ceremonial

Today, there was a dress ceremony on B ward. It’s to celebrate a fistula patient becoming dry. Every lady receives a new dress to go home. It’s one of the most special celebrations on the ship. Each lady has a chance to share her story and give thanks and praise to God. I was able to see a bit of the ceremony. One lady told us how she had been wet for over 20 years. She thanked God and she thanked us. Then she sang a beautiful song. Then she cried tears of joy and relief. We cried with her. Another girl told us she was wet for 18 months. She was at university to be a doctor then, but she dropped out because of the shame. Now she can go back to school. The last story was from another older woman. She searched many hospitals for a cure. No one could help her. Then she had a bad accident on top of it all. She lost everything. She was here in Conakry trying to find money to go home when she heard we were coming. Now she is healed. She began a song and humbly bowed low to the ground to walk among us as she said thank you. As she passed my way I touched her back and thought, I should be thanking you sweet lady. God is so good. I can’t wait to come back to this place.

His… Michelle
Philippians 1:20

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not wrong just different?

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We learned that phrase back at gateway during our cultural education. But sometimes I think things are just wrong. I’m working with these adorable girl patients everyday. They are mostly from the Fula people group. They’re beautiful. They’re very tiny, about my height, but literally half my weight. This people group is largely made up of nomads and pastoralists. They’re very old fashioned. They’re Muslim. Culturally, a girl is old enough to be married and have babies as soon as puberty arrives. The girls I’ve had the privilege to help this week are uneducated. They don’t read or write. Not only are they too tiny to be having children in the conventional sense, they’re expected to give birth alone. No help allowed. Not even their mamas. Why? It’s the way they’ve been doing things since the beginning of time. Literally. How do you convince a whole people group it’s okay to deliver in a hospital? Girls who step outside the box and seek modern healthcare are ridiculed and ostracized for being too weak. There are just so many things wrong with this picture to me. And yet I understand this stubborn need to hold on to old ways. We’re all like this to some degree. Set in our ways. Sigh. It’s just really sad to be doing major gynecological surgery on little girls. The cases here have been particularly complicated because of others trying to repair the injuries and female circumcision (fairly common here). Pray for this people to come to a new understanding about healthcare. Pray for them to discard practices that are harmful. Pray for them to know Jesus.

His… Michelle
Philippians 1:20

sometimes pain isn’t visible

I have now started the adventure of VVF surgery. VVF stands for vesicovaginal fistula. Here in west Africa where healthcare is so scarce, ladies having babies have many complications. One of the worst is fistula. Basically, fistula is caused by a baby which is too large to pass through the birth canal. Labor starts but goes on for days and days with no baby. The baby usually dies and if it finally passes through, the trauma is devastating. The force of the baby’s head pushing relentlessly on the surrounding tissues causes those tissues to die and slough off leaving a fistula. The abnormal opening can be between bladder and vagina, rectum and vagina, urethra and vagina, or a combination. Now the dear lady has no baby and she leaks urine and/or stool as well. She becomes an outcast. Her husband leaves her because she can’t have children and she smells bad. It is a highly shameful condition here in west Africa. But once again Mercy Ships provides hope and healing. After the fistula is repaired and the lady is dry, she’s treated to a new dress. There is lots of joyful celebrating for her new life. This is just one more thing I have the privilege of experiencing on the Africa Mercy. I really really love my job!

His… Michelle
Philippians 1:20