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Monday, April 25, 2011

Christos anesti! Alithos anesti! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Happy Easter to all our Family and Friends!

Denise and Rob - Easter Morning 2011
We have had a wonderful Easter and Holy Week on the Africa Mercy.  We’d love to share our Easter with you… Click here to see some pictures and videos----Easter 2011 on the Africa Mercy   if you click on “show info” you will see the descriptions as you look through these.

We have certainly hit the road running since our arrival here in Sierra  Leone. We are sorry that we haven’t been in touch for a while.  When we looked at the last update we realized it was just before our first screening.  It was extremely difficult here on the ship after that day for a while.  The screening went terribly wrong and we were only able to be at the stadium for a few hours.  There was a huge crowd of people estimated between 10,000 and 15,000.  About mid-morning after a few hours of screening, there was a huge push of people at the gate and the gate broke down, and one man died and several were injured. 

This picture below was taken at the Hope Center of some of our patients before and after surgery.  The Hope Center is a place just outside of the port gate where patients and their Caregivers can stay when they come from outside of Freetown before the surgery or afterwards if the patient needs physical therapy or wound care ongoing.

Some of the Patients before and after surgery at the Hope Center.

Our hearts were broken as we had to leave quickly from the stadium after trying to get the crowd under control without success. It was one of the hardest things to do….to leave without being able to help those that so needed our help.   We were asked not to communicate about it and then focused on how to hold another screening that wouldn’t put our potential patients or us in harm’s way.

Fortunately, we had several previous screenings up country so we had plenty of patients for a while.   Our communications team made the video below to help  explain about the need in Sierra Leone.  The pictures and video come from our 2nd general surgical screening on March 26th. 



We had a successful second screening day on March 26th. Rob and several other guys went about 2 pm the day before to manage the line and see that those we couldn’t help would not be waiting in line for a long time.  They had pictures of the types of conditions that we can help with.  Rob and the guys stayed there at the site all night walking the line to ensure peace and give confidence to the people that they would be safe.  The second screening went very well and we were able to schedule most of our surgeries. We may do another screening in August….we’ll have to see if its needed. 

Our time here has been good, but we certainly keep busy. Denise is loving her new role as Mercy Ministries Coordinator. It keeps her busy six days a week visiting with the different partnering sites. We visit the prisons, an old peoples home, a home and school for handicapped children, the Blind school, the Missionaries of Charity, Don Bosco’s for the street boys and other sites.

Mercy Ministries visits the Hope Center

The picture above is of one of the Mercy Ministries visit to the Hope Center during a singing time.  We go there twice a week and have a great time with the patients.  Denise was commenting the other evening at dinner that while visiting the Hope Center she was amazed at a young boy (in the picture below) who had cast on both of his legs due to club feet.   This didn't slow him down though, he was crawling all over the center. He'd managed to almost wear through at the knees where the cast had become soft from all of his crawling.

This little guy with casts on both legs, due to club feet, is quite a character!

This little boy…I call the “hello” boy!  He comes over to the ship to have his casts removed and put back on or physical therapy and my (office) is across the hall from the Physical Therapy and cast removal area – Ward E.  We can always tell when he’s waiting in the passageway….as we can hear his little voice parroting “hello!”
In this picture below he is on the move at the Hope Center!

The Hope Center

We are ever encouraged when we see the renewed hope and joy in the patients when they're awaiting their surgery and when they are recovering from the surgeries. The surgeons can repair their physical conditions, but only Jesus can repair their hearts. Many have been outcast and marginalized for so long from their families and communities it is very hard for them to feel accepted and included.

A visit to the Hope Centre.
They soon learn they are valuable as a part of this community onboard by our acceptance of them and the love we share with them. As they heal from their physical conditions as wonderful as this is...many times the greatest healing is inward as their hearts are softened.  God will take our hearts of stone and give us a new heart, a heart of flesh. One softened by His love. And as we've received His love and forgiveness likewise we can share this same love with others.

We are excited to share this news with you … We just got our tickets back to the United States for about six weeks during June and July and look forward to seeing many of you.  We hope to be able to share with as many of you as possible. 

We’d love to have an “open house” in different locations to be able to share and interact with small groups.  If you are willing to host us for an “open house”, please let us know and we will put it on our schedule.  Also, if you’d like to meet with us individually, please let us know and we will try to schedule that as well.  We’d love to see as many of you as possible. Please contact us if you’d like to have us speak at your church or to a group and we’ll also get that on our schedule!  We will be leasing a vehicle so this increases our ability to visit at many more places!   

We plan to arrive on June 7th at Dulles and fly out of Dulles on July 15th. We have a tentative plan to be in the areas below during our time back in the US:

Delaware and DC area – June 7th through June 12th
Virginia – North Carolina – Georgia - June 13th through June 17th 
Florida – June 18th – July 10th
Back up to DC area – July 11th – July 15th
Visiting our friends Jan and Elizabeth in the Netherlands – July16th and back to the ship on July 21st!

Awaiting surgery at the Hope Center.
We’re not going to be able to make it to Tennessee and Texas on this trip.  We are so sorry for that!  We look forward to hearing from those of you in the areas we will be in and how we can meet up!!

Thank you for your continued prayers, letters, emails and support. We are humbled by your faithfulness.  Thank you for being a part of the hope and healing here in Sierra Leone!

God's blessings,
Rob and Denise