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Friday, June 27, 2014

Gisele's Story

This shouldn't be Gisele’s story, but it is. 
In 1993 Gisele was 28 years old, married, and expecting a baby. Following a miscarriage with her first pregnancy, this baby was perhaps even more precious. She was elated with the anticipation of motherhood and the thought of building a family with her husband. Having children was all Gisele had ever wanted; it was the reason she believed she was here on this earth. 
Motherhood was within reach. 
Since the day she went into labor, Gisele’s life has been shaped by shoulds. She should have delivered normally. When she did not, she should have had emergency obstetric care. Perhaps she should have had a C-section. She should have become a mom. Today, she should be a mother to a 21-year-old son and his assortment of younger brothers and sisters. 
But twenty years later, Gisele is 48, divorced, and childless. 
During a prolonged obstructed labor in her Congolese village in 1993, Gisele lost her baby. Due to the trauma of the delivery, she developed a condition called obstetric fistula, also called vesicovaginal fistula (VVF). VVF is a childbirth injury that creates a hole between the birth canal and urinary tract, leaving the mother incontinent. For 20 years, Gisele has lived with a steady stream of urine trickling down her legs. 
Managing her incontinence was difficult because she could not escape the odor. Her damp skirt and wet legs reminded her of the child she lost and of the children she would never have. In the night, she had to wake up hourly to change out of her wet clothes. Gisele’s husband, realizing that she would probably never have children, decided to leave. He still wanted a family, he told her, adding bluntly, “And, with you, I am wasting my time.” 
While the nature of Gisele’s condition was terrible, her physical pain was now nothing compared to the emotional burden that came with her husband’s public rejection. In her failed attempts at motherhood, she grieved her life’s purpose. In her failed marriage, her fear was confirmed – to be a woman unable to have children was to have no value. Since 1993, Gisele says she has not lived a life – but that she has lived somewhere between life and death, waiting for the day her life would end. 
Due to her odor and the stigma around her condition, Gisele withdrew into a life of solitude. In reality, she was far from alone. There are over 2 million women in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia who live with VVF, according to the World Health Organization. In much of the developing world, basic obstetric care is inaccessible. Women must live with, or die from, the consequences of unattended childbirth. For women who endure complications during delivery, too many are left burying their stillborn children and lamenting a long list of shoulds.   
Gisele wanted to take her life, and she knew the way she would do it – with poison. What would it be like to drink that last glass of liquid, knowing that she would not live to feel it dampen her skirt? But something kept her going, kept her alive. 
With surgery, obstetric fistula is often repairable. As news spread around The Republic of Congo that Mercy Ships was coming, Gisele began to hope. But she tried not to get her hopes up; she had been let down too many times before. It was not until she found herself sitting on a hospital bed in the port of Pointe Noire waiting for surgery that she allowed herself to believe that she might be healed. 
Since her surgery, Gisele is all smiles. Graceful and bird-like, she knits with perfect posture and hums between conversations with the women on either side of her. A nurse makes the rounds to check Gisele’s catheter bag, which is full, and she asks if Gisele’s bed is dry. It is. These signs indicate that the surgery was a success. Gisele is glowing.           
While surgery fixed Gisele physically, it cannot make her a mother. However, she has found something else onboard the Africa Mercy. She has found emotional restoration in the attentive way the doctors and nurses check on her and care for her, and in the relationships she has built with the other patients, most of whom are not mothers either. 
Obstetric fistula is typically a condition of isolation. Confined in solitude, Gisele was poisoned by her belief that her life had no value. Now, in a room full of women who share similar painful journeys, they have healed through their sisterhood. When the women are restless, they walk the hallways – singing and holding hands. They are united, strengthened, and healed. 
When it comes time to discharge fistula patients, the hospital throws a going-away party called a Dress Ceremony. Each patient is presented with a new dress, which she will wear as she goes home. On the morning of Gisele’s celebration, the women gathered in the ward to do their make-up and fasten their head wraps. The room filled with chatter, smiles, and with an energy like that of a bridal party. Gisele surveyed the room of women getting ready and said ‘Aujord’hui c’est bon.’ Today is good. After the celebration was over, Gisele walked out of the hospital, down the dock, and took her first step back into society. 
Gisele should have had this surgery long ago. She should have re-entered society with all the fanfare of a Dress Ceremony years before now, but Gisele did not have access to shoulds

Gisele may always carry with her the grief of the child she lost and the pain of the years of suffering, but she will carry it with her head held high, because she knows the truth. She knows her worth. For too many years she suffered with what should have been, but now it is. Now she can.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Ships Helping Hands

One of our very valuable connections we have when in a port is our shipping agent.  In Pointe Noire we were working with Necotrans.  For them they are used to ships coming and going regularly but we were a little different as they would have to look after us for 10 months.  They have been so good to us and it has been nice to get to know them on a social level too.  Anne Marie would often be bringing a group of ladies over to visit and have a tour of the ship and enjoy a starbucks coffee!  By the end of our stay we reckoned she could actually take the tour herself.  Her and her husband, Denis, were also very generous and took us out to their beach hut a few times.  It was nice to relax with them and others whilst the kebabs cooked on the BBQ and enjoy the cheese and paté that Denis had brought back from his last trip to Paris.  
Thank you to all of you - You truly spoiled us and we are forever grateful for you sharing your lives with us.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Congo Day Worker Farewell

Each year we hold a celebration to say goodbye to our day workers. 
What are day workers?  
Well they are those who come and work with us from the country and city that we are working with.  We usually have around 200+ workers who help us with translation, cooking, driving, nursing, you name it they are probably doing it and we couldn't do the field of service without them, they are very valuable!  They are amazing how they have adapt and get use to coming and working on a ship and getting used to our strange ship culture and food.  They spend 10 months with us and experience every thing we do but the hard thing is having to say goodbye to them at the end.  So we have a celebration and it's something we enjoy every year as we dance and worship together for all the good things that God has done in the lives of patients and themselves.  
Tim addresses the Dayworkers including some interesting facts on how may miles of handrails they've cleaned, or how many plates they have washed!
The service starts off with praise and worship Congo style - this time I've taken a video from watching on the outside and then from dancing on the inside:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Few Pictures from the Sail

For the last few weeks we've been enjoying a fairly calm sail, with a bit of wild life thrown in.  Our activities co-ordinator has kept us all busy with evening entertainment and some wonderful mum's organised a kids program.  So apart from the odd sickness it's been great.  Here are some photo highlights:

Tim's preparations on the bridge
The tug boat did a dance in a circle when we left the port
 Crew practice their lifeboat drills
 We crossed the point at longitude 0º & latitude 0º where we found a buoy
So we sailed around it! 
 It just so happened that Tim had a copy of Marine Technology which had a similar one on the front cover
 We have seen dolphins (these are some pictures taken by crew members as my camera was never handy when I saw them!)
 Nathanael started his "seamans apprenticeship" with his Daddy with an orientation of the bridge and then about half and hour of steering, if only the crew knew that a 7 year old was driving!

Soon we will be in Las Palmas where the ship will be in dry dock whilst it has the general maintenance done and the second side of the hospital flooring renovations will be completed.  We will be leaving for a holiday period in the USA to visit Tim's family, but hopefully you will still see some posts appear now and then.

After the summer we head on down to Benin.  Unfortunately our field of service to Guinea got changed due to the Ebola outbreak.  We were very much looking forward to seeing our kids at the God is Love Orphanage again but it is not to be this time, which we are sad about, but know one day we will return to them as they continue to be in our hearts and daily prayers.

Please pray for our advance team in Benin as they have had a shorter time to prepare our visit and we look forward to sharing what God will do with us in Benin.

Monday, June 09, 2014

We've Gone All Dotty Com

Yes we've gone all dotty com!

In case you haven't noticed we've got a new web address for our blog, you can reach us under:


The old address will still get you here, but at least the new one has less words to type out in the URL address bar and hopefully you might remember it a little easier and drop by and catch up on our news.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Growth on the Hull

Before we left Pointe Noire we had some divers go down in the sea and check out our rudder and propellors.  As you can see sitting in the water produces much growth on the hull!  This is what they found: