Tag Archive: mercy ships

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.


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.

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 timabramoff@hotmail.com

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

Thursday night the M/V Africa Mercy safely sailed, under a Togolese Naval escort, into the port city of Lome, Togo. This will be our location for the next six months as we begin to prepare for the hospital outreach in Togo. In 2010 Mercy Ships were at this same location. As we pulled up to our berth on the pier there was a celebration for the Big White Hospital Ship. We received a very warm welcome from everyone on the dock.

Here is a little information on Togo

Togo, officially the Togolese Republic Listeni/ˈtɡ/, is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east, andBurkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, on which the capital Lomé is located. Togo covers an area of approximately 57,000 square kilometres (22,000 sq mi) with a population of approximately 6.7 million. Togo is a tropicalsub-Saharannation, highly dependent on agriculture, with a climate that provides good growing seasons. While the official language is French, there are many other languages spoken in Togo, particularly those of the Gbe family. The largest religious group in Togo are those with indigenous beliefs, but there are significant Christian and Muslim minorities.