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For those of you contemplating either short or long term ophthalmic missions keep reading….

Late last night, my husband and I returned from a brief 2-week mission trip aboard the worlds only floating civilian hospital, Africa Mercy. Currently this ship is nearing the end of its time docked in Douala, Cameroon. Next stop this summer is Guinea. The following year is Senegal.  There are 21 million people in the country of Cameroon, just north of Gabon (shout out to Wendy and Eric Hoffman!) and part of French speaking West Africa.  To serve the ocular needs of these Cameroonian’s, there are only 120 ophthalmologists in the entire country. Their training systems vary from that of the United States, such that only 10 of those 120 actually actually perform any type of eye procedures or surgeries as of summer 2017.  This number should be significantly changed by the end of the Cameroon docked Africa Mercy tour this summer, to total 15 ophthalmic surgeons. This is extraordinary in thinking of the impact towards eradication of unnecessary blindness.

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This number of 15 has come about because of dedicated missionaries, like Glenn and Kim Strauss, who painstakingly train these ophthalmologists in ophthalmic surgery, over a three-month period, five days a week.  They fine-tune their skillset and knowledge basis in the realm of MSICS and pterygium eye procedures, as well as yag capsulotomy.  Glenn and Kim have served off and on aboard this ship now since 2009, in full time capacity.  He’s developed a fantastic curriculum for training local ophthalmologists, as well as folks like me that do more short term mission work.

 

The ship has an international voluntary crew, with English as the primary language. In addition to high quality ocular surgery, it has a number of other great programs to include maxillofacial surgery, dentistry, orthopedics, obgyn, and general surgery.  The mission aboard ship for all crewmembers follows the 2000-year-old teachings of Jesus, which brings the message of hope and healing to the worlds forgotten poor.  With study time in the evenings, and ongoing surgical dialogue during the day, one can truly sharpen their skillset for the various types of MSICS procedures, depending on the particular ocular presentation at hand.

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While aboard, there are many opportunities to share the loving message of Jesus along with other crewmates throughout the day.  There are wonderful prayer services throughout the week for added nourishment, and Eye Team meetings are always embedded with scriptural teaching.

Really is wonderful to work alongside other ophthalmologists from Africa, and help teach them basics of ocular surgery all the while.

I take this moment to honor and shout out blessings to Glenn and Kim Strauss for all they have done over many years now, in their faith based leadership aboard ship, helping teach others about Jesus…as well as performing extraordinary, high quality eye care and instruction.

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I’ll close by saying, short and long-term mission work is extraordinarily rewarding.

Just look into it, and take that first step. By blessing others in your work, you too will find extraordinary blessings along the journey…like no other.  Stop saying ‘I can’t’. Replace it by saying, “Through God all things are possible”.

For anyone interested in serving on the Mercy Ship, please contact Alyssa Rowe at  alyssa.rowe@mercyships.org