This week, Mercy Ships will begin fistula repair surgeries on board the Africa Mercy in Madagascar. VVF, or vesico-vaginal fistula and ensuing complications, are the cause of the daily humiliation, rejection, and abandonment experienced by more than two million women in the developing world. Most commonly, VVF follows violent rape or complications from prolonged childbirth. Jackie writes to us this week:
“Some women are too young to birth children or they may have an extremely long, difficult labor which many times ends in stillbirth. They not only lose their baby, but are left with multiple female issues. The largest problem is a continually leaking bladder which makes it impossible to lead a normal life. They have an unpleasant odor and are almost always shunned by family and isolated from their communities.”
Fistula repair surgeries are offered free of charge by Mercy Ships onboard the Africa Mercy. The surgeries are complicated, and some women may require multiple surgeries before they begin the long process of recovery at the Hope Center, a facility about one mile from the ship.
As they enter the ship the day before surgery, the women wear white gowns, “walking into the unknown and hoping for a better life,” says Jackie. When they have recovered they are given beautiful new dresses as part of the Dress Celebration. The Africa Mercy staff help them to dress, put on makeup, and tell their stories as the women sing and dance in a celebration of their new lives.
Please pray for the women of Madagascar who will be receiving fistula treatment on Africa Mercy this week and in the weeks to come. Also pray that Jackie would be matched with just the right woman in a “Befriend a Patient” program on board. She has requested to be paired with a VVF woman and we look forward to hearing more good news from her soon!
To learn more about VVF surgeries, you can read a Mercy Ships fact sheet here, or watch this beautiful video!
We had a fantastic leadership retreat at Fort Columbia State Park this last weekend. As you can see from the photos, we had a wonderful group of people and an action-packed weekend. We spent much of our time talking through our desires and goals for the upcoming year at Grace Bible Church. It was also a great opportunity to get to know each other better! Thank you, Ken, Sharon, Roger, Jeanie, John, Kathy, Bethany, Brian, Luke, Shelby, Fiona, Felix and Judah for what you added to our group this weekend and for your investment in our church by being at our retreat!
by Jackie Bailey
Last Thursday I volunteered to help with patient screening that was held at a local hospital. There were about 2,000 people lined up to be screened for possible surgeries on board. It was an extremely hot, humid day and people had been standing in line since 4:00 a.m. Many had traveled some distance to reach Tamatave, but there was no pushing or shoving. People were very patient and kind to one another, offering seats and sharing shade and water. It was very different from other patient screenings I have seen.
I signed up to be on the prayer team that prays with the people we couldn’t help. The experience was very moving, incredibly sad and yet beautiful in many ways.
Please pray for the following young people we encountered in the prayer room who had to be turned away for medical treatment:
We sent away several mothers who had babies with encephalitis. Babies tied to their mothers’ backs with tiny bodies and huge heads are images you never forget. Please pray for these families and their babies who will soon die. Mercy Ships has sent a palliative care team to try and help them through the dying process.
A man led his two blind children to us, each holding on to his arm–a 13 year old boy and an 11 year old girl. They were waiting to be seen in the hopes of restoring their eyesight. They had their vision until age 7 or 8, but had untreated glaucoma. I’m not sure why they had it so young, but our eye team was not able to help them. This family and their situation was particularly sad to me because there are no services or help for the blind. I guess the only bright spot was that they had each other.
A 16 year old girl came with a 9 month old baby that looked like it was about 2 months old. This baby was clearly not going to live. The mother was also pregnant with a second baby. She was unmarried and confided that she was about to have an abortion. God magnificiently intervened and she not only committed to not abort the baby, but also committed her life to Christ. It was amazing!