After spending a wonderful and busy two and a half weeks at home in the UK, and a really fun time during ship yard in Gran Canaria, we arrived in Douala, Cameroon, six weeks ago, ready to start a fresh field service in a country the ship has never visited before.
Many thanks to wonderful family, friends and churches (you know who you are) in the UK who accommodated us, fed us, hosted us and generally loved on us. It was greatly appreciated. After being away for a year it was so refreshing to experience the great British country side, familiarity of friends and family, and even a heat wave in the South East! It was a pretty busy time and we’re sorry that we didn’t get around to seeing as many people as we’d have liked. Hopefully we’ll catch up with you some time soon.
Gran Canaria was a mix of Stuart being busy back at work and myself enjoying taking the kids to a lovely park that was only a 30 minute walk from the ship, bliss! Living on a ship docked in African ports makes me appreciate simple pleasures like parks and playgrounds.
Shortly after arriving in Cameroon we realised this area is supposedly the second wettest place in Africa (whether that’s true or not, it certainly feels it!). That coupled with Douala being an expensive city means exploring the city has been pretty limited so far, and we haven’t ventured outside the city yet.
Two of the exciting new things about this field service are firstly that seven new families joined the ship over the summer (with another coming in the next few weeks) which means loads of new friends for James and Joseph. Which is great when life is limited off the ship. Secondly, James started pre-school five mornings a week with a class of five other pupils which is big considering James was the only one in nursery for half of last year. His classmates are a great bunch of kids from all over the world including Congo, Netherlands, USA and Brazil!
With Joseph also going to nursery three mornings a week it gives me an opportunity to help out with nursing in the Outpatients tent. This is the place patients come when they are officially discharged from the ward but need follow-up for either wound care, suture removal, or general reviews. It’s a brand new team this year and I’m excited to be involved in patients stories again.
As a way of involving the kids in the medical work of the ship we make an effort to visit deck seven some afternoons where the patients have an hour to catch some air and occasional sunshine when it appears! Our visit the other day was rewarded when Joseph made friends with a little guy whose Mama had surgery to fix a fistula (hole) she had developed during a previous pregnancy which means she leaked urine constantly. Vesicovaginal Fistulas in this part of the world are primarily a product of no access to proper healthcare and safe delivery for women who are in obstructed labour and leaves them socially stigmatised and physically traumatised. Not only have these, often very young, girls gone through the agony of obstructed labour (possibly days) and usually lost their child due to the length of labour, but they are also subject to estrangement from family members and their community, due to constantly leaking urine.
This year we have a larger programme for this type of surgery than we’ve ever had before with an off ship accommodation for volunteering nurses and the use of a local hospital for women who are pre and post op. This surgery is close to my heart as my pregnancy with James ended up being an assisted delivery with the help of a suction cup called a ventouse delivery. For whatever reason he got stuck in the birth canal and needed help getting out. I’m so thankful I gave birth in a country where medical assistance was accessible and that if the ventouse hasn’t worked an emergency caesarean section would have been undertaken immediately. That’s one of the reasons my heart was full of gratitude when my beautiful little boy Joseph (who thankfully was a normal delivery) was befriending another beautiful little boy, whose Mother has received hope and healing whilst being aboard this vessel. The ladies that come on board don’t just receive hope and healing through their surgery, they receive it through the ministering of the Holy Spirit every time someone looks them in the eye and smiles, or holds their hand, or tells them that God loves them and has a plan for them. It’s so much more than just physical healing which is why I love this place.
Finally, there are many challenges to being in this city and we’re trying to adjust to a new country with new friends and a new routine, but through it all we know that God is always there, holding us, helping us and sustaining us. We don’t always feel this but that doesn’t make it any less true. A great pictorial image of this is after being here for about three weeks, where every day the view from our cabin window was grey water capped off with grey skies, suddenly one evening a mountain appeared with a majestic sunset behind it! It turns out when the cloud lifts, Mount Cameroon which is an active volcano, is visible from our window! It was there all the time but we didn’t know because we couldn’t see it! That to me was a great example of what faith looks like. Knowing that something is there even when it’s invisible.
Thank you Lord that you make beautiful mountains rise up out of the grey of life’s mundane skies and remind us that there is always beauty and hope, even if we can’t always see it.
Thanks for reading and your continued support.