Tuesday, November 15, 2011

hey, your back boot is open! ..my what??

The anxiety is growing as we are about 4 weeks away from leaving Freetown!  Who knew 3 months could go so quickly! I thought I would have lots of time to see and do everything in Sierra Leone that I wanted, but time is running short!  There are lots of villages, countryside, and beaches I would love to see that I won’t have a chance to, but the more distressing part for me is leaving the friends and patients that I’ve grown so close to.  I have been soaking up every opportunity possible to spend time with friends in the city! 

I was blessed enough to be able to attend some new local churches the past few weekends.  I went to a “Thanksgiving” service at a church where several of my friends attend.  They had been talking about it for weeks and were so excited.  Because it was a special occasion, I was preparing myself for a long service, especially since the normal African service is 2-3 hours!  I was slightly surprised when it turned out to be 6 hours long… but I loved every minute of it.  It could have been 12 hours long and I still would have loved it, because my friends were sooo excited and honored that we came.  Being there made me realize how important my friendship is to them, and likewise how important their friendship is to me.  They all live very busy lives, balancing work, families, schooling, and Mercy Ships—just trying to make ends meet-- or at least come close.  But when I saw them in their church community with their friends and family, any of that stress and worry that may have been on their faces before was gone.  It was such an honor for me to be there to praise God together with them and to learn from their example of leaving all their stresses and worries at the foot of the cross and giving everything up to Christ.

As my FOMO grows stronger (FOMO= Fear Of Missing Out, compliments to my friend Emily), I have been trying to do as many things as possible whenever I have free time!  This weekend I went on an Island adventure, visited an amazing village, and went to the women’s prison. 

I FINALLY fulfilled my dream of riding in one of the sweet wooden fishing boats!  These nice guys picked  me and group of friends up right off the dock, and we took a 2 hour boat trip to Bunce Island.  The boat was complete with 2 buckets for bailing out water every 30 minutes or so, as well as a very kind 10 year old boy who did most of the driving.  Bunce Island was the main site where slaves were sold and distributed.  It was so interesting yet heart breaking to see the other side of the slave trade.  The European traders would go to the tribes along the river, take captive men and women, and take them to a large fortress on Bunce Island, where other European traders would come and trade food, tools, and supplies for the slaves.  It was interesting to see the African historical side of slavery after seeing the American side. 

There are only 2 days of surgery left!  The last day of surgery is November 17th.  The hospital will then close a week later.  Patients are healing up nicely, but there are still a few patients who we are avidly praying for who have fairly extensive wounds will not be healed by the time we leave, unless by God’s miracle.  Arrangements are already being made to send patients to local hospitals, which is not the ideal situation.  Luckily there are very few patients who will have to do this, but I definitely ask for your prayers to heal them rapidly before we leave!

Earlier this spring there were a bunch of children here for bowed and windswept legs.  There was an amazing surgeon here who placed an implant called an “8 plate” in them.  It basically stops the growth of the growth plate on the affected side of the leg so that the other side can catch up and straighten the legs.  It’s a fairly uncomplicated procedure with quick recovery.  The only concern is that the plates have to stay in for 6 months to 2 years depending on the extent of the deformity, and follow up can be quite unpredictable with the patients here.  Last week was the appointed time for all the “8 plate” kids to return.  We were praying hard for all of the kids to return, as well as straight legs for all of them, because if we didn’t remove the plates now, when would we remove them?  If they didn’t return for their follow up, the kids’ legs would end up over correcting completely the other way and could destroy the growth and function of their legs.  After much worry and prayer, ALL of the kids returned!  It was such a miracle that they all arrived, especially since many were from hours and hours away.  A few of the kids were able to have their plates removed because their legs were straight, praise God!  The other children are scheduled to travel to Guinea (a short distance from Sierra Leone) next fall when the ship is there, and it should be the perfect amount of time needed for their legs to grow enough to straighten!  It was a great encouragement to see all the kids and see how everything worked out despite our worry and doubt!

The Hope Center, where many of the healing patients are staying, is nearing closing time as well!  There are very few patients left there, so it has been hard saying goodbye to several patients the past few weeks!  One patient that I was very close to, Hassan, left a few weeks back.  He is 12 years old, and his mother and baby sister had been here with him the past few months.  He had surgery on a burn contracted hand, and had trouble healing, as well as needing extensive therapy to get movement back.  If you read back a few blogs when I was talking about making my patients cry, I talked about Hassan!  (I enjoyed reading my old writing about him.. “He is a quiet, sweet, boy”.. haha! Ooo how I was wrong!)  At that time, his dad was with him, but half way through the stay mom traded places with dad.  I grew to really enjoy Hassan and his family, and enjoyed talking with them about God and how he uses blessings and hardships to shape and guide us.  I fell in love with Hassan and his family, and it was very difficult to say goodbye.  He cried and hugged all of us whenever he thought about leaving.  One of my favorite yet hardest experiences was saying goodbye to Hassan and his family.  The night before he left, the Hope Center was having a musical worship night around a campfire.  I sat with Hassan and held his hand as we sang, and I just prayed and prayed over his hand asking God to use his experience- the pain and torment of the surgery, dressing changes, and therapy, as well as the joy he had in his time on the ship- to turn his heart to Christ and accept Him as his only Savior.  It was such a powerful and humbling moment for me to say, “God, you made this hand, you allowed it to be destroyed, and you worked through us to fix it, and you have the power to use this hand to glorify YOU and bring Hassan’s family to you!” 

I have had a lot of feedback about my blog and people requesting me to finish my story on Esther!  Well I have good news and bad news.  The bad news is that we still don’t have the results of the lump that was removed on her other breast.  The GOOD news is that I saw her today!  I was having a rough day working in the containers moving boxes (since there are less patients, they don’t need as many nurses, so we get reassigned to different positions! Like working in the hot, sweaty containers!) I was walking through the ship, drenched in sweat and all dirty, and I turned a corner and saw the beautiful Esther sitting in the hall talking to the Mercy Ship story-writer!  She jumped up and gave me a huge hug and we talked for a while.  She is doing great and her smile is as big as ever!  She is disappointed not to have the results of her biopsy back yet, but that just gives us more opportunity to pray for her that the results will be non-cancerous!  Because I honestly don’t know what the plan would be if it was positive.

Me and my trio at Jonathan's
I know many of you were curious to hear about my chicken-slaughtering experience, so here’s the story!   3 of us white folk, Crooksy from England, Spiffy from Texas, and myself, went to our good friends compound for the day to cook African with his mom!  We had one lucky Chicken to add to the pot, and I had the chance to be the murderer, but unfortunately I just couldn’t bring myself to do it!  He was the cutest little chicken, as you can see from the pictures!   And cute chickens are hard to come by in Sierra Leone! (Most of them look like they got in a bad fight with the sewer monster and had the worst hair (or feather?) day in history.)  

Chester! 10 min. prior to his departure from this world..
And I named him Chester, which I realize now that naming something you are about to kill and eat is not the brightest idea! Apparently it is not OK for African women to kill a chicken, but they said that because we were white, we could do it! Crooksy was the bravest, and decided to do the honors of killing poor Chester.  I have a video of the event, but unfortunately with my internet connection I can’t upload it!  Basically, she had all the technique, but after a few girly squeals in an adorable British accent, she held Chester down while Jonathan did the slicing! 

The killing combo-- Jonathan and Crooksy

Crooksy after the deed was done!

We had a lovely afternoon of cooking, eating, meeting all the members of their compound, and playing some “balance ball”, which is basically monkey-in-the-middle.   
The compound- notice the kids creative sled.. a laundry basket!

My balance-ball partners!

Of all the great adventures I’ve had in Sierra Leone so far, all of my best memories are spent with my friends at their homes experiencing their everyday life!
preparing the crane-crane leaves (i.e. weeds..)


Spiffy and mama-Abigail


Jonathan- pretending to cook so he can be in a snap-snap

Everyday gets harder as I count down the days until we sail.  And each day that passes I make sweeter and sweeter memories with my friends here.  I am looking forward to new adventures in Togo, but it has some big shoes to fill after this incredible, incredible country :)

Here's some snaps of the beautiful countryside I stroll through everyday:

I swam to this Island twice! "flip-flop island"

Walking through one of my friends neighborhoods

watching a local futbol match
2 of  my besties, Sahr and Israel.  went to their university for a tour.

Sahr and Arthur, after a long days work of walking me around their village!
Prayer requests this time around:
-          For the patients who are still left with open wounds and other medical issues, that Christ will heal them FAST and they won’t be left here after we leave.
-          For Esther- pray for her test results to come back non-cancerous!
-          For Hassan and his family to come to know the Lord.  I hope that they could see something different in the way that the Mercy Ships crew lived and worked, and that they could see Christ lived out through us, and want to be a part of it!
-          For encouragement and positive attitudes for my local friends here who are trying to get into the University but don’t have the funds and resources to do so.
-          And please pray for the lives we are going to touch in Togo! Let us have a positive impact on the country, and let them see us as more than just a hospital, but Christianity in action!
Love and miss you all! I send my warmth and sunshine your way!

**New phrase of the week: “Your back-boot is open”.  Translation: your plumbers crack is showing!