Two live roosters, 77 eggs, a meal, several sodas and bottles of water. These are the things we were given when a couple friends and I went to visit a bunch of our patients up North, even after repeatedly telling people that no, no, we don’t want or need anything, especially when they are mostly all extremely poor. The patients’ family and village just heard there were white people here from Mercy Ships, and they are all soooo thankful for the healing of their relative that they just want to give us everything. They would also tell us thank you in whatever language they spoke a million times. It’s crazy to have seen most of their conditions before and see that most of them are completely healed and normal now. It was really awesome to see some of the MaxFac patients who had big tumors removed because they were still really swollen even after their surgery, and I kept feeling sad that they still didn’t look normal. But they always tell those patients it takes months for the swelling to go away, and I got to see first hand how true that statement is.
Being a Missionary in the Bush
I go back and forth on whether I would like to be a missionary out in the bush like this woman Sara. When I come to a place like this I see all these things I want to try to make better in these impoverished communities, primarily with nutrition and education of children and equality of women, and when I went to Samsdine’s village, even though they were all Muslim, spoke an obscure language, and the men creeped me out with their multiple wives, I would love to just move into my own little hut and start feeding and teaching these skinny little kids, but I feel like you need to commit to like 5 years or something to truly make differences and not just be like you are forcing your ideas on people.
Regular occurance. Many times various types of animals blocked the road
A scorpion horse spider
Sara, who hosted us, is beyond amazing. It was even a challenge to live there for a few days, and she has done it for like 25 years. No AC (and its super hot all the time). Her only electricity was some battery that had to be charged daily, so one or 2 lights could be on, and we could turn on a tiny fan at night, but at night we were always doing things by flashlight. There were occasionally these huge spiders called “Scorpion Horses” going across the floor, and she had to kill one scorpion while we were there too. There’s also lots of poisonous snakes up there so she said in rainy season, you have to wear closed toed shoes anytime you go outside. There were constantly people showing up at her door with problems or asking for things or just saying hi. Water was a challenge. Running water was off a lot, so you have to go outside to get buckets of water to shower or flush the toilet and everything. Also, she has to boil any water she drinks. I think her internet access was very limited. To fly anywhere, you have to take a 12 hour bus ride to Cotonou, with very nasty bathroom stops on the way. Most bathrooms were just a tiny, flat room with a pipe in the back, and the attendant would just splash the ground with water before you go in to wash out the pee. So you just squat and pee on the ground, and then later someone goes and stands in your pee (mixed with water) to do the same. On top of that, to communicate with people, she’s had to become fluent in 2 languages and has learned some of another (which I could never do). She does it all. She wears an African dress all the time and a headwrap, which is expected of all women to wear. She just wants to love people, save lives, and saves souls. She is such an inspiration!
Our first stop on Saturday was to Adjidjatou’s house pretty far out in some tiny village. Her dad was so excited for us to come even though Adjidjatou had just gotten discharged from the hospital to home on Thursday morning, so we had just seen her, but we really wanted to see her at home with her family and everything. We were greeted by all the kids and the men at first, even though the kids mostly just stare and don’t want to get to close to you. Then, the men set up chairs in the middle of the village for us to sit in, and then like all of the men of the village sat by us (like 30 dudes), no women allowed. At least at this place Adjidjatou and a couple other kids were allowed to come to where we were sitting. I guess we don’t count as being women. All of the women and kids stood on the outer edge of the village, so I was gonna walk around and greet everyone. Once I went to greet one set of women and kids in front of one house and turned to go to the next, all of them were inside. It was like the women weren’t even allowed to talk to me because we were “important guests”. It made me mad. Otherwise, everything was awesome. We were able to hang out with Adjidja and try to play with her shy sister too and all the other kids. Then, when we were leaving, they insisted on giving us 2 roosters, and we protested some, but in this culture to refuse would be rude even if it was done because we know they are poor and need those roosters more than us. The problem was we still had a long journey ahead the rest of the day, and the roosters would have to stay in the hot car but thankfully they survived.
We were off to see my little man next since he was basically 80% of the reason I wanted to come on this trip. His village was only 30ish minutes away from Adjidja’s, but it was much bigger, and we could not get ahold of his mom, so we had no idea where he lived. We drove in and looked for the local clinic because Sara said they would definitely know who the Cleft Lip baby who went to the Ship was. When we found it, no one was to be found at first because it was a Saturday, but then there were people in the back building, but the nurse we delivering a baby, so she and Sara were screaming a conversation to eachother through a wall. The nurse knew of Samsu and told some dude where he lived, so he drove ahead on his motorcycle as we followed. We got there, and it turned out to be his mom’s father’s home, but we were told they were at the husband’s house. So then the dude led us there. We got there and were asking, and someone went to find his mom, and she came running out of a house so happy and surprised to see us. But still no Samsu, so she asks his 5 year old sister to go find him, so she comes back carrying a very grumpy, tired looking Samsu, who did not look to care one bit that I was there to see him. Normally if he isn’t tired and sees me, he runs to me clapping or hands me whatever he is playing with, so that was very disappointing. His mom made him take a bath, which made him more grumpy. We only got a few smiles out of the little guy, and after a while I just rocked him to sleep, which was a first because he always just gets whiney when he’s tired so at work, I just took him back to his mom and she put him to sleep. Also, earlier when we got there, the women put us in some room in chairs because of course we need to sit and not be in the sun (which I still don’t get. Samsu’s mom always saw me get on the ground and get dirty with him and always thought I needed to get up and stay clean because I’m white or something). Most of the kids were too scared to come in the room near us, but would stand just outside staring. After Samsu fell asleep, we gave his mom a lot of healthy supplements and formula (for her newborn niece or nephew whose mom died in child birth). Then we had to wait for his dad to come because he was working out in the fields, and someone went to find him. When he got there, there were some things about him that bothered me and made me worry about Samsu, so please pray for his life and future. Once the men came, women no longer came into our room except to bring us food. They brought us porridge, bottled water, and a large meal. We left after being there a couple hours with a whole bunch of eggs as well (which was got at most subsequent home visits). This visit was probably the only negative aspect of my trip to me. I was so sad we happened to get there when Samsu was tired and not being fun and playful and that it had to be so short. I wish our trip could have been a couple days longer, so maybe I could have spent a night there with his family and had more time with him and to see what his life at home is like. Its so hard to me to know I will probably never see this little boy I love so much again, especially when I see so many things in his world of poverty that could hurt or kill him, but I try to remember how much healthier has gotten thanks to all the nutrition he got and his surgeries. His malaria hasn’t recurred since before his first surgery, but before that surgery he was treated for it 3 times in under 3 months while he was with us. But the job I signed up for is to care for all these patients who need us for a short time and send them away to live their lives. Its hard, but its worth it.
Also, as an aside, people here don’t smile in pictures. They like to look serious
We went to see this little girl on our way back to Sara’s house for a quick visit. She’s the one who got chicken pox the day before she was supposed to have her cleft lip/palate surgery, which was supposed to be the last day they could do that surgery. She was sent back to the Hope Center to be in Isolation, and the ship agreed that if she had healed enough 5 days later and didn’t appear to be contagious anymore, they would do the surgery, which was cutting it very close because chicken pox is usually contagious for 6 days after getting symptoms. Lots of people were praying for her, and she got the surgery and healed so fast and so well. When we went to her village, we again didn’t know where she lived, so we asked if people knew her, and someone went to get her and her grandmother. Alfan Kourou switched from hot and cold to us all the time. Sometimes she would run to me full speed to hug me, sometimes she seemed mad at me, sometimes she seemed shy and scared of me. This time she was very shy. She opened up some while we were at her village but not a lot, but I could still tell she was happy to see us, and of course all of the other adults and children (even though they are usually scared to come to close) are always soooooo excited we came.
The kids who walked us home and sat staring at us almost an hour lol
The next morning we walked to church from Sarah’s house. Luckily it was only 2 hours instead of 3-5 like most African churches, and it was a challenge for me to stay awake since I had no idea what they were saying. The fun thing was that after church all of the kids wanted to carry our stuff and walk with us home. They all came in and sat on the couches staring at us. There were 16 of them. We got them to sing some, but mostly they just sad there quietly, and anytime I would catch one of their eyes when they looked at me, they would get embarrassed and cover their faces. It was really cute.
One of the kids who walked us home was 14 year old Bake, a little girl we had as a patient for a short while who was in a fire when she was 3 days old. She was brought to Sara’s house, and she basically nursed her back to life for months, but she has severe physical problems. She has no hip bone on one side, and that leg is a few inches shorter so her walk is messed up. She’s got burns all down from her head to her butt. All we could do for her at the ship was put in a metal plate where the back of her skull should be but was destroyed in the fire because if she ever hit it really hard without that protection, it would cause brain damage or potentially kill her. She was so sweet, and her dad said she is in school, but none of the other kids acknowledged her, and her dad says everyone at school just makes fun of her.
Sara called this boy Roger’s parents to say we would come visit and to also tell this woman patient we had to come and to bring her 1 year old Downs Syndrome baby Mutakyu with her. Roger is a teenage boy who had a snake bite on his hand that contracted his wrist to where he couldn’t really use his arm, so we fixed that. I didn’t remember him, but Nicole did because she was a nurse on his ward, so she got to see him. The other patient was a woman who stayed with us about a month waiting on biopsy results about her tumor (which we can’t operate on because it is cancer, so we don’t know how long she will live), and she said its been hurting her a lot lately, so that’s a bad sign. I feel so bad for her and her family. Mutakyu is her baby who is a bit older than Samsu who we decided probably has Downs Syndrome, plus a lot of the other problems that usually comes along with that. At the Hope Center we were able to put him on the Infant Feeding Program even though he wasn’t the patient, and I spent a lot of time playing with him and he blossomed. He got to where he could hold himself up when sitting. When we got there, he was his fun, cute, happy self, but it took me several minutes to get him to start clapping like we used to at the Hope Center, and his mom told Sara that he only does those things for me and that he only has eyes for me and I only have eyes for him. It was cute and funny. She used to say I was his wife, and she even asked me to come home with them when they were leaving. On this trip, she offered to give him to me, which could have been a joke, but I’m not sure. She obviously loves him very much, but maybe she doesn’t know what his future will be when she passes. Sara will keep in touch with the family, and if he gets neglected, she is going to see if an SOS Village will take him in.
We saw at least 4 other patients the rest of the day, mostly by just showing up to close by where they lived and asking around, and people would go find them. It was really cool seeing everyone, mostly because they were just soooo happy to see us, even if we didn’t have a super close relationship to them. And they were all super, super grateful. It felt weird being on the receiving end of all this gratitude when we are only a teeny tiny fraction of the volunteers and donors and everyone who made it possible for them to be treated. So to all the Mercy Shippers out there, all these people are super grateful for everything you have all done!
An old woman named Baawaeno who had a tumor removed from her face who was sooooo happy we came
I loved Bouba, who had an extreme double cleft lip and palate and looked so goofy before. He was scared of us this day, which I kinda expected. He was scared of us a few days when he first came to the HC, then again right after coming back from surgery, but after a couple days he was so affectionate and cuddly and giggly towards me. We saw him less than an hr on this trip because he didn’t like us, but when we were in the car leaving, he was waving with both hands like he loved us so much. Despite how she appears in the photo, his mom was so happy and grateful that she traveled to a different town and waited quite a while just to see us.
A sweet, hyper little girl named Oumou who stayed with us a long time before and after surgery. She had a very large tumor on her face and is so beautiful now.