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.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

KRB Update - Congo Overview 09 July 2013

Greetings from the Africa Mercy as we finish up our season in the shipyard in Gran Canaria - completing various projects including: replacing the flooring in the hospital on the ward side, converting the recovery room into a ward, creating a recovery room nearer to the operating rooms, refrigeration and galley projects and many others on the long list.  I worked on and completed the Guinea final project reports, summary reports, statistics, etc. and then took a short break.  I continue to support our large team in Congo already – those with the Advance Team and Off Ship Projects. 
I want to take this opportunity and share a bit more about Congo as we move into a new country and new region for Mercy Ships.  Back in 2012, I accompanied our managing director to Cotonou, Benin to meet with the president of the Republic of Congo as he was there for other meetings.  It has been a long process, but so thankful for this open door and opportunity for us – exciting to be a part of it.
When you hear ‘Congo’, many think of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is a large country in central Africa.  It is at the bottom of the United Nations Human Development Index and very needy, though regretfully their ports are not able to take a ship our size for a field service.  The nation we set sail for this month is the Republic of Congo – on the northern side of the Congo River.  Their port, Pointe-Noire on the western side of Africa is capable to take a ship like the Africa Mercy for ten months.  The Republic of Congo has many needy people who need our direct medical services and also healthcare professionals who we can mentor and can benefit from our courses – as together we bring hope and healing.

Map from one of my fellow crew members who does amazing graphic works.

The population is less than 4 million with their capital in Brazzaville and the port in the second city, Pointe-Noire.  The country ranks as number 142 on the Human Development Index (out of 187 countries) with life expectancy at birth 57 years.  Unlike Guinea which was over 85% Muslim, Congo is over 50% Roman Catholic, 40% Protestant and less than 2% Muslim.  As we have done in previous countries, we will conduct extensive surgical screenings throughout the country in cooperation with local non-government organizations, missionaries, churches and the government of the Republic of Congo.  This is a French speaking nation and unlike in Guinea where I found many of my patients didn’t speak French, they say the majority of people in Congo do, so I think I need to start my study of French again.  As I write future KRB Updates, I will include more information about the country and on our activities planned for August 2013 – June 2014. 
Please pray *Our team already in-country work on all the finalizations of a multitude of details, hiring over 200 day crew (local workers), arranging for the surgical screenings, dental clinic site, HOPE Center site, eye site and everything with the port.  *Finishing up everything in shipyard.  *Safety on our long sail to Congo.

KRB Update - Guinea 08 June 2013

Greetings from the Africa Mercy for my final update related to my time in the nation of Guinea.  Our time has come to an end, a verse I shared at our special event to express our thanks to our day workers was from Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” 
I want to take this opportunity to thank our great God for an amazing field service and to you all my friends and family who stand with me as I serve here, I am most grateful.  I greatly miss my patients, caregivers and friends in Guinea; it was emotionally hard to say so many goodbyes.  For some, there are ways to stay in touch via mobile phone, text message and email, but for others that is not possible.  I continue to pray for them and for their complete recovery and healing and for all God has purposed for them and their lives.
As Programs Administrator for the Africa Mercy, I prepare all of our statistical reports and assist with the final project reports and many others.  To the side, you see a small pie chart reflecting one area: surgeries during this field service and the surgical specialties.  As you see, it was a busy field service and many lives transformed.  In addition to the amazing life changing and in some cases lifesaving surgeries, this crew were involved with a dental clinic (providing care to over 10,000 people and basic oral health education), eye clinic (not just screening for surgery, but providing thousands of eye glasses and sun glasses for protection from the strong African sun), and palliative care (for 29 people in their final months of life).  Our hospital chaplaincy team members were available every day to minister and counsel our patients and caregivers.  Our mercy ministries teams had 315 site visits with local partners, from visiting the prisons, orphanages, schools for the disabled and sharing the Jesus Film in the local languages in partnership with Campus Crusade to over 10,000 and 1,800 responded with a request for prayer or to make a commitment to follow Jesus.  Training happened in some many areas including: surgeons (eyes, orthopaedic, VVF, maxillofacial and reconstructive); ward and operating room nurses, anesthesia providers, dental students, palliative care workers , agriculture trainers in organic agriculture who have already trained over 300 community farmers, health care and social workers and church leaders in mental health, and leadership conferences for church, community and government leaders.       

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

KRB Update - Community

14 May 2013

Greetings from the nation of Guinea, West Africa. One of the very unique and powerful aspects to life serving in world missions with Mercy Ships is our community. Our community is both trans-generational (from newborn babies to those in their retirement years) and trans-cultural (crew coming from up to 40 different nations and so many different cultures). Some other traits of our community are: people chose to belong to the community, community is constantly changing (up to 100 new crew arrive monthly on field service – and as you can imagine not really possible to know everyone by name, we have the added assistance as you are required at all times to wear your identification badge), a group of people with common goals, there is a sense of belonging and being a safe place, a place where everyone has his or her place, working side by side, a place where we can be real, agree to disagree, participate in things you’d rather not do for the good of the whole, and a place of supportive growth and learning. Our community’s foundation is Jesus, faith in God, God as our focal point, a place where spiritual growth takes place, a group of people expressing who Jesus is, focusing on the Kingdom culture versus the individual cultures, we need to each be all that God created us to be so we can help one another to become all God intended, coming together as one body of Christ. We have our regular times of prayer, praise and worship and hearing from God’s word. At Easter and Christmas, we celebrate these two holidays in amazing and special ways on board – they are the only two holidays recognized on board officially. We celebrate birthdays and we also cry with friends during times of loss. Please note that most but not all of our crew are followers of Jesus. I also do not want to forget our amazing day crew (local workers who serve with us in many aspects on board).
Celebrating Josie's birthday - I have known
her since she was 18 months old.

As a community, we have a Crew Handbook which details many different aspects about life in this community. These range from maritime matters and law as we all are crew members to our chaplaincy department who also look out for our community. You might be surprised to know that we have a curfew for safety and security reasons – usually around 10:30pm everyone has to be on board the ship unless you have special permission from the captain. Our Code of Conduct includes details related to alcohol, dancing, smoking and the favorite of many our dress code.

There are various areas on the ship for our community – common areas/lounges, dining room, and Starbuck’s Café (area sponsored by Starbuck’s and yes there is Starbuck’s coffee available , though since I don’t drink coffee doesn’t excite me much except for my friends). There are services available from our library, hair salon, laundry room (which is open 24 hours a day – but you only are allowed one load per week due to water restrictions), ship shop, academy (for the children of our long term families – with 50 + in attendance), crew bank, and post office.

Hopefully you have a bit more of an idea of the community here. I have been living in community since I joined Mercy Ships in 1989, on the ships: m/v Good Samaritan, m/v Anastasis, m/v Caribbean Mercy and now the m/v Africa Mercy and at our office locations in Texas and England. I am very thankful for this community.

Please pray * All of our patients heal and are ok for discharge from the hospital

Serving Together, Keith

KRB Update - Education

06 April 2013
Greetings from the nation of Guinea, West Africa. I wish to focus in this update on some of our education/training type projects. Many of you already know of our direct medical services provided to the people of the host country – with no regard to nationality, gender, religion, age – as we bring hope and healing.

So many times when I have traveled ahead of the ship and our team has met with the Minister of Health and the President, one of their main requests is for training for their people. Mercy Ships has provided education in many different aspects for years both here in Africa and earlier including my time on the Caribbean Mercy. Our education (mentoring and courses) projects include: Mentoring: specialized surgeons, ward and operating room nurses, anesthesia providers, mental health professionals, laboratory technicians, and sterilize processing technicians

Courses: Ponseti casting, palliative care, agriculture and nutrition, leadership conferences, radiology, disease control, mental health, primary trauma care, etc. Our ability to be able to provide the mentoring and courses rest in large part on the availability of highly skills professionals coming from over 30 different nations. There is also much work done in order to coordinate these opportunities, some of which take place on the Africa Mercy and others happen ashore and in local hospitals. The amount of time invested in the participants depends on each project and needs. The outcomes vary but involve the increase in knowledge, improvement in skills and in Jesus-like attitude.

Dr. Michelle at one of the workshops
Most recently, I assisted with our Anaesthesia Conference held here in Conakry with 49 anesthesia providers and 11 midwives. The focus of the conference was on maternal health, trauma, World Health Organization Safer Surgery checklists and Lifebox (pulse oximeters). My role was coordination and logistics; it was a lot of work and began back in October. We believe that the participants learned through the lectures, workshops and interaction with the 12 facilitators who came from Europe and some of our own hospital professionals. The hope is that lives will be saved during their times in surgery from what they have learned.

Please pray * for all those involved in our education projects here in Guinea – may they take what they have learned and share with others and may the training aid in their care for the people

Serving Together, Keith

Saturday, March 02, 2013

KRB Update - Noma

KRB Update #2185 – Noma

Keith R. Brinkman 02 March 2013

Greetings from the nation of Guinea, West Africa. Noma – as you read the header subject line, you think what is Noma and why is Keith writing about it. Noma is a disease of poverty – here is the link to Wikipedia with more details: Noma (cancrum oris) is an acute and ravaging gangrenous infection affecting the face. The victims of Noma are mainly children under the age of 6, caught in a vicious circle of extreme poverty and chronic malnutrition. We see them come to our screenings with the effects of Noma.

Koto and his uncle - while at the HOPE Center -
prior to his 1st surgery

Noma begins with ulcers in the mouth. If the condition is detected in the early stage, progression can be prevented with the use of mild antibiotics and immediate nutritional rehabilitation. If left untreated, as happens in most cases, the ulcers progress to Noma at an alarming pace. The next stage is extremely painful when the cheeks or lips begin to swell and the victim's general condition deteriorates. Within a few days, the swelling increases and a blackish furrow (trench) appears and the gangrenous process sets in and, after the scab falls away and a gaping hole is left in the face. It is estimated that the mortality rate reaches up to an alarming 90%. So the ones we are seeing are those who have survived this horrible disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 140,000 new cases of Noma occur each year and of these, a mere 10% survive. That means that 126,000 die each year, mainly in sub-Saharan countries from Senegal to Ethiopia, a region known as "the Noma belt". Reconstructive facial surgery needs to be carried out in a well-equipped and well-staffed hospital. The facial reconstruction of a Noma victim is both complex and time consuming and requires very special skills. As we have specialized surgical units in our hospital on board, we are able to assist with surgeries for these survivors. Most of this paragraph came from the web site:, though I am not familiar with them, but they had the best written description on Noma.

I learned more about this disease from meeting patients in our hospital and more recently during a Hospital In-Service training class on a Wednesday evening – conducted by our Chief Medical Officer Maxillofacial Surgeon, Dr. Gary.
Alpha Oumar at the HOPE Center - prior to his 1st surgery

I currently visit two patients – one a child named ‘Koto’ and one young adult, ‘Alpha Oumar’, both from different areas of the nation of Guinea. Last month, they had their first of multiple surgeries which they will need. Please pray * for our patients, particularly for those suffering with the effects of Noma. * for our healthcare professionals as they care for them. * transformation of lives

Serving Together, Keith


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

60 Minutes

A message about the report on Mercy Ships on 60 Minutes and CBS Evening News - please read below from Don Stephens:

Last Sunday evening (February 17, 2013), Mercy Ships was featured in a wonderful segment produced by the CBS television news broadcast 60 Minutes. I hope you had the chance to watch! We are grateful for the opportunity to reach millions with the message of hope and healing for the world’s forgotten poor. If you didn’t have a chance to watch the program, please take a few minutes to view it online!

As a follow-up to this story, please help us continue to spread information about Mercy Ships and its mission. Here are a few ideas that take only a few minutes:

Communicate your passion for Mercy Ships by introducing us to those in your circle of influence. Tell them how you personally support Mercy Ships and ask them to get involved. There are several other things that you can do as well – each that takes as little as 60 seconds;

• Tweet or email a link ( ) to the 60 Minutes segment online.

• Post a link to the segment on your Facebook page.

• Send an email – to people you think might be interested in learning more about Mercy Ships.

Transform lives by giving regularly and encouraging your friends and colleagues to do the same. You can donate online at

Pray for those we serve around the world - for our staff, crew and volunteers; and for the mission of bringing hope and healing to the world’s poor.

Continue to pray that the millions of people who watched this important story – and those who will watch online – will learn about the work of Mercy Ships and decide to let their mercy make a difference, just as you have.

Thank you, again, for your commitment to Mercy Ships and to serving others.

Your Mercy Makes a Difference!

Don Stephens


KRB Update - Dental

KRB Update #2184 – Dental

Keith R. Brinkman    26 January 2013

Serving as Dr. Denny's Translator in El Salvador

Greetings from the nation of Guinea, West Africa. While serving as a bookkeeper at the International Office in Texas back in 1991, I had the great opportunity to meet up with the Good Samaritan ship in Guyana in South America. I worked as a dental assistant with the dental team (with Dr. Bud and Dr. Denny) in Alboystown – it was an amazing experience. In later years with the Caribbean Mercy in Central America, I assisted with screenings – please see the photo with Dr. Denny in the nation of El Salvador, where I was serving as his translator.

I would like to take this opportunity to share with you about the Dental Team with the Africa Mercy. Dental is an extension of the hospital department and part of Programs overall. They set up their clinic in a location ashore in town and provide screenings twice a week for up to 450 waiting patients. We have equipped our clinic with 8 dental chairs based on having 4 dentists and each dentist having two chairs – as one patient is being prepped the dentist is taking care of the other patients. Currently, we have three long term dentists which has been great for the team. We also have a dental chair for the dental hygienist.

Most of the people have not been to a dentist in their life, including one of my patients, Mamadou, that I visit regularly. He ended up needing five extractions and five fillings performed over two appointments by my Aussie friend, Dr. Toni.

Our Guinea Smiles Dental Team with their 4,000th Patient
To date since late August, over 5,300 patient encounters with those receiving over 20,500 procedures – over 400 to the dental hygienist and 500 dentures have been provided. All are provided with basic oral health education (to date over 4,000 patients) and the teams have gone into local schools to teach the children and their teachers. One of the chaplains shares with them about Mercy Ships and why we are here and are available to pray with anyone as they await to receive their treatment.

Sometimes the team head out for extreme dentistry as in the recent case to the Men and Women’s Prison here in Conakry – these are the same prisons that our Mercy Ministries teams visit on Saturday mornings. Our Dental Team treated all those with dental needs, 325 men, women and young people. Next month, the team will be going to the village of Ouéndé-Kénéma, outside of Guéckédou, a day and half drive from here. In addition to dental services for four days, we will be screening for facial tumors, cleft lip, cleft palate, and lipomas.

Please pray for our Guinea Smiles Dental Team for the rest of this field service as they care for the people of Guinea.