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.