New Mercies: Dr. Rick Gardner
mercy-ships-podcast-new-mercies-episode-41-dr.rick-feature

CMO of CURE International and Mercy Ships Partner

With similar missions, CURE International and Mercy Ships have come alongside to partner together in many ways. 

In this episode, Dr. Rick Gardner, CURE International’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), outlines the beautiful partnership between Mercy Ships and CURE, the global need for timely, safe surgery, and how having a God-sized vision leads to a life filled with miracles. 

You are sure to be encouraged by what Dr. Rick is doing to better the future of children in Zimbabwe, and how two organizations working together is a glimpse of heaven on earth.

Looking for a way to join our mission of bringing hope and healing? Partner with us through a giftvolunteering with us, or by joining us in prayer.

New Mercies Podcast Transcript

Welcome to the New Mercies, a podcast by Mercy Ships, where we’ll take you behind the scenes and on board our incredible hospital ships that are transforming lives all over the world. We invite you to join us each week as we sit down with our crew, patients, volunteers, and partners to hear their stories of life-changing hope and healing.

CURE International is an organization much like Mercy Ships with a heart to provide hope and healing for children in need. With a similar vision, we formed a partnership between organizations to transform even more lives together. Today on New Mercies we get to hear from the Chief Medical Officer of cure Dr. Rick Gardner. Dr. Rick is an orthopedic surgeon who lives and practices in Zimbabwe with his family, the hope and Dr. Rick’s voice will touch your heart as he shares that there is so much we can do in impossible situations, when we trust the God of the impossible to do miracles. Here’s my interview with Dr. Rick.

Raeanne Newquist:

Dr. Rick, welcome to New Mercies.

Dr. Rick Gardner:

Thank you for having me.

Raeanne:

We’re excited because we have a lot to talk about today. You are the chief medical officer for an organization called CURE that is a partner with Mercy Ships. We’re going to hear a lot about that. But before we do, let’s hear a little bit about you. You are an orthopedic surgeon and tell us what you do you and what caused you to go into that field in the first place.

Dr. Rick:

I was drawn to medicine from a young age, I think I’ve always loved the practical hands-on aspect of surgery. I find orthopedic surgery so rewarding, you know, just fixing broken bones and restoring function. There’s so much that we can do to restore dignity and hope. And you know, for me, it’s such a privilege to be working with children, giving them a better life. It’s a huge joy for me day in day out to the doing this work. And I think I’m really living out my calling, particularly here on this continent.

Raeanne:

Where did you do your studies? Where are you from? And where are you currently practicing?

Dr. Rick:

So I’m English and I did my medical school time at University of London, loads of training in the UK. And then during my training I did time overseas, working in Africa and Central Asia and Southeast Asia. I finished my orthopedic training, and I did a fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. We’ve been overseas full time now for some nine years. Currently we’re in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, where it’s a beautiful new hospital here. Well, it’s a refurbish old building with some extensions and is our newest hospital on the network. We opened it back in April last year. We’re seeing children from throughout Zimbabwe. Before then I was in Ethiopia. I moved there in 2013.

Raeanne:

So when you were doing your studies in London, and setting out to be an orthopedic surgeon, you mentioned that you practiced abroad in a variety of different countries. What was it that captured your heart that said I want to go practice in developing nations, rather than stay in England?

Dr. Rick:

I think I’ve always loved being overseas. I think that this has been a big draw for me. And I think that we all sort of try to understand the calling upon our lives and I think that became clear to me very early on. I spent many years exploring and working with some different nongovernmental organizations just to see how that could best work. I found a lot of the challenges that we see day in day out on this continent, working in hospitals where you’re unable to provide the highest standard of care that you would like to and you may have issues whereby you don’t have the resources to take care of a particular child the right way, or you may not have the sterility. In surgery, sterility, particularly orthopedic surgery, where you’re often putting metal implants, plates and screws into children’s arms or legs, is essential. If you don’t have excellent sterility, it is possible to make children worse, and if you don’t have amazing anesthesia. You know, we’re taking care of, and I know in Mercy Ships also, you’re taking care of some of the most complex children in the world with huge chronic issues whereby they’re coming to us with conditions that they’ve lived with for many, many years that might have been since birth. Where in the US or in North America and Europe, to be in a situation where you know what you need to do for a child and for a patient’s but you’re second guessing, wondering if you’ve got the equipment, the sterility, the safe anesthesia to do that. And to be honest, I thought that for many years that my time overseas was going to be a constant jostling of compromise, wondering how on earth I could be able to offer that and I had an incredible sort of dawning realization when I came to visit a little hospital with CURE in Malawi. It’s an incredible place where I first came across working for CURE.

Towards the end of my training I did a year fellowship, seeing some of the most remarkable children with conditions that I hadn’t seen before, but some of the most complex children I’ve ever seen, but with a team of surgeons from the UK, Uganda, Kenya and national surgeons who are just taking care of them with such incredible love and grace, that it just really opened my eyes to what was possible. I mean, here are some of the most complex children being treated in a way that rivaled anything that I’ve seen internationally. You had families who would be coming down from rural areas, who would be fearful coming to this beautiful building, feeling very much, I don’t know, sort of out on  a limb feeling very concerned about things. And I was a fellow, which is sort of, you know, a trainee towards the end of their training as a consultant. And it was my job on the Sunday evening to go in to see all of the new patients who had been admitted, sometimes 20-30 children with their mums, and dads, and they would be all lining up in the beds and waiting to see the Englishman come in.

And I would examine them all, and we’d make plans for the week. And they all look slightly agitated, a little bit fearful about what this was all about. But then often, the moms and the dads that had been there for a number of days, and sometimes a few weeks, would then get them together. And I’d go upstairs and I’d print my operation list and I would come back downstairs to the most raucous worship service where they were all gathered together. And they were just doing a spontaneous worship service and singing and dancing, and the children were clapping their hands. And none of this was arranged by us. But this was just the welcome of previous parents, welcoming the new parents saying — Look, here is an intensely safe place, they’re going to do their very best for your child, you know, do not worry, you are part of the family.

It was a very formative time for me to think that to work in a place like that, with that degree of excellence, dealing with some of our most vulnerable children, with that degree of trust that was placed in front of the surgeons who were there, and that’s a platform for the spiritual ministry of what God does. And that’s just at the heart of why we do what we do. We practice excellent medicine, in order to be able to be to shine the light for Christ to be able to be a platform for the incredible spiritual ministry to some of these children who have been stigmatized and ostracized for their lives to be able to show them, you know, that there is a great healer out there who really loves them, and for them to be connected with a local church when they go back. And, you know, it was a year for me that just showed me what was possible. And I thought one day, I’d love to work with CURE, and that day happily came around soon.

Raeanne:

Well, I think it’s no surprise to anyone listening, why CURE and Mercy Ships are partners, because a lot of what you’re sharing is similar to what we experience on board our ships, in the hospitals. And I love how you mentioned, this crazy celebration, if you will, a worship service where families in your hospital were welcoming the new families coming in. I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of this beautiful community that forms amongst the patients and their caregivers when they’re in your hospital. I think in a large way, that assists in the patient’s healing — the community and the camaraderie that they have around them. Did you observe that?

Dr. Rick:

Yeah, so much. I’d love to talk more about the incredible synergy between Mercy Ships and CURE, the work that we do together and the parallels in it, and actually how enjoyable this collaboration has been and I hope we’ll have a chance to talk more about that. But, but going back to your question, that degree of support that the parents have with each other — and all of these stories will be the ones that you will be seeing day in day out with the work that you do in Mercy Ships — of parents who really feel that they have been cursed, stigmatized or ostracized from their communities, and feeling that they’re very, very alone and for them to come alongside, come to a hospital where they will see another child who may be completing their care for something like a dislocated hip or bow legs and knock knees or hydrocephalus, whatever it might be, and then to see another with the same condition, they realize they are not alone. I’ve been living with all of the things you’ve been through, I’d be living through but actually, I’m coming out the other side. And actually, I see that there is real hope here. And that degree of encouragement it’s just wonderful.

I’m woefully terrible with languages, my one defense is the many of the hospitals where we serve, people speak eight or nine languages. So I use that as a foil for my inability of linguistics, but just to be able to sit with the moms, just imagine sitting with them over lunch and just hearing some of those conversations would just be would just incredible. So I think the healing and spiritual mission of CURE and Mercy Ships is so profound. Those conversations, you know, under the mango tree and around lunch for the moms and the dads, to be able to share their journey and the things they’ve dealt with, it’s incredible. Some of the children need to have multiple surgeries over their childhood and, you know, we’re there for that child’s journey. For some mums it’s their first visit, but they hear the transformative stories from other parents who’ve been through it and it’s super cool.

And that celebration that I saw each Sunday evening in Malawi was just a reminder of community that can be forged anywhere.

Raeanne:

Absolutely. Well, it is definitely a beautiful thing. And I know that CURE, as you mentioned, does a lot of things similar to Mercy Ships, but a lot of things that are very different. So why don’t you tell us about the organization and your role in the organization?

Dr. Rick:

Yeah, CURE is a very intentional spiritual and medical mission. We’ve got eight hospitals, now seven of them are in Africa. We’ve got hospitals in Ethiopia, and Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and one in the Philippines. Now the main surgical focus for us is orthopedic surgery, and this is children’s orthopedic surgery. So we see children with many different conditions such as: untreated clubfoot, bow legs, knocked knees, dislocated hips, and some really terrible outcomes following untreated bone infection and joint infection. There are also muscular conditions like cerebral palsy and spina bifida, and many, many children with very fragile brains have osteogenesis imperfecta, where the bones have become so soft, they can no longer stand. And I think on the orthopedic side of things, you know, one of the many things I love about the work that we do is that we have the ability of keeping children for however long it takes to get them back on their feet. Now often this might require combined medical and surgical management, you know, strengthening up the bones before we would be cutting the bones to make them straight and putting rods down for example.

 And we’ve got a plastic surgical service now in nearly all of our hospitals. Plastic surgeons work closely with an orthopedic surgeon, particularly for these children, with terrible burn contractures that you also deal with in Mercy Ships. You see these kids whose elbows are so flexed up, their hands are stuck to their shoulders, or stuck down to their side or stuck to their chests. Many have lost so much function, and yet, they’re just hidden away, because, you know, they aren’t welcome in society. And actually, that is just a terrible disease of poverty. That is heartbreaking to see. And there’s so much we can do for those children. And I know that you treat these children day in day out, it’s just such an overwhelming number of these children throughout this continent that it’s a huge issue.

Our hospital in Uganda is particularly unique. There’s an amazing team of three or four neurosurgeons there, who each day will be taking care of children with blockage on the brain, the cause of the extra fluid buildup. And they need to prevent further brain damage to have that fluid drained either by a shunt or by widening the blockage in the brain. We treat children who have brain tumors who have gone blind and can no longer walk, or children with intractable epilepsy. And there’s an incredible team there who are taking care of some of the most fragile children we see anywhere on our network. So it’s primarily orthopedic plastic surgery, with some neurosurgery and at a couple of hospitals some ear, nose and throat.

Raeanne:

Do doctors come from all over the world to practice as well? In Mercy Ships, they come for maybe a two week stint of a specialty or several months? How is your staff made up?

Dr. Rick:

Yeah, so I guess in that way, we are a little bit difference in that in our hospitals we have a team of national expertise through the nurses and the physiotherapist or the administrative staff. And then we have our surgeons who will be full time within our hospitals. I think most of our hospitals have one or two or three expatriate surgeons, all the hospitals have national surgeons and it’s really that combination of expatriate and national expertise, who are full time, there day in day out who have  given many years of their life. We’ve got surgeons who have been with us over 20 years.

But having said that, you know, we just love having expertise coming from all over the world. Sometimes specialist surgeons will come with a unique expertise and we’ll be saving up some unique children for them. It’s incredible that they will be receiving world class care for a hugely rare condition. We love to have that expertise coming into our hospitals. We will often save the children who are just in their sweet spot and just to see world class doctors coming, it’d sort of justice coming through — to be having some of the poorest, most vulnerable children being treated by the surgeons who have written the textbooks! Like in Mercy Ships, there’s no financial barrier to any child receiving care, no child will be turned away from CURE from not having the financial ability to pay. And I think that what we do is just to be able to show God’s love to be able to show them truly excellent care. CURE might be a charitable institution, you might be a charitable institution as well, but there’s nothing cheap about the way you deliver care or the way we deliver care. And I just think that’s an incredible example of really living out our faith.

Raeanne:

How does CURE go about screening patients and finding patients?

Dr. Rick:

Yeah, this was different for each one of our hospitals. There’s a tremendous need in Zimbabwe, the health care system, the numbers, many ways speak for themselves. I think in many other countries where we serve, there’s around one orthopedic surgeon for every million people within the population. There’s a few more in Zimbabwe, but some of them, it’s even less than one in a million like Ethiopia. And that’s a contrast to say North America, in the US, where it’s around one for every 11,000 people. So the need is huge. I think Zimbabwe is an amazing country, there’s actually very good connections from orthopedic surgeons who will see the children who will send the children down.

So very quickly, they knew what we were able to offer because we have a hospital in Malawi and Zambia, which is very well known in the region, and children used to cross the border to those hospitals. And now they come to us. So within a short space of time, we had a waiting list over 5000 children, these are children waiting to come to clinic for the first time. And that’s despite that hospital providing more surgeries year on year and training more and more surgeons, but you know, when you’re dealing with a country where you’ve got 110 million people, the need is huge. And so I think one of the things that we contend with, and I know it’s the same for your work as well, is in seeing the work that we do not just through the individual patient, but also training of the local surgeons as well. And it’s that national capacity building, which is a huge joy for us really, working alongside just some incredibly talented national surgeons, the time they spent in our hospitals they’ve realized there is so much you can do to treat children. And they’ve decided that actually they want to give their careers to taking care of children. They can join us for a year for a very intentional fellowship program, then they leave after a year, being able to do the full work that we are able to do, and they go back to their government hospitals that continue the same. And I think it’s through that capacity building, that system strengthening, that we have hope of reaching those populations of many, many 10s of 1000s of children who need care for them to be able to go to a local hospital, to receive timely, excellent care. And it’s just a real joy to be able to see the surgeons just take off. We often will visit our fellows and see the work they’re doing and support them and encourage them and sometimes bring them back to work on some difficult cases together.

I did my fellowship in Toronto and I felt I had a sort of a post fellowship warranty, I could call up all my trainees and ask for help. I was very grateful for that and we offer the same for our national surgeons. And I think that’s just a real joy. And you know, many of them are incredible Christian witnesses as well and that really comes through their work. It’s hard not to spend time at one of our hospitals and not become incredible advocates and just weave that into your work.

Raeanne:

We are hearing a lot of similarities between Mercy Ships and CURE. The heart and the mission sound very similar. Why don’t you tell us how the partnership between CURE and Mercy Ships began and what that looks like today?

Dr.  Rick:

I’m so grateful for the early conversations with Mercy Ships. I would meet every month from the start of the pandemic, with your brilliant, previous, chief medical officer, Dr. Peter Linz. And then he invited me to join with the chief medical officers of different organizations and Operation Smile. And so the four of our organizations were all asking the question — What on earth do we do within the pandemic? What is the right thing to do during this time? I mean, our situation is different because

we have eight hospitals where it was easier for us to keep our doors open, easier than a ship. And so we would meet every month, and then discuss the challenges and work through all the issues of  testing and vaccination, all the safe protocols to put in place. And I think in many ways, we’re an incredible support group to each other. Those calls were a huge blessing to me. And as time went on, Peter said that he had incredibly talented physicians who might be able to volunteer some of their time and come and join us. Dr. Tertius Venter, you know him well, he’s just a remarkable plastic surgeon, cleft lip and palate and bone reconstruction, he visited our hospitals in Malawi, Ethiopia, Indonesia. Also Dr. Sarah Kwok who is your head of anesthesia, came to our hospitals in Uganda and Ethiopia, that really cemented this relationship. I mean, it’s not easy for a physician or surgeon to step into a brand new environment and a brand new country dealing with a whole set of patients who may have different pathologies, and to be able to hit the ground running and just to provide incredible service and to be a real encouragement to our staff. And for them to have a really positive time to use their skills was a great blessing to us. We loved having them, we’re still good friends.

It just felt like a real start for two like-minded organizations, you can get together and just serve many more children.

You also opened up your biomedical training program in Liberia to some of our biomedical team who provide that essential work of keeping the hospitals running. There are anesthesia machines, and X ray machines, and sterilizers all of these things, when one of these machines goes down, it can have a huge operational significance for our hospitals, let alone safety of patients, and to give access to your excellent training in Liberia was a huge blessing. More recently, you’re now international chief medical officer, Dr. Mark Shrime, has done incredible work on a really formative paper on some of the maxillofacial conditions you treat with Mercy Ships, trying to help understand the breadth of that work. And we read that and started to dream about how we could do something similar with CURE.  Mark has just been an incredible resource for us as we’re traveling through that. It’s been an incredible partnership and going from strength to strength. And I hope and pray, it’ll continue to do so.

Raeanne:

It’s really encouraging to hear because I know, our first exposure as a family to Mercy Ships, was through a friend of ours who was serving on board and then eventually, we as a family went and served on board. But we didn’t really know that a lot of this work was being done in developing nations. And so to experience all that Mercy Ships was doing on the continent of Africa was so exciting for us that now to realize that there are many organizations that are also doing great work in developing nations to help poor people with conditions that are treatable and things to give them a better life — it’s so encouraging, and I love that not only are there multiple organizations, but that several of you are working together to strengthen one another, to build each other up, and to encourage each other. It is such a beautiful thing. And it’s very, very encouraging. So we are excited about our partnership with CURE as well and want to see great things continue to happen in the future with that. So Dr. Rick, you have been serving with CURE since 2009. And I’m sure during that time, you have seen many lives changed and transformed. Can you tell us maybe about a patient in particular, that you recall, and their transformation?

Dr. Rick:

Many, many children come to mind, I think that many of them may have their own story to tell which he could write a book on, but one comes to mind who I saw back in clinic just a few weeks ago here in Zimbabwe, a little girl called Panenyasha. She’s still midway through her treatment, but I bet for me, she in many ways summarizes what I think is best about CURE regarding the work that we’re able to do. She’s a little girl who’s got a condition called hypophosphatemia rickets and rickets is a is a condition you’ll be familiar with. But with this particular type, her kidneys aren’t able to reabsorb phosphate. And so she just loses phosphates every day. And she can’t hold on to it in her bones and phosphate is a key element to give you strong bones. So she came to us age five, and she hadn’t been walking for two years because her bones have become so soft that she can no longer stand up, she was able to sit until a year previously until her arms bent to such a degree, she can no longer support herself from sitting because of the softness of the bones. So her thigh bones were bent at 120 degrees, her tibias looked almost like a concertina. And her arms, just from holding herself sitting upwards, the forearms had bent by over 90 degrees and the upper arms the same. So she was just in a desperate place, she was being carried around by her mum. And I think in many ways, she was just a true reminder of what vulnerability means. I think when you work within our hospitals, when you work on Mercy Ships, your definition of vulnerability changes. When you come and see these children who have lost the ability to even sit up, think of what their life would be like when they’re coming from a poor rural community with a mother or father who loves them dearly, but actually can’t give them the care that they need. The family probably wouldn’t even be able to afford a wheelchair so they’re able to go to school, you can just imagine what their life would be like, along with a fear of their parents to know that if you pick up the child’s awkwardly, then the bone could break again. And that degree of fear and concern, you know, just comes through the eyes of the mum so, so clearly. And so she comes along with so many 1000s of our children who come throughout the network, with a deep sense of hope. But possibly also the background is sense of hopelessness to think that nothing can be done because they’ve always been told nothing could be done. And then on top of that, she’s got a condition that is a complex condition to treat, needing both medical and surgical expertise. She’s a very fragile little girl. And for her to go to the line of surgery, she needs her bones to be so much stronger, because we need to cut the bones in multiple places to get rods down the inside to make them straight. But if you put the rods down the inside of the bone, the bone is so soft, those rods were then cut out. So she then needs a sachet, a little paper sachet of phosphates to be put into her water every morning at lunchtime in the evening, in order to give her enough phosphate that the bones can hold on to and not be lost out through the kidneys straightaway. And then that needs to be given every day until she finishes growing — that’s three sashes a day. That is 100 a month, that’s 1200 a year. And over the course until she finishes growing that’s around 12,000 sachets of phosphate. That phosphate we couldn’t buy in Zimbabwe. We have contacts in South Africa, but we couldn’t buy that phosphates in South Africa. It’s just not accessible. And so then we needed to buy that phosphate in America. We had an amazing lady who, shout out to Debbie who happens to be coming over to Zimbabwe and she brought out a suitcase full of the phosphate which we could then give to Panenyasha. Now Panenyasha came back incredibly, three months later, this little girl was actually able to walk up to clinic and gave me a big smile and I just had a memory that I’d seen this girl before. And Mum was talking about the whole thing and we were saying how she felt it was a miracle that Panenyasha was actually walking when she’d stopped walking two years previously now Panenyasha’s bones are still bent these remarkable ways, but she was able because the bones got stronger to stand up and walk again. It was wonderful her mum was giving this phosphate even though I’m sure she had a lot of doubts.

And then three months later, we operated on Panenyasha for the first time to straighten out a femur which required some of the best anesthesia that I’d be glad to see in Zimbabwe and just incredible support from our ICU trained nurses. They were remarkable as she had a severe kind of psychological response following the surgery that meant she needed to have some ICU care afterwards and she got through that and she’s back now ready for her next operation to get all the limbs gradually straighter. Then actually she will have straight legs and she will be walking throughout her childhood into adulthood. It’s that joined up cared I’m just so excited about — you have an international organization coming in with their contacts to provide the medicine to these children and the needed equipment. We have incredible national expertise to anesthesia and nursing, amazing surgeons who can straighten these children out and then to give them a very different narrative for their life. Yeah, I couldn’t be more grateful to be doing the work that we’re doing and surgeons and nurses are the specialists listening who are involved in Mercy Ships will have many such similar stories as well.

Raeanne:

Gosh, it’s incredible, because I’m imagining in my mind, this little girl with bones that are just turned out different angles in all the wrong ways, if you will, and it seems very hopeless. Have you had a patient that you’ve thought, and maybe she’s the one that you thought, this is far too severe, this is way too much, we’re not going to be able to do anything for her. What is it when you see a patient like this, that actually makes you think the opposite to think, Okay, this is extreme, this is going to be a lot, but we can do it.

Dr. Rick:

Yeah, I spent a year in Malawi and then I finished the rest of my training, and I did the year in Toronto, and then I came to work with CURE full time in 2013. And I think over the years in Ethiopia, many of the cases we thought were too severe and extreme, over the years, we realized that actually there was a lot we could do for them. I think if got off the plane in 2013, to see the children we’re treating in 2020, I probably would have climbed back on the plane and gone back because there are often very, very challenging children who come through our doors. But I think increasingly, we realize that there’s a lot that we can do for them. There are some conditions that we can’t treat. I think one of the most heartbreaking conditions that we see is Muscular Dystrophy — a condition that is a genetic condition that is passed down. In the severest type, the children start falling over when they’re three or four years old, then they’ll often come to us at the age of six, seven years old, where they can no longer stand up from the floor. And the parents will come and see their beautiful boy who is starting to trip and then can no longer get off the floor, but can just about stagger across the room with a sense of hope that something can be done. And the sad thing is, is that child won’t make adulthood. And actually that kind of thing is heartbreaking really. You can do a simple blood test to come back as positive to show that the membrane around the muscle cells is breaking down and leaching out all of the muscle enzymes. And there is nothing that you can do to reverse that. Sometimes steroids can delay it, but there’s nothing you can do to reverse that. And our child would eventually die of respiratory failure. And what do you do in that situation when you can see what will happen to that child in the next 5,6, or 7 years. And I think, you know, for me to work in a hospital where we’ve got an incredible spiritual team, we have a pastor who can sit with the mother and then he or she can actually just be with a surgeon to tell them the news that maybe other people had known but didn’t want to talk through and to be able to walk with the parents through that time of just intense grief. I mean, I think that’s just true medicine, to be able to be with them through that even if there’s nothing you can do. And then that child will go home, they’ll be connected with the local church. There is nothing hopeful about the end result for that child in this life. But I think there’s a lot that we can do, through ministering to the parents who introduce him to the local church, and to be there for the support all the way through and that’s something I’m intensely grateful for.

Raeanne:

Dr. Rick, how has your life personally been changed?

Dr. Rick:

Through the work, my faith has grown immeasurably. I mean, I moved out with a one year old, my wife is from North Carolina and we lived overseas for a short period, but I think to truly see what is possible, what is possible for a small hospital to be a catalyst for change for a country, to see what is possible through the lives of the individual patients, it’s life changing. Do you understand what true collaboration looks like? And this collaboration with Mercy Ships is just a wonderful example of how we can come together to create lasting impact on a far greater scale than we could ever do alone. I think on a personal note of understanding truly what a God sized vision is, our vision for this organization has grown immeasurably in the last two years, and your vision for Mercy Ships, you’ve got the Global Mercy, which is just the most stunningly beautiful ship. I mean, you’ve got a TRUE GOD sized vision for really looking to see what you can do to change the lives of many 1000s of children and adults. For us as an organization, we’re doing something now that I hadn’t really thought was possible a few years ago — we’re renovating the operating theatres in five of our hospitals, which is breaking ground later on this year for five of our hospitals in Malawi and Kenya, in Uganda and Ethiopia. They will have all brand new theatres, as donors walk alongside us to allow that to be possible is just something that I would have dreamed about and I wouldn’t have thought it’d be possible some years ago. In Zimbabwe we’re building a new 42 Bed Ward which is going up as we speak that will be ready in March, with new expertise, new surgeons joining us in the next few months, and I think seeing how a small hospital can change the expertise within a country and to be dovetailing with the Ministry of Health, and to feel truly part of the National Healthcare System is an incredible thing.

So, on a personal level, as a family, it’s been the most enormous blessing for us, just to really see what is possible for us as an organization to have God sized vision, to see what we can do to strengthen the quality of care with no compromise to patient care to be able to treat the poorest of the poor, the most vulnerable children, regardless of their ability to pay. And then to start the journey about where our future hospitals will be. In the same way you grow. You’ve built an incredible new ship, we’re starting to dream about where new hospitals should be, where should we build a new pediatric and plastic centers, neurosurgical centers, and with the start of this journey, as well, and it’s more encouraging than I can say, and so yeah, my faith has grown immeasurably by working with this organization.

Raeanne:

Wow, that is so exciting. And I think so inspiring as well to have a God sized vision, something that is so much bigger than us, something that we could never achieve on our own. But we have to call upon the supernatural because it is just that big, and really that impossible in human terms that we need a big God to do it. And I love that CURE has this God sized vision similar to Mercy Ships. No wonder we’re partners! It makes a lot of sense.

Actually, you already kind of mentioned what your hope is for the future of CURE. You guys are looking at building new hospitals, which is exciting. What are some things that the people who are listening can do to get involved?

Dr. Rick:

Oh, well, I’m sure I suspect the people who are listening are already very involved in Mercy Ships. Our collaboration has been an incredible thing and that wouldn’t happen without the people who were supporting Mercy Ships. So I think they’re already doing a lot. If they want to learn more about CURE, our website is www.cure.org. If there are people on this call, who have got expertise, who would like to explore more about the work that we do, we would love to hear from them, I think though the synergy between our organizations is so apparent that actually all of the ways that they can sport Mercy Ships, the same is for us as well. And I think for us just to be together, to be treating more kids, is a joy for us.

I just wanted to touch on what you were saying before about that ability for organizations to work together. I think there is a risk too often in mission work and overseas work with nongovernmental organizations that people will often not be working together. And we may be his hands and feet in order to exercise that epic plan. And it’s a collaboration between our organizations that bring together other organizations who are taking care of children’s other needs. If this is something that we can do more of, then we may be getting closer to working towards that epic plan of God’s so save the world.

Raeanne:

Absolutely. I could be wrong, but I think there is an African proverb that says, if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together, or something along those lines — that we can do a lot more if we work together. And it is a beautiful thing to see Mercy Ships and CURE, coming to work together to accomplish a real similar goal. It’s a beautiful thing. Dr. Rick, I thank you so much for all that you are doing to help poor children throughout the world, specifically right now in Zimbabwe, and thank you for the ministry of CURE. We’re excited for what God has for us in the future together. And thank you so much just for sitting down with us today and letting us know a little bit more about you and what you do with CURE.

Dr. Rick:

Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for having me on today.

Mercy Ships has brought hope and healing to those who need it most for over 40 years. Using hospital ships, we are able to provide safe, free surgical care to those in need and bring medical training to healthcare workers living in the countries we serve.

For more information about CURE, go to: cure.org

For more information about Mercy Ships go to mercyships.org and to keep up with the guests on New Mercies, follow us on Instagram at NewMerciesPodcast.

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