Today, my home made a woman cry . . . it was the most beautiful thing I’d seen all day.
My home at the moment happens to be a large, floating hospital ship, part of Mercy Ships. We bring hope and healing in the form of free healthcare to the forgotten poor. The stunning awesomeness of this is still sinking in. In the words of Amy Humphrey, one of the nurses, “It’s one of the crazy things around this ship that you can be walking to get your morning tea, and two floors below a muscle transfer is happening.”
As one of the writers on the ship’s communications team, I meet patients and hear their stories. I cannot thank my God enough for this privilege. Currently, the ship is docked on the sweet shores of Madagascar, and the people are gorgeous!
A little two-year-old girl named Elvie and her mama, Noeline, are fine examples of this beauty. The most useful word In Malagasy (their language) is mafatifaty, which means cute – a descriptor for basically all Malagasy children.
Elvie’s cuteness was not deterred at all by the fact that she was born with a clubfoot – her left foot turned inward. Although she had surgery when she was six months old, her foot remained bent. But spunky little Elvie did not allow her physical problem to limit her play time! She is one of the cheekiest, most talkative, feistiest, singing, lively little ragamuffin ruffians in the ward! Oh, how she loves to play with balloons!
Elvie is a heart-stealer. Her community loved her so much that they overlooked her deformity and felt sorry for her. Her clubfoot broke her mother’s heart. She wondered what she could do, what her baby’s future would look like, and how many opportunities would be stolen because of this condition.
Noeline was delighted when she heard about Mercy Ships. She lined up with thousands of others on the very first screening day. She was so excited when Elvie was among those selected for a life-changing surgery!
Skilled Mercy Ships medical professionals used the Ponseti method to correct Elvie’s clubfoot. The result? A mother in Madagascar is forever thankful for all those people who have changed her baby’s life – the medical and non-medical volunteers on the ship, the people and companies who’ve generously donated money or gifts-in-kind, and Dr. Ponseti, who invented a corrective clubfoot procedure that works so well in developing countries. Now she dreams that her daughter will become a doctor to help others.
Noeline’s crying is like the weather phenomenon I’ve only experienced in my other home, New Zealand. It’s the kind of weather where the skies manage to pour rain, yet simultaneously the sun manages to shine brightly through the clouds. Noeline’s tears fell while a grin would not stop bursting out on her face. She was one happy woman!
If her face didn’t give it away, then the joyful repetitions of, “I’m so happy! Merci, merci, merci!” punctuated with hugs and excited hand gestures made it clear.
We couldn’t help but share her joy.
In the ward today, Elvie asked her mother, “Where is the sun?”
I can answer that question: “It’s on your mother’s face, little girl.”
Let me leave you with a sentence that one of the patients in the screening line quoted to me, in the midst of profuse thanks to Mercy Ships:
“La vie est la santé, la santé est la vie.”
“Life is health, health is life.”