Member Update: Marris Smith and the Mercy Ship, Part 2

I could write you FOREVER about the little stories from the ward, but I’ll spare you! I’ll just include a few of the things that have made me smile through my time here so far…


  • Ward service. Every Sunday they have a service in the ward for the patients and caregivers. It has been so fun to join them! Often you are singing and dancing (and I mean DANCING, getting low and all) next to a man who has a tracheostomy and an NG tube, and a kid on your other side with her arms casted from axilla to fingers, unable to bend her elbows at all. It is really great! I think heaven is going to be just like this…chaotic and full of joy. Only everyone will be whole with NO sickness or sadness. I can’t wait!
  • There is one brave little girl that is on B ward (where I spent last weekend). She had burn contracture releases on her chin/chest and both arms. Basically, she came out of surgery in a head brace, and arms sticking out from her at 90 degrees. She has a graft donor site that is almost the size of her whole thigh circumference. To put this in perspective: if this surgery was to take place in the states, it would be done in probably 3 different stages, at least. This case required care more like nursing at home- placing NG tubes, managing morphine infusions and all. She is the only patient (besides the one in ICU currently) that I have seen on a typical hospital bed, with electric controls, etc. At one point she said, “if this is what being well feels like, I dont want to be well!” Through everything, this little girl remained so strong! Last Sunday I asked her if she wanted to be wheeled down to the ward service. She nodded yes, so we wheeled everything down with her and stuck her in front of the “OR theater.” She had a huge smile the whole time and wiggled the only part of her body that could move…her left foot. So much so actually that her IV pulled out. 😉
  • Over the last few weeks, a few teenage boys filled the beds in A ward. One of these guys was referred to as a “street kid” by the day workers. Kinda a tough guy. I beleive he was abandoned by his parents and burned badly after falling into a fire trying to find them. He was so quiet, barely even making eye contact with anyone. Another guy was a typical 16 year old, except for the fact that he had an extra thumb. He hid this at all cost! It has been an AMAZING thing to watch them come out of their shells! I listened to one of the plastic surgeons give a talk while here. He explained that there is something about beauty that is deep within us. We appreciate it when we see it…a beautiful sunset, a beautiful face, etc. This is because God is beautiful and he enjoys beauty. His main point was that when you change the outside of a person so that they are more beautiful, they are often accepted as a person, and then can feel that they are cherished by God. Of course, this has been twisted by our crazy society and gone to the extreme! And God cherishes each of us, no matter what our outside appearance is. But sometimes, it is necessary to change the outside so that the inside can change. This street kid now grabs my arm on the way to and from deck 7 so that we can walk arm in arm the whole way there. He often consoles the other little girls and boys when they are having pain. And the other day, the other one confessed his love for me. Either that is the only thing he knows in English, or his confidence is really great now 😉

Here are some other ship life/fun facts:

  • All of the crew sleeps in multi-berth cabins (usually 6), I was placed in a 4 person cabin by mistake I found out later, but I’m thankful!
  • There is limited water, so we have to take 2 minute showers! The most effective way is to take “military” style showers…rinse off, soap up, and rinse again. For birthdays, often friends will forgo their showers that day and “give” their friend a 10 minute shower.
  • EVERYTHING is magnetic! The walls, doors, everything! Apparently, there was a code here the week before I arrived (don’t worry, it was successful), and later the staff was laughing that magnets have become so apart of the normal life here that while normally at home you are shouting for other kinds of equipment, here they were asking for the magnets to hang IV fluids from the ceiling!!
  • Flies: often the only thing that reminds me that I’m in Africa. They are EVERYWHERE!
  • Friends: I have made great friends (thankfully!) It is such a transient community, people are in and out so fast that friendships start fast! I have more international friends than ever before!….friends from Australia, Canada, Holland, the Netherlands, Denmark, England, and Scottland to name a few. I may have to do a bit of travelling now 😉
  • Letters. Katelyn- you are the best! She collected letters for me and gave them all to me as I was leaving. I am spacing them out for these 2 months. Thank you to everyone that wrote me a letter!!!
  • Gurkahs. “What?!” you say….these are warriors from Nepal whose job it is to prtect the ship. This position is actually only one of 2 paid positions on the ship. They are great- they know everyones name! And are in super good shape. I have tried to run with them a few times…a typical run includes an 8 K at 0600. They are very patient men, because obviously I can’t run that fast or that far!

Sometimes I think to myself….”Am I really here?!” It seems like I have been planning to come for so long. It is so great to be finally caring for these patients! Every week we have 2 mandatory meetings (Monday morning and Thursday evening). I have been surrised at how much they have included the entire crew in Mercy Ships decisions. They usually announce the progress they are making on picking the next country. And this week we got a detailed presentation on the new ship! (To be completed in 2017)

Now that I have been working hard in the ward, I don’t feel as bad about relaxing on the ship or exploring on my days off, that way I can serve even better in the ward! Some adventures include…

  • A river “cruise” up a river which included a long wooden boat with a motor hooked to the back!


  • I got to attend a Congoloese futbol match…a local game, and then the Mercy Ships team played! (on a terf stadium! I later learned that much of the “nicer things” have been donated to the people by the filthy rich oil industry people in order to remain on good terms).
  • Ultimate Frisbee with other crew mates
  • Movie nights in friends’ rooms or unoccupied conference rooms
  • Bible studies and small groups
  • Trips to various bakeries (french influence…yumm!) and restaurants (the local beer, Primus, has a big facotry here and is quite good!)
  • A “farewell” beach bonfire
  • “Mercy Ministries” to local orphanages, community centers
  • A Sunday trip to a local church
  • There is a beautiful gorge here that runs into the beach. We went hiking there today

[Some things that always make trips into adventures is catching a taxi! and chancing the rain! It is rainy season here, and even if you manage to catch a taxi, you get dropped off at the beginning of the port and have to walk 20 min in the pouring rain! There is a lot of walking here, unless you are lucky and can catch a ride with a Mercy Ships Landrover]

All this to say…Mercy Ships has such a different model for serving. And while it does not work in all realms, it does for this kind of medical care. How else could you get “1st world” surgical care to a “3rd world” country with these severe needs? It has helped quite a bit to spend time in the wards with patients, as well as to get off the ship and walk around -in a group of course! It also helps me get a better perspective when I hear the large scale plans/goals of Mercy Ships at the community meetings. I have learned that we are very involved in local nurse and surgeon education, to equip them to provide quality medical care in their country. There is also a agriculture site in country to help the local agriculture develop.

What can you pray for?? Glad you asked 🙂

As we are nearing the end of the field service, it is crucial that as little complications as possible happen! The worst thing would be for a complication to develop (ex: infection), and then the ship leaves! Please pray that the surgeons hands would work well and wisely. Pray against infection and other complications.

I would really love to be able to spend more time TALKING with the patients and caregivers (and about the more serious things!) To show them that they are loved, and more importantly that they are loved by our great God. This is often hard through a translator!

And personally, I would also love your prayers for wisdom in what I shall do after I return home 🙂

If you made it this far….THANK YOU!! Seriously, it means alot to have your support and prayers. Please please please email me back with life updates from you! I would love that!

As the Congolese kids say…”bye-o!”


Posted on: February 18, 2014 - 11:00AM

Comments are closed.