When people ask me what Mercy Ships does, I usually have to take a deep breath and gather myself, so I don’t startle them.
The official answer is: Mercy Ships operates the largest, civilian hospital ship in the world. It’s a floating, western, surgical ward doing orthopedics, fistula repair, cleft palate and plastic surgeries on the poorest of the world’s poor – primarily in Africa. We follow the 2,000 year model of Jesus – the blind see and the lame walk.
I tell them that, then I tell the eye stories.
The women were featured on a Swedish television show last week. It was a cooking show, wherein the host goes interesting places and cooks things. A few months ago, she came to the Africa Mercy, while it was docked in Pointe Noire, Congo. If you have time and speak Swedish you can watch the whole show. Evidently, one-third of the Swedish population did.
During our ten-month field service in the Republic of Congo, our volunteer eye surgeons performed nearly 1,000 cataract surgeries. In other words, 1,000 people who were blind, can now see – including these two. In addition, Mercy Ships staff performed another 1,900 cataract procedures and mentored eight local ophthalmologists and nurses.
You see, if you develop cataracts in the United States you can make an appointment for a 15 minute surgery and regain your sight in a week. If you develop cataracts in Africa – a malady particularly common in the equatorial nations – and you’re poor, you just go blind. That means you cannot work, which usually means you and your family cannot eat.
Following Jesus’ example, Mercy Ships is restoring people – one by one. Restoring their vision, their bodies, their dignity and very often their place in the community.
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*The views expressed herein are my own and not that of Mercy Ships.