New Mercies: Emmanuel

God With Us

Emmanuel thought he was just experiencing a toothache. But that pain gave way to a bump that grew to the size of his fist. Having heard about a ship that might be able to help him, Emmanuel prayed for the ship to come. His prayers were answered as the Global Mercy docked in Freetown, Sierra Leone — Emmanuel’s home country.

Emmanuel was the first patient in Sierra Leone to receive free surgery on board the Global Mercy. This surgery put to rest his fears and worry over his health.

In this episode, you will hear Emmanuel’s story of hope and healing. You will also hear about the special man who helped him through his recovery and why that was so meaningful. 

Emmanuel means God with us. Today we celebrate the day God came to be with us as a baby, Jesus. We are grateful that our God knows our burdens and fears. He knows our worries and concerns. In the midst of those, He has come to be with us. We are not alone. Merry Christmas.

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 to be inspired and encouraged by stories of life-changing hope and healing. I’m your host, Raeanne Newquist and this is New Mercies.

Raeanne Newquist:

Well Merry Christmas everyone! What a special day that we get to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Emmanuel. God with us!

So it’s fitting that today we share our final holiday story of hope and healing about a patient named Emmanuel. He was our first patient in the Sierra Leone field service and he has a wonderful story to share.


My name is Emmanuel and I’m 42 years old. I’m very happy this morning to be going to the ship. Very happy.


The tumor on Emmanuel’s neck began as a minor concern, something that he hoped would fade away with time. At first he thought it was a toothache or maybe a cold sore, but it kept growing bigger and bigger. Four years later, it had grown to the size of a fist. Emmanuel, who was a trader in Freetown, Sierra Leone, was not able to access affordable surgery, so he lived with his condition.

But the constant worry and fear of further complications weighed heavily on his shoulders. When Emmanuel heard about their rival of the Global Mercy to Freetown, he sought help from the volunteer team conducting screenings in the country. He told the team that he had been hearing about this ship for a long time, and he had been praying for them to come.

For Emmanuel whose name fittingly means God with us, this prayer was answered when the Global Mercy sailed into the port in Sierra Leone. The ship’s arrival, which was in response to an invitation from the country’s president, marked the Global Mercy’s inaugural presence in Sierra Leone.

However, it was the sixth time that a Mercy Ships vessel has been welcomed to the nation. This enduring partnership between Mercy Ships and Sierra Leone has flourished for over three decades.

Keren Fuhrmeister:

Well, the first day of surgery for us is the one we’ve all been waiting for. For the last couple of weeks since we’ve arrived, we’ve been unpacking, getting everything set up and ready. Each department has its own list of jobs we have to do. And so they’re going through all of those to make sure that we are ready for the first patient and the first surgery.


On the day of his surgery. Emmanuel was so excited to walk up the gangway. He trusted Mercy Ships and he knew that they were going to do a good job. Also assisting in his care was a former patient on board named Mohammed. Now Mohammed had also received a free surgery on board by our maxillofacial surgeon, Dr. Gary Parker, and now Mohammed was back serving on board so excited to help with Emmanuel’s healing and recovery.


I feel good. Today is the happiest day in my life when I realized that I was going to get my surgery done. And I trust you people and I also believe that Mercy Ships, you guys are professionals. You’re going to do it very good for me.


I am so excited today because I am a former patient here in 2011 and Dr. Gary did my surgery. Now I’m a national crew here so I’m so excited today because I see my fellow Sierra Leonean as the first patient for Mercy Ships today and I’m so excited.  


The tumor on Emanuel’s neck consisted of a benign growth on one of his salivary glands, removing it required a maxillofacial surgeon, according to Dr. Mustapha Kabba, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer of clinical services for Sierra Leone. There are currently no fully certified Maxillofacial Surgeons practicing in the country. Dr. Mark Shrime, the International Chief Medical Officer for Mercy Ships, was the lead surgeon and Emmanuel’s surgery. He explained that without surgical intervention, the tumor would likely continue to grow and create some severe complications for Emmanuel down the road. And in a remarkable twist, it took only 48 minutes to remove Emmanuel’s tumor surgically.

Emmanuel had kept the surgery a secret from his son and his father, he helped to surprise them in person to show them after, but after the successful surgery, he couldn’t resist sharing the news with his family, so he immediately called his father and son to tell them the good news. Before Emmanuel left his home to come on board, his aunt who had witnessed his struggles and unwavering determination, expressed her greatest hope, she said, “After surgery, I hope he can come back and become a witness for what is possible.”

As he recovered in the wards, Emmanuel’s thoughts turned to the future and all the possibilities ahead. He said he will continue with his business. But now without worry. His journey towards healing has begun. And the burdens that once weighed him down are now lifted.

Emmanuel means God with us. Jesus is Emmanuel, Jesus was born to be with us. And he entered a world broken with disease filled with pain and sadness. But into that world, he brought his unconditional, never-ending love that brightly shines in the darkest of places. We are never alone in our hard times. We’re not alone in our loneliness or our pain because God is with us, no matter what.

His love keeps coming for us relentlessly. So look around. His gifts of love are everywhere if you’ll just open up your eyes to see them. God is with you today. And always no matter what you face. He loves you and nothing will ever change that he is the reason that we can celebrate a Merry Christmas because His love and His presence fill us with joy, peace, hope, and best of all, love.

From all of us that Mercy Ships, Merry Christmas!

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