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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hello from Liberia!

Mercy Watch

July 2008

Hello Family and Friends,

There are several appropriate greetings you may hear onboard, depending on the crewmember you are speaking with. One would be from our crewmembers who hail from Sierra Leone which would be “How da body?” to which the reply would be “Da body fine”. Another greeting from some of our Liberian crewmembers or friends could be “Are you well?” to which the reply would be “Yes, thank God” or just “Thank God.”

I find myself often asking new crew “Are you well?” and receiving puzzled looks. I suppose I should be asking “How are you?” and expect the reply of “Fine.” One lady actually was a little offended by my request, saying that so many people ask the question, but don’t really want to receive an answer. She wished people would only ask if they had the time and desire to receive the answer. I became more aware of how and when I asked this question and came to realize that at times it was actually used more as a rhetorical question or casual greeting by me.

Today I would really like to ask “How da body?” and pray that you can actually answer “Da body fine…thank God” and if you’d like to dialogue in greater detail, Denise and I are only a phone call or email away.

We had a picnic on the dock for the 4th of July with our American crewmates…there were just over 100 crew onboard that were American out of about 350 crew members, including the kids. So we took a group picture!

The American Crew on the 4th of July 2008

We have been busy transferring and redesigning, uploading our website and this effort has taken up a great deal of our free time. Please visit or to see our progress. Consequently we’ve not sent out our newsletters as we would have liked. So please let us take this opportunity to catch up a little.

In our April Newsletter we told you of the screening at SKD stadium. The screening was very successful and there have been many lives touched as a result of the surgeries performed aboard. We are sometimes asked to write about our experiences and this one was selected to be published…after it is edited. The non-edited story we’d like to share with you is of Philip…

We are able to become most involved in the patients onboard through the Adopt-A-Patient program on the ship. Usually this will involve, selecting a patient for adoption during their stay onboard, from a list provided by Hanneke, a mom onboard, who coordinates this effort for the crew. This particular time, we became involved through the local church we attend.

On Sunday, April 14th, Denise wasn’t feeling well and elected to stay home that morning. This happens infrequently, so I was going to stay home as well. We provide transportation for any crew members who’d like to attend, so I went to check the sign-up sheet. Sure enough one crew member had signed-up to go, so staying home wasn‘t an option. Upon arrival at the church, Sunday school hadn’t finished yet (the adults are taught in the sanctuary) so I was waiting outside. A visiting Pastor arrived and we began a short introduction, she noticed from my name badge I was with Mercy Ships. She wasn‘t from Monrovia and had experienced some difficulty contacting Mercy Ships in regards to her son.

Phillip (April 2008)Background: Pastor Nelly Wright, a United Methodist Pastor, had adopted a young boy named Phillip who had a cleft lip and palette and his nose had been eaten away by a bacteria. Phillip had been abandoned by his father, after his mother died as he didn’t have time to raise a cursed child. Cyrus, another older child Pastor Nelly had adopted previously, found Phillip wandering around the streets of Monrovia. Cyrus brought him home asking if Pastor Nelly would adopt him as well and she did. In 2005-2006., Phillip had surgery aboard the Mercy Ship Anastasis to rebuild his nose and correct his cleft lip and palette.

Leading to Current Surgery: When Pastor Nelly arrived to preach at New Georgia and met Rob prior to the service, she saw this as a divine moment. She had been trying to contact Mercy Ships, but wasn’t sure how. They had lost the follow-up appointment card for Phillip. During the several years since Phillip’s surgery onboard the Anastasis, Phillip’s nose had begun to droop a little and looked a little like a pug nose. Pastor Nelly wanted to have a follow-up done on Phillip. We exchanged contact information and I agreed if she would call me at the ship on Monday I would try and be a liaison for her regarding Phillip. The photo to the left is Phillip's picture showing his drooping nose and scars from the previous surgery.

Today was a wonderful day for Phillip and his brother Cyrus and will soon be a wonderful day for their Mother. Cyrus and Phillip came to the ship today as directed by their mother. I met them at the gangway and was a little confused, as I was not expecting them. I was expecting a call, so we could work out further arrangements. I did not want to embarrass or inconvenience or be impolite to Cyrus and Phillip, but was a little lost for what to do at first.

I signed them in as my guest, and took them to Denise’s office and asked if she would sit with them in the Café area while I went to the patient coordinator’s office to try and coordinate this effort. She gladly agreed and I went to find the patient coordinator.

Initially, the patient coordinator was not available, but the crewmember I spoke with went to locate her. In short order, she was located and I explained to her the situation and apologized for the short notice. She understood and was glad and willing to assist. I went back to Cyrus, Phillip and Denise in the café and took them to the waiting area on deck three as instructed. The patient coordinator came and asked Cyrus and Phillip some questions concerning Phillip’s complete name, so she could locate the records of his previous cleft lip and palate surgery.

Phillip (April 2008)

She was unable to locate the records, but asked Dr. Gary if he could come and speak with Cyrus and Phillip. He agreed, came out and saw Phillip and remembered him from surgery, he thought in 2005 – 2006 timeframe. He briefly examined Phillip and then went with the patient coordinator and checked the surgery schedule and Phillip is scheduled for surgery next week on Tuesday, April 22nd. He will have to come to the ship with Cyrus on Monday for admission and preparations for the surgery on Tuesday. The hospital stay should be five days.

So all in all, God be praised as all of the necessary people were seen, all of the schedules were in order. Obviously Cyrus, Phillip and Pastor Nelly were following the leading of the Lord and were at just the right place at just the right time and everything worked out. The photo to the right show's Phillip two days after this surgery. He is a very happy boy! As a follow up to this story…Phillip had his surgery and he is doing very well, he was able to leave the ship only 2 days after surgery! He is now back in school and doing well.

We are glad to have been used by the Lord, in this instance and see it as an answer to prayer. My younger brother is suffering with terminal cancer. Without the Lord performing a miracle and healing him, my brother will go home soon. We’ve struggled with the decisions as to, are we to go home, or stay. God has shown us very powerfully that He is using us right here, right now. So we are blessed to be used to bring a blessing.

We also like to update you on Rob’s brother, Ken, and his diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer. Many of you have continued to keep Ken and Kaye constantly covered in prayer since you first heard of his diagnosis. Your prayers are effective and have greatly helped Ken and his wife, Kaye and our entire family during this time. Thank you so much!

Rob, Connie and Ken

Rob was able to fly to Texas June 7th to spend a week with Ken and Kaye. They prayed together, cried together and laughed together. A heavy burden was lifted from Rob’s heart as he and Ken were able to spend many hours together early in the morning, talking and praying together. Rob came away with a new understanding of the love and dedication Kaye has for her husband and to a small degree the effort it takes each day to live with this illness. Ken and Kaye place their trust firmly in the Lord and are confident He is in control. Ken is doing remarkably well considering his diagnosis. We thank God for His hand working in many ways during this time! We continue to pray for complete healing for Ken. In the photo above is Rob, Connie and Ken (the three siblings) celebrating Ken's 53rd birthday!

Twin Cotton Trees

The photo above is of twin Cotton Trees we passed on the way to Buchanan, Liberia! These trees were HUGE as you can see by focusing on the people and cars at the base of the trees! Incredible!

Thank you for your prayers and support, receiving your letters is a real blessing. One of the most recent ones from Stewart Hall, Jarrow, England was most uplifting for us. We met and became friends with Stewart while attending Park Methodist Church in Jarrow. We hope to possibly stop over to Jarrow and visit in January 2009 on our return from Christmas vacation in the USA. The plans are still being made so no promises yet, but just a little something we’d love to do. We were most fortunate to worship at Park Methodist Church during our 18 months in England and they made us feel a part of their family.

We thank each of you for touching our lives by sharing yours with us. May you be blessed today and share these blessings with someone else.

God bless you,

Rob and Denise

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