sambany?

Around 36 years ago, a tumor began to consume Sambany’s life. It became a monstrous burden, weighing 7.46 kg (16.45 lbs) – equivalent to two extra heads. After nearly three decades as a maxillofacial surgeon, Dr. Gary Parker, Chief Medical Officer, says, “It’s one of the biggest tumors of this type that I’ve seen.”

The tumor caused unrelenting discomfort. Sometimes it felt “hot like fire.” Sambany said, “I cannot sleep at night, and even during the day. It heated me up. When walking, it’s too heavy. I have to hold it.”

The tumor was also an emotional burden. Family and friends rejected him, mocked him, laughed at him, shunned him. Some thought his condition was contagious.  Harsh words were flung at him: “Why are you still alive? No one can help!”

Hopelessness defined his life. The search for help required traveling hundreds of kilometers and included ten hospitals (only three of which had surgeons) and a witch doctor … with no success. Sambany’s poverty blocked any other option. His despair reached new depths. He says, “I was waiting to die. I could not do anything. Every day, I was just waiting to die.”

So, Sambany’s world shrank to the size of his house, his only place of safety and peace.

Eventually, he became so weak that his life became a monotonous cycle of waking, sleeping eating. He felt useless, and it was hard to watch his family laboring in the rice fields while he wasted away. They were poor, and money spent on trying to help him was money unavailable for food.

Sambany’s main companion was the radio. One day he heard an announcement that resurrected hope: a hospital ship that could treat tumors for free was coming to Madagascar. In spite of his weakness, Sambany told his family, “Die or survive, I want to go!”

It was a journey that only a desperate man would attempt. The closest road was several days away; the ship was hundreds of kilometers away. Sambany struggled to walk around his house. How could he survive such a journey? But his family recognized his desperation and determination. They sold a rice field to pay for the journey. Five people took turns carrying him on their backs for two days. Then Sambany endured a painful six-hour taxi ride … but he made it.

Due to multiple health concerns, Sambany’s surgery would be extremely high-risk. For almost two weeks, he rested as the medical team determined the best course of action.

Meanwhile, his story spread throughout the ship. It made its way into our community meeting, when all were asked to pray. It appeared as signs on doors, asking us to pray and to give blood. It lent its voice to concerned requests for updates. It travelled into people’s dreams, dampened many a tissue with tears, and prompted some to go hungry as they fasted for this stranger from a country far from their own. Sambany penetrated our lives.

Then, with one word, Sambany’s entire life was changed. After a lifetime of hearing, “No, no, no,” he was delighted when the medical team said yes to performing the difficult surgery. Sambany was well aware of the risks. “I know without surgery I will die. I know I might die in surgery, but I already feel dead inside from the way I’m treated. I choose to have surgery.”

The surgery took over half a day, and over twice of his body’s volume of blood was lost and replaced. Our crew, our living blood bank, literally poured life into Sambany. The blood of seventeen people from six nations now runs through his veins.

Sambany2 redDr Gary described the surgery: “Oftentimes, in operations, you have high-stress moments where you’re in the middle of something – where, in that moment, if something goes wrong, you could lose the patient from a severe hemorrhage or something. With Sambany, it was pretty much high pressure the whole twelve hours of the surgery.”

The end result?  Sambany was finally free from the burden that had weighed him down for nearly two-thirds of his life! And the ship exploded with people praising God. We had helped transform Sambany, and he had transformed us.

A group of us watched breathlessly as Sambany looked at himself in a hand-held mirror … seeing himself for the first time without his tumor. With his head wrapped carefully in bandages, he looked into the mirror and said, “I like it. I am happy.” Later, he added, “I am free from my disease. I’ve got a new face. I am saved!”

A little over a month after his arrival, Sambany and his faithful grandson Flavy, made a special appearance at our weekly Community Meeting, triggering thunderous applause. What a “red carpet” moment! Everyone rose to their feet to honor this courageous man. Together, we had fought a battle against his death . . . and, by the grace of God, had won.

Dr. Gary says, “I think that every human being has the right to look human. To be treated as human. To have a place at the table of the human race. And when you have been deprived that seat, and it’s offered to you again . . . to be able to re-enter the human race and to look like everyone else . . . that’s a fantastic thing.”

Story by Eunice Hiew / Edited by Nancy Predaina / Photos by Katie Keegan, Ruben Plomp, Justine Forrest, Josh Callow

Because of you all my donors, I am able to be a part of Sambany’s story and many others. This past Sunday at our ward service, I sat with Sambany and as we used the Simply the Story method of sharing Bible stories, there is participation and he was participating fully.

Today Sambany is looking great and healing nicely. “My heart is very, very happy. I’m very happy. I’m just happy,” he says. You were part of that.  Thank you for all of the ways you support the work I am doing with Mercy Ships!