Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Screening Day.

Disclaimer: This was a painful blog to write and may be a painful blog to read, so read at your own discretion.
The last 2 weeks the ship was busy preparing for the big patient-screening day which was held this past week.  A lot of planning and organization went into this day, and nearly everyone from the ship was needed to help.  Only a few bare bones crew were left on the ship to keep it running.  We spent a lot of time praying for this day, because thousands of people were expected to come from all over the country who are desperate and see Mercy Ships as their last hope.  Security has to be very tight, and things have to stay very controlled and organized otherwise they could get out of hand quickly. We were fortunate enough to have use of the national stadium in Lomé.  The event started with security at 2pm the day before the screening.  People started lining up that evening, and a crew of people worked to pre-pre-screen patients throughout the night.  By 4:30am, the ship was emptied, and a convoy of landrovers took everyone to the stadium to begin the long, exciting, yet heartbreaking day! 

For me, the heart break started as we pulled up to the stadium, and in the dusky morning light, I could see the thousands of people lined up outside the stadium.  It was at that point that I realized that screening day was not going to be a busy, fun day of seeing thousands of people and giving hope to the hopeless, but it was going to be one of the hardest days of my time here in West Africa.  I started crying right then in the front seat of the Landrover and it took everything inside me to control the sobs.  I knew that only a small percentage of these people were actually going to make it on the ship for surgery.  Before screening day, I lived in a naive little bubble where every patient I saw was someone that we could help, and now I see the reality of the thousands that we can’t.  As one of my friends put it, “I feel like this is a sick version of American Idol, and we are choosing who does and doesn’t make it through”.

I was fortunate enough to be a part of the children’s ministry team.  We split up and went to find children to entertain and occupy their time while they waited for hours to be screened.  My friend Jenny and I decided to leave the stadium and head out to the long line up of people who were standing in the hot sun since at least 2 or 3 in the morning.  We had so much fun walking up and down the line, greeting people and giving them something to do; blowing bubbles, painting nails, coloring, stealing and holding babies—anything to help them pass the time, and give the parents a little rest by entertaining their children for a while! 
I don’t know if I would consider us extremely blessed or horribly punished to be one of the few crew who got to be outside the gate and have the devastating reality of interacting with the thousands of people who never even made it past the initial screening.  Approximately 3500 people came to the screening, and less than half of those even saw the surgeons.  There are very select surgeries that we do, so it is very difficult to tell people who have been standing in line for hours that we can’t fix their stomach ulcer that they’ve had for years, or their arm that broke a few years ago and healed completely wrong.

Before the screening day, I asked God to help me see his people the way he saw them, and he definitely answered, and held nothing back!  Throughout the day, Matthew 25:40 kept infiltrating my head and breaking me to pieces: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  And here I was, telling thousands of helpless, hopeless people that we couldn’t help them.  I felt like every time someone walked out of the stadium, we were saying, “Sorry Jesus, I can’t help you”.  I am still having difficulty fully processing the day because it really challenged the way I see the world and my position in it.    

 I think the hardest job of the day was the prayer team, who was in charge of talking and praying with the thousands of people who we were not able to help.  My prayer is just that everyone who came to the screening came for a reason, whether it was for a chance at a life changing surgery, or for a chance to see Christ’s people in action and receive prayer.  By 7pm, everyone had finally returned to the ship, dirty, sweaty, tired, and hungry.  What a long, exhausting day, but I am so glad that I was able to see this part of Mercy Ships and be a part of it. 

This is a broken world that we live in, tainted with pain and corruption, and that won’t change until Christ returns to bring us home.  All we can do is to continue to plod along seeking one hurting human after another and showing them love.  God is Holy and Sovereign and can do greater things than we could ever fathom.  It was in His plan and will that every single one of those hurting people came to the screening.  I have no doubt that His glory was seen and His purpose was achieved at the stadium that day.   


These are a few more pictures from screening day and everything that went into it. To the right is my friend June working on collecting patient history.  Lots of work went into collecting histories and doing physicals, which was especially difficult due to the language barrier.


Prayer requests:

Please continue to lift up in prayer the thousands of Togolese people that we were unable to help.  God is a big God and a miraculous God and has the power to heal these people- and he doesn’t need a scalpel and a surgeon. 

This little cutie is a picture of hope.  She has already had surgery, and I was playing with he and rocking her to sleep just a few hours before I finished writing this blog!  She is down in the ward and will probably go home tomorrow!  God is good and despite the heartbreak I had during the screening, God never fails to shine His glory through and reveal His purpose!


  1. Danielle-
    Thank you for sharing your journey... Both the good and the painful parts. God is doing a beautiful thing through you in Togo!

  2. Sing a song to lift up your heart, Danielle. My favorite is Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord.
    Open the eyes of my heart, Lord,
    Open the eyes of my heart,
    I want to see You, I want to see You.
    Open the eyes of my heart, Lord,
    I want to see You, I want to see You.

    To see You high and lifted up,
    Shining in the light of Your glory,
    Pour out Your power and love
    As we sing holy, holy, holy

    Holy, holy, holy,
    Holy, holy, holy,
    Holy, holy, holy,
    I want to see You.

    2 Corithians 12:9

    Your heart is so big, Danielle!! Hang in there!! Carol G.

  3. Beautiful. God will always give you the ability to see more beauty than the pain...that is what will keep you doing His work. They new smile on the last little girl will keep your soul "cup" full. Be careful. You are blessed to be there and share this. Dr. Kathy

  4. so proud of my baby. you are doing a great job.when you get back i want you to speak at our lpn comvention.prayers continue to come your way. saw paige last week & she told me all she wants for her b-day is for you to come home. take csre. love you your baby nurse flo

  5. My Brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. 'James 2-4. So proud of you Danielle and yes you brought me to tears. Love you and God Bless - JH