Posted by: nhwaechters | January 29, 2018

From Home to Home….

Dear Friends and Family,

Week One:

One of the young nurses I met on the ship shared this quote from Ann Voscamp on her own blog, “We only love as well as we are willing to be inconvenienced”. I have been on the ship a week now, a roller coaster of emotions have followed me each day. But…when I look back over the last months, I can say that you all have loved well. Thank you to each and every one of you for the time you took out of your days, your schedules, to listen to me, to write me notes of encouragement and love, to help me make my way, to help me with the details of my new life, to pray with me and for me, to drive and fly long distances to visit me, to include me in your lives when I wasn’t necessarily the life of the party. And even though I know it often was, you never acted as if being there for me was an inconvenience. I am grateful and most blessed.

I arrived in Douala, Cameroon on Monday evening after about 16 hours of flying, greeted by lots of smiling faces and hugs galore! It’s kind of weird to say that I left home and 16 hours later after flying across the globe, I arrived home again. It’s good to be back, to a place, I know, where God will continue the healing that He has begun in my life. Here I can be purposeful again in a job I absolutely love, as I figure out what God would have me do in this next part of my journey.

I was greeted with a new badge, a new cabin and a lovely Irish roommate. Once again I am crew on the Africa Mercy!

Though it’s difficult to have said “good-bye” for a time, it’s a joy to be here, working purposefully to serve God’s purposes of healing the poor so that they might know His love.

I met this young lady in the Outpatient Clinic during my first days here.

The healing of her surgical wounds will soon allow her to be discharged home and every time she comes to the clinic, we can see in her smile, the healing of her heart. And the joy in her Mom’s face.

Thank you all for your part in making it possible for me to return and be part of this again.

With much love and gratitude,


Posted by: nhwaechters | December 24, 2017

Jesus, the Bright and Morning Star…



A night, a season…of weeping. In Grief Share, I’ve learned that you must journey through the grief. As humans we can’t not grieve. If we don’t do it now, it will affect all our days and nights until we do. And so, I have tried to do the work of grieving these past months, not wanting to stay in this well of pain and sadness forever. The title of the book we use in Grief Share is “From Mourning to Joy”. “How long until the Joy, Lord?” He had shown me before that I could trust Him, so I waited.

Then Advent arrived, and with it a new eye-opening revelation of sorts. Funny, I’ve celebrated Advent my entire life, yet…this year glimmers of a different kind of joy began to show up. Not enjoyment of the beauty of Christmas in New England, or happiness because Christmas was here, and I was home with my family…but JOY. Amidst the well of sadness that I think I will always carry with me, (how can I not after living with a man such as Tom for 42 years), there is JOY, as I have never experienced it before. The joy of the deep realization that God the Father, and Jesus, his son, wanted relationship with me (and you, too!) so much that He stepped out of the glories and riches of heaven to come down to this wretched earth to do everything that was needed to make it possible. And because He was willing to do that, I have hope. Hope of life eternal where I can continue to better know the Father who loves me with steadfast love unbounded, to know Jesus, and to spend time once again with Tom. And because Jesus was willing to be born, as a human baby, and live here, to know what life is really like, (part of which is loss), He is more than able to help me weather this storm during this season of my life. And He wants to because He loves me.

What have I learned during this part of the journey? Jesus, the Word, is living and true. As I have poured over Scripture, He has reached out to me. “Comfort my people”, says God in Isaiah. Words that I have read so many times before have leapt off the page, settling into my heart as God tells me that at this moment, these words are for me.

There was a time last year when I came face to face with the fact that I knew and was more comfortable with God, the Father, than with Jesus. Oh, I knew Him as my Savior and Lord, but didn’t feel very comfortable having a conversation with Him. I remember praying, “Father, I want to want to know your son better, please, help me.” Since Tom has been gone, God has and continues to honor that prayer.

The devotional theme on the ship for this season has been, “What Kind of King?”. Don Stephens, the founder of Mercy Ships, has encouraged crew to spend some time thinking about what kind of king Jesus is to us, personally.

So, in this season, as Jesus has declared himself the Bright and Morning Star, let me share with you what kind of King Jesus has been, and continues to be to me.

Jesus is…..

My Comforter, Lighter of my darkness,Grace, Wisdom,
Mercy, Steadfast Love, My Helper,  Faith builder,
My Treasure, My Hiding Place, My Rock, My Fortress,
My Counselor,  God with me, Protector, Confidant,
Encourager, Sovereign, Truth Speaker,  Need filler,
Sustainer, Life Giver, Sight Restorer,  Joy giver, Finder (my glasses, keys, & phone!)
Promise Keeper, Source of real peace,  Healer, God for me!


I pray you, also, will ponder who He is to you, and experience His great love reaching out to you this Christmas.

Remembering Tom…


Moving forward…..

Many of you have written to ask if I will be returning to the ship…the answer is Yes!!
After much prayer and conversation with family, friends, and fellow Mercy Shippers, along with what I have learned in Grief Share, I believe it is time for me to get back to work, to continue what Tom and I started together to further the work of God’s Kingdom by serving in His name. All your messages, texts, emails, and cards have been life-giving for me in this season. As I move into the next season, I would appreciate your continued prayers.

Merry Christmas, with much love….Ann-Marie












Posted by: nhwaechters | August 30, 2017

In2DeeperWaters still…

Dear Friends and Family around the world,

Many of you know the following, and have reached out to me, and our children and their families in the past weeks. For those who haven’t heard of Tom’s passing, I apologize for taking so long to post. Today is the first time in these weeks I have felt able to do this.  Thank you to everyone who has sent messages, cards, emails…they have been and continue to be most welcome as we continue to plunge into ever deeper waters.  No matter how deep the times of pain and darkness have been, I find that God is always there to hold me and love me through this.

Thursday, the 6th of July, Tom and I, with Aaron, his wife, Lisa, dear friends Scott and Sandra, and our 9 year old grandson, Benjamin, were hiking in the White Mountains, a perfect summer New England day. Our goal was Lonesome Lake, but we never reached that goal. Tom suffered a heart attack on the trail. Despite the heroic efforts of the rescue team and fellow hikers, we could not get Tom the help he needed in time. He has gone home to be with the Father. We are numb in our grief, hardly believing this is real. Tom is gone from us, gone on ahead. Now we have to learn to live without him, as the rock he has been all these years. His Memorial Service held Thursday, 13 July, 2:30, at Bethany Church in Greenland, NH, can be viewed on my facebook page, as facebook live. Thank you to everyone who has sent us messages; you are holding us up.

Several days after Tom’s passing, two very special friends from the ship, Chris and Lesley, asked me to join them on a trip around the States they had planned for Lesley’s visit this summer from the UK.  It has been special to be a part of this adventure, as I have things to fill up my days other than just thoughts of the loss of Tom.  And they are lovingly helping me navigate these new waters, as are others as we meet with Mercy Ships friends and family across this great land.

It may be awhile before I post anything original, I know what Tom had planned for his next post, but I will have to have time to find his pictures.  Until then, I may be posting other things about the ship and the ministry in Cameroon, which is Mercy Ship’s current field service.  The ship came into the port of Douala, Cameroon last week and will begin surgeries next week, to serve the people of this nation.

Thank you on behalf of my entire family for the love you have shown us during these difficult days.

Ann-Marie, for all.

Posted by: nhwaechters | April 20, 2017

Pressure Cooker of a Day….from Tom

One of the things that I love about Mercy Ships is that they not only try to meet the immediate needs of our patients by offering lifesaving surgeries free of charge, but they are very committed to changing the health care capabilities of the nations where we serve.  It is known as our Capacity Building Program and it takes on many, many shapes.  It includes training and mentoring of health care workers and technicians as well as providing the tools that are needed to help them serve their people better in the future.

All too often, one of the sad realities of these types of programs is that the tools and equipment are provided, but the training to operate and maintain the equipment is not.  There are far too many stories of state of the art medical equipment sitting unused and abandoned because there are no spare parts or personnel have not been trained on how to keep it running.  Another challenge is that oftentimes the rural settings of the clinics and hospitals in the third world lack the reliable electric power required to keep the equipment operating.

I say all that as background to why the Sterilization Project is one of my favorite capacity building projects that Mercy Ships participates in providing.  Conceptually, it’s really very simple.  The goal is to train health care workers about the importance of proper sterilization procedures and provide them the means to sterilize their surgical tools and instruments in their rural and/or third world settings.  At the end of the training, they are given either a gas or electric pressure cooker, extra gaskets and a stainless steel basket to hold the instruments while they are being sterilized.  The training and pressure cookers are provided by a foundation in Canada that primarily consists of a husband and wife and their daughter — all truly amazing people.

Sterilization class participants

Successful class participants and instructors after completing the training

New Pressure Cooker and Basket with Surgical Tools

My small part in all of this came about last Wednesday.  Fifty seven pressure cookers were supposed to have arrived in Benin a month earlier but were delayed.  Then they were supposed to be here the week before last week’s training was offered to health care workers from thirty rural clinics and hospitals.  That never happened either.  The training was at a remote location, over two hours’ drive from the ship.  The training was last Monday through Wednesday with the intent that each participant would be presented a new sterilizing pressure cooker after successfully completing their training.  By Wednesday morning, we still weren’t sure if the pressure cookers had arrived and were delayed in Customs or if they were still coming but not in country yet.  I had promised Dan, who was providing the training and the pressure cookers, that if they became available, we would get them to his training site.

At 0900, I was told that the pressure cookers had not even arrived in the country yet.  At 0930, I received an e-mail notifying me that the pressure cookers were in Customs but would not be released until at least Thursday or Friday.  At 1030, I got a call that they had cleared Customs and we could go get them.  By 1100, we were at the Customs office with two vehicles but were told that we could not take the thirty we needed but that we had to take all 58 boxes or none at all.  Fortunately, after being in Africa all this time, I had learned how many boxes fit on a truck — “Always one more”.

Pressure cooker loading

“Always room for One More” — although I am not sure we would have been able to pull it off if we had 59 boxes instead of the 58 that arrived.

In record time, we loaded the 58 boxes, hauled them back to the ship, unloaded and reloaded them and they were on their way to the training site.  Over two hours later, they all safely arrived less than 30 minutes before the end of the training and all of the participants received their promised pressure cooker.  Years from now, effective sterilization of surgical instruments in remote hospitals and clinics in Benin will be continuing thanks to this simple but effective project.  It was great to be able to play just a small part in making it happen.

Pressure cooker distribution

Twenty minutes before the end of class on the final day, the Pressure cookers arrived at the Training site and distribution began

A very happy recipient and loading up a Pressure Cooker for the trip home

Posted by: nhwaechters | April 19, 2017

Starting all Over Again as We Finish Up…from Tom

We still have four weeks of surgeries left to go in Benin before we pack up and sail to the shipyard for our annual maintenance visit, but the end this field service is in sight and we are slowly finishing up our work here.  It has been a long but fruitful time.  The Ortho patients (deformed legs) were done first due to the extended healing and rehab associated with their surgeries.  A couple of weeks ago, we finished the women’s health (fistulas mostly) surgeries and we had the final “Dress Ceremony” for the last of these patients to celebrate their new life being dry (not constantly leaking urine).  Our Eye Program is wrapping up as well and the final “Celebration of Sight” was held the day after Easter, with lots of joy and stories from the patients about how regaining their sight after being blind is totally changing their lives.  Our Ponseti Program (Club Feet) has said good-bye to the last of their patients and care-givers.  The only surgeries that will continue into May are the General Surgeries (hernias, etc…) and the Max Facs surgeries (facial tumors).

After the surgeries are complete, we will have a very busy pack up period to make the ship ready for sea.  In early June, we will sail to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands for a maintenance period (during which Ann-Marie and I will be going home to reconnect with family and friends and take a much needed break) and then we will sail from Las Palmas to Cameroon for our next field service which begins in August.

But even with the end of the field service in Benin coming to a close, preparations are well underway to get us off to a good start in Cameroon.  The buildings that will be used for our Dental, Eye and OBF (Women’s Health) clinics as well as the Outpatient housing facility (Hope Center) are currently undergoing extensive renovations.  The Screening process, which will identify and select potential patients in Cameroon prior to the ship’s arrival, has started with specially trained native health care workers traveling throughout the country to find our patients.  This initial stage of screening will continue from now until the middle of May.  Below is what one of our screening posters looks like.

Screening Poster French

Cameroon is going to be a lot of work, with very challenging goals for all of the programs and surgeries that we offer.  In most instances, we will be trying to accomplish more than ever before as we work to serve the people of Cameroon and meet their needs.  We cannot do everything, but with God’s help we can do something and do it to the best of our abilities.  We covet your prayers that we would be able to finish strong in Benin and serve Him well as Mercy Ships ventures into the country of Cameroon for the first time ever.

Posted by: nhwaechters | February 26, 2017

“A Time to Celebrate”…..from Tom

In the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, it says “There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under heaven —- A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

If you ever want to see people really laugh, dance and celebrate, you need to first find someone who truly has something to celebrate.  This blog post will be mostly pictures, sharing some of the celebrations we have been having in Benin.  The Ponseti Dance ceremony was a celebration for the babies who had club feet who now have straight feet, the Celebration of Sight was for the first 50 patients who had their eyesight restored by free cataract surgery (the ship has actually done over 300 of these surgeries to date in Benin) and the Ortho kids (perhaps my favorite patients) are the kids who suffered from disfigured legs that have been straightened by a free surgery.  Enjoy the pictures — and I invite you to pause, reflect and celebrate the lives that have been transformed for these people.

A true celebration — our first Eye program patients, some of whom had been blind for nearly 40 years, celebrated regaining their sight.

Maurinho’s smile tells of a healing much deeper than just the straightened legs.

More of our ortho patients, pre-op…

©2016 Mercy Ships

Even though there is a lot of work ahead as they learn to walk again, this is one happy group of kids, post-op…..

Our Ponseti program corrects club feet in some of our youngest patients…

And the “Dance Ceremony” at the end of their treatment is a true Celebration (especially for the parents…..)

Each of our patients have an amazing story to tell.  Yet for each of them, no matter how dramatic the surgery, their transformation began when they were first were accepted and valued by our crew and loved unconditionally despite their need or deformity.  By experiencing the love of God expressed through our nurses, doctors and crew, the inner healing of their souls began.  You can see it in their eyes, in their smiles and in their countenances.  This inner healing is the true miracle of Mercy Ships.

Posted by: nhwaechters | February 12, 2017

By the Numbers….from Tom

For all of you Statisticians out there, I thought I would share the attached file that lists all that the Africa Mercy has done since our arrival in Benin last August.  The various categories may be a bit confusing, but I think the charts, numbers and graphs are pretty self-explanatory.  Before you get lost in trying to understand all of the data, I would like to remind you (and me) that each of the numbers on the attached chart has a person’s name that goes with it and each of those people have a story.

One of the hardest things about working on our ship is the number of people who come desperately seeking help that we have to turn away for any one of a number of very valid reasons.  Perhaps they are terminal, or have a condition that we are not equipped to deal with, or we have already filled all of the surgical slots for the type of surgery that they need and we do not have the time left in the field service to add more surgeries of that type.  Having to turn away so many is heart wrenching, knowing that for some we may be their last, best hope for survival.  As hard as it is to say “No, I am sorry, we cannot help you…” to so many, it’s important to realize that we are not called to help everyone.  We are called to be faithful, doing the best we can, using what we have and trusting God to use us and the difference we are trying to make to impact individuals and the nation of Benin.  There is something tremendously freeing in that realization which enables us to help those we can, in the most excellent way that we can.

The statistics show the hard part, with over 75% of the people who come seeking help being turned away.  But they also tell other stories, the stories of those we are able to help, whose lives are forever changed as a result of the work of the ship.  Their individual stories may vary, but a common thread is that each of these people has obtained hope and healing for whatever was defining and probably ruining their lives.  Each of those numbers represent a life that has been transformed.  It may have been a crippling deformity of their legs that made them lame or blindness due to cataracts or a tumor that was growing and perhaps gradually cutting off their airway and slowly killing them.  To date, since our arrival in August, the ship has done over 900 surgeries and treated over 4000 Dental patients with a whole lot more to be done in the coming months before we sail in June.

As important as the surgeries are to the individual, the most lasting impact may be the mentoring of the local surgeons, anesthetists, nurses, dentists and Bio-Med technicians as we try to impart new skills and learning to help them serve their people long after we depart.  This information is captured on the second page of the attached file.  Seventy health care providers have been mentored since our arrival.  In addition, our Medical Capacity Building program has provided training courses to nearly 900 other participants.

In many respects, our efforts here are completely overshadowed by the overwhelming need in West Africa.  But it is also true that lives are being transformed, that hope for a whole region is being kindled and that only God knows the full impact of the seeds we are planting here each and every day.  Thank you for your prayers, encouragement and support that enable us to be a small part of this amazing work.


Posted by: nhwaechters | January 15, 2017

The Highs & Lows…(from Tom)

In our last blog post, we shared about celebrating Christmas on the Africa Mercy.  While all of the activities and services were special (definite High points), being away from our kids, grandkids and friends back home was a definite Low point for the holidays.  Since then, we have experienced several other “Highs” and “Lows” that we thought we could share….

Christmas day this year was on a Sunday and the ship was supposed to have the next three days off as scheduled holidays.  The first “Low” was on Monday after Christmas, when I got a call from our Hope Center because two of our septic tanks were overflowing…  Even though it was a scheduled holiday, Ann-Marie had to work because the dressings on our patients’ wounds need to be changed regularly, no matter what day it is and I spent the day arranging to pump down the tanks and having 36 cubic meters of “sludge” hauled away.  However, that “Low” was offset by a last minute thought on my way to the Hope Center to take along a bagful of jingle bells and cable ties.  While coordinating the pump downs, I put jingle bells on the crutches, walkers or casts of over 20 of our ortho patients (all kids).  They were so excited that they had an impromptu parade, making multiple trips marching around the building.


The Parade paused just long enough for a quick photo…

The next “Low” was later in that week, when we experienced a number of problems with the electrical system at the Hope Center.  This has been an ongoing headache due to an inadequately designed and/or installed system that has plagued us since the beginning of this field service.  I have a growing number of paper weights on my desk consisting of melted circuit breakers, failed switches and failed wiring — see the picture below.  But the “High” that accompanied this challenge was that after I finished working through the last electrical challenge of the year (30 December), Ann-Marie and I packed our bags and headed off for a week’s vacation to visit our son Aaron and his fiancé, Lisa, in Belgium.  The travel was smooth (we did not even have to change time zones or planes) and everything was right on schedule.  We had a wonderful time meeting Lisa’s family and touring around what she calls “her beautiful little country” with the two of them.  Ann-Marie especially enjoyed having cold fingers, toes, a cold nose and wearing a winter coat for the first time in nearly three years.


My growing collection of melted circuit breakers and failed electrical components


With Aaron & Lisa in Belgium

Upon our return to the ship, we were faced with more challenges.  The tanks at the Hope Center had to be “de-mucked”.  Taking one look at the pictures below will be a good reminder to you all that your jobs, no matter what they are, aren’t all that bad.  The electrical “opportunities” are continuing as well.  Due to training and early departures, three of the four full time crew positions that report to me in the Transport and Maintenance department are vacant.

Emptying the Tank… the Bucketful……

But, that’s only a small part of the story.  In fact it’s not even the real story at all.On Monday of this week, the full eye team was in place and eye surgeries began.  By Monday evening, 11 patients who were blind had a cataract removed.  The surgery takes between 5 and 15 minutes.  Tuesday when their bandages were removed, their sight was restored for the first time in many years.  (Ann-Marie here —-“Each day now at the end of the day when I leave the dock, I have to wait to climb the gangway because the cataract patients are being slowly led by the hand down the gangway.  What joy there is as I see them being led, knowing that by the next day, they will be able to see when their bandages are removed and they will walk with freedom.)  There were 20 more patients on Tuesday and 21 on Wednesday.  One nineteen year old girl who had not been able to see since she was nine years old was one of those patients.  We will be continuing these surgeries for the next several months.

So, at the end of the day, the blind are seeing, the lame are walking and those who were dying are being restored to health.  (Mathew 15:31)  That’s the real story.  Our (very) small part in helping to make this happen is to dress wounds to ensure a full recovery and to keep the vehicles and support facilities functioning, no matter what the problems may be.  We LOVE our jobs, despite the occasional “Low” points and the not-so-occasional (dare we say “never-ending”???) challenges.


Closing Note:  To those of you who are following our blog, we have also started a weekly journal that highlights more day to day what our life is like on the ship, and a little more personal sharing than you will find here.  If you have not received our journal entry, it means that you are not on our email list, as that is the only way we will send it out.  If you would like to receive it, send us an email at with your email address.

Posted by: nhwaechters | December 28, 2016

Christmas around the World

With between 30 and 40 different nationalities on-board the Africa Mercy at any given time, we have a LOT of traditions to celebrate Christmas, one of our only common holidays.  We even have a few traditions that are unique just to the Africa Mercy.  Following are  some of the highlights of this year’s Christmas celebration.


Sinterklaas arrived early in the month to the delight of all the children and those still young at heart



Enough Christmas cookies were made to last a LONG time. Everyone was given a kilogram of dough, which is enough to make LOTS of cookies.


The Gingerbread “House” competition brought out a LOT of creativity, including a model of the Africa Mercy and huts from Ganvi, the local stilt village.


The Christmas Lefse party is our contribution to the preparations.  Ann-Marie has never had a Christmas without lefse thanks to Tom’s discovering he can get the mix in the mail!


Singing carols on the dock by Candlelight Aussie style.


As the time to Christmas drew nearer, we celebrated Santa Lucia with the Scandinavians onboard.


Christmas Eve dinner on Deck 8 with our “Christmas Family” of 13 crew members from nine different countries.

So, that is how we celebrated Our Lord’s birthday and God’s Greatest Gift to us all.  The Christmas Eve service is always special and was one of the true highlights, culminating in the singing of “Silent Night” in eight different languages.  We sorely miss our families and friends back home, but the celebration with the crew of the Africa Mercy was special and will always be remembered.


On Christmas day, we had the honor of being adopted as “Honorary Brits”, including an invitation to a High Tea where we all gathered to hear the Queen’s speech. Of course, proper cookies were served for the occasion.



We hope your Christmas celebrations were full of Joy and we wish you a very Blessed New Year.

Merry Christmas to all, from the both of us in Benin!!!

Posted by: nhwaechters | November 20, 2016

A Day in the Life….

Dear Family and Friends — 

We thought we would try something a little bit different in trying to keep up with our correspondence.  Another couple on the ship who have become good friends of ours post a weekly diary with a short account of what they experienced each day of the week on the ship.  The husband’s name is Dean and he is a Physical Therapist who works down in our Rehab tent.  This past week, our orthopedic surgeon arrived and they went through the final screening and selection of the patients who will get the orthopedic surgeries to correct their deformed legs.  I have Dean’s permission to share his writings and I think they give a good perspective of the joys we all experience from helping those in desperate need who we can help and the absolute heartache that comes from having to tell others “I am sorry, we cannot help you.”

Here are the excerpts from Dean’s post from last week:

Monday: One clubfoot kid, Arnaud (a patient from the ship’s previous visit in 2009), had one good result, but the other foot had relapsed. I knew that a few casts and a repeat Achilles’ procedure could fix that. But I also knew that all the surgery slots had already been allocated. Dr. Frank agreed with me, and we decided to ask the “powers that be” and try to get him into surgical screening. It’s a long shot.

Wednesday:  We began the tortuous process that is surgical screening. Those with precious yellow badges are seen by the surgeon, Dr. Frank, and final selections for free, life-changing surgeries are made. I probably pray more for the Screening team than any other. They have the toughest of the tough jobs. They are incredible!

A group of potential Ortho patients stand on the dock.

Awaiting final screening and selections for Surgery

A group of potential Ortho patients stand on the dock.

A group of potential Ortho patients stand on the dock.

Thursday: The Longest Day. This was the second of three days of ortho screening, during which the final selections are made as to who gets a surgery and who doesn’t. It is heart-rending. Each day, about 15 precious ones are turned away for a variety of reasons: too old, too young, too ill, bones too brittle, co-morbidities such as syndromes or neurological disorders…But it is also an incredible day of hopes realized for some. Nurses, doctors, therapists, and interpreters, from all over the world are crammed in a small, hot tent studying x-rays, lab tests, assessments, cooperating in making the best decisions they can to produce the best possible outcomes with the limited time and resources available. It is exhausting and exhilarating. Sweat is pouring off foreheads and down napes. Nerves are on edge and we are challenged near our limits. Smiles and cheers, tears and hugs. It is the hardest job you will ever love. Wonderfully difficult. I prayed that the Lord would give me strength. I can’t do this on my own.

We had started the day with “Thankful Thursday” – each of us stating what we were thankful for. We sang a few worship songs, and Marcel (day crew) led us in a sweet prayer, giving the day to the Lord, praising Him for His many blessings, and imploring for His power and courage. We would need it.


Screening for final selections — a really TOUGH job….

Friday. Well, I thought Thursday was tough. Today it got personal. We were down two teammates with Michelle P off for working the weekend prior, and Sara down with the “traveler’s trots”. So, it was my assignment to advocate for the neglected clubfoot kids in the surgical screening. The first two kiddos made the grade quickly and were allocated surgical slots with relatively minor procedures planned. This was largely because of the 8 weeks of pre-casting we have done. Then it was my little buddy Herve’s turn. You have seen his photos. Dr. Frank gently examined Herve’s feet and asked me a few questions.  He studied the x-rays, teaching the assembled gang as he did. He wanted to say “yes”. He wanted to give Herve the best chance for pain-free function. I prayed, “Lord, please.” But the dome of the talus bone was too flat, the navicular was completely dislocated, the ankle too stiff. The surgery would be radical with no guarantee of success. I was crushed. Herve’s Mum met my gaze. We were both fighting back tears. No, Herve’s best chance was to let his feet go back to where they were, crooked and deformed, but pain free. I should have known what was coming.  I have been doing this for years now, but I didn’t. Herve isn’t some nameless boy on Facebook… he is my little buddy. Now, it is my job to guide him and his Mum back to walking with crooked feet. But I’m not alone. As I excused myself to compose, sweet nurse Kayla asked, “Shall I call Chaplaincy?” “Please”, I said. As I got outside in the bright sunlight, I was met by Martha, the director of the Hope Center, an earthly angel sent by God. She didn’t know what had just happened, but had come seeking me just the same.  She hugged me and we talked briefly. She thanked me for my service with Mercy Ships and, since today is Veterans’ Day, also that of my veteran family members who have served in the military.   Martha left, and I squatted down and wept. When I looked up, there was John Koffe, one of the hospital chaplains. He had rushed down the gangway to the tents to minister to Herve and his Mum. He spent a couple of hours with them. I couldn’t take long; I had more kiddos to present. The next two received priceless surgery dates.

Then we got back to the tasks of exercises and casting. Added to this were the first three pre-operative evaluations on the first three ortho kids to have surgery Monday morning. At one point I looked up, and there was Arnoud and his Mum smiling at me. He had made the cut! Thank you, Lord.  This time, I had tears of joy as Michelle and I casted his foot.

“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8 ESV)

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.” (Psalm 34:18-22 ESV)”

So, those are Dean’s writings from the past week.  He and his wife, Marcia, will be with us for a few more weeks, then will be returning to their home in Texas.  As you can tell, it was a week of highs and lows, exhilarating times and heartbreaking times.  Dean’s comment about the Screening team having the toughest of tough jobs is absolutely true.  While they get to deliver great news (“Your surgery is scheduled….”), they also have to tell so many others “I am sorry, we cannot help you.”  The need always outweighs our ability to meet it.   

Please keep the selected patients as well as those we couldn’t offer surgeries to in your prayers.  

 We wish you God’s richest blessings, 

Tom & Ann-Marie

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