Growing in Compassion through Volunteer Nursing
After being a traveling nurse for many years, Cara Stafford had a lingering feeling that God wanted her to use her nursing skills beyond the hospitals in the United States. Having heard of Mercy Ships, she applied and was accepted to come volunteer. The ship proved to be the perfect place to use all the skills she had acquired during her nursing career — from quickly making new friends to caring for pediatric patients with various conditions — Cara thrived in the wards and enjoyed being a charge nurse.
In this episode Cara shares about sweet patients that touched her heart, lessons she learned from watching patients take care of one another, and the compassion she gained that makes her a better nurse today. Cara’s stories are going to challenge you to consider going and volunteering yourself!
Mercy Ships has brought hope and healing to those who need it most for over 40 years. Using hospital ships, we are able to provide safe, free surgical care to those in need and bring medical training to healthcare workers living in the countries we serve.
New Mercies Podcast Transcript
Welcome to New Mercies a podcast by Mercy Ships, where we’ll take you behind the scenes and on board our incredible hospital ships that are transforming lives all over the world. We invite you to join us each week as we sit down with our crew, patients, volunteers, and partners to hear their stories of life-changing hope and healing.
Welcome Cara! You’ve been a nurse for about 15 years now in the United States, how did you hear about Mercy Ships? And what caused you to go volunteer?
So, as you said, I was working as a nurse in the United States. Actually, I was doing travel nursing and had been for many years, kind of bouncing around different states and working different jobs. I kind of had this lingering feeling that God wanted me to do something more than what I was doing working in the U.S. And so, I honestly do not remember the first time I heard of Mercy Ships, I did not know a single person who had ever volunteered with the ship before, but whenever I felt this calling, for some reason Mercy Ships popped into my mind. Maybe I’d seen a television special or commercial or something about it at some point in time, but it was basically the first and only avenue that I researched to try to do some sort of longer-term medical missions.
So, I told my family what I was thinking about doing, and I got online and applied. And in my mind, I had a timeframe for how long I wanted to volunteer. And when I wanted to volunteer, after I got accepted, that was not the timeline that they gave me originally. So, at first, I was like, “Okay, well, you know, I was going to have to wait a little bit longer than I anticipated to join and was going to serve for a shorter amount of time than I wanted.” So, I just said, “Okay, well, obviously, God, this is the time and timeframe that you want me to be a part of this organization. So, I’ll just agree to it.”
So, I sent back my reply, and I said, “Okay, that sounds great.” I told them I’d be available for longer if they needed me. Originally, the offer was for a two-month time period to volunteer. I got an email back from the organization that said, “Oh, okay, great. Well, we’ll actually take you up on that offer that you originally had told us about, we’ll take you for six months. And we want you to come and start at the beginning of the Senegal field service.” So that was in August of 2019.
Well, that’s exciting! So, your very first medical mission overseas, what was that?
It was so much more than I ever could have imagined it to be! You are joining the ship with hundreds of other volunteers who have the same mindset as you when you’re coming in. And even though you are people from all different cultures, all different backgrounds, different religions, and different ways of life, you come, and you volunteer for a single goal. Everyone has a like mindset as to what they want to accomplish by volunteering with an organization like Mercy Ships, so you get to be fast friends with people from a lot of different places all over the world. Which, my background of being a travel nurse for a long-time kind of taught me to just put myself out there and make friends with someone for the first time.
And so being able to be a part of a community like that was something that people can’t describe to you — you don’t know what it’s like until you step foot on the ship. But it makes for a really good experience. When times are great, you have someone to share the joys with; when times are not so great, you have someone to share the difficulties with and there are people who are understanding and going through the same thing that you are. So, it was an amazing experience, to say the least.
What was your living situation like? Tell us about your cabin and how many roommates you had.
Okay, so I was in a six-berth cabin. So, I was one of six people who lived in the cabin. I had five roommates. I was the only one in my cabin, my particular cabin, who was there for as long as I was. And so, I had a lot of different roommates during the seven-month time period that I was living on the ship and Senegal. Most of them were nurses, I did have a couple of physical therapists who live in my cabin with me. I also had a pharmacist. So, everyone was medical who was in my cabin with me the whole time.
So, what was that like to all of a sudden be living with five other women in pretty close quarters? Was that something you expected?
I mean, they tell you upfront, you know that you’re going to have roommates. So, I knew that. But I did not know the extent of what that situation would look like. You try to prepare yourself for living, not just having a roommate or a flatmate, in an apartment or a house, but sharing bunk beds with someone in a small space, you can’t really predict what life is going to be like. But I will say the Lord blessed me so much because I had amazing roommates.
I think because we were all medical, we work different shifts, and we were very understanding of each other. And so, we all tried to accommodate each other as much as we could. We would take quick showers and not spend a lot of time in the bathroom getting ready when three other people had to get ready at the same time and we kind of looked out for each other. In Senegal, we would have cabin dinners together, where if we were all off work, we would all sit down and eat dinner together. So, it was a really good experience better than I could have anticipated.
You do build a family that you didn’t think you were going to have!
Tell us what your role was. I mean, we know you’re a nurse in the hospital, but there are different wards and different roles for the nurses. What did you do specifically and give us an example of a typical day.
So, I was brought to the ship as a pediatric nurse. I have done pediatric nursing for the length of my nursing career. And I came to the ship as a pediatric ward nurse. After being on the ship for a few days, I got assigned to a specific ward. The ward is one of the multiple wards in the hospital in Africa Mercy and our main patient populations were the plastic surgery specialty patients and the pediatric orthopedic specialty patients. And so typical day in the life of a nurse on shift is… Well, first of all, I guess maybe I should explain — there are different shifts that obviously run the hospital, there is a morning shift and afternoon shift, an evening shift, and a night shift. As a nurse coming on, you’re going to work a variety of those shifts. You come to your shift and get a report from the off-going nurses and kind of start your day.
So, most days someone was going to surgery, and depending on what specialty was happening at the time, or how significant and time-consuming the surgeries were, there were multiple patients on the ward who were going to surgery. You would have patients before they went so, you’re prepping them to go to the O R. After they’d been in recovery from the operating room from their procedures, and then you’d have people in different stages of the healing process. And so, depending on which specialty it was, that meant, some of these patients were there on the ship for a few months, like some of the plastic surgery patients who had to have skin grafts and were waiting for their grafts to heal. The orthopedic patient typically did not stay in the wards for more than just a couple of weeks. So, they weren’t on the ship as long term, but they obviously had a lot of physical therapy and things once that happened before they left the ship. So, because I was there for a longer period of time than some of the other nurses, the team leads of the ward approached me and asked me if I would be willing to be a charge nurse for the ward. I personally did not think I was qualified for that!
What does a charge nurse do? What does that mean?
Oh, charge nurse basically means you’re in charge of the patients in the shift and the staff. It’s not like you still don’t have like team leads, which are kind of like supervisors, but charge nurses basically make assignments for the oncoming shift. The hospital on the Africa Mercy runs differently than traditional hospitals in the U.S. So, the charge nurse is really the only one who contacts the surgeon or the physician if there’s a question with the patient or something like that. In the evening shifts the charge nurses round with the surgeons and get consent for the people who are scheduled to have their operations the next day to make sure that they understand the actual procedure that they’re going to have done.
What a great opportunity for you to gain that experience.
Yeah, after only being in Senegal for two months, on the Africa Mercy, I was like, “I don’t know that you want me to do this. But if you have faith in me, and you feel like God is wanting you to do this, then I’ll do it” — which ended up being a great experience, because in that role, you really do get to oversee the care of all of the patients on your ward. So, you get to be involved in everyone’s stories in multiple stories of the patients like not just per se you know, the few main ones that you may take care of. So, it’s, it’s a fun role.
Tell us one of those special stories that you got to be a part of.
Okay, so one of my favorite stories that I like to share with people is really a story about joy. So, there was a six-year-old girl who came to the ship during the orthopedic specialty, and she had bowed legs. So, both of her legs were bowed out, and she was going to have corrective surgery to give her straight legs.
What causes that condition to have these bowed legs, windswept legs, there’s all sorts of different terms. But what causes that?
Before volunteering for Mercy Ships, I did not know what caused it. I mean, you see things like this in America, but not to the extent that it happens in these countries in West Africa. So, these babies are born with straight legs, they have straight legs until they start walking. And then because of the lack of proper nutrition, their bones are not strong enough to hold up their body weight once they actually start becoming mobile as toddlers. I was completely unaware of that until I saw it. And if you listen to the, you know, the mothers and the fathers of these kids that come in, they’ll tell you all about it — My baby had straight legs when he was born…, then this would happen and it’s because of a lack of proper nutrition. They’re not getting the vitamins and the minerals and things that they need to make their bones strong and healthy. Therefore, to hold their body weight, they will just grow at awkward angles.
This little six-year-old girl’s name is Khumba. And I happen to be working the night shift with another nurse on our ward the night prior to her operation. So, the night shift starts at 10 p.m. So, by that time, most of the evening shift, nurses have kind of tried to quiet down the unit, get patients ready to go to sleep. And so, I really didn’t get to meet Khumba in her awake status until the next morning. One of the responsibilities of the night shift is to prep and prepare the first patients who are going to the operating room for the next day.
At about 6 o’clock in the morning, you wake them up, we want them to have like clean skin, so they take showers, and we try to get them ready to go to the operating room. So, we woke up Khumba, got her ready to go to the operating room because she was going to be the first patient that next or that morning. Well, once she was awake, she was awake, and she was wild. She wouldn’t sit in her bed anymore. She was running up and down the hallway of the hospital laughing and dancing and wanting to play with us, we couldn’t contain her joy, she was not afraid. She was not scared. She was not nervous. She was just happy, a happy kid.
She has her surgery and is there on the unit with us for about two weeks. You know, at this point, she has straight legs. Her legs are in pretty heavy plaster cast for the first little bit of that and they can’t walk on them as their bones are trying to heal. So, you know, all these kids after their surgeries are in bed for the most part for several days. Well, Khumba did not let that deter her happiness or her joy even through her recovery. She was happy and laughing and dancing and singing at the top of her lungs every day in her bed. She also learned some English while we were there. I could look over at Khumba during the day, and I would be like, “Khumba, I love you” and she would say “I love you.”
I can’t say how happy that made me to hear her say things like that. And so Khumba eventually left the ship went to the Hope Center where she would get daily physical therapy, coming back to the ship or to the dock for the physical therapy. And on her last day, basically, she was like graduating from physical therapy and was going to be done, she came on to the ship along with several other of the orthopedic patient children to say goodbye to us on the ward. I don’t know if she knows she was saying goodbye. But that’s kind of what was happening.
And I just happened to be working that shift. And so, she came in her straight legs and ran up and gave me a hug. And then she wanted me to carry her from the third floor where the hospital was to carry her up to deck five up the stairs, and then like wave at her and she exits on the gangway. So, she brought joy to me just by her positive spirit, her laughter, her just her childlike sense of wanting to have fun throughout, throughout the whole experience prior to surgery, during the hardest days of recovery during physical therapy. And then when he when she was leaving.
I bet that makes your job a lot easier when you have someone that is so filled with joy, and it’s infectious.
It really is. I mean, with the orthopedic surgeries, all of our patients were children. So, it was a pretty fun time to be on the ward. Also, it can be a difficult time when these kids are trying to stand up for the first time with their straight legs, there was a lot of tears, a lot of falling down. I think the reason why I’ve kind of stayed in the world of Pediatrics throughout my nursing career is kids are resilient, can go through some of the most difficult things, and still have really good attitudes about it. And even if they have a difficult procedure or something that is painful to them, kids, or for forgiving, 30 minutes later want to get up and play with you. They have forgotten that you just did something that didn’t feel great to them.
Let me also tell you this story which is one of my mom’s favorite stories that I’ve shared with her from the ship, she reminds me about it from time to time. So, there was one morning where I was working, and we had a patient who was waiting to go to the operating room. So, before anesthesia patients cannot eat or drink anything, you know, for a set period of time before they go. And this was a little girl, probably about three or four years old. I can’t remember exactly how old she was. But she was just upset and didn’t really want to be or couldn’t be consoled throughout the morning while she waited her turn to go to the operating room.
So finally, one of our amazing day crew got her to be quiet and just settled while she waited. And I asked the day crew, “What did you do? What did you say?” And, she was like, “I didn’t say anything. I just went and handed her a hardboiled egg,” — which was a part of the breakfast that morning — “and she just needed to hold the egg in her hand, knowing that when she woke up from surgery, we would feed her and that she would be satisfied.” And so, she was calm and quiet just by holding that hard boarding egg until she went into surgery.
It’s just those little things. You know, maybe she was crying because she was hungry and didn’t understand as a little kid that you can’t eat before you go into surgery, but I love how special the day crew are and just knew what to do.
So, working in pediatrics with kids on board, you talked about the orthopedic surgeries that the children with misshapen legs receive. But you also mentioned plastics and plastic surgery for children, what is going on in the children’s lives that would cause them to need plastic surgery, tell us a little bit about those patients.
So, most of the patients who came on the show that required plastic surgery, were at some point in time in life burned very badly, different parts of their body involving different extremities. And because they did not receive proper after burn care, because it’s not available, their skin would grow back, and their muscles would form back contracted. And so contracted means they don’t have full range of motion to a place that they used to.
So, whether that is a hand or a wrist, or an elbow, or shoulder, or a knee, or a foot or an ankle, or even a jaw, we had patients who had issues like neck contractures. And so, the plastic surgery specialty wasn’t only pediatrics, we also did surgery on adults. And so that was a variety of patients to take care of different ages and things. But what the surgeons would do is they would go in and try to release the contractions of the skin. And in doing so most of the time, they had to have different varying degrees of skin grafts whether that’s a partial thickness or full thickness, they would basically take skin from one part of the body and put it on the skin that they had released the contracture from so that it could heal and grow. And then once the skin was growing properly, the patients would receive physical therapy to try to regain the function of the part of the body that was affected.
A lot of times patients would ask us about their scars because you can imagine from these patients who you know, were burned because a pot of hot oil spilled over on them when they were a toddler, or because I remember one of the adult patients was riding a motorcycle that somehow got engulfed in flames. And so, with contractures, the skin and the scarring can be pretty severe sometimes. But we always we told these patients, you know because they would ask about the scars like, “Am I going to have the scars when the surgery is over?”
And the answer to that is yes because the scars are part of your story. The scars mean that you survived, you’re a survivor, the scars cannot be taken away. But what we can do is try to give you back function of your fingers, being able to move your elbow and your arm and your shoulder so that you can function to the best of your ability in life. So, the plastic surgery patients would be on the ward with some of them for a few months at a time, just waiting for their grafts to heal. And for them to get to a point where it would be safe for them to be transitioned off-ship into the Hope Center to continue their healing and physical therapy and things like that.
I love that you say your scars are a part of your story. And your scars show that you survived. I think that’s a really beautiful way to look at scars because a lot of times as humans you know, we don’t want to have scars that are visible to other people. But what a beautiful way to look at it. This is almost like proof that there’s a stamp on you if you will that shows you survived. You made it. This is a part of your story. We don’t want to get rid of that. I know when I was on board there was a little girl named Haby who had severe burn contractures. Did you work with her at all?
I did have the opportunity to work with Haby — another night shift scenario. I was one of the Night Shift Nurses the night before Haby went to the award to have her surgery done. So Haby was a little girl who had been burned pretty badly on her face and her neck and her chest and arms. And so, her burns covered a big percent of her body surface and so she was on the ship going to have surgery her grandmother was her caregiver. You could tell that her grandmother wasn’t just her caregiver on the ship she cared for this child more than five years of life thus far. So Haby’s scars were pretty severe her chin and jaw, the skin from her neck had grown contracted down to her chest.
And so, she could not close her mouth all of the way, as well as having her arm not being able to fully extend and have use. She also had like some pretty bad lip scarring and things, scarring to all of her face. So, it was a pretty big surgery that she had done, there was several skin grafts, but they were able to release the contracture of her neck contracture. The night before Haby went to the operating room the next morning, same thing as I did with Khumba. I woke her up, you know, got her prepared and ready for the next day. And the difference between those two little girls is Haby was terrified. She was very afraid which kids in a hospital setting should be afraid that it’s a new place for them. It’s people that they’ve never seen before. And people that look very different from the way that they look being Senegalese too, you know, this American nurse taking after caring after them. And so, she was pretty, pretty frightened when I was getting her ready to go to the operating room.
The next morning, after her surgery, because it was pretty extensive, she ended up going to another ward that was smaller and could better care for her after such extensive surgery, I can’t remember, I think she might have gone to the ICU for a little bit just because it involved her neck. And so, her airway was a concern at some point. And so, after being on that ward for a little bit, she came back to join us on the ward with the rest of the plastic surgery patients to continue her healing. And at that time, after she’d been there for a little bit and realized that we were helping her, she got to be used to us a little bit more. There are some things in our recovery that are going to be painful, just like any hospital in America or, you know, one that is equipped to take care of these type of patients, you do everything you can to make it as pain-free as possible.
So, the ship and the nurses are really good at that, whether that’s medication or distraction techniques or comfort measures or whatever we can do, to try to just help her wounds heal back properly. Causing the least amount of trauma as possible, because obviously her little life had been pretty traumatic up until that point. But Haby’s recovery went really well. She got to be a very outgoing, energetic, fun child. By the time she was ready to leave the hospital, I remember her grandmother saying to us, this is Haby, this is her personality, you have taken her from hiding and always wanting to hide behind an adult so that other kids wouldn’t look at her to having her come out into a group of kids and wanting to play with her.
One of the other big takeaways that I got from working on the ship was some of these kids’ adults didn’t usually see others that looked like them. Whether that was the kids with misshapen legs from the orthopedic specialty, or kids who had had severe burns, and they were needing, you know, burn contracture releases and skin grafts. A lot of the time they hadn’t seen someone else who looked like them. And so, the patient’s formed a community with each other, that they had a bond that we could never have with them, because they saw people who looked like them and people who were going through the same thing as them.
We had some kids who, in the Muslim culture, I realize the father or grandfather figure of the family would come and be the caregiver for the kids. But sometimes kids just want their mama. If their mom wasn’t there, another mama from another patient would step in and act in the role. So, they all took care of each other. And that was a joy to see and a big takeaway for me that not only am I forming a sense of community with my fellow volunteers, but these people are also forming a sense of community with their native countrymen whom they had never met before. But they got to be best friends. They got to be a family together. So that was really special to see.
Wow, that is awesome. What are some challenges maybe that you faced working in such a unique environment of a hospital on a ship?
I do remember a couple of times the hospital was running low on supplies. We are low on certain medications that we needed. And now, after working through the pandemic, that is something that we’ve seen in America! But prior to that, if you needed something, you always had it. I remember some of our stuff would be stuck on containers trying to get through customs and we would pray that God would provide whoever it was that needed to go and get our container through customs so that we could have supplies to perform surgeries, medications to give patients things that they needed for their recovery. So that was one challenge.
People might not realize that, of course, the ship is fully stocked when we arrive in a country. But those supplies run out once you start doing multiple surgeries. They don’t last for the whole 10 months that we might be in a country. So, containers are shipped over, sometimes monthly, but in some of these countries, those containers get caught in customs and they won’t be released. And so that poses an interesting challenge.
Yes, but you know, I can say that I don’t remember a specific instance, where we absolutely ran out of something that we needed, God provides. So, some of the other challenges working in a, in a hospital, on a ship, with people from many different countries all over the world can for sure have challenges it was the ship has kind of streamlined protocols and policies for the care that we give and the way that we give it and how we chart it, and the way that that the hospital functions as a whole. And so, I remember when I first started there, I’m pretty sure what the saying was, it’s not wrong, it’s just different, because you’re gonna do things very differently than you probably do them in your home country.
And it’s not that anything is unsafe, or not thought about or not planned, it absolutely all is, it’s just, you’re going to do things a little bit differently. And I’m pretty sure that was the thing that the educators gave us. It’s a learning curve for anyone. Me being a nurse for over a decade at that point coming on and being kind of regimented in the way that I provide treatment to my patients, I kind of had to learn a different way of doing things. That is right. And that just because you do something for your patients in a fully developed country that has, you know, a wonderful medical system, doesn’t mean, you can have those same principles, or that those same policies in a ship, you know, it’s on a boat off the coast of a country of West Africa. That was a challenge. One of the things I really enjoyed though, and this was kind of hard for me to accept, when I came back to the States after leaving the ship — I came to the ship as a believer in Jesus Christ. And that is, you know, the model that the ship is built off of, or the organization.
And so, one of the things that I really enjoyed was from day one, a beginning and, and end of every shift is, you know, a team huddle of the staff and like we are praying, we are praying over the patients, we are praying over their surgeries, we are praying over their recoveries, and we’re asking God to be present in all of their lives. I really liked that aspect. Because the ongoing shift and the oncoming shift would all be together, and we would be praying for the same goals. And we saw God work miracles in our patients lives every single day. The things I’ve mentioned to you are very few stories in the realm of what I saw over my seven months field service in Senegal, every day, I went to something that was truly amazing.
And, you know, you mentioned in the beginning that it’s such an honor to be a part of these people stories, you know, these patients and you get to be a little part of what goes on in their transformation and in their life. How has your life been transformed or changed because of your time volunteering with Mercy Ships?
I think it’s made me a better nurse for sure. I think, even though I thought that I was compassionate before, it has really changed my mindset of compassion and the role that that plays in medical care as a whole. But in nursing in particular, just having a compassionate heart for every one of my patients, no matter who they are or what they’re going through the type of care that they need, and they are seeking. And sometimes compassion, or nursing in general is not just, you know, giving the medications that are needed or doing the dressing changes that are needed or getting the patients up and moving about, you know, that’s needed it is forming a bond with them, even if your time with them, like in an outpatient setting is 15 minutes, that that is a time that you can really look at them and focus on them and be someone that they can trust and someone that they want to laugh with and want to have fun with, even if they’re going through some difficult times.
I think you can’t go to Mercy Ships and return with the same mindset that you had when you went, even if your mindset was great before, and you loved your job and your career. And that probably speaks for anybody in any role of the ship, I would think, because everyone’s there for the same purpose and the same goal and that whether you are working in the galley, you’re the one who’s cooking the meals for these patients, you’re the one that’s giving them, and the crew, the nutrition that they need to go home every day, whether that’s housekeeping, coming in and cleaning the hospital, that’s so important to try to, you know, prevent infection to the engineering and the maritime professionals who keep the whole entire ship and hospital running — anyone who volunteers in any of those roles cannot come away from it unchanged, because you are basically deciding to put yourself on the back burner, and whatever you’re doing as hard as it is as exhausting as it is, you know that you’re doing it for the good of these people who if you didn’t come wouldn’t have access to it.
That was one of the other things the mindsets that I had after coming back to the States was which coming back during you know, the start of the pandemic was not the easiest thing. But in my mind, it was okay if I leave a job like a travel nurse like what I was doing, if I leave a job because the contract is over, someone else is coming in to take my place. If I did not go and volunteer with Mercy Ships in Senegal, there wasn’t going to be someone else to come and take my place. If the ship doesn’t come, then all of these patients that that received care from us weren’t going to get it. They couldn’t afford the health care in their country, they didn’t have access to the safe surgeries in their country, they didn’t even know that some of the things that we could do to help them were possible. They just thought they had to live with their ailments, their injuries, or whatever it was. And so that was one of the things that really changed my mindset. If you don’t go, who’s gonna go?
And you know, maybe that’s a good message for someone that’s listening right now. Maybe you’re wrestling with, should I go? Should I not? I don’t know. You know what, go, go serve, go make a difference in someone’s life and your life will be impacted as well for the better. But if we don’t go, then then who’s going to care for these people? There are organizations out there that care beautifully for impoverished people in developing nations, but not very many organizations do the specialty surgeries that Mercy Ships does.
Yes. Another thing to go along with that is that if it’s God’s will, and He wants to accomplish something in someone’s life, He’s going to do it, He doesn’t have to have me to do it. But if I get to be a part of something, that He’s doing something major, something that is life changing, lifesaving life-transforming for these people, and not just the individual, but their family, their community. I want to be a part of that. If God wants to use me in that role, I want to be used in that role, because I’m the one who is also receiving the blessing. I’m the one that’s getting the joy from the smiles on these people’s faces. They’re blessing me just as much as the organization is them.
Well, Kara, thank you so much for your willingness to go, to say yes, and to go on your first medical mission and experience all these incredible things and be blessed by all these amazing people. I know that in turn, you blessed many of them as well. So, thank you for sharing part of your journey with us today.
Thank you so much for having me.
To keep up to date with New Mercies, follow us on Instagram at NewMerciesPodcast where you can find photos of our guests and information about upcoming episodes. Next week our special guest is Carys Parker. Carys got on board the Anastasis at six weeks old and spent the next 18 years growing up on board a Mercy Ships vessel. Come back next week to hear from this amazing young woman and how growing up in a hospital has prepared her for what she’s doing today.
For more information about Mercy Ships, go to www.mercyships.org