Keith R. Brinkman serving with Mercy Ships. This is another way for me to communicate with you all what is happening. I hope you enjoy seeing the photos and entries.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

KRB Update - 1st White Man to Visit Their Village

KRB Update #2172 - 1st White Man to Visit Their Village Keith R. Brinkman December 28, 2011

$3.97 – Can of Deluxe Nuts - Walmart
138,000 leones – transportation – shared taxi, motorbikeSeeing Kalimu running towards me after I entered his village … priceless

Many of you will remember reading my KRB Update #2169 - entitled Kalimu – one of our cleft lip patients. I shared his story and that of his granny. She brought him for registration for surgery while our Screening Team visited Kenema in January of this year. Once she got the surgery appointment, she brought the boy to Freetown for his surgery.

I wanted to stay in touch with them, but she didn’t have a mobile phone number, but another patient named Sylvester said he knew where they lived in town and would check on them. I called and called and always got the message ‘out of network area or turned off’. I wasn’t worried about his recovery, but really wanted to know how he was doing. Our days in Sierra Leone were limited, so I decided I would go and visit them. I understood they lived in the town of Kenema as she gave me a street and house number. When I got to the area, I met many from the family, but they shared the news that granny and Kalimu lived in the village. When I asked how long it would take to get to the village, the aunt thought it would be one hour by motorbike. She shared that her brother, Ibrahim, has a motorbike and so we got him on the phone and asked for a price quote. So off we went, after about 45 minutes, we arrived in Gbado and his elder brother joined us as he knew where the village was located. Ibrahim had never been to the village and I wondered as he said they were all family, but I learned later that their father had 70 children from 3 legal wives and 7 other women. When we were leaving Gbado, a man came running calling my name. His name is Amadu and he was with his son Abdul in our hospital for his son’s surgery. I never knew where they lived.

We continued down the road/path and I had no clue how long it would take. As the path got narrower, there were many times we had to get off the motorbike and hike ourselves as it was too rough and steep for all three of us on the motorbike. After an hour from Gbado and through the community of Dodo, we finally made it to a village where we left the motorbike and started the hike to the village, crossing many ant trails, a bamboo bridge and trying not to step again in mud as I did that earlier. No one could spell the name of the village – though they shared that the village name means ‘Under the Palm Tree’. When we got to the village, they offered us a stool to sit down on, no sooner had a sat down, when out of the corner on my eye, I saw this boy running full speed towards me, it was Kalimu. It was so great to see the boy again, soon his granny followed. They couldn’t believe I came to visit. He looked so good and his lip was completed healed.

While they were with us on the ship, another fact was lost in translation: the boy is not in a Christian school, though he is attending the government village school. Thankfully I brought a can of deluxe nuts from Walmart and was able to present that to the village elders as that is an African custom of bringing nuts. Plus I had candy which I gave granny to share with all the children. I let Kalimu use my camera to take photos (or ‘snaps’ as they call it) – they loved taking snaps and looking at them on the display on the back. I walked around and got to see their village, the population of about 80 people. He lives with his granny, which is somewhat the custom also as his parents live in another village about seven mile walk from their village, so we were not able to visit them.

I learned from the village elders that they were pleased with my visit and shared that I was the first white man to ever come to their village. Wow!!! I am so thankful for the hour I got to spend together with them. I spoke words of life and encouragement over his life and believe that some things/seeds of ‘Papa God’ were planted in his and granny’s lives. About twenty of them walked with us to the next village where we left the motorbike, I said my goodbyes for now and started the long journey back. I was away from the ship for 17 hours – spent one hour in town with his extended family and one hour in the village, but it was worth it all. I shared with them that “my heart is gladi gladi”

Serving Together, Keith
Email: Mail: Keith R. Brinkman, Mercy Ships, P.O. Box 2020, Lindale, TX 75771 USA

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Godwin & Elizabeth's Wedding

At my church here in Ghana (Ashaiman) this morning at the Christmas service, my friend Godwin married Elizabeth. Godwin was a day worker who served with us on the Anastasis. It was great to be there to celebrate with them.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Save Them Young Visit 24Dec2011

Group photo from this morning's visit to Save Them Young - one of our mercy ministries site in Ghana from 2006-07 with the Anastasis.

David Comes Back for Visit to Orphanage

While visiting Save Them Young this morning - I was not the only visitor - David who grew up in the orphanage, but is now working in Kumasi came by also.

Save Them Young Visit Visiting with Doreen

Visited this morning with Doreen - one of the house moms at the orphanage near Tema - Save Them Young - we visited their weekly on Saturdays with Mercy Ships when the Anastasis was in port in 2006-07.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Christmas Card AFM

The Christmas Card from the Africa Mercy. Merry Christmas to everyone
Keith (Kofi) Brinkman
in Tema, Ghana West Africa

Thursday, December 08, 2011

KRB Update Tamba Foday

Greetings from Sierra Leone, West Africa for the last time. As many enjoyed hearing the story of Kalimu, I decided I will write another one – this time of an orthopaedic patient named Tamba Foday from Koidutown, Kono. As a young boy, an accident occurred causing much damage to his right leg and foot. All this took place during the civil war in the nation. As a child, he was not able to attend school as his mother did not have the money for school fees. Later on, he went to live with his uncle in the city. They sent him to school. Though, instead of school being a place to learn, he instead felt much ridicule from the other children. They would provoke him and make fun of him because of the problem with his leg and foot. In addition, the long walk to school was difficult on his right foot and later he stopped attending classes.

While in the market in January, they heard on the radio in their local language that Mercy Ships would be screening patients at the local government hospital. He wasn’t able to get there on the first day but made it on the third and last day and was issued a surgeon screening card for March. We had sent our screening team up-country to five locations and made the commitment that due to the poverty and lack of access to medical care; we would pay all the transport costs to and from the ship in Freetown. So Tamba, boarded the rented ‘poda poda’ and travelled for the first time ever to Freetown. After their arrival in Freetown, Tamba along with potential orthopaedic patients were screened by our orthopaedic surgeons.

Tamba shared with me that he didn’t believe he would get any assistance. Though after being on the ship and seeing the other patients come and go from the operating rooms, his belief that he would get help increased greatly. He commented that “the nurses took good care of me, they give you your medicines and people visit you”

I didn’t really connect much with Tamba until he was at the HOPE Center where he lived for over three months. We would sometimes talk for a long period of time and as he is older we were able to go deeper in our conversations than those with the much younger children. He shared that his family is Muslim, though he has learned about Papa God and His son Jesus Christ while he has been here with Mercy Ships. I asked if they attend the mosque on Fridays and he said yes. I encouraged him that he can still pray to Papa God for his life, his situation and to develop more of his relationship with Him. He commented that “When God thinks of me, I feel good”.

He is so pleased with his healing, he feels happy and his mother cried for joy seeing him. On his return to his home town, all his friends and neighbors came to see and look at his leg and how he can walk now himself properly. I miss having time with Tamba as we visited almost every day. School started in September and he is enrolled at the local school. He doesn’t know what he wants to be in the future, but has the thought to be a doctor “as without the doctors who took care of me, I would not be better.”

Prayer Request: Tamba’s life, reintegration into society, his physical, spiritual and emotional health – and for all of our patients

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Advance Team

Advance Team by keith.brinkman
Advance Team, a photo by keith.brinkman on Flickr.

Everyone in the photo are already in Togo and Ghana preparing for our next season after the close of the Sierra Leone Field Service. Though I remain on the ship this year - part of my duties as Programs Administrator is as the Advance Team Liaison.

KRB News 2011

KRB News
Keith R. Brinkman serving with Mercy Ships on the Africa Mercy
September 2011

Greetings from Africa to my family and friends in locations all around the world. Growing up on the West side of Indianapolis, Indiana, I would not have dreamed that I would be living in Africa today. I am thankful to each one of you for your impact and influence on my life.
Since my last newsletter, I spent time in Liberia, Togo, South Africa, Guinea and now in Sierra Leone. I was invited to return to Liberia as part of the evaluation team in April ’10. We met with our many partners – in the government, the church, the NGOs, former crew members, day workers and friends there. Much time was spent conducting the evaluation on the two medical clinics and the training projects – community health, agriculture, water and sanitation, mental health, HIV and church leaders. There were times at the end of the day that I felt encouraged, and then other times I felt somewhat discouraged due to the lack of change.

Following a short time back on the ship, I went to serve for nine weeks on the Advance Team in South Africa. Then from September to January the ship was in South Africa. Our primary focus was the generator replacement project, and other critical technical projects needed to be able to more fully utilize the ship for the next twenty years (in particular all the operating rooms and hospital wards). At the same time, I assisted with some of our projects; dental clinic and training with the Department of Health, mental health training with several church associations, and the Mercy Vision eye project. I am excited for this year; a new country. I am not going to live with regrets like last year - I am involved with our patients in the hospital, with the kids in the orphanage and with our local day workers. Though there are many patient stories, I have selected one; the transformed life of Tamba Komba. Born with bilateral club feet in a remote village in the district of Kono, Sierra Leone, Tamba Komba has had some major challenges in his life. He is currently 13 years old, and from March to August he was with us onboard the Africa Mercy and at the HOPE Center. He grew up in a village until the time of the death of his grandmother, and then they moved to the capitol of the district – Koidu. His mother is a Muslim and his father is a Christian and he has three brothers and two sisters. His name Tamba signifies that he is the second born son.

Tamba was born with the birth defect of two club feet – completely backwards. He learned to walk ‘small-small’, as they say here, but it was difficult. A time came when Tamba’s parents heard that a white ship was coming and maybe they would be able to assist their son with the problems with his feet. They made the day long journey to the capitol, though were disappointed when the Mercy Ships crew shared that he was too young for surgery. They would have to wait for another ten years before surgery would be possible.

He remembers that when he was about 9 years old, he felt different than the other boys, and some of the children would provoke him and he felt bad and angry. He only knew of one other smaller boy who also had the same problem of club feet.

He attended primary school after they moved to Koidu. His teachers were kind to him. His walk to school was about a kilometer. It was difficult and took a long time to get there. He learned English in school. Currently, he is in class six.

In January of this year, they were excited when they heard the announcements on the radio in their local language and came with high expectation to the government hospital for the possibility of being registered with Mercy Ships. Tamba didn’t really feel anything at this time, though that changed as he came to the ship. At first, he was scared to come, as he was not sure what would happen and was somewhat quiet. Though, after meeting the nurses and other crew members, and watching as others went for surgery and returned to the wards, his thinking changed. The Orthopaedic Team used the Ponseti casting method to assist in the initial corrections of his feet.

He enjoyed the opportunities to go up to Deck 7 and be outside and to play there – to watch movies in the hospital wards like Madagascar 2 and the song ‘I like to move it’. During his early days in the hospital wards, I met Tamba and visited him and the other orthopaedic patients almost every day.

The time came for Tamba to receive surgery to finish the correction of his club feet. He was excited but also a bit nervous. Through a sign up system, the crew can register to view surgeries in the operating rooms. I didn’t know when his surgery would be, but with a desire to be there for his surgery¸ I asked for special permission and it was granted. It was absolutely amazing to be there to pray and watch two highly experienced surgeons and OR staff do the life-changing surgery for Tamba. Each surgeon operated on a leg in order to move it into the right direction for the first time in his life. At times, I would hear noises and thought ‘oh that has to hurt’ but he was well taken care of. In all, the time in the OR was about four hours. Towards the end, it was time to plaster cast both legs. Dr. Frank asked if I would put on gloves and assist with the plastering of his right leg – see photo. He was there to make sure I followed the correct procedures. Once in the recovery room, I stayed with him and spoke to him as he was waking up. Later, he said he remembers seeing me ‘small small’.

Due to the inability in the first surgery to get the correct angle, Tamba underwent a second surgery to finish the adjustments. Tamba continued to receive outpatient care and physical therapy while he was at the HOPE Center – just a ten minute walk from the ship at Water Quay.
Tamba was excited and returned home to Koidu to wonderful celebration of his family and friends, as he is walking by himself correctly. He looks forward to returning to school. He wants to continue his education and to get a good job – maybe even one using computers. After feeling much shame, Tamba will return all OK. His only regret is that Dr. Frank shared “Tamba, you need to wait for 3 years before playing football/soccer.” His physical body is restored, emotional life strengthened, and he has new input into his spiritual life; a life transformed.

This is a story of one of thousands of patients this year, and one of dozens of patients with whom I have established relationship. I will continue to pray for and, as much as possible, stay in contact with them. As I serve as Programs Administrator here onboard now for over five years, sometimes the number of reports, projects, statistics, finances and other responsibilities can be overwhelming, I am so encouraged when I see lives transformed. I feel my time with the patients is such a vital part of my ministry, and that is why I desire to share this story with you all. I pray that as you read this letter, you know that you are also a part of Tamba’s life with your prayers, encouragement and financial support. Thank you.

Currently the Africa Mercy is in Freetown, Sierra Leone till December 8th, then to Tema, Ghana over Christmas and then to Lom̩, Togo from January 5 РJune 15, 2012. For August 2012 РJune 2013 in Conakry, Guinea.Serving Together,

Mailing Address: Keith R Brinkman, Mercy Ships, P.O. Box 2020, Lindale, Texas, 75771 U.S.A.

Patient Visitation on board the Africa Mercy is great – the hospital is just down the hallway from the office and one deck below from my cabin. With the children, we have a great time up on deck 7 getting some fresh air and playing on the ride-on-toys (yes even for those with casts on they want to ride). Those visits are some of my great highlights. I truly miss them when they are preparing to return home.

Email Addresses: &
Telephone: +1-954-538-6110 Office #1103 & Cabin #4236

Ongoing Prayer Requests - Health, our Patients health and their recovery, Safety, Traveling Mercies, Wisdom, Guidance, Divine Opportunities, Understanding of the culture, Learning of the languages, the Opportunities to be His hands and feet extendedPersonal Web Site:

KRB Update - Food for Life

KRB Update #2170 Food for Life Keith R. Brinkman Sierra Leone September 12, 2011

Greetings from Sierra Leone, West Africa.

As we did on the Caribbean Mercy, there are many projects and activities off the ship. One I would like to share with you about is the Food for Life – Agriculture Training. The goal of this project is to increase capacity of local organizations to contribute to improved nutrition and farming incomes for farmers by training in holistic agriculture concepts and organic farming methods. Four local organizations participated: Heifer Sierra Leone, Hope of Glory, City of Rest and Sierra Canadian Humanitarian & Development Organization. Sixteen participants from these groups were involved in the training over four months.

Their training started with a Bible study, then lecture and practical application. Jean Claude from Congo Brazzaville was our agriculture facilitator. He has a passion for training others. I have watched him sharing from Genesis in the Bible with the participants to going out and getting his hands dirty in the earth in practical demonstration.

Bambay Sawaneh joined the program with his wife and baby despite a physical disability he suffered during the war. Rebel soldiers chopped off both his hands. A compassionate nun arranged for him to have a surgery that split the stubs of his arms to allow him to grasp things. Without that surgery, farming would have been impossible. His dedication to farming comes from a family history in agriculture. In comparing the Food for Life methods with the traditional ones, he said, “Through this form of training, I came to learn that we have been wasting our time and wasting our energy. It’s like we’re working like an elephant and eat like ant…We destroyed everything out of ignorance.” If you would like to read more of his story, please let me know and I will send you the whole article.

On July 9th, it was graduation day to celebrate with their completion of the course. I had the privilege to be the MC for our gathering as we honor these participants in their achievement. At the same time, reminding them that they have been trained to be trainers (the Training of Trainers – TOT method). The Mercy Ships Food for Life Graduation Ceremony symbolically marked a new beginning, bright with hope for the future. In a country suffering a shortage of food and high import prices, there must be a radical change in food production. The Food for Life Program has the potential to develop the nation agriculturally as the trainees become trainers in their communities. In Victor Tamba’s words: “God gave this to me. I never dreamed of it. Now I’m an agriculturist. I know my future will be very good now. I can never, never forget it!”

Prayer Requests: **Application of the biblical principles and agriculture principles they have learned to be shared with others in this nation. ** For the follow up taking place now with the new trainers.

Serving Together,


Mail: Keith R. Brinkman, Mercy Ships, P.O. Box 2020, Lindale, TX 75771 USA

Schedule: Sierra Leone Field Service February 27 – December 8, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

KRB Update #2169 Kalimu
Keith R. Brinkman Sierra Leone August 27, 2011

Greetings from Sierra Leone, West Africa. Please allow me to introduce you to a new friend (mi padi in the local language) and one of our patients – Kalimu from the area of Kenema.

Kalimu was born with a cleft lip (hole or gap) on the left hand side. Cleft lips are a congenital deformity / birth defect common all around the world. In the developed world, surgery is readily available and done around two months after birth. In Sierra Leone and most of western Africa, surgery is not readily available.

His granny heard that Mercy Ships was screening for potential patients in January at their local government hospital. She brought the boy from the village and he was screened and scheduled for surgery in August. She waited patiently and when it was close to August, she asked the boy’s parents if he could live with her for the time of Ramadan (on the Islamic calendar for the entire month of August). When the time came, Kalimu traveled with granny to Freetown (5 hours away).

I first met Kalimu at the HOPE Center where he was staying before his surgery onboard. He was quiet and kept to himself even when invited to join the others kids and me. Though by day three, he came up and stood next to me and later sat on my lap and feel asleep – so either he was tired or he trusted me. Wednesday came as the day of admission to the hospital onboard. I visited him that evening in Ward D and we played with some toys together. When I returned to my cabin that evening, I thought ‘it would be great to be able to observe his surgery as I haven’t seen a cleft surgery and I have been here more than five years’. In the morning, I contacted the operating room supervisor and she checked with the surgeon and he was fine with me observing. For over an hour, I watched intently and prayed continually as Dr. Gary performed his surgery. It was amazing to watch the physical transformation for Kalimu. I waited with him in the recovery room as he woke up. When we brought him to his bed in the ward, his granny saw him and clapped her hands and ‘shaked’ her body in joy for her grandson.

During the time onboard, I visited Kalimu daily. He enjoyed going to Deck 7 (our outside deck) and playing on the ride-on toys there, something he has never seen before. When Kalimu was sent to the HOPE Center, I visited with him and his granny with a translator as they only speak the mende language. Granny shared that he is a ‘closed’ boy – quiet and reserved. I shared that when I was his age, I was shy and only had a few friends and kept to myself a lot. I learned that Kalimu lives with his parents in a village and they felt when he was born ‘that is how Allah made him’ and would not do anything to change it. Yet his granny also a Muslim felt differently. I asked her how his parents will feel when they see Kalimu – not knowing if they would be upset, messing with Allah’s will or gladi (happy) that their boy is healed. She said they will be gladi. I would love to be there when granny takes Kalimu to the village for the first time after Ramadan. She has already enrolled him in school in town and even though they are Muslim, she has him in a Christian school due to the quality of education.

Prayer Request: Kalimu’s life, reintegration into society, his physical, spiritual and emotional health – and for all of our patients

Serving Together, Keith Email:
Mail: Keith R. Brinkman, Mercy Ships, P.O. Box 2020, Lindale, TX 75771 USA
Schedule: Sierra Leone Field Service February 27 – December 8, 2011

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Dr. Bud McKinney

I am remembering a friend of almost 20 years and a former crew member (from the Anastasis, Good Samaritan, and Caribbean Mercy) - Dr. Curtis 'Bud' McKinney who went to be with the Lord on Saturday, July 30th. He died peacefully in the night of congestive heart failture. His wife Jean shared that they will have a little memorial service on September 9th in Portland, Oregon. I am remembering the many outreaches, advance work in Astoria, and many wonderful experiences and adventures with him in South America and Central America.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tamba's exercises

Tamba Alie Junior comes from Koidu in Kono district of Sierra Leone. I have known him since he first arrived. He had burn contractures at the age of 2 because he put his hand in boiling water. The plastic surgeon did his surgeon and he is in teh recovery and exercise stage. In this photo you see the creative ways for our young patients to engage in therapy excercises. We still pray for the complete healing of his hand and the area on his leg for the skin graft.

John Kunhateh at therapy

John was one of the first patients I meet in Sierra Leone - as he grabbed my hand and took me for a walk in the hospital. He comes from Kenema and arrived on board March 14 and spent 4 months with us.
He had major orthopaedic problems with his legs - though now he standing tall and walking. He has returned home and we heard via phone that he is doing really well.

Barbeque on the dock

With over 400 crew members, up to 200 local day workers, 100 + (patients/caregivers) in the hospital, our galley feeds a lot of people. We are so grateful for the containers that come from The Netherlands and from the USA with food - including the steaks you see in this photo. Make you hungry?

4th of July in Freetown

Even though the ship crew come from 40 nations, on the 4th of July (US Independence Day) we had a great barbeque on the dock.

Monday, June 27, 2011

KRB Update - HOPE Center

KRB Update #2168 HOPE Center
Keith R. Brinkman Sierra Leone June 23, 2011

Greetings from Sierra Leone, West Africa. When Mercy Ships arrives in a country, potential patient screenings are organized at various locations (in the port city and upcountry) and dates throughout the country. For Sierra Leone, the upcountry screenings were done in January by a team of ten at five provincial governmental hospitals – Koidu, Kenema, Bo, Makeni and Kabala. Patients who are near the port area can easily travel to the ship; others that live farther away typically have greater travel obstacles, which hinder their ability to travel to the ship and they may be ones with greater needs. To help alleviate our crunch with ward beds and to care for those from outside the port city, Mercy Ships developed the HOPE Center concept to provide housing for patients and caregivers (usually for those patients 15 years of age or younger) in a secure location near the ship. This was started during our field service in Cotonou, Benin in ’09.

Pre-operative patients typically arrive at the HOPE Center a couple days prior to surgery. While at the Center, patients and caregiver are provided with nutritious meals, strengthening the patient for the upcoming surgery. Both have their own mattress and are protected by mosquito nets to prevent malaria. After the patient has transferred to the ship, they will have their surgery on the ship and their time of recovery in the Hospital wards. There comes the time when the intensive, around the clock care, is not always needed. It is at this time for those who live far away, they can move to the nearby HOPE Center. Importantly, the Center frees up precious bed space in the hospital ward on the ship. In the past, many individuals requiring outpatient care had to stay in the ward because it was not possible for them to travel to and from the ship and home. If a bed is being used by a patient requiring minimal care, that bed is unavailable for a new surgical candidate.

In Sierra Leone, our amazing Advance Team was able to secure a portion of the Seafarer’s Club, located next to the port, to use as the HOPE Center. Renovations were made and now the Center has a capacity of 40 patient beds and 40 caregiver beds – though we have purchased extra 20 mattresses as sometimes our numbers have been closer to 100 at the Center. Some of our crew coordinate the activities there along with a great group of local dayvolunteers. We offer Community Health teaching on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays afternoons on various subjects.

I greatly appreciate at how close the HOPE Center is located as it gives me the opportunity to take the 10 minute walk – just out the gate, up the hill a bit and then to the right into the compound. I go regularly if not daily and visit with some of the patients that I have established relationships with while they have been on the ship in the Hospital. We talk and visit together, see how they are, play games, break up little fights with the boys, sing and just deepen relationship together. If, I took the time to list the various ones and about their lives and circumstances, this update would be way too long. I have connected well with many of our patients from Koidu which is in the district of Kono and far from Freetown. While visiting those that I know, I have met others who are yet to come to the ship for their surgery. With them, I share that “I will see you when you are on board”.

Prayer Requests: ** Health (not just physical, but also emotional and spiritual health) for our patients at the HOPE Center as they recover and prepare to return to their homes. ** For the surgeons we need as we have weeks without a general surgeon – and we have many patients on waiting lists.

Serving Together, Keith Email:

Mail: Keith R. Brinkman, Mercy Ships, P.O. Box 2020, Lindale, TX 75771 USA

Schedule: Sierra Leone Field Service February 27 – December 8, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

KRB Update #2167 Hosting the President & Vice President of the nation of Sierra Leone

Keith R. Brinkman
Hosting the President & Vice President
June 9, 2011

After receiving notification of their acceptance of our invitation for a visit to the Africa Mercy, my mind started to race. As for this special event, the Managing Director asked me to be the Protocol Officer. I wasn’t the first choice as others have more experience than I do in West Africa. In the past, I have been involved in various ways for these VIP events. So I recalled aspects of our past successes and lessons learned.

Though in this case my focus was more on the areas related to protocol: seating arrangement, invited guests, the receiving line, how much time they will have for the visit, connection with patients in the hospital, presentation of
the gift, length of time for him to respond, tour route options, refreshment preferences, salutations/titles, assist those giving speeches with important information, etc.. We all worked well together here on board – what a team! I am very grateful for the assistance of State Chief of Protocol for His Excellency, Mr. Kpukumu. He was friendly and helpful, answering my questions, reviewing our proposed agenda and offering input and suggestions. I wasn’t sure if their protocol and security would allow both the President and the Vice President to visit at the same time, but it does and they thought that would be good for them and good for us at the same time.

We extended a special invitation to a former maxillofacial patient named Hawa from Sierra Leone to come and to hand the flowers to the President as he exited his vehicle. During the speech by our Chief Medical Officer in our International Lounge, he shared more of Hawa’s story including pre- and post-operative photos and she was invited to the front to greet the President and the Vice President.

After doing research about both men, I learned that the Vice President comes from Kono district and the President from the Makeni area. I had the thought that it would be great and more personal for them to meet patients from their home town areas. Working with the charge nurses, we approached the caregivers and patients to ensure they were ok with our plan and all were. How cool to meet the leaders of your nation! Though, some were a little shy with the large party coming in all at the same time.

When the time came for the President’s response, he came to the podium and it appears laid his written speech to the side and just spoke from his heart and what he felt coming on board and seeing the patients and all. We are very grateful as the President is the one who through the protocol invited us to his nation.
The big event took place on Friday, May 27th a couple hours later than planned, but they were at the State House conducting affairs of the government. It was a success and involved dozens of people from all departments on the ship doing their part and from the staff of the President and Vice President. Their visit coincided with our International Board of Director’s annual meeting on board, though regretfully not all of the board members arrived in time for the event, some were en route as the event took place. Though, we were able to involve the International Board Members in the receiving line, official welcomes and a time of refreshments with the President at the end. I am grateful that all went well.

Prayer Request: For the nation and the people of Sierra Leone.

Serving Together,


Mail: Keith R. Brinkman, Mercy Ships, P.O. Box 2020, Lindale, TX 75771 USA

Schedule: Sierra Leone Field Service February 27 – December 8, 2011

Monday, May 09, 2011

KRB Update Ward Service

Keith R. Brinkman
May 8, 2011

Greetings from Sierra Leone, known as Salone in the local language.

Attending the Ward Service on Deck 3 in the Hospital of the Africa Mercy with the patients is a highlight of my week. My dear friend Clementine Tengue from Ghana/Togo has the privilege of organizing the weekly service. The service is for the patients and the caregivers (most patients aged 15 years or younger have someone who stays with them in the hospital). As the Hospital has four separate wards, one ward is selected and patients are given the option to come to the service or to stay in their ward. An invitation is extended to us as the general crew to attend, but limited to 20 crew members due to the limited space. Most of the patients I visit do attend, though I have some who have preferred to stay in their bed and so I will stay and visit with them.

A typical ward service: Clementine does the welcome and shares that Mercy Ships is not a church or denomination or a religion and that all are welcome. Our gathering together is a time to talk with Papa God and to tell him ‘tenki’ (‘thank you’ in the local language of Krio). Our dayvolunteers (local people we hire to assist us in various areas on board the ship – especially with translation) lead in praise and worship using the African drums – one song flows right into the next and usually in a couple languages. This morning I knew about half of the songs and for the others I just clapped along or did the hand motions. Some of the patients ‘shake their body’ even the orthopaedic kids with both legs casted try and shake their upper body. Following the time of singing, a crew member shares a short message/word of encouragement/verses from God’s Word – Old & New Testament. One of the dayvolunteers translates the message into the language of Krio which most in Sierra Leone understand (when we had patients from Guinea someone would translate into their language as a small group). In all the service lasts about only one hour, this may be the shortest service in this country as many times local churches have services from 2 to 4 hours long.

On Sundays afternoons, I usually meet the patients up on Deck 7 where we can sit on an open deck and feel the fresh air. Sometimes we will talk about the message that morning – what we learned and heard. Today, Liz shared the message from some verses from King David from the Old Testament, an encouragement of God’s love for us and also how we are Ambassadors for Jesus Christ. In this nation, which has a majority of Muslim people, the people seem to get along – the Muslims, Christians, and those who believe in African traditional religions. This is unlike what happens in the areas in North Africa and elsewhere on this continent. The people of the country know that Mercy Ships is Christian organization and that we are here to serve everyone without regards to religion, gender, or age. This is going to be a great field service.

More Facts for Sierra Leone: ▫ Independence Day April 27, 1961 – we just celebrated their 50th * President - Ernest Bai Koroma – who we hope will visit us this month; flag (see in the photo) has three equal horizontal bands of green (for agriculture, mountains and natural resources), white (unity & justice) and blue (the sea and the natural harbor of Freetown).

Prayer Requests: ** Health of the Crew – there has been a lot of sickness here on board and it is affecting us greatly (I have been healthy) ** Health for our patients coming for surgery, their surgery and their recovery time afterwards

Serving Together,


Mail: Keith R. Brinkman, Mercy Ships, P.O. Box 2020, Lindale, TX 75771 USA

Schedule: Sierra Leone Field Service February 27 – December 8, 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Patients on Deck 7 Dr. Tamba

On Wednesday, Sierra Leone celebrated 50 years of Independence. I went up to Deck 7 where our patients go for some fresh air and to be outside. Tamba, one of our orthopaedic patients, decided he was going to check out my heart with a stethoscope and make sure it is good.

Hope Center Modular Toilet Opening

We have worked hard to have a HOPE Center where our patients who no longer need to be in the hospital wards, but still need to visit the ship for outpatient care and they live too far away. The Center is a safe place they can stay - it is within walking distance of the ship. We purchased and assembled a modular toilet block and this was the day of commissioning.

Hospital Reception

Hospital Reception by keith.brinkman
Hospital Reception, a photo by keith.brinkman on Flickr.

We had the great opportunity to host the Minister of Health and many of her staff and other healthcare professionals for our Hospital Reception. The event was held in the International Lounge with a tour and refreshments afterwards - primarily hosted by our Hospital crew members.

Civic & Media Reception

One of the early events we hold on board is our Civic & Media Reception. We were a bit delayed this year due to various reasons. The photo is of our receiving line, just inside the ship. Our leaders had a time of sharing from the front of the International Lounge and then I had the privilege to be a tour guide for a group to see the ship, our hospital and our home.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

2nd Mass Screening

2nd Mass Screening by keith.brinkman
2nd Mass Screening, a photo by keith.brinkman on Flickr.

After the difficulties with the first mass screening and with much consultation we did a second one on Saturday the 26th of March with over 3,000 people coming and about 300 came into the compound to see if they were a suitable surgical candidate.

Schools Visit with Simeon Lunch

After visiting school rural schools, our group was hosted at one school for a lunch before the long drive back to Freetown.

Schools Visit / Name Tag

During visit to rural schools in the province, I put my name tag on this young man - after we showed everyone the photo of the ship on the back.

Schools Visit

While visiting some rural schools, I tried to connect with the children - those from the school and those just from the neighborhood. It took great courage for this little guy to 'shake' my hand. I actually took part of this photo and posted as my profile photo on Facebook.

Schools Visit - little guy

During a visit with one of our board members, we went out to see some rural schools. I don't think some of the little ones have seen a white man - this little guy was not too sure what to do - even though the older ones had already given me 'five' (slapped my hand).

Walk to Town

Walk to Town by keith.brinkman
Walk to Town, a photo by keith.brinkman on Flickr.

A random photo during a walk to town - Freetown here in Sierra Leone - when driving it is a great challenge to weave through the people and not to hit/nudge someone as you are driving.

UK Facilitators for conferences

UK Facilitators by keith.brinkman
UK Facilitators, a photo by keith.brinkman on Flickr.

A group shot of the UK facilitators for the two conferences - Anaesthesia and Midwifery. Most were here for a week on board as the conferences were three days in length. Enjoyed my time with them.

Anaesthesia Conference - Dr. Paul

At a local hospital, we conducted an Anaesthesia Conferences over 3 days with anaesthetists from all over Sierra Leone and with 20 of their trainees. Here Dr. Paul who was a short term crew member share with them some practical aspects.

Midwifery Conference

Midwifery Conference by keith.brinkman
Midwifery Conference, a photo by keith.brinkman on Flickr.

UK midwives working with midwives here in Sierra Leone - using models as they teach and learn together.

Midwifery Conference Apr11

Improving Maternal Care was one of the conferences I assisted with logistics as a group of midwives came from the UK and the course for 28 Sierra Leone midwives was held at a local hospital. Here they are reviewing how to do sutures.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

KRB Update - Screening, Conferences, Patient Visitation

KRB Update #2165 Keith R. Brinkman Sierra Leone April 9, 2011 Greetings from Sierra Leone, known as Salone in the local language of Krio. Thank you for your prayers and concern related to our surgical screening. After much consultation, we conducted another large screening on Saturday the 26th of March at the National Pharmacy building in town. Approximately 3,000 people came seeking our assistance and about 300 were admitted into the compound for the visits to the stations to determine if the person was a good surgical candidate. I served as a ‘patient escort’ – getting the potential patients and their caregivers to the next stop in the process. Between one side of the building to the next, I would take a group and I would walk backwards as I learned when conducting tours of the ship – I would joke with one or two in the front of my group to have them watch in case I run into someone or if I was about to fall. Towards the end of the day, I was following five children needing orthopaedic assistance including girls from the same orphanage. After consideration by the surgeons, three of the five were scheduled for surgery and I look forward to welcoming them to the Africa Mercy later this month. Anaesthesia Conference & Midwifery Conference: I assisted on behalf of the ship to facilitate these two conferences held at a nearby government hospital. For the Anaesthesia Conference, there were both 59 anaesthetists and 20 trainees who came for the 3 days of training conducted by speakers from the UK. Another group also from the UK conducted the ‘Improving Maternal Care’ conference in another part of the hospital with 28 trained midwives. I have done this for several years and it is a privilege to be a small part in seeing this possible. Believing that through capacity building/training, we will see improvements in the health care services available for the people of this country.

Patient Visitation: I love being able to daily visit the patients in the hospital wards, just down the hall from my office and one deck below my cabin or up on Deck 7 port side where we can get some fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun. We have translators available to assist, though we have had some patients from the nearby nation of Guinea and they speak French and local languages – so I have tried my limited French – if only I could put the dictionary under my bed and wake up speaking the French language. We have many children on board for orthopaedics and for maxillofacial surgeries. Though sometimes the desired results are not possible and the father or mother have to leave without any change in their child – difficult for them and their expectations – as was the case for little Christian who has club feet. Though, most of the time the patient and caregiver, like Mr. Jah and his son, leave rejoicing and very thankful for the time in the hospital and for their healing on board the Mercy Ship. More Facts for Sierra Leone: * Infant mortality rate 78 deaths per 1,000 live births * 2 physicians per 100,000 people * Languages: English (official, regular use limited to literate minority), Mende, Temne, Krio (English-based Creole, a lingua franca and a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

KRB Update - Screening in Sierra Leone

KRB Update #2164
Keith R. Brinkman Screening Sierra Leone March 12, 2011
Greetings from Sierra Leone. I write in follow up to my last update about our screenings here in this nation. Some of you may have already read reports on the web site and through internet new sources. We had a difficult and sad week in many regards. Below is the official statement from Don about what happened on Monday. I was there at the stadium in the early morning and then accompanied by boss to a meeting at the Ministry of Health in a nearby building. When we returned, I reported to my post at the walk-in gate to the stadium (at the top of several steps) and you could sense problems – people have used words like surge and stampede – we tried to get people inside to relieve the pressure. Some had been injured and were bloody and we directed them to our medic teams in a nearby tent who took care of them. My heart goes out to all those affected and for those people who came seeking our assistance and we were not able to provide that due to the circumstances and how we had to pull back for security and safety reasons. As a crew who participated in the screening, we have been processing what has happened and the chaplains have been available for counsel.

FROM: Don Stephens Dear Mercy Ships Staff and Crew,
A very sad incident occurred in the course of screening activities today in Freetown, Sierra Leone of which you need to be aware. Initial incident reports indicate that when screening personnel arrived at the stadium this morning there were 700 people already allowed into the stadium and a large crowd outside. Sometime after 9:30 events yet to be conclusively determined occurred to agitate the crowd and cause it to storm the gate. In response 200 more people were admitted to relieve pressure, but tragically 13 were injured, including one fatality and two life threatening situations. Mercy Ships personnel on site cared for the victims and accompanied them to hospitals. No Mercy Ships personnel was injured. Ongoing investigation will determine the facts. Please keep the individuals affected and their families in prayer, and pray also for the entire crew. This is certainly a time to pray and believe that God will work all things together for good in this tragic situation. The following is the statement was released regarding the event:
Mercy Ships is deeply saddened by the tragic events that occurred today during medical screening at the Freetown National Stadium when a crowd stormed the gate resulting in several injuries and one life lost. Mercy Ships personnel working at the site attended the injured and accompanied them to local hospitals.
"Our hearts and prayers are with the individuals and families of those affected by today's events. The occurrence of this incident in the course of activities intended to restore lives is tragic. We move forward with tremendous sadness, but great determination, to assist as many people as possible in the next ten months," stated Mercy Ships Founder, Don Stephens.
Mercy Ships exists to serve the forgotten poor and has served Sierra Leone five times over the past two decades, also helping establish two land based health care facilities. For the next ten months, Mercy Ships will be providing surgeries for qualified patients while working alongside the Sierra Leonean Government to support its five-year healthcare plan and strengthen the functions of the national health system.

Friday, March 11, 2011

If you cannot help us billboard

A former crew member who was here in the nation of Sierra Leone before on the Anastasis and took this photo of the billboard just outside the international airport in Lungi. I was over at the airport last Friday evening, but I didn't see it but it was late evening and there are not that many lights around here.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

KRB Update - Arrival Sierra Leone

KRB Update #2163
Keith R. Brinkman Arrival Sierra Leone March 5, 2011

Greetings from the West African nation of Sierra Leone. From September to January, the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest charity hospital ship, was in dry dock in Durban, South Africa undergoing essential repairs and upgrades to its on-board power generators and other mechanical systems. While about 80 crew members remained onboard during the dry dock, others, myself included, moved to a compound called Appelsbosch. I am excited that we are all back together as one crew – those of us who went to Appelsbosch, those that stayed on board and those long term crew who were away on extended leave.
The sail from South Africa was a beautiful journey and except for a couple days it was smooth. While we sail, our jobs and responsibilities continue and the days were long as I continued to work with the various teams already ahead of the ship in Sierra Leone. I worked on making preparations for our arrival and initial weeks as it relates to programs. During the second week, Staff Development conducted a three day country briefing during which I had the opportunity to share on crew opportunities for this year. The last night at sea, we had worship on the bow with African drums and dolphins came and swam alongside us – it was a special evening.
We sailed into Freetown on Sunday early morning – please see the photo to the right with the two crew members on board from Sierra Leone. This country is still recovering from a destructive civil war that started 20 years ago and left many with physical and emotional scars from their traumatic experiences. For the first time, patient screening preceded the arrival of the Africa Mercy and began in January with 5,010 patients screened so far. The screening team went to six cities in Sierra Leone (5 were inland or upcountry) – Koidu, Makeni, Kabala, Kenema, Bo and Aberdeen. 383 surgical patients are already scheduled for surgery and another 708 are prequalified and on a waiting list. We will be having a specialist surgical screening on Monday the 7th March (with overflow from that day into the 8th March) at Freetown National Stadium. Over 140 hospital crew and over 100 non-hospital crew will be involved in the screening days. We will be helping with crowd control, serving water, kid’s ministry, prayer and of course the medical assessments. We also couldn’t do it without our day volunteers who will be helping us with translation over the two days. The surgical specialties that we will be screening for are maxillofacial, general, plastics and orthopaedics. We are unsure how many will turn up to be screened but it is our prayer that we minister God’s love to all those that come to screening whether we are able to offer them a surgery or not. Mercy Ships is aligning its services with Sierra Leone’s health care goals, and in addition to the life transforming surgeries it will perform, Mercy Ships will continue to focus on training local medical professionals and partnering with organizations who can continue to work to transform this nation for years to come.

Few Facts for Sierra Leone: ▫ Life Expectancy is 56 years ▫ One in every 8 women will die in child birth this year
▫ One in every 5 children will not make it to the age of 5 ▫ 75% of the population lives on less than $2 per day * 5.3 million people *42% of the population are under 15 years old * Main ethic groups – Temne & Mende

Prayer Requests: ** Surgical Screenings ** Start up of our projects on and off the ship ** Health & Safety.

View from Water Taxi

This is an evening view of Freetown and the port where we are docked from the water taxi as we travelled across towards the international airport.

Patrik, Nils, KRB Water Taxi

At the request of my boss the managing director, I travelled over on the water taxi with Patrik, Nils, and Diana (taking the photo) as they were leaving. I went to welcome and assist some special guests who arrived on the flight from Heathrow, England. We had our fair share of sea water spray on the 40 minute journey across in the evening.

Loading Water Taxi

Loading Water Taxi by keith.brinkman
Loading Water Taxi a photo by keith.brinkman on Flickr.
Life is an adventure - here in Sierra Leone transport to the airport is a journey - we have a contract with a water taxi company who pick us up at Berth #1 inside the port and take us across the ocean to a location near the airport at Lungi. For a small group like our's last night they use the speed boat.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

AFM Logo & SL Flag

This is the beautiful flag of Sierra Leone in front of our logo on the stack of the Africa Mercy. We have started our field service for 2011 in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Advance Team Briefing

Originally uploaded by keith.brinkman
Tonight we had our Advance Team Briefing by our amazing Advance Team on Day One here in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Day One in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Originally uploaded by keith.brinkman
This afternoon, I was able to join the Captain, Mark T, and Donovan with Tracy our Advance Team Leader to see some of the sites in Freetown - Hospitality Center / Dental Clinic / Eye Screening Site / National Stadium for Surgical Screening / Team House / Berth #1 where the water taxis arrive after crossing the river from the airport. This is going to be a great field service!!

AFM on Arrival Day

Originally uploaded by keith.brinkman
View of the Africa Mercy at Berth #6 at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Arrival Day in Freetown

Originally uploaded by keith.brinkman
View of the sunrise at Freetown, Sierra Leone on our arrival this morning with our two Sierra Leonean crew members - Alice & Sheku.

Friday, February 25, 2011

25 Feb AFM

25 Feb AFM
Originally uploaded by keith.brinkman
We are getting closer - we crossed the equator on Thursday morning - looking at arriving in Freetown, Sierra Leone - at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay on Sunday morning.