"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Cor 15-58

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dr. Gary Parkers Comments on the Screening Saturday 26 March


P.S. Dr. Gary has been with Mercy Ships for over 24 years and 5 times in Sierra Leone, he told me that this might be one of the best screenings ever in terms of smoothness and efficiency and control. I guess there is always something to be learned through a crisis that will affect the outcome of screening for years to come! Praise the Lord that He always wins over darkness! xoxox

P.P.S. Please let me know if the link does not work. We cannot see video links from the ship as we are blocked from all videos and feeds of any kind.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Take 2 – A Success!

This screening was about as different from the first one as we would’ve wanted and more. It exceeded our expectations on all fronts: the queue was orderly, we had a cloud covering that kept everyone in line and us cool; and everyone was screened, assessed, processed and prayed for with speed and efficiency. We scheduled just over 300 surgeries and waitlisted another approximately 30, not counting the over 700 we have on an existing waiting list from our up North screenings before the ship arrived. It is in the works to have another screening after the rainy season in August or Septemberish. Thank you for your prayers – they mean a lot! Praise the Lord for Saturday’s efforts; for Mercy Ships and the M/V Africa Mercy to be advancing towards His plan!!!!
Patient SLE10646 Aiah Saquee broke his leg playing soccer.  He will have the leg realigned by a series of castings rather than surgically repaired. He smiles as he is accepted and admitted onto the hospital ward.

A couple of our new patients holding appointment cards.

(Appointment cards are what the people receive after beinnSLE1103_PAT10648-ORTHO_CONTEH_DB1[1]g approved for surgeries at a screening and have a scheduled surgery and date to come to over the next few months)
Paula Kirby is a Alumni Mercy Shipper and when she was on board she wrote quite a few poems. This one is apropos for now:

Mercy Ships is…

Many nations with one heart.       
Many cultures with one hope.
Many talents with one goal. 

…to honor the One whose      

       Name we bear.

It’s a wrap!

I will update my sidebar on prayer requests soon…

God bless you!

Love as always,
XX Carol image

P.S. I didn’t carry the burdens of the patients and feel confident that I was praying in the Spirit. “There is no one like our God”

Friday, March 25, 2011

This song plays in my mind a lot!


You're the God of this city
You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You Are

You're the light in this darkness
You're the hope to the hopeless
You're the peace to the restless
You are

For there is no one like our God
There is no one like You God

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done
In this city
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here

You're the Lord of Creation
The Creator of all things
You're the King above all kings
You Are
You're the strength in our weakness
You're the love to the broken
You're the joy in the sadness
You Are

Happy Birthday M/V Africa Mercy!

AFM's 12th

12 years ago today, Mercy Ships bought the Africa Mercy then known as the Droning Ingrid an old train ferry.

Refurbishing the ship took 9 years to complete and 68 million dollars. It was deployed in 2007, and it’s first outreach was Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa.

The pictures below are the most recent we have and were taken between Durban and Cape Town, South Africa. Some of the aesthetic changes that were done to the ship while we were in the Republic of South Africa are the logo on the funnel and the website painted on the sides of the ship.The AFM taken from lifeboat 4 during a drill Above is taken from one of the lifeboat safety checks Taken from the pilot's helicopter as we left Durban (1)Above is taken from the air as we were leaving Durban, RSA. Both the above pictures are looking at the port-side (left side facing the bow) of the ship.V&A Waterfront Cape Town -13 & 14 Feb. 2011 075

Above is when we had 25 hours in Cape Town before sailing to Sierra Leone. My Cabin is the 14th porthole from the back (which is what you are looking at) slightly left and right above the M. This side of the ship is starboard (right side facing the bow), and I am about halfway down on the 4th floor which was added to the ship when it was refurbished.

My backyard is about to change -  Cabin 4333 - Signal Hill, Lion's Head & V&A Waterfront Cape Town - 14 Feb. 2011 477

From inside my cabin looking out when we were docked in Cape Town. Great view!! I even had a Ferris Wheel in my backyard….hehehe

Carole's Pics 305




V&A Waterfront Cape Town from the Port Hole in my Cabin (my backyard)13 Feb. 2011 257

I definitely don’t have that view any longer.image

Thank you Carole for the pic of the Wheel of Excellence.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Medical Screening is Rescheduled! Praise God!

The ‘screening’ is rescheduled for Saturday, 26 March 2011. Many things about screening have been reconsidered. Senior Management along with Security and our Screening Coordinator have set-up a brand new command structure.

This is the recently published news release:

Mercy Ships reschedules medical screening

Freetown, Sierra Leone,  Mercy Ships, an international charity, will hold a Morning Medical Screening on Saturday, March 26 in Freetown. The screening will be held at the Pharmacy Board Compound opposite to the UN Special Court from 7am. It is only a screening session; there will be no medical treatment on site.

Mercy Ships do not treat hernia, diabetes, epilepsy, stroke, high blood pressure, arthritis, sickle cell, fibroid, asthma, heart-, back- or stomach problems. Mercy Ships offers free surgeries for qualified patients with cleft lip and palate, goiter, tumor, club feet, bow legs, cataracts and plastic surgeries for fire burnt patients.

The hospital ship, Africa Mercy, is docked in the port of Freetown upon invitation from the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma. The ship’s crew will serve the nation of Sierra Leone for a 10-month Field Service. Mercy Ships management team continues to work with the Sierra Leone Minister of Health and Sanitation to assist with their 5 year health care plan.

Mercy Ships started dental and vision screening, and treatment. Vision screening is held at the Kissy Eye Clinic on Monday mornings,Patients wait outside the Kissy Eye clinic for Mercy Ships screening. the dental screening takes place every Monday and Thursday morning at the Hope Centre below (aka by the locals, Seafarers’ Complex/Bishop’s Court, or Obama Centre).

SurgeriePatients took 5 hr to drive to the ship in 2 mini vans.  Here they unload and prepare to board the ship for admission process. s onboard the hospital ship are underway and more surgeries   will be scheduled after the screening on Saturday, March 26.

These are the 1st patients of Sierra Leone arriving last Sunday.Patients took 5 hr to drive to the ship in 2 mini vans.  Here they unload and prepare to board the ship for admission process.

That is a great report and tells a lot (pictures added :)). Here’s a bit more information just for you!

We will have a presence at the new screening site a full 24 hours in advance. There will be pre-screeners in the line on Saturday morning from 4 am telling people who we can’t help right away, so they don’t wait in line all day. We believe this is a much kinder way to handle things. I have heard it said that we are expecting more than 7000 this time, but in actuality it will be hard to collect correct statistics when the line will be kept to a minimum by 15 pre-screeners going through the line asking pertinent medical questions, making assessments and gently telling the people that are obviously not candidates right away that we can’t help them and this way trim down the line. To also help this process, we have implemented an aggressive campaign of advertising with the media and on the radio telling the Sierra Leoneans not only that we are having a screening, but what we don’t do as well; such as heart transplants, headaches etc. These people are desperate and will want to stand for hours for an opportunity to be well. We want to minimize the people coming for help that we can’t help through the media and radio. Our prayer however during the entire process is that we will administer God’s love to all those that come whether we are able to offer them surgery or not!

Overall our communication systems improved greatly as a result of the last screening. Like I said, we have a command structure in place which is broken down into 3 parts: Medical, Security, and Site Logistics and all variables of the screening fall under one of those. We will have 2 generators on site for registration to use laptops and printers. We have 14 walkie talkies and 2 outlook areas that security will be able to see over the entire compound and line outside the gate. We have increased security, prayer locations and OSP police  (trained by British forces). We don’t expect any bottlenecks; in fact, our greatest concerns are for theft and crush points.

Inside the gate there will be an intercessory prayer team. There will be tents, tarps and chairs to provide shade. Carol's Pics - 5 March 2011 - 1st trip to the Big Market 280 (113)

We will hand out bread and water  (they sell small bags of water here which is what people drink from), and water to the line outside.


As mentioned above we will be screening specifically for Maxillo Facial (head & neck tumours), Plastics (cleft lips, burn victims etc.), General goiters (no hernias) and Orthopaedics (club feet, bull legs etc.) We have a capacity limit for all the above surgery specialities of 500 patients of the right mix. Once we have our limit we will send people home telling them we will hold another screening in August and that they should listen to the radio. Even though the line will probably be dismissed my early morning (we start seeing perspective patients at 7 am), we will probably still be assessing, processing, accepting and praying for ineligible patients until around 6 pm. It will be a long, hot day!

Steps have also been taken to convey the information regarding our eye and dental clinics including when and where they are being held. Last week, we had our first eye and dental clinics with lines of approx. 1000 people at each. They were peaceful and successful clinics helping many. We have added extra screening dates to each clinic.

Musa draws in her colouring book and learns to write her name.




Last Monday we started surgeries. The advance team (a crew of about 10 or so), had scheduled surgeries and created a waiting list of over 700 before we even got here.




This was in addition to providing 26 non-complicated surgeries. We are very proud of them and all the work they did before and for our arrival!

I’d like to point out that while all these people are waiting around, and being prayed for that we can use this opportunity to interface with the people. We can enjoy conversations, talk to them, ask about their families and culture. It is a rare and special time for us to be able to just spend some time with the people we are here to help. So often, we are, to them, the possibility of business AND everyone here is an entrepreneur. But not, on screening day – it’s not about business, it is about real, tangible hope, and being sisters and brothers in love; interested in who we are as humans and perhaps giving each other value, validity; FRIENDSHIP!

What can you pray for?

  • Cloud cover (very hot here)
  • A peaceful line of people
  • The right people to come to be helped
  • Wisdom for the pre-screeners and the ability for them to hear God’s voice about what to say to the patients
  • Safety for the patients and crew
  • For unusual things to be observed in advance
  • For the patients to feel accepted, loved and cared for whether they qualify for surgery or not

I again feel led to work at one of the prayer stations praying for those that don’t meet our mix of available medical care. For those of you that read my March 7th blog, you know, I found this to be a very emotional, challenging and difficult  job. I also feel that God wants me to seek Him to give these people whatever He wills to give them. It could be peace, love, joy, understanding or a multitude of other adjectives and to be truthful, I am humble and privileged to be in such a position and apart from the difficulty and burden of my personal empathy and sympathy for those I’m praying for I feel a deep sense of joy to be able to serve them and Him in this way!

Please pray for me:

  • to be filled with the spirit and to speak what God wants each person I pray with to hear!
  • for my faith and my heart to be strong, but compassionate
  • to be safe from the mosquitoes (I have to admit I am fearful of getting Malaria again, or worse Dengue)
  • for a heart that is prepared to serve and be flexible

And lastly,

Please don’t expect many, if any, pictures in regards to the screening. We have been asked NOT to even bring our cameras to the site(avoids temptation; especially for the mamarazzi, as I've been nicknamed :)). We will have a media crew on site wearing orange badges and no one else is allowed to film or photograph. Some of Marketing's pictures will be made available to crew at which time I will share some with you!

Lots of love,

clip_image001 xx Carol   image

P.S. Happy, happy faces for you! Thank you for all your all your prayers!Beautiful smiley kids in the ward. Beautiful smiley kids in the ward. Carol's Pics - Lumley Market in Aberdeen - 17 March 2011 (123)Beautiful smiley kids in the ward. image

Thank you to the Marketing team for the photos :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mercy Ships in Times Square, New York City

Mercy Ships will have 30 seconds of airtime each hour on the CBS “Super Screen” in Times Square from March 14 to April 30. What a great opportunity to spread the word about this ministry that I am so grateful to be a part of!

These are the 3 pictures they will be showing on the ‘Super Screen”











Thursday, March 10, 2011

A story to remind us…

…it’s not because of our work, but because of who Jesus is! To paraphrase our managing director; our goal is for the people we help to experience a bit of the ‘Kingdom’ on earth, not because of us, but because of what Christ has done for us. “Don’t give up, it’s always been HIs gig and He brings the fruits…”

I don’t normally write such long blogs as I know nobody has the time to read them, but in the case of the story below (which took me 2 days to transfer into this blog by the way :)), I truly didn’t feel like I had editor’s rights, and frankly, I  wouldn’t have known where to begin. Let me suggest you get comfortable, don’t scroll to the bottom to see how long it is, and be touched beyond your wildest imaginations.

The events of Monday do not represent the hearts or people of the Sierra Leoneons. Please remember, it was an act born out of desperation and riot mentality and that does not represent anyone! it was just a very tragic event for us all to have to experience; them and us!

Be touched forever by the story below…

by Abbie Reese

ABBIE WAS BORN fatherless into a world reeling from war, disease, poverty and disdain. She spent the first half of her life rigged to her mother’s back. Her mother managed the small bundle in spite of 7.7-pound prosthetics fitted over her legs and a crutch propped under her left arm. She lugged Abbie and herself around to beg, appealing for sympathy or pity or just a few coins.  image

Four-month old Abbie was born just two years after Sierra Leone’s 11 year civil war ended. Her mother, Salamatu, was a civilian victim of the war.

Abbie spent the second half of her young life in bed in a hospital ship’s ward as her mother recovered from surgeries meant to repair injuries incurred before Abbie was conceived. The girl drew an onslaught of attention and a legion of women vying to fill in as mothers to the quiet baby who never, ever cried.

Abbie’s life can be split in two, just as her mother’s life has a before and an after – before, when destruction reigned, when the innocent were preyed upon and hope was suffocated with each additional death; and after, when hatred faltered, lost its footing and healing began.

Ten-month-old Abbie will first watch and then learn from her productive mother how to put her hands to use, clothing and feeding and providing for a family. She won’t remember her mother’s life as a beggar or her mother’s slow recovery on the hospital ship. She’ll hear the stories and see the photographs and whenever her mother walks by, Abbie will get a glimpse into her mother’s life before and after; she’ll learn about the arbitrariness of evil, but even more about the prevailing power of good, of how love can heal. To her mother, the lessons will take the shape of memories. She won’t have to ponder them as abstractions. She will remember it. She lived it. It’s her story.

Salamatu’s story.

* * *

SALAMATU WAS BORN the eldest of five children in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Her parents planted and sold cassava, rice and potatoes. Salamatu liked school. She liked the music classes and the friends she made. But as more children were born into her family, it became more difficult to pay the school fees and keep up with the uniform requirements, let alone pay for the basics, like feeding the
family. Salamatu was 12 years old when she was told she must quit school to help support her family. She wasn’t happy. She says she will always remember the friends she made in school, some of whom are now university graduates. Sometimes she thinks that if she had stayed in school she, too, would have a degree.

image Instead, Salamatu learned to trade. Her hands would never again be idle. She walked from her home in a village outside Makeni to the next village, where she bought palm oil. Then she walked home to sell the goods.

Salamatu met Mohammed in the next village, where he also did business, buying and selling dresses and shoes. The two fell
in love and married during an era of uncertainty, in the midst of their nation’s civil war. She was 15, he was 17. They had one child. For four years, they lived together, content.

But fighting inched toward their city. In 1997, a peacekeeping force stayed in Makeni for several months. The people of Makeni heard the rebels had agreed to peace and then heard the peacekeeping force would be pulling out and moving to Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, and Kono, the diamond-rich rebel stronghold bordering Liberia. The people of Makeni, Salamatu says, didn’t believe the rebels would keep the peace. “Let’s see,” the people said. When the peacekeepers pulled out, the people of Makeni were afraid.

One day, as Salamatu returned home after bathing, she saw thousands of people moving about frantically, attempting to leave Makeni. She had heard the stories of rebels sending messengers ahead of them on their way to an area. The messengers would write letters, stating “the rebels are coming, get ready”, and post them to the doors of homes. They did this to create chaos, to make the people panic. Salamatu heard that messengers had posted these warnings in Makeni.



The area around Makeni, where Salamatu grew up is  coloured with forest and covered by mountains.

She ran home and started gathering her belongings. Mohammed was away on business in another city so
the 19-year-old took her child and joined her parentsd her siblings in the mass exodus. The nine family members began walking to
a village 13 miles away, thinking they would soon find refuge. They didn’t realize yet that the rebels had surrounded Makeni
before sending their messenger to alert the people. The rebels hid in the forests, waiting to ambush the civilians as they fled. Salamatu and her family walked straight into the path of the rebels.

The rebels demanded money from Salamatu’s father. He told them he didn’t have any. “What if we find money on you?” they asked. “What will we do?” Salamatu’s father didn’t answer.
The rebels searched him and found bills stuffed into his shoe. They taunted him, asking why he had made them search to find the money. They shot him in the chest. His life was taken for a deception and the equivalent of $125 US. Salamatu’s mother, her younger brothers and sister and her infant son watched. The
rebels turned their attention to the rest of the dead man’s family. If any of you cry,ey said, you’re next. In order to save their own lives, they were forced to act unmoved by the patriarch’s murder. No one cried. They suppressed their horror, their fear, their sadness and anger. Finally, the rebels moved on. The seven family members continued on to the village they hoped might still provide refuge. Salamatu walked ahead of her family. She sobbed, mourning for her father, for what she had witnessed and for her family’s future. Her vision veiled by tears, Salamatu walked into the path of
another group of rebels. She screamed. Her family, trailing by about 50 meters, ran for cover in the bush.

“I was praying,” Salamatu, a Christian, says through a Krio translator, “but whenever you meet with the rebels you think but you don’t know how to pray. You’re not able to pray. If someone is holding a gun or a knife or a machete, what would you say?”
Salamatu was taken into the bush. A woman was among the rebels. They called her Adama Cut Hand. The men began to argue, fighting over what they should do with Salamatu. Some wanted to amputate her hands and feet. Some wanted to cut off her feet and buttocks. They decided to make Salamatu choose her own fate. They held
a “ballot”. On pieces of paper they wrote “hands and feet”, “hands and waist” and “feet and waist”. Salamatu was forced to pick one of the pieces of paper. She picked the one that read “feet and waist”. Salamatu remembers seeing the rebels dance in jubilation.

Salamatu’s brother, Sorie, who had hidden with his family, snuck close to his sister and the rebels and hid in the bush about five meters away. The 11-year-old watched as Adama Cut Hand sliced off his sister’s buttocks with a machete. Then he watched the rebels lug a blockof iron toward Salamatu. They placed the block
under her legs and Adama Cut Hand hacked away at each foot, striking three times on the left foot and three times on the right foot to dismember her. Sorie came forward out of hiding and told the rebels to do the same to him. Take an arm, he said. He wasn’t thinking right, he says now; he wasn’t in his “complete sense”.
The rebels refused to touch Sorie. Salamatu lay bleeding. “She was at least on the point of death,” Sorie says. The rebels left.


The road leading out of Makeni. 



Sorie went into the bush and cried. He returned to the place where his family was hiding and told them what he had seen. His mother said they should all go to Salamatu. When they found her, her lifeblood seeping out of her, they wept. Salamatu had fallen into unconsciousness. Her mother wrapped a piece of cloth around Salamatu’s stumps and then covered her buttocks with leaves to slow the bleeding. Sorie helped his mother carry Salamatu to the village they originally hoped would bring them safety. They bought drinking alcohol to pour over Salamatu’s wounds to stop the bleeding. The next day, Salamatu awoke. She stayed in the village a week before her family heard the peacekeeping force had returned to a city near
Makeni. They knew a hospital would be based nearby and so they set off in search of help.

MEANWHILE, WORD WAS sent to Mohammed that his wife’s legs had been sliced off. He rushed to meet her at the hospital. “He cried,” Salamatu says. “He was grieved. ... He had compassion and took good care of me.”

Mohammed spoke with a doctor at the hospital and explained what the rebels had done to his teenaged wife. They were just sorry for me,” Salamatu says.


( Salamatu dries Abbie after giving her a bath.)

Although Salamatu didn’t have any money, the doctors agreed to assist. They stitched up the skin where her feet had been
and performed four operations on Salamatu’s buttocks. Each time they
stitched up the wounds and each time the stitches
loosened and came out. Salamatu stayed at the hospital for a month, recovering in a ward filled
with other victims of mutilations. Their hands, their feet and their toes had been amputated. Some had had their thumbs chopped off but the rest of their fingers left intact. Others had had all their
fingers amputated but their thumbs left intact. They formed a fraction of the victims of the country’s civil war.

None of them understood why the rebels were doing what they were doing. “It’s just wickedness,” Salamatu says. “I don’t think they had a cause. They said they were going to liberate the country.”
When Salamatu was finally discharged from the hospital, the wounds on her buttocks had not healed. Sores developed over what was once padding. In spite of her injuries, in a country where spouses frequently leave one another because of illness or deformity, Mohammed stayed with Salamatu. He loved her. Salamatu enrolled in a batik (tie-dye) school and she and her husband worked together to
make money to provide for their small family, as well as Salamatu’s mother and siblings. As the eldest, and especially because she was married, Salamatu became responsible for everyone in the eternal absence of her father. Her younger siblings stayed in school and were clothed, thanks to Salamatu and her husband. Once the wounds closed over Salamatu’s feet, Sorie bought her a pair of prosthetic
legs. Salamatu says he paid the equivalent of a few American coins for the shoes, which quickly “spoiled”. The family combined their earnings to pay $165 US for a new set of prosthetics, sturdy but unbending legs that weighed almost four pounds each.
Life became normal, Salamatu says, because her husband took good care of her. Salamatu got pregnant and gave birth to a girl.
And then things started improving in Sierra Leone. In 2001, the rebels signed a peace treaty, bringing the 11-year civil war to an end.
A year later, Salamatu got pregnant again. But then, even as the family found more reasons to be hopeful, Mohammed became ill. He had survived the war unscathed, even escaping from the rebels once when they caught him, only to fall prey to malaria. It didn’t last long; he was ill only two days. Salamatu went with her husband to the government hospital in Makeni. He was awake one day and dead the
next. Salamatu was four months pregnant when her husband died. She became a 25-year-old widow.

Her third child, Abigail, was born on May 30, 2003.

The family entered into a state of crisis. In spite of Salamatu’s disadvantages – she was a woman and she was disabled – everyone looked to her to provide for them. Perhaps it didn’t occur to her family that Salamatu might not be up to yet another challenge, in the wake of her husband’s death, with the arrival of her infant, enduring not only the challenge of walking, but the pain of sitting. “We all depend on our elder sister,” says Sorie. “We do survive under her because she used to pay our school fees and used to buy clothes for all of us. And today, look how she is today.” Salamatu deemed herself capable. Unable to tie-dye clothes on her own, she fastened on her prosthetic legs and took Abbie on public transportation to the
capital, Freetown, to beg. She stood on the streets and held out her hands.

Sorie went to work on a farm. The children sometimes sold salt or sugar with Salamatu’s mother, making the equivalent of a dollar a day. Sometimes they went to the neighbors’ homes to ask for food. Sorie says the neighbors treated the children as slaves, making them run errands before feeding them meager portions. Salamatu often returned to Makeni from Freetown with her earnings. She found she
could no longer pay her siblings’ school fees.

Even as Salamatu tried fending for her family, her family was discriminated against because of her. After her husband’s death, property owners became less willing to let a cripple rent from them. “Since our sister is in this type of sorrowful condition,” Sorie says, “people do not accept her any longer to live in the house.
They drove us out of the house. She is our sister. If she leaves, we leave.” Salamatu, her mother, four siblings and three children found themselves homeless, evicted from what they believed to be their final home. They moved into a farm hut.

Salamatu, the bedrock of the family, felt she could tolerate no more. “At one time, because she felt so sorry for our family,” Sorie says, “because all of us cried bitterly, she said our family is so sorrowful she was going to drink soda poison to kill herself.” Her faith kept her from taking her own life.

Salamatu says she sometimes became discouraged when she thought about her condition. “But when I think of God,” she says, “I forget.”

Salamatu joined the Handicap Youth Development Association in Makeni and visited with the other members, either affected by polio or civilian victims of the civil war. Santigie Buya Sesay, chairman of the organization’s headquarters in Freetown, says the members fight to be self-reliant. They attend school to learn a trade. To manage, though, they support each other; they depend on one another.

It was at the association for the handicapped in Makeni that Salamatu heard about Mercy Ships. She heard a hospital ship would be docking in Freetown for the third consecutive year to provide free surgeries. Salamatu thought about attending the medical screening because her right heel had become infected. Rumors spread,
though, that Mercy Ships could only help people with problems from the neck-up, like facial tumors. Then someone told Salamatu the ships also provided orthopaedic surgeries. She decided to travel the 112 miles to Freetown, a three-hour journey by bush taxi.

Salamatu brought Abbie to the capital image one week before the Mercy Ships medical screening at Freetown’s National Stadium. They stayed at the Handicap Youth Development Association’s headquarters. Salamatu
arrived at the stadium the first morning image image of the two-day medical screening and joined thousands of Sierra Leoneans in
line. Some had staked their hopes of
being selected on lining up the earliest. They arrived the evening prior and saved spots in line by sleeping on the sidewalk. Daylight revealed a motley
assortment. Fathers stood with daughters losing their eyesight.
Mothers clutched infants suffering the malnourishment and stigma of cleft lips. Some bore the weight of tumors. A man stood upright next to his younger brother who crouched on the ground, his legs useless from polio; he draped his arms in front of his legs, grabbed his ankles and walked his feet with the strength of his arms.

Salamatu stood in the midst of her countrymen, all of them hoping to be among the 750 people selected for free surgeries onboard the hospital ship. Salamatu stood all day in the 90-degree Fahrenheit heat with Abbie strapped to her back and the cumbersome prosthetics on her feet. She never got near the frontimage of the line. 
The next morning, Salamatu went to the stadium again, a crutch under her arm and Abbie on her back. She stood for several hours
before deciding to give up. She turned to leave.
As she walked away from the stadium, Neva
Snyder, an American Mercy Ships volunteer,
walked toward the stadium. Salamatu
determined to try once more to get into the stadium and be seen by a surgeon Salamatu caught Neva’s eye and approached her.
“Ma’am, ma’am,” she said.

Neva stopped.

Salamatu reached into her bag and pulled out a photograph. She held in her hand the evidence that revealed her condition, her need. Neva
studied the photograph, unsure at first what it she was looking at. Then it dawned on her: She was looking at Salamatu’s mutilated buttocks. “Why would anyone do that?” Neva thought. “It didn’t make sense.”

Neva had been told to only let those people with appointment cards, given the previous year when Mercy Ships was in Freetown, into the stadium. She called to Dorothy Logans, a counselor/discipler in the Outreach Department, and gave her the photograph.

“How did this happen?” Dorothy asked Salamatu.

“The rebels,” Salamatu said.

The two led Salamatu past Mercy Ships security and through the stadium gate to be seen by a plastic surgeon and an orthopaedic surgeon. When Sierra Leonean Mickey, a Mercy Ships translator, saw Salamatu, she thought, She is like me, she’s small. So is her daughter. But for them, she thought, it wasn’t stature that made them small, it was lack of food; they looked thin, as if
they hadn’t eaten enough.

ELAINE METZGER, AN American nurse, took Salamatu’s history. Elaine lived in Sierra Leone in the 1980s as a missionary with her husband and son. During Sierra Leone’s civil war in the 1990s, Elaine and her husband, horrified at news in the United States of the rebels’ hallmark of terrorizing the public with random, gave money toward the amputees. When Salamatu walked up to Salamatu enters the stadium to be seen by a Mercy Ships surgeon. Elaine with her crutch, her legs were covered under a long skirt. Elaine didn’t
realize she was talking with a war victim until Salamatu explained her injuries. “How was she possibly managing?” Elaine thought as she looked at Salamatu and her baby. “And yet, she obviously had adjusted to her situation because she wasn’t on the brink of tears, like I was.”


Elaine Metzger takes Salamatu’s history

When Salamatu moved 
to another station in the
screening process, Elaine
watched an entourage
follow; one carried
Abbie, another carried a
pillow for Salamatu to a place between herself and the wooden benches. The captain’s 10 year old son saw the commotion and approached. “This is a miracle,” Dorothy told the boy. “She’s strong. She’s come very far. She knows Jesus. She prays. But it’s still hard. It’s amazing she didn’t bleed to death. It’s a miracle. She’s a miracle.”

Salamatu was seen by surgeons, selected for two operations and given an appointment card to return to the ship one month later.

image image Salamatu waits to be seen by surgeons at the Mercy Ships medical screening.

Dorothy and her translator, Henry, decided to ease Salamatu’s journey across Freetown to her accommodations. They helped her into a Mercy Ships Land Rover and drove on potholed roads, past a woman throwing a rock at a dog, to a store, where they bought provisions for Salamatu and Abbie. Then they drove to the
Handicap Youth Development Association. Salamatu leaned on her crutch as she walked rough the building’s entrance, smiled and
greeted other members sitting in the shaded concrete corridor, escaping from the sun’s rays. “These are all her friends,” Henry translated for Salamatu. “They help her.” Dorothy asked Salamatu to show her where she and Abbie slept. Salamatu dangled her crutch
and pulled herself up a flight of stairs. She walked into an open room and pointed to a corner on the floor.

Dorothy determined to meet Salamatu before she traveled back to Makeni. She wanted to equip Salamatu to provide for her family until she returned to Freetown for the operations. Then Dorothy decided to take Salamatu home to Makeni, herself. Dorothy bought a 120-pound bag of rice, which she told Salamatu to sell in portions, and fish, cassava and tomatoes, so Salamatu could feed her family.

About a week later, when the Mercy Ships Land Rover bearing Salamatu and Abbie drove into her village outside of Makeni, neighbors screamed and jumped up and down. Once they saw a mound of goods tied to the top of the vehicle, they shouted louder. Salamatu’s mother came forward, dancing and thanking Dorothy.
She looked thin and worn. She looked old. Dorothy didn’t ask her age.


Dorothy Logans with Satamatu; her translator, Henry, holds Abbie.


She thought it might not be years that had aged the woman. Several weeks later, Salamatu returned to  Freetown. She walked up the hospital ship’s gangway, leaning on a crutch, wearing her hair in plaits and weighing about 106 pounds – almost eight of which she lost each night when she slept but hoisted back on during the day in order to move around. Without her prosthetic legs, Salamatu weighed only 98 pounds. With them, and with her baby strapped to her back, Salamatu carried an extra load of 20 pounds.

image Salamatu Hoists herself up a flight of stairs


Salamatu was led to the hospital ship’s Admissions Office. Beverly Kohl, an American nurse, talked with one patient while another nurse talked to Salamatu. Salamatu recounted her story. Soon, the
nurse started crying. Beverly started listening. “It was all so overwhelming I could hardly control myself,” Beverly says. “Oh, what this poor woman
has been through.” Almost as startling as the details was Salamatu’s straightforward way of relating them. Salamatu appeared unmoved, almost stoic. She seemed to indicate, “It happened. It’s what happened. .. That’s the way things are in Sierra Leone.”

Those who met Salamatu learned her faith sustained her, breathing life into her patchwork body. God, she believes, has protected her life. “It’s a miracle that up to now I’m alive,” Salamatu says. “It’s God.”

When Salamatu received her bed assignment in the C-Deck ward, she started her stint as the ship’s longest-standing patient during its seven months in Sierra Leone. She occupied one of the ward’s 43 beds for four months. Her family would have to manage without her. Salamatu worried for them. Dorothy visited with Salamatu and learned what she had done with her gifts. She used some of the goods, sold some of the goods and spent the profit on material to tie-dye. Dorothy was impressed by Salamatu’s business sense. Then Salamatu told Dorothy her family was homeless. Dorothy asked what she wanted. “Mama Dorothy,” Salamatu said, image “I need a house so I don’t keep getting kicked out.” “Okay,” Dorothy said. She wrote about Salamatu on a poster board and appealed to the ship’s 300-plus volunteer crew. Individuals, impacted by Salamatu’s spirit in spite of what she had endured, donated more than $1,200 US towards a house.        (Salamatu plays with her son while her brother, Sorie, looks on. While Salamatu stayed on the ship for four months, her son and daughter stayed with family in Makeni.)

“Salamatu’s story is really poignant, really,” says Dr. Tony Giles, a Maxillo-facial surgeon from England. “She nearly lost her hands. Instead she lost her buttocks, which in the end is better.” Practically every task during her day – from cooking to dressing to changing Abbie’s diaper – would have become impossible if she didn’t have hands. Salamatu picked the right piece of paper, Dr. Giles says, as feet are easier to replace than hands. “What a world,” he says, “to think about what you would lose.”

“Physically,” says Dr. Tertius Venter, a plastic surgeon from South Africa, “it’s amazing she could suffer the amputations of two ankles at the same time when she could have bled to death from one amputation.” Dr. Venter performed Salamatu’s first operation on her buttocks. After the rebels’ initial assault, Salamatu developed
secondary injuries – pressure sores and pressure ulcers where once she had padding. Plastic surgeons commonly treat people for pressure wounds, Dr. Venter says, but Salamatu’s injuries had not developed as most of his paralytic patients’ had; hers grew from “horrific circumstances”. “When we see any of these war injured, it’s just horrific,” he says. “It’s quite disturbing what one human can do to another.”

The major trauma Salamatu underwent the night the rebels caught her would have made her bed-ridden for months, Dr. Venter says, which would have caused the two sores, each about five centimeters in diameter, to form, then become chronic. She had no potential to heal on her own. Sitting, Dr. Venter says, would have been painful and she would have had to care for the wounds daily, keeping them clean because of the risk of infectioimagen.

When Dr.  Venter
interacted with Salamatu, he was struck by her demeanor. She always
smiles, he says. “She went through all this
and still smiles.” Dr.
Venter explained
before the operation that  her movement would be restricted for several weeks while she recovered. If she were to heal properly, she would have to sit and lay and sleep on her side. She couldn’t stand or bend. Ward Supervisor Sorina Fadden says Salamatu was upbeat as Dr. Venter listed her restrictions.

“What else do I have to do?” Salamatu asked.

In an operation onboard the Anastasis, Dr. Venter cut out the ulcers and the scar tissue surrounding them. Then he cut “defect flaps”, using tissue from an adjacent area, to give her buttocks padding.

THE WARD'S NURSING staff dubbed Salamatu’s bed “Party Corner”. Mickey, the Sierra Leonean translator who met Salamatu at the medical screening, visited her almost every day. “Everyone loves Salamatu,” Mickey says. Salamatu swings on Aft Deck while her brother, Sorie, holds baby Abbie. Salamatu would prop Abbie in bed with a book in her lap and tease that her daughter could read. “I want her to teach me,” she laughed.

Teenaged burn patients image
recovering from plastic surgeries found their way to Salamatu’s bed,
as did women recovering from Maxillofacial operations. Alimamy, who thinks he’s about 13 years old, suffered
injuries and
was orphaned when the rebels burned down his family’s house five years ago. As he recovered from operations onboard the Anastasis, he found himself drawn to Salamatu. “I can joke with she like brother and sister because I like she and she like me,” Alimamy says. “She can advise me to be to school, to do good at home, to not dwell with the bar friends.”

The patients gravitated toward Salamatu, Sorina image
says, because she had lived through so much. “She’s not alone,” Sorina says. “They all could relate to the horror of living through the war.
Everyone, they all are such survivors.” Yet Salamatu had proven resilient and maintained her bubbly spirit.

Doctors and nurses from around the world cared for Salamatu as she recovered. They brought their accents and their cultures to the bed of the
26-year-old who had never ventured beyond her country’s borders. Mona Stusvik, a ward nurse from Norway, once heard Salamatu talking with some other patients about what it was like on ship. “They said they were no longer in Africa,” Mona says. “They were in Europe. Being on the ship was like a trip to Europe.” The ward provided air conditioning, televisions, Western food, at times, and Western medical staff. “I think in one way it was a big adventure for her,” Mona says. “In a way she has been in Europe and the U.S. and all over.”

Salamatu’s story also circled the globe. Crew wrote home to family and friends about the 26-year-old war victim. Fernanda Casulleras, an 18-year-old from Mexico, remembers the first time she told her mother the details of Salamatu’s injuries. Her mother cried. Fernanda told her mother that Salamatu was a strong woman who worked hard and believed in God. For four months, Fernanda visited Salamatu almost every day. The two opened up to each other, communicating in English, which wasn’t either woman’s first language. “For me,” Fernanda says, Salamatu sleeps after undergoing an operation. “she’s the coolest lady I ever met because she really worries for your feelings.” Fernanda e-mailed her mother dozens of photographs of Salamatu and Abbie and constantly updated her mother about Salamatu to the extent that her mother felt she
was living the same experience as Fernanda. When her aunts and uncles visited her parents for a family reunion, her mother took out the photographs of Salamatu and showed them off. “She loves her as much as I do,” Fernanda says of her mother. “She loves her like if she was here.” Her parents sent money for Salamatu to buy food for her family. Her grandmother sent money toward the construction of
Salamatu’s house.

As other crew, hailing from more than 30 nations, wrote e-mails home about Salamatu, more money trickled in. Dorothy’s translator, Henry, drove to Makeni and paid for some land next to Salamatu’s aunt’s home, where Salamatu’s family was staying. Each time Salamatu received a gift, she would call Mickey over. “Write thank you,” Salamatu would tell Mickey. “I’m her secretary,” Mickey


Salamatu teaches a visitor in the ward how to crochet.

Salamatu busied her hands, knitting and crocheting her own thank you’s. When she didn’t have visitors, which was rare, Salamatu made bags and hats and doilies for crew, and skirts and shirts and dresses for her daughters.

Abbie sat, content, on her mother’s bed, or was toted about the ship, content, on the backs of nurses and crew. She rarely made a sound. Ann Giles, a palliative care nurse and the wife of Dr. Tony Giles, visited the two in the ward one time and found Abbie hot with a fever. Most children would have put up a fuss, says Ann, a mother of six girls. Ann heard Abbie whimper once. “I would say the chances are Abbie is such a good baby because she has had to become one,” Ann says. “Salamatu was in the condition she was in way before she had Abbie.” Abbie’s father died months before her birth and Salamatu could not have physically tended to her infant’s every whim. “She’s just sort of adapted to the situation,” Ann says. “Salamatu couldn’t cope if she was a whiny child.” Or, Ann says, Abbie’s easy-going nature could be her God-given temperament. “God knew what Salamatu could cope with or not cope with.”

A month after Salamatu image
boarded the Anastasis, she was taken to the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital east of Freetown to recuperate for several weeks while the ship
sailed to the Canary Islands for a mid-point break. Ann Giles trained Nathaniel, a Sierra Leonean nurse, to care for Salamatu in the absence of the
Mercy Ship. The 22-year-old became responsible for cleaning and dressing Salamatu’s wounds. For Nathaniel, Salamatu marked the first severe war injury patient he had ever cared for. As Nathaniel prepared to dress Salamatu’s wound one day, she started to tell
him how she had been injured. “She wanted to explain about the trouble and tragedy,” Nathaniel says. “I asked her to stop and forget about it.

“If she started explaining that problem,” he says, “she might also start to remember about it. And when she started to remember about it, it would create more problems for her. It was too pathetic.”
image When the Anastasis returned to Freetown, Salamatu returned to the hospital ship to continue her recovery and wait for her
second operation. Salamatu walked up the gangway, her crutch propped under her arm, weighing 117 pounds – 11 pounds more than she had two months earlier when she first
boarded the ship. Once in the ward, she was told she had been moved to another bed. She refused. “Thirty-three is my bed,” she insisted. The nurses complied. Salamatu hadn’t liked the bed in the corner at first because it sat directly under a television. Salamatu said she couldn’t see the films the nurses played throughout the day. Then she
discovered she could see the films if she simply turned around and looked up. One day The JESUS Film played overhead. Salamatu watched in intervals. Roman soldiers hammered a nail through Jesus’ hands onto the cross. Jesus screamed. Salamatu said she didn’t like watching the film. “These people are acting like the rebels,” she

But Salamatu wasn’t bitter toward the people who had maimed her. “Everything is God,” she says. “If God has allowed something bad to happen, I don’t have anything to do. I only have to look to God.” image

Several days after returning to the Anastasis, Salamatu
underwent an operation for a right stump revision. Dr.
Douglas Sammon, an
orthopaedic surgeon from
Scotland, says a leaking sore, a hole half a
centimeter in diameter, had formed in the heel of her right foot. The rebels had cut through Salamatu’s left shin but had hacked through the joint of Salamatu’s right ankle. It swung about, rubbing against
her prosthetic shoe, creating the sore. Ideally, Dr. Sammon says, he would have amputated her right leg just below the knee to give her more control and ease her mobility with a prosthetic leg. But he let
Salamatu choose how long she wanted her leg to be. She told him to make it the same length as her left leg. She wanted to be made symmetrical in her deformity. “Now,” Dr. Sammon says, “limb fitters can help her choose how tall she will be.”Salamatu undergoes an orthopaedic surgery to shorten her right leg, which had developed
an infection in her heel. Several weeks later, Salamatu was fitted with new prosthetics at Mercy Ships News Steps, a land base that provides free limb rehabilitation to victims of disease and
war. At first, the legs were made too long. Salamatu was too tall. She felt unsteady. Salamatu walked into the ward and promptly pulled her new white gym shoes off the brown plastic feet to show off the new legs. The shoes fit tightly, though, and the nurses struggled to pull the shoes back over the plastic feet. One nurse noticed
Salamatu eyeing someone’s flip-flops and advised her that the flip-flops would be a little too adventurous. “Well I have got toes,” Salamatu retorted. It was as if she had realized for the first time, her nurses said, how crude her other prosthetics had been. Beverly Kohl remembers seeing Salamatu’s old prosthetics when she was first admitted to the ward. “They looked like stumps,” Beverly says.
It looked as if someone had whittled down a log and stuck some clunky black high tops on the end.image

Salamatu practices walking with her new prosthetic legs at Mercy Ships New Steps.

Salamatu’s prosthetic legs were shortened during a subsequent
fitting at Mercy Ships New Steps but she was still several inches
taller than she had been before. Two days before her discharge
date, Salamatu returned to Mercy Ships New Steps for her final fitting. She left 10-month-old Abbie in the care of the ward nurses. “She has so many mothers on the ship,” Salamatu said,
smiling. Abbie, Salamatu said, would wonder when they went back to Makeni, “Where are all my mothers?”

Ann Giles drove Salamatu to the appointment. Salamatu sat in the Mercy Ships Land Rover and crocheted until the vehicle pulled out of the port. Then, the white yarn hung limp as her eyes wandered, lingering over the scenes outside. When she walked into the Mercy Ships New Steps office, Ann told Richard, a prosthetic orthopaedic technician from Liberia, “She’s developed a squeak.” Salamatu
demonstrated. Her right leg sounded off.

Richard repaired the leg, altering the screws then tightening them “so when she goes,” Richard said, “she will be in the hands of God and there will be no loosening.” The squeak stopped in the right leg but a snapping sound started in the left one. For two hours Richard worked on the prosthetics, fitting them just right and then asking Salamatu to walk around.

The prosthetic legs weighed less than a pound and would have cost about $125 US if she had to purchase them. “It’s better,” Salamatu said as she held up the ends of her skirt and looked at herself walk, without a crutch, in a full-length mirror. “Now God will heal everything for me,” Salamatu said. “And I thank God.” Salamatu practices walking with her new prosthetic legs at Mercy Ships New Steps.

As Richard fixed Salamatu’s legs, Salamatu said she was eager to return to Makeni in two days, on Sunday. She had received news from her mother the previous day, when someone from Makeni image visited the ship, that her brother had been ill with a stomachache.. “Everything is hard for them,” the messenger relayed. Salamatu missed her family and friends and was only eager to go home. She didn’t say she would miss the ship. She simply said of the crew, “I’m thinking good things. ... They encourage me. Everything I want they give me.”

The next day, Saturday, Salamatu finished packing the belongings she had accumulated during her time on the ship. Friends on the ship had given her clothes, material and tools for tie-dying and an additional $830 US toward the building of her house. Salamatu would once again return to Makeni – as she had after begging and as she did when Dorothy drove her home – with more than she had taken to
Freetown. Salamatu asked Fernanda to drive with her the three hours home to Makeni and speak with her mother. “She always cries,” Salamatu said of her mother. She cried, Salamatu said, because of Salamatu’s condition. This, in turn, saddened Salamatu.
“Tell her, ‘Don’t cry,’” Salamatu told Fernanda. “She has to be positive.” image At 6 a.m. on Sunday, Jitske Timpers (pic. below), a Mercy Ships volunteer from the Netherlands, sat on bed 32, next to Salamatu. Jitske had provided Salamatu with a
steady stream of her staple: yarn. She held Abbie in her lap, reached over and touched Salamatu’s right wrist, where the patient identification was clasped.

“You can take this off now,” Jitske said.

“It’s my watch,” Salamatu joked.

“It’s about time to go home, it says,” Jitske said.

“A day like today is great,” Salamatu said, “because I am able to sit by myself. I tell God tenki (thank you) for that.”

Salamatu said her faith had increased while staying in the hospital ship’s ward. “The time I had this problem I was crying at that time and seeking for a way God could help me. While I was thinking about that, I came to the ship and received healing. I just believe my faith in God caused the people to touch me.

“Now it’s really good. God will work for me. God will work everything for me. I know God will continue to do it for me.” She will marry again, she said, if God brought the right man to her.

Richard, a Mercy Ships New Steps prosthetic orthopaedic technician, hands Salamatu her new right leg. Salamatu walked up two flights of stairs and was greeted by Mickey, the ward translator she had befriended. Mickey woke up at 5:30 a.m. so she could travel across town to the port and say good-bye to “Sali”. “She is now my sister,” Mickey said of Salamatu. She promised to visit Makeni soon. “I pray that God will give her strength because this is the starting of a life,” Mickey said.

Nurses lingered in the ship’s reception area as Salamatu and Abbie prepared to leave. They said the ward would seem empty without them – without Salamatu, who was dubbed the queen of the ward, and her little girl, fittingly called the princess of the ward. Donna Shippie, an eye nurse, walked by and said she would miss baby Abbie. “I call her Miss Anastasis,” she said, “because she’s been here so long she thinks she owns the place.”

SALAMATU WALKED DOWN the gangway without her crutch. She wore a Western-style wig with black and red braids, a jean skirt and Adidas running shoes.Her legs were lighter and longer than when she arrived four months earlier. “I think she’s been given a really good start,” one of her nurses said.

“Or a new start,” Mona added. image

Salamatu returns to her home after four months on the Anastasis.(The
Anastasis was the ship prior to the Africa Mercy which is the ship we use now.)

The nurses were concerned for their rge when she left the ward. On the ship, Salamatu’s meals were provided, her clothes were washed and she had ample help with Abbie. Salamatu never demanded anything,
the nurses said, but over time she became familiar with the care.
Abbie had become institutionalized during her four months onboard, but she was a baby and would readjust. Sorina thought it had almost reached the stage where Salamatu, too, was institutionalized. “She had to go back to her own life,” Sorina said of Salamatu, “because here it was a vacation for four months, which is a long vacation.”

Some feared how Salamatu would respond once she moved out of the ship’s limelight. “I think she liked being special,” Mona said.

“She’s still going to be special,” Sorina said, “because we’re building her a house. She will have a step-up on life.” But, Sorina added, Salamatu’s neighbors would see her return after four months on the hospital ship with her new legs and a new house and they might find it hard to relate to Salamatu. Or they might grow jealous.
“A lot is going to be expected of her because she’s been given a lot,” Sorina said.

Salamatu joked as she and Abbie got into the Land Rover with Fernanda, Alimamy and several other Mercy Ships volunteers. As they drove toward Makeni, Salamatu sang. As they got closer to Salamatu’s aunt’s house, where Salamatu’s mother and siblings and children were staying, Fernanda thought she could see her friend
Salamatu returns to her home after four months on the Anastasis.
growing anxious.

When Salamatu stepped out of the Land Rover outside her aunt’s house, her mother danced in joy, happy to see her daughter “normal”. Abbie was passed to Salamatu’s aunts but she cried for Fernanda and cried because a heat rash had developed on her neck. Salamatu, who had thought the temperature too cold when she first boarded the air-conditioned ship, felt too hot in her home environment. She stripped off her shit to cool off.

After several hours, Fernanda and the others image
prepared to leave Salamatu for the evening and
stay the night in a nearby village. Salamatu
said she wanted to go along. She feared they
wouldn’t return the next day to visit her. They
promised they would. Salamatu told Fernanda she was afraid to be left alone without any
means of communication. The next day, Salamatu’s friends returned. When they again said good-bye, tears welled in Salamatu’s eyes. She didn’t cry. Abbie did. She flung herself into the Land Rover. Fernanada said she hoped to return once more before the ship sailed from West Africa to Europe. Back on the ship, the nurses talked about how Salamatu might fare.

“It would be interesting to know six months from now what happens to her,” Sorina said, “but we won’t.”

“Still, she will find a way,” Mona said.

“Oh yeah,” Sorina said, “she will.”

Salamatu’s caregivers were convinced that even if Salamatu’s hands had been amputated in place of her feet or buttocks, she would have prevailed over her circumstances. “Without her hands,” Beverly said, “she would have adjusted just like she has without her legs.”

“She’s a survivor,” Sorina said. image
Two weeks after depositing Salamatu back
into her village, Fernanda
returned to Makeni for one final goodbye. She went, bearing gifts. The Mercy Ships Land Rover pulled down a dusty road and the Land Rover’s headlights shone through a veil of rain onto Salamatu, sitting
on the porch of her aunt’s home, and her children being bathed. Nearby, Salamatu’s Above, Fernanda, right, watches Salamatu greet
her mother after four months apart. Below, Salamatu's mother dances in joy to have her daughter home and "normal". Salamatu, home in Makeni, smiles. a plot of land sat empty of a structure; the dirt was covered with a layer of mud bricks. Her Mercy Ships friends gave Salamatu a bank account card and a cell phone to stay in contact once they returned to their homelands. Salamatu immediately put her hands to work crocheting a cell phone holder to wear around her neck. She told them she had tie-dyed almost 60 yards of fabric they had given her. Neighbors in the village helped. The only reason she had refrained from dying all of it was so she
could show them how it’s done.

Salamatu recounted her family’s struggles since returning. A sty had grown on her eyelid. Her sister had contracted malaria. Her daughter, Abbie, had gotten ill and Salamatu sold a bag of rice to have the 11-month-old seen at a local hospital. Her family again faced the possibility of eviction, she said, if they didn’t pay the equivalent of about $2 US for the next month’s rent. She pointed to the area where her home would be built. She had hoped construction would be further along, as the rainy season had just started. image
Salamatu's aunt's home is lit up by the headlights
of a Mercy Ships Land Rover when Salamatu's
friends return for one final goodbye.

Once Salamatu tie-dyed her few remaining yards of material, with the assistance of some neighbors, her Mercy Ships friends loaded up the fabric to take to Freetown and sell; they would deposit the profits in her bank account. Salamatu’s family and her friends waved them off. Salamatu sat on the porch. She lifted her hand to wipe away the tears that spilled onto her cheeks.

* * *

SALAMATU'S STORY ENDS even as a new chapter begins.

At 26, Salamatu begins the image
process of assimilating life in Sierra Leone “before“ – her father’s murder, her own victimization and her husband’s death – with life “after” – her months onboard a hospital ship
of foreigners and her return to the village she grew up in. Salamatu and her children face poor chances of survival in a nation where the average life expectancy is 43 years old and more than 30 percent of the population dies before the age of five. She continues to confront the challenges of discrimination even as she assumes responsibility for her mother, four siblings and three children.

But already Salamatu had survived – and thrived – when the odds indicated she should have died. Although disabled, Salamatu had triumphed, in the spirit of so many of her countrymen, over her circumstances. Her unrelenting spirit had buffered her from trauma and her faith had preserved her. She had embodied joy when bitterness could have ensnared her.

Now, Salamatu’s body has been altered, relieved of pain. Now, she has been given a financial footing with the promise of a home and the beginning, once again, of her business. And once again, she occupies her hands, which so narrowly escaped destruction, to care for her dependants.

Salamatu hasn’t changed, really. She’s only been strengthened.

Please pray that we will be able to organize another screening – soon! Rumour is there are many people who used months worth of food money, or non-existent monies to come to Monday’s screening and they are not leaving for fear that if we hold another screening they will miss their chance with us as there is no way they could afford to return. Yet, there is also a great fear that we just won’t do another screening.  The chances these people have food or shelter money to hang out is slim to none…

And lastly, I know I already said thank you, but please let me thank you again. I truly thank you all for the amazing support you gave me through this time. I have received a record amount of emails, comments and prayers about the tragedy that took place and my well being; even a delivery in the container from a stranger who sent me a encouragement package  with a note, a few gifts and a scripture from 1KIng about when Ahab was Killed at Ramoth Gilead and Jehosphaphat became King of Judah. She felt was led by the Lord to send me this scripture since the 19 Oct., and knew I wouldn’t get it right away as she sent it on the container, but was convinced I would get in “God’s perfect timing.” I got it today and already I am touched and am looking forward to meditating on the scripture. (Isn’t God good at planning? :)) I was having a difficult time and “…don’t have good theology for the brokenness in this world,” (again quoting the managing director), with just the little I had seen, heard and experienced in the short 9 days we have been here, up to and including, the event at the National Stadium. Why, when we have the power of Jesus???? It’s not up to me to question, but to trust and live out my faith!

I am better now and feel much more prepared to face the 10 months ahead because of all of you. I know that I am God’s and your ambassador and we are partners and I am deeply humbled! I feel privileged and honoured to be called here to serve; give and show love – God’s, yours and mine!


May God be with you and keep you…