Friday, October 05, 2018

Happy 40th Mercy Ships...

Congratulations Mercy Ships!  40 years ago, on the 5th of October 1978, the first Mercy Ship was purchased.  As a 1 year old at the time, I was oblivious that this ship would one day become my childhood home. However, just a year later, my family joined the M/V Anastasis in Greece and I had the privilege of spending the next 14 and a half years onboard. To date, the Anastasis is still the place I have lived the longest, surpassing The Netherlands. However, Sierra Leone is catching up with 13 and a half years and counting.

I was the first child to go all the way from nursery through 12th grade onboard and although it wasn’t always easy, especially when I was the only child in my grade, I am so grateful that I grew up on the ship. What an amazing experience. From playing sticks, foursquare and sardines on the ship to swimming in the pool, playing basketball on the dock and roller-skating on the Aft deck. From sleeping outside during sails, watching dolphins swim alongside the ship, life boat drills and star gazing to having ‘fun nights’, ball room dancing, helping in the snack bar and watching movies in the lounge. I had the privilege of meeting so many people but also the heartache of constantly saying goodbye. The opportunity to visit over 40 countries was amazing, but also means some of my childhood memories are a bit of a blur in terms of where (in which country) a particular memory occurred. Being a part of community outreach including painting schools, building a playground, assisting in community clinics and spending time on the ward with patients coming for surgery, were defining moments.

Sierra Leone was one of the countries I visited as a child in 1992-1993. In our school yearbook that year I reflected on my time in Sierra Leone and ended with the following memory:

“I remember sitting down under the little palm-branch covered hut among the sick children and their hopeful moms. The sight of those children tugged at my heart. Holding a hopeless and suffering, measles inflicted child in my arms, after watching two other kids die from the same thing, made me realize how fortunate I really am. I also know that with God's strength I have something great that I can give to the dying children in the world today."

I know this was very idealistic, but that experience along with the life changing surgeries I witnessed on the ship, inspired me to pursue medicine. I was exposed to people who genuinely cared about others and one of my life heroes is still onboard, extending compassion and humility to the patients that come his way. In just a few days Dr. Gary will meet 7 patients that I am sending from the clinic I work at in Freetown to the Africa Mercy in Conakry for cleft lip/palate surgery. It is an honour to help these children on their journey and to partner with Mercy Ships. Although the M/V Anastasis was retired in 2007, the Africa Mercy and the Mercy Ships community still feel very much like home.

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~