Category: God stories!

Memories of Mercy

This is a blog I wrote the last week I was in Africa. I just found it and figured I would share it with you. Just to reference this post I have been back in Canada for about eighteen months now. I can honestly say, in the eighteen months I have been back I haven’t gone a day without thinking about the ship and/or its crew. The memories are both good and bad. But the most memorable ones far out weight the bad ones.

The Africa Mercy is a big part of my life and helps make up who I am. I am thankful to God for the amazing adventure he lead me on. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ. So with no further delay here is my last blog entry from while I was still on the ship in Guinea.

Sept 2012

The M/V Africa Mercy what is it?

Prior to 1999 it was a Danish rail ferry named the Dronning Ingrid. As it is now, some see it as a big white ship tied to dirty, crowded and stinky pier in a West African country. To others, it is a specialized surgical hospital that, almost exclusively, uses very talented volunteers to bring hope and healing to West Africa countries by offering free of charge surgery to some of the world poorest people. To me, the Africa Mercy has been home. I have spent the last ten months living in an environment that can only summed up in one word, that word is “community”, a unified body of individuals with a common goal. Yes living in a tight community such as this is not always easy. Sharing one bathroom between six cabin mates is not always easy. Not to mention the continual turnover of volunteers. In the last 10 months there have been sixteen different and unique guys, not including myself, from more than seven countries in cabin 3428. The ship sees more than a thousand volunteers come and go in a single year. This makes it not easy saying goodbye to the many friends I have met and done life with. Those friends, some of which, I will never see again have made this chapter of my life truly unforgettable. Standing in line for line for up to twenty minutes to get your food is not always easy but I have definitely learned patience. Working in very hot and humid conditions has taught me to slow down. In the past I have often worked many hours with out drinking water or taking a break. Well now a little alarm goes off in my head that alarm shows itself in the form of dizziness and it lets me know that it’s time to stop and take a break. Unfortunately this has been a common occurrence. I think in the last ten months I have drank more water than I have drank in my whole life… well that may be an exaggeration, but I know on some hot days I have consumed 5-7 liters of H2O. Speaking of water; having a two minute shower ship was a big change but now I am down to less than 45 seconds of water running if I want. The two minute ship shower is mandatory due to the fact that we have a limited supply of water on board. Not a having a lot of personal space is also difficult. I have had to come up with creative ways to overcome it. Sometimes a set of ear buds jammed in my ears blasting worship music loud enough to drown out the noise of a deafening marine generator is the only “quite” place I can find. Working in a cross cultural environment with more than 30 nationalities has taught me to have patience and to really listen to what someone is saying and try to understand what they are talking about before I open my mouth and make a fool of myself. Living in a community that follows the model of Jesus has been very encouraging. I have spent a lot of time worshiping with these brothers and sister mine. A highlight for me was worshiping on the bow on the sail over from the Canary islands to Guinea. It was beautiful to be able to be out in the middle of the ocean that God created just singing and praising his holy name. There are so many stories I have that I cannot truly expressed via a blog.
All this to say I have less than a week left on board before I return to my “other” home in Canada. I have had one of the best years of my life. And I will truly miss every part of this amazing adventure. It is sad to say goodbye to all the friends I leave behind but I know one thing is for sure, I will see you all again whether it be in this life or the next, and I look forward to that. Africa you have given me so much to think about and be thankful for. I have learned so much , and I hope to someday return to this place. I don’t know when that day will be but I look forward to it and pray that God will continue to bless all that is going on both on the ship and off.

I leave you all with a favorite verse of mine. This Verse has been there for me a time or two.

Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.


The Man at the Gate

The Man at the Gate

What to do my last weekend aboard the Africa Mercy? My last adventure for now in Africa. I have been blessed to be able to have so many great adventures while here in West Africa. Friday night we decided that for our (my and Lourens) last weekend in Africa we would head over to one of the nearby islands and go camping. This was a good plan. Fairly simple, we had heard the islands were nice. All we had to do was get to the port marina where we would hire a boat to take us across to the island, camp, hire a boat to get back and call it a weekend!

We started out getting a cab to take us to the marina where all the private boats were parked. After ignoring a bunch of drivers we picked one and settled on a price of 15000 Guinean Franks or just over 2 USD. The five of us then jammed into the cab, four in the back one in the front.  The roads in the downtown/port area are in ok shape. By ok I mean travelable. At times we slowed to less than walking speed as the driver tired to not get hung up in the deep water filled potholes. We drove down the red dirt road getting tossed from one side of the cab to the other as the cabs tires followed the contours’ of what sometimes felt like bottomless pits.  More than once we bottomed the car out on its frame. These pits are filled with dirty water from all the rain. It was dirty water, because at one point in our journey as we were driving on the far left side of the road, the wrong side, dodging the water hazards, we passed this lady walking along and the water from our tire splashed her feet. As we past her we could hear her making a commotion behind us. So our driver stopped in the middle of the wrong side of the road, as is customary in these places, shut the car off, which is also customary, to go talk with the woman, I don’t know if this is customary. Usually the driver would just yell out the window and continue on his way. I couldn’t understand what they were talking about because; one, the driver left the stereo cranked on some local music station, and two; I don’t understand French. Once back on the road, crawling along at a snails pace, we cleared that section of road and continued towards the marina.

Five white people with backpacks and sleeping bags getting out of cab will always draw the attention of the locals. We asked a couple of the locals who were just sitting there, if anyone would take us in a boat to the island of Roume. When I say we asked, I mean Rebecca because she was the only one of our group who could speak French. About 15 minutes of talking with this guy, then that guy, then this guy again we had a price. But it was not what we were willing to pay. One of the guys had a boss, who had a boat and he could take us. He just had to all him. We just had to wait until he got to the marina. We told him to get us a price before his boss got here because we were not going to pay what the others were asking and his boss would be just waiting his time. Finally an ok price 700,000 GNF to take us to the island and pick us up the next day. That equaled about twenty USD a person. We still had the cabbie sitting there because we were at the end of a long pier and if there were no boats we would have to go to another location. So we offered to give him a little extra money for waiting for us. Well he was not having it. He wanted double for just sitting there. We said “no way” were we paying that. It didn’t cost him a dime to sit there and he would have been just sitting back at the taxi stand with the dozens of other taxis waiting for the next customers. After a bunch of bartering we settled on 25000 GNF. And we told him to enjoy it because we would never use him or his car again.

Our boat was in the process of being put into the water. It is the slow season due to the rain so most guys have their boats in the storage compound. This means the boats need to be moved to the water. I look over my shoulder to see them dragging this fiberglass boat, our boat, on the asphalt paved dock. Now, I’m not a rocket surgeon but I know it’s not really good for you to drag a boat on any thing but WATER! But here, that is how they roll…or skid!

Once the boat was in the water a small four-stroke engine was brought down and attached to the transom of the boat. “This is good we are making progress,” I tell myself. They even have life jackets for us. “Wow” I’m impressed.  Now all we need is fuel. Fuel costs money, something they don’t have much of. So we fork over half the cash, 350,000 GNF. The captain gets on his moped and heads into the city to buy fuel. In the meantime we just sit around and enjoy the wait at least the weather is nice. A while later our new friend pulls up on his moped with two pails of fuel. One twenty-liter and the other ten liters… I don’t recommend hauling two cans; actually I don’t think I recommend hauling any gas except in the gas tank of a bike. But we must not forget, TIA… This Is Africa, and that is how they manage. Once the boat was fueled up. We grabbed our gear and hopped in the boat. No sooner had we done that then the owner of the boat comes and says a bunch of stuff in French and we find out he is trying to get more money from us. He is claiming the price was for four people, not five. We tell him that he knew that the price was for five of us and to quit being dishonest because it would also be the last time we, or anyone else from the ship for that matter, used him if we took back a bad report. The price was for the boat, not the number of people in the boat. He finally agrees to take us to the island for the agreed upon price. He is not happy and we are a little concerned because we have paid him half and there is a real good chance he will not show up the next day to drive us home. So as we begin out to the island, we take that into consideration. We get about 100 meters from the dock and we start turning around. Upon asking then what the problem is they say they need to change the engine. “You’ve got to be kidding me” I think to myself and laugh. I guess I can understand their side of it. Just last week a boat with locals from one of the neighboring islands smashed into the rocks and sunk. Fifteen people were reported to have drowned. Speaking with some of the locals, they say the number of dead was more like fifty. It was a tragedy and I’m sure it was the reason we had to turn around and change the motor. The delay is a set back, not that we are on a strict schedule, but probably a good one non the less as we are still inside the safety of the port. Once tied to the dock again they unbolt the outboard engine and take it to shore.

We have been in the marina for about two and half hours now. I feel a little uneasy and uncomfortable about the whole situation but the weather is holding although it does look like rain and our current situation is not exactly perfect. I take the opportunity to eat my grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Which is now at about 28 degrees or the air temp so it’s almost like eating it right off the grill!

We are all on edge a little bit thinking, “ok, this is more hassle than we have ever had traveling before, is it worth it…” We were looking forward to spending Lourens and my last weekend on a beach on an island. Not to mention it was going to be a bachelor party for Lourens as he leaves next week to get married.

The good news is the new motor is installed on the boat; the bad news is the motor is two-stroke which means they need to go into town to buy oil because it is a premix motor. We are told to wait while the boat owner and his trusty moped go to town again to buy oil. Now our frustration levels are getting agitated. Most of us have been in Africa a while and have come to expect some delays anytime you are doing anything, but this is getting a little crazy. Thirty minutes pass and our captain is back with the oil. Time to roll! Oil is mixed with the fuel, life jackets are on and done up, cameras are out and ready as we are looking forward to passing our ship, The Africa Mercy, on our way out of the port, when buddy goes to pull the starter rope on the engine and nearly falls over as the rope explodes and whips back into the motor housing. “That’s it, I’m out, this is ridiculas”, I say as I undo my life jacket and throw it into the bottom of the boat. I grab my pack and hop out of the boat. The rest of the crew is right behind me. I feel relived, for some reason, to be heading back to our ship. I don’t know why but it just feels like we made the right decision to cancel our island trip and head back to our ship.

A few of us are fed up with our last adventure in Conakry and we are ready to just cut our losses for the fuel and head back to ship. The boat owner wants to give us our fuel back but the only problem is, it’s in his own jerry can. Ryan wants to get our money back so we tell him we will be waiting on the pier. The next twenty minutes are spent watching Ryan and the captain try to find another container to pour the gas into. One twenty-liter vegetable oil pail, one six-liter juice container and a four-liter oil jug with a rag stuffed in the end later and we our on our way. What we are going to do with 30ish liters of red gasoline is beyond me. I don’t know if the locals will buy fuel from a bunch of white people selling gas the African way on the side of the road. The suggestion is made to just sell it in the marina. We scratch that idea after asking around because no one has the money for it. We tell the captain that we only want two thirds of the value if he can sell it, that’s 200000 GNF. As we sit down at the marina restaurant to have a drink and bite to eat, the captain, a local and our 30 liters of gasoline head into town on the moped as the skies open and it begins to rain.  As we sip on our cold… sorry, cool drinks we laughed about the adventure of trying to go to the island and wondered if we would ever see our 200000 GNF again. Sure enough the boys on the bike came back and they had our money. The island trip ended well with us heading back to the ship for the rest of the afternoon.

As we were entering the port gates we met a couple of Sierra Leoneans who had traveled from Sierra because of the husbands growth in his mouth, that Mercy Ships had removed last year, was back and the man was unable to eat and was starving to death. He opened his mouth and showed me the lump in the back of his mouth. I was shocked, it looked like another tongue in his mouth and it was the size of a golf ball. I understood why he was very thin and weak. It was apparent to me that he was not doing well. I felt sick inside, not because of the gruesome lump in this mans throat but because I knew that there is a very real chance this man will die from starvation if the growth is cancerous. This made my heart sink. We helped the couple get though security and into the port and had them wait outside the ship while Becca, who is nurse, found someone on board the ship to make a decision. Soon after the man was admitted to our ward for the weekend. And will be assessed on Monday by our team of surgeons and medical professionals.

Some might look at this adventure as a complete let down because we didn’t get to go to the island. I am not at all disappointed. I think it was divine intervention by a higher power telling us to come back to the ship simply to help this man get admitted into the hospital.

I have no idea what will happen with this man now. I do know he is in great hands on our ward and in our operating theaters. I would think we would be able to operate to remove the growth if he is in stable enough condition for surgery. This will only save his life for a while. If it is cancerous there is nothing we can do for him in the future. There is no cancer treatment in West Africa and if the lump grows back to the size it is now, it will slowly starve him to death. The only hope he has is that of a personal relationship with the creator of the universe.

This is the reality of life for so many in Africa. But there is hope

That hope is the reason I am here in Africa.

Our six day sail from Tenerife to the port of Conakry, Guinea has come to an end. Conakry will be home to the Africa Mercy for the next ten months. It has been thirteen years since Mercy Ships has been in Guinea. This is the first time that our current vessel the M/V Africa Mercy has been in Guinea. Our goal for Guinea will be the same as always, to bring hope and healing to the worlds forgotten poor of West Africa. Their is a huge need for help in West Africa. Guinea ranks 14th in the UN’s 2010 lowest human development ranking. The numbers are staggering but we are making a difference one life at time. To see how you can make a difference click the link to Mercy Ships on the right hand side of my blog or send me a message and I will answer your questions as best I can.

We are still in need of volunteers, both medically and technically for this field service. If you have ever wanted to come to Africa to help the worlds poorest by offering your skills, now is a great time as we continue to restore hope to the hopeless.

God Bless

Hands of sight!

What are hands? The dictionary defines hands as; The end part of a person’s arm beyond the wrist, including the palm, fingers, and thumb. If we look at the human hand we see that is made up of 29 bones, 127 ligaments, 34 muscles, 48 nerves, 30 arteries that come together to create a very complex tool. The movements and sensitivity of the human hand can not, even with the most elaborate technology, be duplicated by a man made machine. Our hands are capable of more than we can imagine. I have had the privilege of, over the last seven months, being able to witness so many people doing amazing things with there own hands. I have watched intently as a surgeon, with ever so delicate movements of the hand, brought sight to patients who had gone through life without being able to see due to congenital cataracts. This simple surgery takes less than hour to do, but for some they will never receive it due to the availability of eye surgeons and the cost incurred to have the procedure done. For the ones that received this simple procedure on board the Africa Mercy, I witnessed them dancing with joy as the bandages were removed for the first time and they were able to see clearly. One story I heard from the eye team that really touched me was a story of a little girl who was blind from birth due to being born with cataracts. The surgery went well and after the appropriate amount of time the sticky bandages were being removed and this little girl was screaming and as soon as the bandages were off and that girl opened her eyes she took a  look around the room, still screaming, and realized that she could see for the first time. The screaming stopped the very instant she realized she could see. Imagine growing up only hearing and feeling your way though life. There are many more dangers for a child living in West Africa. The biggest is burns caused by children falling into the cooking fire. Imagine your toddler, that can see, crawling around on the floor at the same level as a fire that is being used to cook over. This is a very real and common danger. Burns on small children are very common here, as painful as it is to say, it is a reality for a lot of  families in West Africa. Now put a blind child into that very scenario… its down-right scary. Back to this little girl who could now see, as she looked around the room her gaze locked onto the face of the voice she knew too well, it was her mothers face! The joy for both mother and child was overwhelming as they both realized the child could now see. I have attached the YouTube link called K-Loves Story on the right hand side of this blog under Links. As I watched the surgeons doing these life changing surgeries I was blown away at how simple and effective cataract removals are. In as little as 20 minutes under the knife, the surgeon can bring sight to someone who has never seen before. This surgery is seen as a miracle to those who get the procedure as well as those who have had loved ones receive the procedure. The first though that crossed my mind is why aren’t there more surgeries. We do as many as are physically possible while the ship is in port but once we leave the chances of sight for the blind become staggeringly high! One of our crew decided it was time for a change. He felt called to step out in faith and continue to help bring sight to the blind. His name is Lewis Swann and as the ship pulled away from the dock in Togo, Lewis stayed behind to continue to help bring sight to people of Togo. Lewis is not a eye surgeon, but he has a big heart as well as the willingness to serve. He has partnered with some of the local medical professionals to found an organization called Believe and See. His mission is to “Help blind Africans become Christian farmers”. I truly admire Lewis for his willingness help be the hands of Jesus. If you want read more about his cause or help Believe and See continue to Spread the gospel by truly being the hands and feet of Jesus. Check out Believe and See on my links on the right side of this page.

If I were to look back on my life one year ago and ask myself “what does the next year of my life look like?” My answer may have been something like “buy a house”, “get married”, or even maybe “build a custom mountain sled!”

Well I have not done any of the above mentioned things! Two or maybe even all three of MY ideas may have rolled through this head of mine a time or two. But as sit I and think about this, it is apparent to me that those were not God’s plans for my next year of life. And to be honest with you, I am just fine with that. It reminds me of one of my favorite verses,

Jeremiah 29:11-  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

I love that verse because it reminds me that God is faithful to us even when we may not fully understand what is going on at a certain time in our life. He knows and is looking out for us.

“West Africa… serving… hospital ship…” Three things that I am positive never entered my mind when I was thinking about the next year of my life. Traveling to Africa has never been on my to do list and in terms of me being on a ship… I’m a prairie boy and the closest thing I have experienced to a real ship is, as my niece and nephew put it, “Bumpa’s ship” also know as my dad’s boat (a 36 foot cabin cruiser)! To think that I would be helping the poor in West Africa and enjoying it by being able to use the very skill set God has given me! God has blessed me so much this last year. I have just past the six month mark… WOW thats a long time. But It has flown by. I have had so many new and exciting experiences both here in West Africa and at home before I left. I have met a lot of the coolest and funnest people from all over this little speck in the galaxy we call earth. Through all of this God has been teaching me to trust him with everything, every day! I have been really challenged lately to “Love my neighbor as myself” what does that look like for me. I often have to step out of comfort zone and be friendly to those around me even if I don’t know them or they are of another culture or I just don’t feel like talking. This is not always easy for me. I am a task oriented person and I often have found myself not engaging in conversation but instead focusing on the job as opposed to the person. But thankfully for me I get to work along side West African’s and I am learning (slowly) to be more personal. There is seldom a job or task that is an emergency. And by taking a few minutes to show them love by talking or even just listening to them is totally worth it to me.

I will go “on the record” to say; I have had the best year of my life and I look forward to the years getting better and better.

God bless

Tim <>(

God’s promises never fail

Proof that God’s promises are real and alive in my life!

Luke 18:29  “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”

I love how God’s word speaks to us just when we need to hear it. I was reminded earlier in the week of this verse (thanks Allan).  God kept bringing it to my mind and I couldn’t stop thinking about it all week. This verse has become more meaningful to me as I have now spent over five months in Africa, away from family and the comforts of home. Now five months can be a long time depending on your circumstances. If you’re unemployed and looking for a job to pay the bills, then five months could seem like an eternity. If you are making a baby… it’s over half done! If you are loving serving God, then five months seems like a blessing! That is where I am at. I was blessed even more to be able to go out deep sea fishing with a good friend and his dad this weekend. We had a great time being out on the ocean catching fish and taking in the glory of God’s creation. What an amazing organism the ocean is. As I am a prairie boy from land locked Saskatchewan the ocean seems a bit foreign to me. And every time I get out of the port into the open water it just blows my mind to think that God created and engineered this big, blue, wet, life-filled, perfectly balanced organism for HIS glory! What a big blessing to be able to share in his glory by going fishing. I love(but also miss) fresh water fishing, but deep sea fishing is awesome! We have been able to find a local who owns a fishing boat and all the gear who charters it out on the weekend for a good rate. This was my second time out fishing and it was a great day. We caught lots of fish, the sun hid itself so we didn’t get completely fried. I did how ever receive my trademark Oakley sunglass tan line! To top it all off Dale ,who is only here for a few days visiting his son Dan and their family, decided to bless Dan and I by completely paying for the trip! WOW I was again reminded of God’s promise that our sacrifices for the kingdom of God would be rewarded in this life.

Luke 18:29  “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”

Me and Koffi with a big one! I managed to hook this fish on my own.
Dale with a nice fish!
Dan with a good catch!
WWF style!
The west africans LOVE fish! the look on thier faces says it all!
This is one of the fish we promised the day workers! It was such a blessing to give it to them!

Me… a missionary?

Well my original commitment to Mercy Ships of four months came to an end last month. My commitment was from Nov. 9th 2011 until March 9th  2012. The time has flown by so fast. It seems like just last week I was walking into an African airport for the first time. Then embarking onto this huge white ship parked at the end of dirty port pier in Sierra Leone.  What a life changing experience to be able to be part of such a great organization. The work we are doing and will continue to do is life changing not only for me but also for the lives of those people we help.  The need in Africa is so huge and we can only help a small amount of people. But it reminds me of a story I once heard.

A man was standing on a beach watching a young girl throwing starfish back into the ocean at low tide. He shook his head in disgust because there were millions of starfish up on the sandy beach.  The man walked over to the girl who was still throwing starfish back into the water one-by-one. He asked her why she was throwing them back into the water and she replied, that the starfish would die if they didn’t get help. She was just trying to help. The man looked up and down the beach and told her that it didn’t matter because she could never help them all. The girl bent down and picked up one of the helpless creatures and then tossed it into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and said, “It mattered to that one!”

I love this story because it reminds me that we are making a difference one surgery at a time. Each person we help was created by God and has a story to tell. I love walking down the hospital halls when they are bringing new patients into the ward for surgery.  Often times I will see men and women and children with facial tumors. These people have lived secluded, outcast lives. In some cases their own families have turned their backs on them.  For some of these people, they can only come out of their homes at night because the humiliation of being seen in public is too much.  Often the look I see on their faces is usually a look of shame. I smile at them because I know that they are Gods Creation and are only days or even hours away from having a life changing surgery performed in one of our six operating theaters. Then the best part, I see a person walking down the hall with their face and head all bandaged up.  As I meet them in the hall and smile at them there faces light up because they have had these tumors removed.  “The chains have been removed” “A huge weight has been lifted.”  Even though I don’t speak their language, I can read their body language. Mercy Ships Brings healing by offering its services to those who wouldn’t be able to get help. But also for a lot of the patients it brings hope. As people are recovering in our hospital they get to hear about the love of God. They have experienced this love firsthand.  Many of the patients come to know the lord through our nurses and ward chaplaincy department.

I am so blessed to be able to be part of this amazing ministry. I feel that God has called me here to serve for this time in my life. I have really enjoyed the experience it has not always been easy but I know God led me here so that was enough to get me through the low spots. I have been able to bless the people of Africa by using the gifts and abilities that God has blessed me with. Through much prayer and seeking I really feel that God is leading me to continue on with Mercy Ships. I have applied to Human Resources and they have gladly extended my stay. HR on the ship has a hard time finding people who both enjoy the close community and are good at what they do. I have been told so many times that I am a great complement to the ship. Extending my stay has been on my mind for quite some time. This was not an easy decision to make. Even though I had thoughts of extending my stay as early on as two weeks into my stay. I have extended until mid august 2012. This will allow me to be able to finish this field service in Togo. Then sail with the ship to a shipyard in Tenerife and be able to be involved in some of the major work that the ship will undergo while it is out of the water for repairs.

I have really appreciated all the prayers and comments you all have shared with me. It is really encouraging to read comments from friends and family. I do enjoy reading what is happening in your lives. It’s always nice to get an email or facebook messsage from someone who I haven’t talked to in a while. I really never considered myself a missionary but it has occurred to me, in the last few days, that that’s exactly what I am right now and will be for the next 4 months. It sounds strange to say that I am a missionary. But I guess a missionary is a person who uses their god given gifts and abilities to serve others. Any one who knows me knows that I love serving others. I love being a blessing to others by serving them. God is doing amazing work in West Africa.

If you are interested in partnering with me, please email me at

God Bless

Tim Abramoff


Wapondi’s Circle of Love

This is a true  story of one of the many patients we have helped onboard the Africa Mercy while in Togo. I did not write this story, but felt it very touching and wanted to share it with my friends and family. I am blessed to be able to serve in the position I do so that the hospital can continue helping those who would not receive care.


Wapondi’s Circle of Love

There is a wide circle of love surrounding Wapondi Napo. The delightful eighteen-month-old girl receives a great deal of adoring attention from her seven-year-old sister, Gnyo, and her four-year-old brother, Eric.

Because Wapondi was born with a cleft lip, her family is very protective of her. Her mother, Sando Binjuitsha, explains, “In Bassar, our home community, there are some who were afraid of Wapondi. They thought she was not good for the village.”

Others told Wapondi’s father, Moro, that Wapondi was born too early, so her lip didn’t grow enough. Sando and Moro knew that none of this was true. “We love Wapondi very much, and we did not listen to their talk.”

Soon after Wapondi was born, Sando traveled to the nearest hospital in Socado, hoping to find a way for her daughter’s cleft lip to be repaired. “We waited in the admissions place for three days. Then they just gave Wapondi some liquids and sent us away. They told me that Wapondi could not get treatment in Togo.”

While this news was difficult to hear, Wapondi’s family accepted the condition. Sando focused on taking care of her baby and giving her all of the love and care she needed to thrive. “I was able to feed Wapondi very well, and I made sure she had all that she needed to eat. When she had trouble breathing, I would make warm steam and hold her near the steam to clear her chest.”

One evening, while the family was watching television, they saw an announcement that Mercy Ships was offering a free medical screening for many conditions, including cleft lip. Moro and Sando immediately agreed that they had to take Wapondi to Lomé for the screening.

Sando and Wapondi made the eight-hour journey to Lomé. Sando and her sister who lived in Lomé, arrived at the screening site with Wapondi at 4:00 in the morning. They joined an already long line. Her sister spoke with deep joy, “We were 770th in line and got in! When Wapondi was seen by the doctors, they decided that she could be treated in the Mercy Ships hospital. I was so happy for my sister and her family.”

Once onboard the Africa Mercy hospital ship, Wapondi’s cleft lip was successfully repaired by Dr. Gary Parker, Mercy Ships surgeon and Medical Director. Within a few days, Wapondi was clapping and giggling with her usual energy. Sando was grateful for the good care Wapondi received from the nurses. “They are so kind and gentle,” she said.

Sando looked forward to returning home. “We will have a very special celebration in honor of Wapondi’s transformation. We will also say a prayer of thanks to everyone on Mercy Ships who added our Wapondi to their wide circle of love and caring.”

Medical treatment for Wapondi Napo begins with a photo with her aunty Nicole.
Next, she will come to the Mercy Ships hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, to receive her brand-new smile!

Wapondi Napo will soon be on the ward and is sure to be showered
with special care and attention from the Mercy Ships hospital crew!

Wapondi and her mother, Sando, remain close together during Wapondi’s recovery in the Africa Mercy ward. Caregivers can stay with their loved ones throughout the entire time they are Mercy Ships patients.

Wapondi adds a bright ray of sunshine to the onboard hospital ward following
successful cleft lip surgery. Nathan Claus, volunteer crew, responds with a big smile!

Wapondi, already well on the mend, enjoys a big drink of Boost. This nutritional supplement is very helpful for recovering patients.

Volunteer nurses play a special role in helping young patients recover. Wapondi
thrived with the love and care she received. Nurse Mie Brunn always found time
to share her knee!

Wapondi shares a special moment with volunteer nurse Molly Gacetta.
The special care and attention given to each patient help speed recovery.

Wapondi’s mother, Sando, enjoys a quiet moment after snack time. A great weight has
been lifted from her shoulders now that Wapondi is well on her way to recovery.

Mercy Ships volunteers visit with Wapondi and her mother, Sando, while they wait for Wapondi’s final outpatient check-up at the Africa Mercy onboard clinic.

Wapondi and her mother, Sando, share a quiet moment of prayer after receiving the joyful news that Wapondi’s cleft lip surgery was a complete success. Wapondi is now fully discharged into her loving mother’s care.

23 February 2012
Story by Joanne Thibault
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by JJ Tiziou

Patient Screening in Togo 2012

This week I had the privilege of being involved in Mercy Ships Togo 2012 medical screening. For anyone involved with Mercy Ships this is one of the most anticipated and toughest day of the year.  For most of the crew involved it was a long and hot day. As I was part of the security team, I started my day at 3:45 AM. Breakfast was served from 3:30 until 7:00 AM. For being so early in the morning there was a buzz of anticipation and excitement in the dining room. With over two-hundred of the ships crew involved in the screening this is a big day. At 4:15 about 100 of us loaded into eleven of our Land Rovers and headed to the stadium where the screening would take place. Driving though the city of Lome at 4:30 in the morning in a convoy of white Land Rovers defiantly peaks the interest of those who are on the streets. The looks we got were even more interesting when all of a sudden we get a call on the radio call that the lead vehicle made a wrong turn. That means that eleven Rovers needed to turn around in the middle of the road. Kind of a gong show but once we were all headed in the right direction it was all good. As we neared the stadium, I could see there was already a big line up of people forming on the street to get into the stadium. It was a good thing we had sent out an advanced security team the day before to set up and keep people from lining up inside the permitter of the stadium. Once we arrived we were all assigned to securtiy positions. It was still dark out when I headed to my post. At about 6AM we started handing out numbered tickets to allow people onto the stadium. These tickets keep people from rushing to the front of the lines. As I was posted between the first gate and the command post, I had the privilage of seeing all 1600 patients as we lined them up into the four pre-screenign lines.  It was ineresting seeing all the people who had lined up and waited for many hours if not the whole night. The line out side of the stadium went back over half of a kilometer and into a soccer field. We had about 3500 people show up for the screening. This number included parents of children and care workers for those who could not walk. I could sense a feeling of anticipation and excitement in the patients because by the time they came trough my gate they had a number and knew they would get to be seen by our medical team. The sad part of the day is knowing that we can’t help everyone. Lots of people hear about Mercy Ships and think its a general hospital. But that is not true, we are a specialized surgical ship that carries out a number of specified surgeries. There are so many people who just need a minor surgery that could be done at a local hospital but don’t have to money to do it. Then we have to tell them that we can’t help them. The only thing we can offer these people is prayer. At the screening day we had a large team that was just chosen to pray with anyone who needed or wanted prayer. This prayer team was situated under the “prayer tree”. It was awesome to see our team praying with west africans, both those that got a surgery appointment but I think more importantly those that we could not help. This was an amazing day that will stick in my mind for a long time.

A girl named Alberta

This is the story of one of many patients the ship has been able to help. I didn’t have the chance to meet this girl but the story touched me.

Alberta Johnson

“Alberta loves dancing and singing gospel songs,” said Mariah of her five-year-old granddaughter. “She helps me shop, and when I do the dishes, she rinses them. She always wants to help.” 

Since Alberta was eighteen months old, Mariah has raised her, allowing the child’s young mother to finish her education. Three years ago, Mariah was cooking over an open fire in front of her Liberian home when Alberta awoke from her nap. Still groggy from sleep, the little girl walked too close to the fire, falling near the cooking oil. It splashed over her left arm and leg, up her back and over the back of her head. The fire quickly followed. The little girl’s left arm was terribly burned, immobilizing its position at her side. Her leg, back and the back of her head were also severely burned and scarred.

For the next two years, Mariah searched in vain for someone who could surgically release Alberta’s arm so she could raise it above her head. The frozen arm caused much embarrassment for Alberta at her day care, where the children constantly taunted her and called her names.

Mariah is a member of the Eden Church in Liberia, where she coaches football (soccer) for a group called LACES. This group organizes teams for boys and girls, ages 10 and 11, teaching them about Christ through sports. The team members collected enough funds to send Alberta and Mariah to the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship where the volunteer plastic surgery team released Alberta’s burned arm.

Because burned skin and nerves were cut during the surgery, Alberta spent several weeks in recovery. An infection added more weeks of recovery time. But her bubbly personality helped her to make many friends among the crew, including the physiotherapy team that coached her through new exercises and the medical team that gave her post-operative care. Much of that care was painful, but most of the time she remained very brave, generously sharing her brilliant smile and even singing while the nurses applied new dressings. Such behavior is very rare among West African children.

“Sometimes she would fall asleep while I was changing her dressing,” said Nurse Becca Noland. “I love that girl. She’s amazing!”

“I am HAPPY!” said the five-year-old as she approached the end of her stay. “I can play and go to school!”

“She’s going to remember this. I will remind her repeatedly of everything she has seen here,” said Mariah. “It’s a miracle of God that she can have this surgery.”

Story by Elaine B. Winn
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell and David Peterson
Video by Beau Chevassus_     _

Alberta before surgery.

Alberta before surgery.

Alberta before surgery.

Alberta before surgery.

Alberta before surgery.

Alberta before surgery.

Alberta and her teddy bear recover in the ward after surgery.

Alberta and her teddy bear recover in the ward after surgery.

Alberta played with a balloon while recovering from surgery.


A gleeful Alberta awaits her turn, sitting on Mariah’s lap in Post-Op.

Never camera-shy, Alberta plays it up as hand therapist Katy Mitchell (UK) fits her for an elbow extension splint.

Still smiling, Alberta allows the hand therapist to stretch out her arm wearing the elbow extension splint.

Alberta giggles as the therapist straps on an axilla (airplane) splint over the extension splint.

Wearing an elastic bandage, Alberta shows the hand therapist, Katy Mitchell (UK), how she can raise her arm over her head.

Out of Post-Op at last, Alberta expresses her joy.

Alberta cuddles up to her grandmother, Mariah, as they wait in Admissions.

“I’m THIS big,” says Alberta, stretching her arms wide apart.

After successful surgery, Alberta can now clap her hands over her head.

Alberta can hold both arms way up, thanks to successful surgery on the Africa Mercy.

A joyful Alberta can hold both arms way up, after successful surgery on the Africa Mercy.

Alberta proudly presents two arms spread way out, thanks to successful surgery on
the Africa Mercy.