Sunday, February 22, 2015

School Retreat

The whole group getting ready to go.
 A couple of weeks ago the Junior High and High School students went on a weekend retreat.  This is an annual occurrence and is a mixture of teamwork, relationship building, worship, seeking God, and a whole lot of fun. The theme of the retreat was Freedom in Christ.

On the road
This year they went to Mahambo, a rural area about two hours north of where the ship is berthed.  The accommodations were sparse but relatively nice (that is to say that they actually had beds...there was no running water, air conditioning, and only about 1/2 an hour of electricity a day).

Here are some highlights from each of them:

Grace - "On one of the nights we had worship and a campfire on the beach.  The moon was almost full and it was a beautiful setting.  It was great to be outside, in God's creation, and off of the ship for a while."

Sitting down for dinner.
Elijah - "I really enjoyed the beach.  We got to go on paddleboards, swim, and play tackling games.  Also, there was an awesome coral reef with tons of tropical fish."

Malachi - "We got to play this really cool game where we got to try to tackle people and pick them up so that they weren't touching the ground at all.  Also, the noodles were really yummy."

Graces team: the 'Shady Dealers'

Everybody loves a campfire

Beach fun

Malachi spending some time alone with his Bible

Malachi's epic run

Monday, February 16, 2015

One of the Reasons

There are a lot of reasons that we serve with Mercy Ships.  The primary one is that God called us to.  Each day we come into contact with a lot of other reasons: our fellow crew; patients and potential patients; the Malagasy community...  Sometimes, though, there is a particular patient that, while no more important than
any other, signifies so strongly what Mercy Ships is all about.  Sambany is a man who has endured incredible hardship.  He came to us for free, live-changing surgery.  Dara was one of 17 crew members that donated blood to help Sambany through his 12 hour surgery.  Below is his story as written by the Canadian office of Mercy Ships (with some photos added):

Sambany’s Story


Meet Sambany. 19 of his 60 years have been consumed by a tumour that has slowly been growing from his neck. The tumour is now massive, it is a burden that represents 19 years of misery and disgrace.

He told us that because of the tumour, he had stopped praying. He didn’t believe that he would ever have relief.
“One year ago, I was waiting for the time, ‘When, God, are you going to take me?’ I was waiting to die. I could not do anything. Every day, I was just waiting to die.”
One day, near the end of 2014, a friend told him,
“There in Tamatave, there is a ship, Mercy Ships. You can go there and be fixed.”
He decided to take the chance and set out with his grandson, Flavy, for Tamatave.
For three days they walked and walked until they finally reached a town with a paved road. They rested there for some time and then took a four hour car ride to finally reach the port city.

Despite the odds, Sambany saw the hope, he made the journey, and he dreamed that something might actually change this time.

When he arrived at the Africa Mercy on the 21st January 2015, the screening team quickly rushed him inside for a CT scan.
It was one of the biggest tumours the screening team had ever seen.

Days of careful discussion followed as our medical team pored over his results and health condition – due to complications, it was uncertain whether Sambany would receive surgery.

After many days of deliberation, the medical team and Sambany reached a decision. Knowing the risks, they would go ahead with his surgery. Was Sambany nervous the day before his surgery? Not at all, he said
“My heart is very, very happy. I’m very happy. I’m just happy.
I know without surgery I will die. I know I might die in surgery, but I already feel dead inside from the way I’m treated. I choose to have surgery.”
Sambany was going to lose a lot of blood during his surgery and on this ship, the crew is the blood bank. A small army was called to donate blood to Sambany before, during and after his surgery.

MGB150204_SAMBANY_PAT16203_BLOOD_DONORS_KK0001_HISo far, the blood of 17 people runs through Sambany’s veins! 

Although the people directly involved in Sambany’s surgery within the operating room numbered eight, the true number of people involved was in the hundreds.
The hospital staff, all the crew, the local day crew, hundreds dedicated themselves to loving one man.
Together they fought a battle against this tumour – from the prayers that were sent up to God’s ears, to our eager blood bank, to the conversations of compassion that filled our midst, all thoughts were on Sambany during his surgery.

Dara's arm getting the big poke

It was a historic moment for the Africa Mercy.

After 12 hours of surgery (around twice as long as planned), the 7.46 kg (16.45 lbs) tumour he carried for nearly a third of his life was finally removed.

When he awoke after his surgery, he said, “When I have recovered, I want to repay you (Mercy Ships), because I am very happy, because I am saved. God gave to take out my big tumour. God helped me to become like this. God saved me.”
Dara filling her unit.

Many people came to visit him. He wanted to shake all their hands.

Sabany1When Sambany saw himself in the mirror for the first time, without his tumour, he said,
“I like it. I am happy.”
He will remain with the ship for many months of recovery, but today Sambany is a new man and he is happy.