Sunday, August 28, 2011

Best souvenir ever

YES! Finally I got it!!! :)))

The complete story involved a couple of trips to the police. First Abdul, our local helper when there to get the form. I filled it out and sent it back with 2 passport photos, a copy of my Hungarian driver's license and the amount they required for the exchange.

There was always something coming up last minute so I was ready for a week every day to go and get my new document, but it never happened. The next week I got sick so I was in bed. The next 3 weeks I spent partially in the hospital (3 nights at ICU after my surgery) and mostly in my own bed.

Week 4 came and we went back to the police only to find that my application was rejected. The reason? You gonna love this... On my application I stated the Place of Birth as HUNGARY. The police thought I wrote HUNGRY (without the "A") and told us that there is "no such country" and if I am hungry I shouldn't waste the precious time of the local police force to inform them on an official document. HAHAHAHA MEGA LOL!

Well, except that I was not amused! Abdul suggested that I type up an "official looking document with stamp and everything" stating that there is indeed a country called Hungary where they issued a valid driver's license to me. So we did.

The next trip was almost successful. We made it all the way to the last office where they actually print the license. The only problem was that they just switched to the new system and the lady working at the computer never used the program before and had no idea how to crop and resize the picture. We wasted another 2 hours waiting for them to figure it out. Defeated we left and I started to wonder of maybe this is God trying to tell me I really shouldn't need this paper. :)

And week 6 came. Abdul called me and said we should go right now, so I quickly combed my hair and rushed to the local police station. This time everything worked just fine and 10 min. later I was a proud owner of my very own, valid, Sierra Leonean driver's license!!! :)

She asked me which category I want. I said "ALL!" and thought she is joking only since on the paper it clearly said "B". Well, she ticked all of them for me, except the tractor, because it would cost more. :))))

Check it out Dad, I can drive your bus, too!!!! :)

And the best part: this license is valid for the next 5 years all over West Africa! So watch out Salone, Reka is ready to hit the roads! :) People, START PRAYING!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bringing hope and healing... not like you'd imagine...

For the last 2 weeks I have been sick and had a minor surgery on board that left me in bed with little to do so I thought I take this time to write about a controversy I've been struggling with recently. I talked to Tiffany (a mum on board) and she gave me her OK to write some of her thoughts here, too.

We love happy endings.  We love to see lives changed.  To see hope restored in people who have lost hope is one of our greatest joys.  "Bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor" is more than just the mission statement of Mercy Ships, but it is at the very core of why we are here.  It is the message that Jesus himself walked out in the flesh.  He came to serve those neglected and forgotten by society- the throw aways, those hidden from sight, or those others wished were hidden from sight.

And while on a good portion of our days we do see those happy endings, it is not guaranteed.

Not everyone qualifies for surgery.  Some have conditions that we are unable to treat.  The bedspace is limited.  Our scope of practice is limited.  Some tumors are malignant.  We won't get through all the names on the waiting list - each one representing a life, a family, a community, desperate for help.  And even those that do make it to the ship, into surgery, and through treatment with the Western doctors and nurses, it's still not foolproof.  They don't always end up with the results we would like to see... :(

When Osman (age 9) came to the ship, he was suffering from a severe infection on his right leg after falling out of a tree.  He had been to a local healer where they put strips of fabric soaked in boiling water as a source of treatment for the infection.  This resulted in third degree burns that contracted his knee and constant infections occurring.

He came with eyes full of hope at what the future might hold after his surgery on the Africa Mercy.

The first two trips to the OR were to do dressing changes and try to rid his leg of infection so that eventually the skin graft could take.  Because of the severity of the infection anesthesia was required for this process.  The third trip to the OR was to release the contracture and place a skin graft from his opposite thigh onto the right knee.  During a checkup the next day, blood was pooling under his right knee and Osman stated he was feeling dizzy.  He was taken to the OR right away where it was found that the infection had eroded all the way down to his artery, resulting in an arterial bleed.  He required an immediate arterial graft.

Over the course of the next four days, it was evident that the graft was failing and his leg was now dying. His fifth trip to the OR was a result of a critical decision: lose his life, or amputate above the knee.

So Osman's infected leg was removed...

Did we do more harm than good?  
Did we fail him? 
Did God fail him? 
Where is God in this?

Osman tells us he is happy to be rid of his leg.  "It was always paining me.  Now I am free from that pain and I can run and play."  He is learning how to move on crutches and will soon be able to move faster than us. His smile is bigger than ever.  His hope has not vanished.  Its just different than what we all imagined...

2 weeks ago I was at the HOPE Center where he is currently staying and he greeted me with his standard smile. In no time a ball appeared and before I could say anything Osman and I were playing football. Originally I tried to be nice and "let him win", but I soon discovered that I really need to get my act together if I want to compete with him. :)

Here is a short video of us playing:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Meet Bambay, the most extraordinary man in Sierra Leone

What's your goal in life? Finish school? Get a good job? Marry a rich widow? Travel around the World? I guess we all have different goals we want to achieve, but the question is: how far are you willing to go for your dreams?

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting our Agricultural Project, here in Sierra Leone, about an hour drive away from Freetown. All those who have been there before told me that if I get to know only 1 of the trainees, it should be Bambay - but they didn't tell me, why. Because you cannot come and meet him, I am sharing the reason with you all now.

Reka with some of students standing in the middle of their corn field


Bambay is an extraordinary individual, whose life’s goal is not typical;  “he doesn't want to be a beggar.” This reflects the sad reality of life in Sierra Leone after their brutally violent ten-year civil war. The conflict devastated the people and left the country in shambles and poverty.

During the war, Bambay, his mother and two younger siblings fled from their village and hid in the bush for a month. When they ran out of food, Bambay went back to his village to find something – anything – they could eat. He planned to return to his family that day, but it was late. So, he accepted an invitation to stay until the next morning. It was a disastrous decision.

During the night, the village was attacked by rebel soldiers. “You voted for this president!” they shouted. Bambay tried to explain that he was only 15 and couldn’t vote for anyone. But they wouldn’t listen. They chopped off both his hands and left him for dead . . . along with the other villagers who had been mutilated.

Later that day, he was found by a roving seller of goods and taken to a nun at a nearby church. She took him to a hospital and then nursed him back to health. While Bambay was in her care, she asked him what he’d do if he ever found the man who cut off his hands. “I would kill him!” said Bambay.

The nun began to plant the seeds of forgiveness into Bambay’s thinking. She told him how important it was for his future to relinquish the hate and anger that fueled his unforgiveness. The nun also did what she could to prepare the young man for life on his own. She arranged a surgery that would split the hacked ends of his arm, allowing him to grasp things.

One day Bambay was out with his friends when he saw “Sewer Poison,” the nickname given to the man who had cut off his hands. He went after him and caught him, but couldn’t bring himself to kill the man. The seeds of forgiveness had been well-planted. His friends offered to kill the man for him, but Bambay wouldn’t allow it. The man pleaded for his life, and Bambay forgave him.

That forgiveness enabled Bambay to move on with his own life. He eventually met and married Mary, and today they have a seven-month-old baby daughter, Ann.

Jean-Claude (in red T) giving some practical teaching to the trainees
Today, Bambay is a trainee in the Food for Life Program that was started in Benin by Mercy Ships.  The goal of the program is to train people in organic farming methods and in leadership principles. These trainees will, in turn, teach others in their communities. In this way, the program is duplicating easily in Sierra Leone. It has the potential of transforming food-growing in the country, as it improves the financial status of those involved.

Bambay wants to be involved in using the program’s biblical concepts to help rehabilitate the mentally ill, as well as drug and alcohol addicts. Bambay is, indeed, a remarkable man who is achieving much, much more than his goal to “not to be a beggar.” 

So, you can imagine my initial shock when I saw him for the first time... Not knowing what to expect I just smiled at him, but he drew me close for a big hug and welcomed me into their community like a long lost friend. :) I had a FABULOUS day with them on the fields. They were all super excited to show me their lot and educate me on basic farming should I ever need to know how to cross breed bad mango trees with good brunches... :)
Mary, Bambay's wife carrying her daughter on her back
and fresh lettuce for us to eat on her head - African style :)
The trainees graduated a few weeks ago and now it's up to them to go back to their respected villages and teach their communities what they have learnt here and maybe one day the Sierra Leonean mango will be the best know and most demanded fruit on the planet... Who knows? They sure won my heart! :)))