December 6, 2016

Mercy Ships: When Good Is a Four-Letter Word

volunteer travel nurses in front of Mercy Ships in Benin AfricaThere’s So Much More

The DREAD, the ANTICIPATION, of hearing those four little words from everyone you see back home…

“How was your trip?”

I always give this question a lot of thought. I dig deep, look through pictures, meditate, practice my answer, and walk into the world with confidence. And the second someone asks me, my mind immediately goes…blank. Crickets. Cobwebs. It’s like a ghost town, a literal wasteland of coherent thought. And all I can manage?

“It was good.”

And I watch, in horror, as the person is satisfied with that answer and walks away.

“WAIT!” I yell internally. “THERE’S MORE!” Because suddenly my mind is moving as quickly as their feet are as if they somehow know if they don’t get away fast enough, they’re going to be trapped in a deeper conversation than they intended.

Because there is more. So much more.

Mercy Ships Gives Life a New Perspective

My trip was incredible. Let me tell you about the little girl with the brightest brown eyes who can now pronounce consonants and pass her level at school because of the corrective surgery we did on her palate. Or let me tell you about the young mother whose life we saved when we were able to successfully remove a large tumor from her mouth and jaw. Would you like to hear about all of the babies who are now thriving since we’ve repaired their cleft lips? Or the children who are able to properly walk and run and play because we corrected their severe leg deformities?

What if I told you I witnessed miracles? Do we even know, in our world, what that word means anymore? Healthcare workers don’t throw that word around flippantly. We like science and logic, but when those fail us, what other word can we use? There are patients alive today that shouldn’t be, according to science, logic, experience and just plain common sense.

Can you spare the time to let me explain to you how I saw things you’ll never experience in the Western world? Poverty that makes your heart ache, but then a joy so genuine your heart soars instead. Tumors so large that patients are beautifully unrecognizable after bandages are removed. Everyone that enters that ship leaves changed. Everyone. Those who come to receive care, and those who come to give care. I am changed. I want you to be changed just by hearing my story.

Farewell Send-Off from Mercy Ships

Mercy Ships gives new perspective to your life. It sounds so cliché, and maybe saying it is. But the truth behind that sentence is not trite or commonplace. When heaven meets earth, need meets compassion, hurt meets healing, strangers meet friends, the invisible are seen, and the forgotten are remembered – that’s not commonplace. When the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, and the dead live again – that’s not trite. And I’m not just talking about the patients. In a world desperate for change, you need to hear that on a ship in West Africa, change is already happening.

And it’s more than just good.

In May 2014, Travel Nurse Across America (TNAA) announced a partnership with Mercy Ships, as part of its ongoing philanthropic activities. TNAA sponsored four nurses to volunteer on a healthcare delivery mission in Africa. Mercy Ships, a global charity organization, uses ships – floating hospitals – to provide free surgery and dental care in impoverished countries. Mercy Ships has been in operation since 1978. The nurses sponsored by TNAA worked for eight weeks each on the African mercy ship docked in Cotonou, Benin. Follow the TNAA blog for Mercy Ships updates.