Thursday, May 24, 2012

Papanie - A Joy to Work With

Mention the name of Papanie Turay around the Africa Mercy, and the response is immediate: “Perpetually happy!” These two words sum up the wonderful joy that Papanie shares wherever he is working onboard.
Papanie Turay is a diligent worker and takes great pride in a job well done.
Papanie’s kind and buoyant disposition is especially amazing when you consider the trials he has faced in his life. Prior to joining Mercy Ships as a day-worker in Sierra Leone in 2011, Papanie endured incredible hardship. Yet, he never abandoned hope nor his mission to “serve with all of my heart.”
Two of his brothers died in infancy before Papanie was born. Then, when he was two years old, his father died. People said that Papanie’s mother was cursed and that she would kill her infant son, Papanie, too. She believed the superstitious gossip. To save her son, she gave him to her sister Fatu, who did not have any children.
Life with his aunt was harsh. Papanie began work as a laborer at a very early age to help feed the family. The extremely heavy loads he carried caused excessive strain on his growing joints, particularly in his right hip. But Papanie could not afford to stop working, and the pain in his hip grew worse.
The remedies from the traditional doctor in his village offered no relief. Wrapping his legs in steamed leaves made no difference. In desperation, Papanie spent precious resources to get advice from the nearest clinic. The news was distressing. Papanie would have a permanent limp, and he must stop carrying any heavy loads to keep from completely losing his ability to walk.
At age fifteen, Papanie came to a Mercy Ships patient screening. The sad news Papanie had received from the clinic was confirmed. There was no treatment that could heal Papanie’s hip or limp.
Because he could no longer earn money as a laborer, Papanie knew he would be an unwelcome burden on his aunt and her family. He left their village and began living on the streets in Freetown.
With his visible limp, Papanie bore the brunt of ridicule and discrimination in addition to continuing physical pain. He said, “My life was survival of the fittest. Any money I earned I had to spend right away or bury. Otherwise it would be stolen from me. I went to school, but I had no lunch, and I could not afford to buy the uniform.”
The only family that Papanie had during these dark years was a group of teenagers who lived in Victoria Park in Freetown. While many street kids turned to theft to survive or to drugs to escape, Papanie did not choose that path. “I wanted a good way for my life, not one that was wrong or would cause the harm I had seen done in others who went this way,” he explained.      
When Papanie was first approached by a Christian organization called Word Made Flesh, he resisted the invitation to join their support program for street youth. “I was from a Muslim family and was taught to mistrust Christians,” he stated.
Cami, a warm-hearted Word Made Flesh volunteer, caused Papanie to have a change in heart. “Cami showed me so much love and care. My family never gave me love, and when Cami, who did not know me, gave me what I had missed so much in my childhood, I began to feel differently. I watched how everyone at Word Made Flesh gave love to others, and I decided I would be a Christian, too.”
In 2011, Papanie had his second encounter with Mercy Ships, thanks to his involvement with his local church. His youth pastor suggested that Papanie become a day-worker onboard the Africa Mercy. “I wanted to become a missionary, and I didn’t think I would have time for a full-time job. But I listened to my mentor’s advice, and, after working with the hospital housekeeping team, I was so glad. I discovered that the mission of Mercy Ships is also my mission. The work is hard, but I am able to serve with all of my heart,” he said.
Hospital laundry services are critical to keep the busy Africa Mercy  wards and operating theaters fully stocked with clean linens. Papanie Turay ensures that his work is done – above and beyond the call of duty.
Papanie’s family thinks that it is a great blessing for Papanie to be part of the Mercy Ships team. He agrees. “I have learned to serve others, and I have so many good friends in my life. I have put down my pride for a new way – I help others get up.”
A wonderful step in Papanie’s missionary journey was completing the Mercy Ships Gateway training in Ghana. “I learned a lot about leadership, God’s Word and how to work cross-culturally,” he remarked.
Papanie is now working diligently to raise the support needed to continue his service as a volunteer crew member onboard the Africa Mercy. He welcomes the opportunity to serve and to grow in his ability to be a servant leader.
“In my community, I help young children, especially girls, with their education. I led a Good News Club, and every Saturday morning children came from everywhere to worship, sing and share food. Now, I am talking to others to also start Good News Clubs in their communities. Everything I gain as a volunteer with Mercy Ships will help me be of more help to others,” he said.
Papanie has absolute confidence that his path with Mercy Ships is what God has in mind for him. “God has given me a lifetime supply of joy and the will to help raise others up through education, through mentorship, and through showing love. I am blessed to be His servant, and I know I will be blessed with the support to do the work He calls me to,” he said with great assurance.

March 13, 2012 Story by Joanne Thibault; Edited by Nancy Predaina; Photos by Debra Bell

Note from Tori: I had the great privilege to meet Papanie about a week ago.  My other Sierra Leonian friends introduced me over dinner.  The most exciting part is that Papanie became a crew member earlier this week!  He is now Hospital Housekeeping Coordinator.  Papanie lives down the hall from me and is such an amazing man.  He is so joyful, friendly, and praises God for everything.  I am honored to know him.

Radiatou - Part 2

     After years of waiting, the time had finally come for Radiatou to have surgery. Radiatou suffered from a large facial tumor that had been growing for years, causing her to hide in the shadows of life. Now she was onboard the Africa Mercy, waiting anxiously on her hospital bed – knowing that in the morning her world was going to change forever.  While crew members talked to her and prayed with her, she was constantly moving, filled with so much energy and excitement she could no longer contain it.
     Twelve hours later, Radiatou was wheeled into one of the hospital ship’s operating rooms to have the tumor removed. The surgery was complex, and Radiatou required a couple of pints of blood, which were donated by the crew, to help sustain her during the long procedure. Mercy Ships volunteer surgeon Dr. Luer Koeper was able to remove the tumor successfully, taking away the mass that had shattered Radiatou’s life.
      Radiatou spent a couple days in the ICU to ensure she did not need more blood transfusions. During this time, Radiatou’s new friends, crew members she met on screening day, came and visited her several times a day. Every time, Radiatou would reach out to hold their hands, giving a sigh of relief and falling asleep with her supportive friends surrounding her. Before long, Radiatou was well enough to move into the hospital ward with other patients. She counted down the hours until her friends came to see her. As soon as they entered the ward, she clapped her hand and performed a little dance on her bed. The love and support from the Mercy Ships crew soothed Radiatou’s aching soul and broke the shackles of loneliness that had held her captive for so many years.

     Within two weeks, Radiatou had healed well enough to go home. Her Mercy Ships friends drove her to her village, which was over an hour away from the ship. As the Land Rover pulled up to her home, it was immediately surrounded by people waiting for Radiatou’s arrival.  And the celebration began! This was the first time any of the villagers had seen her without her tumor. The response was overwhelming for Radiatou, her extended family, and her Mercy Ships friends. Loud sobs of joy filled the village as they all came to hug Radiatou. Many fell to their knees, raising their hands to the sky to praise God for the miracle in Radiatou’s life.
     Two months later, Radiatou’s Mercy Ships friends returned to her small village. Radiatou joyfully flew into their arms. She was healing well physically, and now she was dancing with her dearest friends in celebration.
     Radiatou came to Mercy Ships as an orphan who had just lost everything and everyone she knew. She was living in a home with people she had never met before and was engulfed with loneliness. In fact, she was so distraught that she attempted suicide but was stopped by her new family. The next day she heard about Mercy Ships, and a month later she found herself, for the first time in years, surrounded by people who cared for her deeply. They became her closest friends. Her tumor was removed, and so was her loneliness. She basked in the glow of love and acceptance of new friends.
     In a matter of months, Radiatou’s life was completely transformed by the power of love in action . . . the power of mercy. Now, she had a future and was getting ready to start her training as a tailor. She no longer had to hide from the world’s stares. With tears in her eyes, Radiatou said goodbye to her wonderful, supportive friends. “The love you have shown us has made us feel so welcomed, you have loved us as if we were family. You will always be family to me,” she declared.
Radiatou takes her first lesson in the art of being a tailor...and enjoys every minute of it!

10 May 2012Story by Nicole PribbernowEdited by Nancy PredainaPhotos by Debra Bell and JJ Tiziou 

Monday, May 21, 2012


        So a couple weeks ago, two of my roommates and I went with a local Ghanaian friend for a weekend away in Ghana.  Now, Ghana and Togo are very different.  They are about the size of a small state back in the U.S., but it is countries over here.  And the languages are very different, English and Twe in Ghana and French and Ewe in Togo.  But the biggest difference, at least for me, was the cars.  Now, as some (or most) of ya'll know, I like cars.  And the bigger, the faster, the better.  I'm not sure about my roomies but I have been dying for the sight of a nice car.  And, amazingly enough, I did.

Elsa, me, Benjamin, and Ana

     There is a lot to be learned about a city just by looking at the kinds of vehicles being driven around.  Here in Lomé the most common cars are old BMW’s and Toyota Corolla’s and Camry’s.  Most of which aren’t really in factory condition.  Semi-trucks are the most common vehicle in the port area – to haul the containers – and few have matching hoods, not to mention the wired together scraps that somehow is kept alive to form an engine.  Yet by far, the most common mode of transportation is the Motos, or Zimmi Johns as they are also known.  Sanyas, Hondas, Suzukis, Apsonics, Vespas, (and the rare Ducati) zip in and out of traffic, streets, alleys, and people.  After 4 months in a city, one can get used to this style of traffic, making it a bit of a shock to go anywhere else.

Accra, Ghana waking up

     Ghana, on the other hand, has nicer cars, more of a variety in the types and years.  I saw my first VW truck, the Amarok.  My favorite car was the silver Dodge Challenger with the nice scrape along the back bumper.  There were more Renaults, VWs, and Toyota trucks.  The big vans used as taxis are more commonly called Tro Tros, in which anywhere from 15-20+ people can be packed into.  Most of these are without AC, so it is a relief once the Tro Tro gets underway.  But the difference isn't only in the types of cars, but the roads.  In Accra, Ghana there is a 6-lane highway!! Talk about a huge culture shock.  And there are stoplights (that are actually obeyed), and a mall, and a parking garage, and big buildings.

     Honestly, Ghana started to make me miss home more than I have in all the months in Togo.  It was a good transition to my last month onboard.  I’m starting to do things for the last time, and doing things more often because I will miss them. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

All-American Apple Pie

     Last Thursday night I made apple pies for the whole crew.  I had planned on doing it earlier during the day, but it didn't work out, so from about 7:30p to 12am I worked on the pies (and left the next morning for Ghana).  It was a long process, but fun!  According to Ken they all tasted really good so success!  And yes, this was my first time really cooking pies...  Lesson Learned: don't be afraid to experiment!

I made a brown sugar, oatmeal, and cinnamon topping that went on top of the apples and under the top crust - mmmhmmmm!

End Result: 10 Pans of Apple Pie
1 Pan Cherry Pie
2 extra crusts