Tuesday, April 30, 2013

17: orange everywhere!!

Today is Queens day in the Netherlands! Boy did I know it just by walking around the ship. Last year there was a huge carnival to celebrate and this year the dutchies had a party all day. Sadly the crew wasn't invited... But it was still fun to see!!!
Here's a peek.

Monday, April 29, 2013

18- Remembering

I was going to write this a few days ago, but now something else has happened. Only seems fit to do all three in one.

Five years ago on the 27th, my world flipped upside down. I was in the dining hall at UMBC with a few of my friends, when one started talking about how there were police all over her dorm. One of the student's families was there in the common area and they looked upset and were crying. She said it seemed like he was missing, or something had happened. His name came out a few minutes later- Jamie Heard. My heart stopped.

My mind raced back to August of the year before. I was a welcome week leader(a Woolie as they're affectionately called), and I saw an ambulance take off with one of the people who saw after the program- Jamie- inside. I quickly called one of the other leaders and asked him what was going on, as they were good friends. He said that Jamie was a diabetic and he'd been having trouble stabalizing his levels and he crashed. He assured me everything would be fine. I still worried and prayed for Jamie.

Back to April... my friend said it was Jamie, and something in me knew. I immediately got onto facebook when I got back to my room and frantically searched for answers as to what was going on. Then it came... Jamie was missing from an important meeting that morning. He was an INCREDIBLY bright and ambitious young man who had an even BRIGHTER future... he would NEVER miss a meeting. His friends, worried, came to look for him in his dorm, but what they found was Jamie, dead. He'd had a diabetic attack and slipped into a coma- it looks like- and then died shortly after.
The events that followed truly wrecked me. I broke down- totally and completely. This was a person I looked up to. I didn't know him that well, but he was always looking out for the rest of us. He was one of the most genuine people I've ever met, and would always go out of his way to make someone's day. I didn't cope well with the loss of Jamie. Losing him meant there was a HUGE hole in the heart of the UMBC community. It made me think of the day during my Freshman year that he came over to our dorm and all of us made a 'family tree'. Our floor was really close and Jamie was a good friend of a few people on the floor, so of course we included him.

I was the one who had to tell most of my friends. Some didn't know him well, but once they realized who it was, they were a mess. I had a friend who was at a concert, so I asked him to come and find me immediately after he got back.... It was so hard to tell him.... they were buddies. I couldn't stop crying when I was alone, but I couldn't cry in front of people. My best friend was my rock during that time- coming over very late just to sit with until I fell asleep. There was hole in my heart after losing him.

The first thing that came to mind when I found out he died was the song, "It is well with my soul". To this day, that song still brings tears to my eyes.

But, he really made an impact on me. He reminded me that I still have life in me- I need to use it and share the joy he used to share all of the time. His smile always made my day... I realized I wanted to be that for someone.... This statement he wrote really really impacted me and still does today.

“I value life because I realize that too many people waste it. I smile because I realize that too many people cry. I laugh because I know too many people take things too seriously. I lead because too many people have been led astray. I teach because so many people are ignorant. I speak because people need to listen. I listen because so many people have been ignored. I have fun because too many people are always busy. I live for a purpose, because too many people have died for no purpose. I love because too many people show hate. I keep trying because too many people give up. I appreciate what I have because so many people take it for granted. Life is beautiful.”
-Jamie Heard

This week also marked 1 year since the loss of Chantal. I realzied this as I was on the ward and I was hanging out with a patient friend of mine- Mariatu- and one of my best ship friends.... If you don't remember her story, check out my post Chantal .

I remember that night so well... there was a party on the dock with all of our day workers. I knew the day we would lose her was rapidly approaching, buts still, her death came as a shock. I was on the dock, partying it up, but something in me wasn't right. Then, I saw nurse friends of mine come down the gangway crying... I knew something wasn't right...I went to the ward to visit a patient friend and things seemed okay down there.... afterwards, I ran to my friend Becca's cabin, and that's where I found out. At first it was sheer disbelief that she was actually gone. My sweet friend, who I wasn't allowed to see in her final days due to visitor restrictions... gone. I would never hold her hand again, never sit with her through the pain... she was gone.

I went to Deck 8 and broke down. I was angry, confused, and bewildered. The next day was her memorial service on board... it was EXACTLY what I needed... I heard the stories of how she accepted Christ in the days leading to her death, I  heard stories of the day she died and how BEAUTIFUL those last moments were, I heard the story of how she saw Jesus' face as she slipped into her final sleep... simply beautiful. That's when I remembered, sometimes it's best to let them go and be thankful for the time you had with them. Also, you have to remember that God's taken them and they're in a much better place now... at least I knew that for Chantal.

Yesterday I had an INCREDIBLE day with my sweet ship nieces and one of my ship sisters, as I posted yesterday:) But, the day took a turn. I wouldn't let it ruin the beautiful day, but it certainly was tough to grasp.

My sweet friend Carrie was one of the camp directors at Dragonfly Forest. Over Christmastime, I found out she had a brain tumor. I decided then to email her and start talking with her- let her know she was supported and that I was covering her in prayer... I am so thankful for those conversations now. We knew the tumor could over-take her quickly, but I had no idea how quickly.

Carrie was the light of camp for me. She was one of the people I REALLY looked up to. She taught me all of the camp songs during training, she was a constant source of encouragement, and I can truly say that I 'wanted to be like here when I grow up'. She wasn't all that much older than me, but she was certainly a role model for me. In the face of struggles at camp, she always looked on the bright side and helped us push through. She was the hardest for me to say bye to the day I left camp, and now I know why

I was on facebook and kept seeing pictures of her, when I realized what that meant. I will never think of the song, "Sweet Caroline" the same... I'll never sing "Tarzan" or "Piece of Tin" without thinking of her and the joy she brought with her to camp. I'm so thankful for those conversations we had, but I wish I knew how little time we had. A few weeks ago, I emailed her and she said she was hanging in there... I thought it was better than it was...
Carrie is on the left... oh camp grannies.. I love you;)

Sweet Caroline, I hope you know how much you were loved here and I truly hope and pray that God took you up to heaven to rest.... you so deserved that rest after all you've been through, friend... I love you and camp will never be the same without you.

19- Tea parties, spa day and words with friends

Today included a tea party with my 4 ship nieces and one of my ship sisters, which turned into mud masks and nail painting with the sound of music, then an epic words with friends battle with one of my ship sisters and brother once their kids went to bed.... Priceless moments.

Then came another reminder of how short life is... Ill talk more on that tomorrow. For now. Photos!!!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

20- flea market

Ever wonder what a flea market on a ship in Africa might look like? I only got to see my table and the 3 around me, but this is what mine looked like:)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

21- baking therapy

Latest I've been up in a WHILE, but so worth it. The evening started off strong with the 'homecoming' game of frisbee, which was great and I got to babysit two sweet toddlers during, hit a sour note when we got back, but baking therapy helped and within 2 hours I was happy again and having a blast baking opposite of my friends in preparation for tomorrow's flea market. To those on the AFM, I'm selling great cabin stuff and I am selling s'mores cookie bars, mint chocolate layered fudge, red velvet cake balls and Oreo truffles!!! Come support me in my fundraising efforts for home and getting situated in the US.

Friday, April 26, 2013

21- baking therapy

Latest I've been up in a WHILE, but so worth it. The evening started off strong with the 'homecoming' game of frisbee, which was great and I got to babysit two sweet toddlers during, hit a sour note when we got back, but baking therapy helped and within 2 hours I was happy again and having a blast baking opposite of my friends in preparation for tomorrow's flea market. To those on the AFM, I'm selling great cabin stuff and I am selling s'mores cookie bars, mint chocolate layered fudge, red velvet cake balls and Oreo truffles!!! Come support me in my fundraising efforts for home and getting situated in the US.

22- blessed day

What a great day full of friends!!!

One of my closest ship friends is also our neighborhood dental hygienist who keeps me in line and my teeth pearly white. I had my last cleaning with her(:(), and I am always struck by how funny it is for a friend to also be my hygienist, or my doctor, or pharmacist, etc etc. it was a lot more fun than at home that's for sure!!! At home it's awkward and sometimes boring, but when it's a good friend, they know how to keep it entertaining:)

Short one tonight but still recovering from my late night last night...:) totally worth it but felt it after community meeting for sure.

Oh and look!!! A lunar eclipse!!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

23- p90x and friends

Today turned out worlds different than I thought it would but it was so great!!!!!

I got to hang out with my favorite 8 month old niece twice so her mama could get her study on, then her awesome mama took a break to exercise with me!!! Me and Hailey had a BLAST!!! Goodness will I miss that sweet baby and her mama!!!!

If you had mentioned the word p90x to me a week ago, I would've shuttered... All I've heard about it is how intense it is and it seemed so intimidating. Sink fled at the mention of the name. Monday, as I mentioned, we did p90x yoga, which helped me see the light. It is indeed brutal but fantastic!!!!! Definitely no more brutal than my man billy Blanks. Tiday me and my workout buddy did most of cardio x. Again with the butt kicking... Especially since my level of soreness drastically increased last night in my sleep, but great!!! I feel so much better about myself after a workout!

Then after that was dinner, which is the BEST steak I have ever had on the ship... SO GOOD!!!!! Then I brought one of my great friends down to sift through my stuff and lay claims on the things I want it get rid of/sell. We had so much fun looking through it all. Then we went up to the cabin, where her kids and husband decided to check out their new tent and supplies and set it up. Amazing!!! Couldn'tve found a better home for my things:)

Then I proceeded to hang out with said friend after the kids went to sleep and I showed her around her new itouch and we chatted... And chatted... And chatted some more....:)

Late to bed, but that's okay... Didn't need to be up early early anyways:)

Thanks for a great day, God. You always know just what I need;)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

24: Twisted Tuesday

Today can only be described as twisted and somewhat terrible, but it all was made up for tonight. First i babysat my sweet 8 month imd niece which was WAY fun!!! Then I went to deck 7 and hung out with patients:)

We then went back down to the ward and I met sweet Aicha who is getting in a cleft palate surgery tomorrow. Her mom remembered me and I told her again in had the same surgery when I was a baby:) she is so beautiful- her eyes light up the room and her smile is killer!!!

I also got to see my amazing warrior of a friend Mariatou who now has a chair that reminds us of a throne. When I first saw her to iChat I didn't recognize her because she was no longer in her hospital gown but in a beautiful African dress with a matching head wrap. Incredible turnaround from the other day!!!;)

Moments like those remind me why I am here and I thank God despite the bumps the things really do work together for good.

Monday, April 22, 2013

25- Speeches, yoga and smoothies

Today was an eventful day. Fortunately I decided not to let it get to me after I encountered a VERY grumpy crewmate who has a pretty negative look on everything that happens during the day. Instead of fretting that I had a speech today that I had yet to write for Toastmasters, I let the idea come to me ...10 minutes before my 1:40 class with time to practice only from 3-3:3. But I did it!!! It wasn't perfect, but that's why I'm there... To learn.

Afterwards I had a choice to make... Do I meet up with my coworkers who were going to do yoga, or do I bake for class, or do I hide in bed? I decided to do yoga. We did p90x, which wasn't as hard as I thought it may be but it was WAY longer than I'm used to. Needless to say I couldn't do everything, but I surprised myself that I had the willpower to do an hour and a half of yoga. The company certainly helped. Lots of laughter:)

Then I showered with some amazing body shop body wash which smells like heaven... Aka pink grapefruit... And grabbed the nearest mango(I have several) and got my yogurt from this morning and made a BANGARANG smoothie;)

Simple, but incredible evening... All because of my outlook on my day. I think starting the day off by journaling and chatting with God helped too. I may regret the yoga in the morning though;)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

26- Processing...

Finally- time to write something a little more interesting for you all... there'll be a few this week, as we're hitting some landmark dates in my life... you'll see what I'm talking about when it rolls on in:)

For now, I really want to update on my visit to Lazare's yesterday...

We went to Lazare's nice and early... well for Saturday 9 is early in my opinion... though I never wake up later than 8ish these days:) I was in my usual 'get out of bed quuick and rush around' mode...  I don't know why I do that when I prefer to get up and take my time, but I do it every time:) Then we were off. Lazare's was fun, but a little tough... lately it's been getting tougher as I know I'm leaving these sweet ones in a few short weeks. This is the closest and most involved I've gotten with a ministry in any country I've served in, so this is a toughie.
Musa is very picky about who he likes... thankfully he loves me now:)
Dorcas and Tata enjoying water play!

I got to stay at Lazare's a few weeks ago an while I was there, I stayed with an amazing girl named Hannah, who lived on site in a little apartment above the center. We had a blast together, but, sadly, she left last week. This has left a few of the kids in a shell-shocked state. They had gotten used to the unconditonal love, affection, and attention they'd gotten from this awesome girl. But now, nobody really looks out for them. Their smiles were few and far between and they all clung to me. There are 3 girls in particular that really loved Hannah, and throughout the visit yesterday, each of those sweet girls ran to me and couldn't be consoled unless I was with them. Breaks my heart and makes me cringe.
Great way to get a Massage:)

Hannah and Rachid

Our Smiley Rachid:)

Lisa with Dorcas
My turn!!! I have Hawa, Rachid and Dorcas on my back ! 

Lisa celebrating with Dorcas after Dorcas walked successfully with her walker quite a ways. She has Cerebral Palsy  and Lisa and her family have been insturmental in getting Dorcas sitting up, walking, and being more verbal!

My little man Jean... or Jean Jean as I call him:)
What'll it be like when I leave? What'll it be like when Mercy Ships leaves. There are about 9 of us who go on this particular team every single week with about 10 who are random crew members who sometimes come twice, but rarely come more than once. Out of the 9, there is 1 family that is EXTREMELY close with about 4 kids, the other is really close with probably 3, and I'm super duper close with probably about 15 of the kids... about 1/2.. merely from my weekend visit over Easter. I have no idea how I"m going to leave these kids behind. I thought about how I could get one home to be with me, but am constantly reminded I'm in no place to adopt, and only 4/30 kids are even adoptable there anyway...
Esther and Doracs during Water Play
Esther at Snacktime
Esther during Water Play
Esther, Rachid and Brenna at water play!!

I love Esther's new look!!!

As I held my sweet Hannah(the baby, not the older friend;)), who clearly just needed attention- a baby who nearly died in our first weeks visiting the care center, but held on- she's a fighter, I nearly burst into tears. I'm haunted by images of her when she was just skin and bones, strapped to my fellow crew mate, and good friend Lisa's back. Lisa's heart was so full and wanting to protect this small one when we first got there- she had hope for this child who all others had lost hope in. Over the last few months, sweet Hannah has gained SO much weight. She's not this sweet chubby little marshmallow who I just want to eat up all of the time. She's hard to hold for too long because she's quite heavy, but I rejoice every time my arms ache from holding her. Her eyes used to be so empty and void of emotion, but now they are full... yesterday they were full of pain and sadness, not her usual joy. Again... my heart ached and ached for her.
At the Easter Egg Hunt
She LOVES snack... peanut butter EVERYWHERE!!!
What a sweet girl, my Hannah is:)

 Then there's my sweet Jojo. His name is Joseph, but we've grown to love his nickname:) When we first arrived at the care center, he was confined to a baby seat. We assumed something was wrong, so we didn't touch him. As the weeks went on, I decided I didn't care if he was sick or something, this baby needed love. I grabbed him and was surprised at how light this little guy was... he was covered in strange bumps, his skin pale, hair missing in patches, his thumb cut up from sucking on it.... that's when I noticed his teeth. He has a full mouth.... So, I asked my friend Lisa, who happens to be a Dental Hygenist if she'd tell me how old he is. She said she could give an estimate, but nothing concrete. It wasn't until Hannah(big Hannah) came that I learned Jojo is over 2 years old... he had the physical ability of a 4 month old when I met him- he couldn't hold his head up, he couldn't sit up, he stared blankly, made no sound... so really the capacity of a newborn. Over the last few months, we decided to take action. We began stimulating him, one of the team members brought him to the ship to be checked out and what the orphanage though was Scoliosis, just turned out to be under-development of this sweet boy. He had the complete capability of learning to sit up, to walk, to function, but he was outcast in the very place that brought him in off the streets.

Me and Jojo LAUGHING!!!:)
Me and Jojo snuggling.

Now, Jojo is making tons of sounds, his smile is the most amazing smile in existance, he has the sweetest laugh, he can sit up and crawl a little bit. He has permanant developmental affects of his neglect, however. He is severerly underdeveloped not only physically, but mentally. If I had to guess, he has the mental age of a 5 or 6 month old. When he is over-stimulated, he shuts down, when he is under-stimulated, he has a system of stimulating himself, which involves sucking his thumb and controlling the light around him by putting his hand over his eyes and  quickly removing it. This boy had my heart... I wish I could sweep him away and give him the attention he needs to overcome these obstacles. I would guess he is on the Autism Spectrum, and probably at the very low-functioning end. He is semi-verbal, but has yet to form words or make sounds that resemble words...
So handsome!!!
Suckin' that thumb:)

Then comes the part that wrecks my heart and shreds it up into a billion pieces. Over 1/2 of the kids at this care center have HIV. Probably 1/2 are contracted from the mother and the other 1/2(especially the older kids) contracted it from abuse of some sort. My little Jojo has no chance of being adopted. HIV Positive children are not adoptable- domestically or Internationally. They are adoptable in the US Domestically, but Guinea will not adopt a child who is HIV positive. I understand SOME of the logic, however, I really just don't get it at the end of the day. They are preventing these children from potentially getting into families who will look after their disease, who can provide them with the attention and medication they need, who will support them and look after them- especially in those final days when their body begins attacking itself. HIV is not an accepted disease here in Africa. People are often shunned from their tribes and families if it is known they have it, so they either hide the people, or hide the disease, neither of which will help the situation in the least.

Sweet girl. Lived with Hannah while she was here due to a broken leg... nobody knows how she broke her femur in 1/2... 
Times like these make me ask God, 'Why?... Why do you allow these children to get sick, why do you allow tragic things to happen to their families, why are they shunned from their families, why are they abandoned, abused, neglected?' But then I'm reminded, God says that he will provide for those who trust in him. it makes me step back and look at the bigger picture. At the end of the day, this place is their refuge- it's WAY better than the places they would've ended up had Lazare not brought them in. Then we come to Lazare. He has a heart of gold. His intentions are pure and he has a heart after God. It's hard because the caregivers aren't all this way, many just needed a job and truly do not care about the children. And for whatever reason, Lazare cannot fire them by law, but maybe God is using each of these people in this place for a reason. Maybe he has something bigger to show each caregiver and he'll bring them up to be amazing caregivers? I truly do not know and I won't know, but I am thankful that at least the place has a solid family who runs it and while they cannot control all of the situations, cannot fulfill all of the children's needs, they are following God's plan for them and are doing the best they can with what they have... I'm thankful these kids had a 2nd chance... so many were on the verge of death when they came to Lazare's, and now they are full of life.
My older boys!!! Abu, Mohammed, Sekouba and Naby
David is being adopted NEXT MONTH!!:)