Sunday, 27 May 2018

reckless love


In a few short days, I will say goodbye to this wonderfully rich place. This last month, we have had numerous final ceremonies to honour the people we have had the privilege to work with. To name a few....


34 participants celebrating at the Agriculture graduation



10 of the 23 graduates receiving their certificates from City and Guilds at the Biomed Graduation


42 participants including those from our Surgeon, Anaesthesia, Nursing, Physiotherapy, Biomed and Sterile Processing mentoring programs at Hopital General receiving their certificates last week. 


Our team celebrating 24 children with straight feed at the final Ponseti Celebration


Our Managing Director presenting a gift to the Minister of Health at our Thank you Ceremony earlier this month. 


  Last Friday we said goodbye to 270 Day Crew - our Cameroonian team whom without we would have achieved literally NOTHING!

Life doesn’t get much richer than when you get to celebrate the power of God at work and the tremendous things that we have achieved together. There have been 2746 life changing surgeries and 1564 people have been a part of our medical capacity building programs! Who knows how many people these will go on to impact.

In this place I have found friends to share the deepest parts of my heart, my hopes and dreams - and failures too. When you get to rub shoulders with people who see you for who you are, who challenge you to see beyond what meets the eye and who call you higher, it’s pretty special.  

I’ve been challenged a lot lately as I think about leaving a place that holds so much of my heart and my understanding of who I am…. I’ve been reminded that I am still me, wherever I go, and that God is too. I am committed to a continent that I love so much, to a people who understand and express joy far more beautifully than I have ever experienced and to a culture that teaches me how to always put people first. I am committed to continue to fight fiercely for light to overcome the injustices that continue to affect so many.

Our God is extravagantly good. He’s kind, He’s gracious, He’s full of mercy. He literally gives hope to the hopeless, He sets people free and He clothes those who were once mourning with pure joy. I have witnessed it, I can testify to it and even though I come away with some battle scars, there are a million faith building victories that I hope will fuel my future steps.

Let’s not stop dreaming friends. We can’t. We are here on Earth for a purpose and the best is yet to come.



This is what love looks like. Baby Paul at the brink of death, now facing a life full of opportunity. Unbelievable. More than we could ask or imagine. It's been a privilege to serve with individuals who pour out such a reckless kind of love.

Here's to more as we watch the next part of the story unfold.

Thanks for friendship and love forever, KWW

Saturday, 5 May 2018

faith, hope and love...


I wonder how you capture the end of a season -- knowing that it will never be quite the same. I have truly been transformed by the power of faith, hope and love.

Traveling throughout Benin a couple of weeks ago has given me time for thought. We wanted to invest some time to visit some of the hospitals who we delivered training to a year ago and learn a bit. Did we do what we said we’d do? How could we do better next time? And how can we encourage the teams we met?

We had the privilege of observing several operations and some beautifully humble teams hard at work. Without surprise, the majority of surgeries that happen in many hospitals in Benin are Caesarian sections. Sometimes planned, sometimes emergencies and sometimes really really dire emergencies. As you drive past the villages whose population is served by the 'Hopitaux des zones' you begin to understand the kind of people who end up through their gates and on their operating tables. People without any money, without any belongings except enough for today, and maybe not even that. People who try all sorts of other solutions when faced with obstructed labour, before they may arrive for help.

And so I was delighted to witness the first breath of a precious baby girl. Her tense little limbs lifted out of the safety of her first home to embrace the coolness of the operating room. Held by her ankles, she was welcomed into the world and swung (gently) in front of her mother’s face to show she was a girl before being whisked into the comfort of the midwives skilled hands.

I wasn't present for the next one but I enjoyed hearing the cry that announced her arrival.  --- We had barely noticed your mother enter the operating room - we were busily chatting to the staff right outside, asking questions about the training, and before we knew it, you were out! Abdomen open and out you came. I didn't even hear a whimper from your brave mother and there she was, all alone. Your tufts of dark curly hair and your full volume cry gave me a glimpse of who you are. Fight beautiful little one, tell the world you've arrived! I prayed that your precious little feet would be blessed and that you’d be a woman of courage, influence and power.  

But then there was the one whose cry we didn't hear. Your mother was too late. Who knew what kept her - fear, money, geography - I don't know. Her uterus had ruptured and the focus was on saving her life.... I didn't see you, I didn't know you, I don't even know from where you came. But I saw your mother there - groaning just slightly - as her abdomen gaped open - and I saw that she was tough. You were her tenth baby. Only 6 have survived. I imagined what that must feel like. I imagined how inevitable some of this must be - to lose a child - and I hated it. I hated to think that this would never be me. I hated to think that I would always get the health care I needed and when I needed it. My heart rested as I imagined you with Jesus. And the words of our driver from that morning rang in my head, ‘we do nothing, except through Him; we only wake up because of Him; we only live another day, because of Him’. It says nothing to the injustice and the grief, but I lifted up my eyes and gave thanks.

Thank you for another day. Thank you for the life of this mother who can wake up another day. Thank you for the grace and skill of a surgical team who do so much with so little.

My last few years have been full of stories of faith -- and hope -- and love and I am so thankful.

As I sat belted on the plane back to Douala after 10 magnificent days in Benin, my eyes filled with tears. It's the relationships that undo me.

That same day, I had walked into CNHU - the hospital I had spent hours at in 2014 as a part of our Advance team, carefully building foundations for a field service that took 2 more years to start than we planned. Ebola sent us sailing 1000s of miles in the other direction and meanwhile Benin waited patiently. The smiles were slightly wry when we returned 2 years later; '…we told you Ebola wouldn’t come to us!'. I remember the reunions and the satisfaction of delivering our belated promises. How rich it all was. And so nearly 4 years later from our original meeting, I walked into the ENT department at Cotonou's university hospital. I immediately spotted the department’s chief. His back was towards me but as his colleague signaled to him that someone was approaching, he turned. 'Ce n'est pas vrai!'  With hugs and kisses, he sent us to wait in his office. Others were there also waiting and so we attempted to wait outside but it didn't take long before the office dwellers were kicked out. I resisted, ‘…ce n'est pas nécessaire!'.... but the response : 'C'est absolument nécessaire! C'est Mercy Ships! C'est nécessaire!'  - and we took our seats. I could hear the corridor ripples - 'Mercy Ships sont la!' and I saw the photo of me and others on his wall.

I knew already that relationships were what it was all about, but that day I learned it some more. The chief of the department and the head nurse told us over and over, ‘…you're different to other missions! Please tell your people that. You must pass it on. You're different. You're the best. Others come, they don't speak the language, they operate in our operating rooms and they don't even tell us what they are doing. Mercy Ships, you are different! You didn't forget us. You came to say hello!’.

And even as I write this, tears are streaming down my face. Somehow it's too much. Somehow my God did more than I could ask or imagine. He made it all new. He worked it all together for His glory. He did it again. Who knows how to quantify that in our statistics or our reports to our amazing donors. Love deposited? Is that what we'd call it? I don't know. But I see love in that moment and it's one of the most powerful lessons I've been learning. Relationship matters. And it's why I so desire to stay a part of what Mercy Ships do. We’ve seen it here in Cameroon as well and as far as our medical capacity building programs go, I can only describe what I see as an open Heaven. Immense favour. Wonderful relationships and a lasting impact that will impact generations to come.

He does it every time. When we submit ourselves, when we let Him have His way, when we love one another - He redeems, He creates, He lets love abound.

On my journey I noticed the flowering trees that apparently only flower in the dry season and when all the other trees around have lost their leaves, their beauty stands out even more. How wise they were to drink in the rain when it came and to use it for glory when all around was dry. Jesus, make me like these trees! I want your glory to shine around, I want to reflect it, even when all around is barren and dry. Let your sweet aroma and stunning beauty somehow shine through. And it does. All the time.




I tense, not just a little, when I hear some say that our time in Cameroon has been difficult. I understand it and I agree. There have been challenges with this new relationship. But something in that statement makes me want to shout. Negative talk never breeds life. Speculation that speaks from difficult past experience creates earthly vision. We are called higher than that and we are called to see through the eyes of faith that say nothing is impossible. That says light overcomes darkness. That believes mountains move and that Gods Kingdom is coming here on Earth. That believes that we have a part in God’s unfolding story. I refuse to cooperate with anything less.

It's about the journey and not just the destination. How do we represent faith, hope and love on the way?

It's all about relationships. Amongst each other, amongst our hosts in every nation.

May love win. Always. And may His Kingdom come here on Earth.

Love forever, KWW



A few of the many million mangos we saw on our journey. 5 for about 50p


Saturday, 7 April 2018

grief begins... 54 sleeps to go...

I came to give and it all got turned upside down.
The sharp edges and the broken pieces.
They found a place to be more whole.
I came to do my bit, to experience the privilege of watching and learning
from those so much richer than myself.
I wanted them to know that they are loved –
The ones whose tumours and bent bones
had twisted the world’s view of who they really are.
The ones who know far more about faith, about hope,
about watching and waiting than I.
The so called poor.
And meanwhile, it was me who was poor.
My gross tumours metastasizing their way to make me play small. Glaring me in the face.
If only I had their courage.
To step into the unknown.
To hold the mirror up and stare them in the face.

Your sweet corridor songs,
your eyes that have met mine,
your unshakable faith.
It has taught me so much.
And to the teams I have been a part of and the treasures that have been such gold on my path – you have no reason to trust me but I’m humbled that you did.
Your passion has inspired me.
Your vision has astounded me.
You have pruned me
with kindness and grace.
On my off days you have always given me a second chance.
I wanted you to know that you are trusted and treasured.
That you could move mountains.
And to be known for who you are.
And in it, you’ve shown me what love looks like in a million different ways.

I wonder how this country girl got so rich.
To begin to understand
that I belong just as much as you.
To find wings that allow me to soar
above the opinions of others and the battles below.
To know the gift of forgiveness which has set this broken heart free.

There’s more to be done
And there are too many days I forget to stand tall.
Or to remember who I am.
There are too many who don’t yet get to be known for who they really are.
So let’s not give up. Not yet.

Thanks to the brave man with this crazy dream
and to the ones who cheered him on.
Which allowed this puzzle a chance to be played.
Whose pieces are wrapped in grace, wrapped in love, wrapped in even deeper hopes of eternity.
I came to give and it got turned upside down.
And deeper thanks, you will never know.



MCB Final Dinner - by the nature of what we do, we are not often in the same place at the same time!

Sunday, 25 March 2018

it always seems impossible until it's done


On March 9th it was 15 years since I first walked on African soil and up the gangway of the m/v Anastasis for the first time. I remember those 3 weeks well – I worked as a nurse in the Recovery Room and whilst I marveled at my first tastes of Mercy Ships life, I spent most of the time swallowing the lump in my throat and hiding my bulging, tear filled eyes. Shielded by my introverted heart, I stuck it out, but I missed home and I couldn’t understand for a minute how people could devote their lives to a life like this. I vividly remember a Bible verse on the wall outside the Operating Rooms – Mathew 29:19, ‘And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life’ – and I remember thinking, ‘it better be true…!’.


And yet here I am 15 years on and my heart is full. Fuller than I ever thought it could be.

The weekend of March 9th, I went on a big hiking trip to what Mercy Shippers call the ‘crater lakes’. A 4 ish hour drive north-west from Douala, takes you to a nice little rural town called Melong and to a tranquil guesthouse called Villa Luciole.


Over 2 days, we walked 5 hours up and 4 hours down – camping at the crater lakes 2100m above sea level the night in between. The scenery was breathtaking and it was a welcome break from our grey and dusty container walled dockside home.






It was physically satisfying, not to mention very special to do with friends who were willing to take breaks even when they probably didn’t need them and who walked slower than their legs may have wanted to, just for me. That’s what friends do and it was a sweet reminder of the gift of so many friends I have made over the years. It was also another reminder that it always seems impossible until it's done!


Back in August last year right after we docked in Cameroon, we began to dream as a team – we allowed God to fill our hearts and minds with His hopes and dreams for the next 10 months for a place and people that would become our home. You can read more about them here 'We arrived' but the top 3 are captured on a note card that I keep above my desk.  



And so on busy days when I sometimes don’t even know where to start or when I look back on a whirlwind of a day and wonder if I even achieved anything, I look up at it and focus. The calling of a leader comes in seasons – others before me have been asked to do different things and no doubt those who come after me will be trusted with a different array of goals. But these were mine.

Nearly 8 months later, I am lost for words. We have a very special team – just now, I was trawling through the photo archives and seeing many of our team in action and my eyes are bulging once again. Hope takes courage. Believing in others takes courage. Seeing the beauty in others takes courage. But my team of capacity builders is full of people with big hearts who do just that and I am so proud to walk with them. Here's a tiny taste...


A team of 34 participants celebrated their graduation from the Nutritional Agriculture - Food for Life program last Friday. They completed a 22 week program and as with all our programs, they have been trained to teach others. Eliphaz and his team can be proud. 



Nick and his team have 8 trained people in the Ponseti method of correcting clubfeet. We are dreaming big for the National Clubfoot program here in Cameroon to grow from strength to strength.





Here are 2 of our favourite mentoring participants – Dr Hentchoya (Anaesthetist) and Dr Jacques (ENT Surgeon). During our time here we have had 32 surgeons and anaesthesia providers work alongside us in the ORs. The numbers might not sound that big but they have spent 100s of hours working 1:1 with us and the feedback has been incredible. People comment not only on the opportunity to improve their technical skills, but on the attitude of love and the presence of God in this place. I would say it’s been one of our most successful mentoring programs so far and I am so very thankful. Sophie and the whole team can be so proud!


This is Dr Eyoup – she spent several months working with our Ophthalmic surgeon, Dr Glenn Strauss. She had never performed surgery before and is now a fully fledged cataract surgeon!




And besides all the capacity building, the lives transformed continue...






Salamatou And Mariama
“Because you never smile, I’m going to heal before you!” said Salamatou (left) to her younger sister Mariama. The sibling rivalry throughout their time on the Africa Mercy encouraged recovery as they competed with one another to reach each milestone. Now, both girls leave the ship having had successful surgery to correct their windswept legs! You might notice that the horse is the same one pictured above who carried our camping gear up the mountain! 



“I believe I have freedom from head to toe now,” says Claudine, who has received surgery to remove the goiter she’d carried for 10 years. “I am so comfortable now, I feel free to move and eat and breathe with no problems!” Her family has even started calling her ‘the resurrected one,’ believing she has come from the brink of death back into a full life.


Djenabou’s neck had been growing for over 18 years. For more than half her life, she carried its weight…

I can only think these precious ones, once thought what they needed was impossible too. 

We never run out of life transforming stories here and as much as I love it, I have decided to take a breather from all this in June and as the time gets closer, I am realising how much I will miss it all. Sometimes people talk about transition as a negative thing and I know from previous experience that it can be challenging. Seasons come and go but God is always the same. He’s always good.

Sometimes I fear that my identity is wrapped up in what I do, and maybe some of it is. Who am I outside of this place? It's been a while and I'm not totally sure but I have a deep sense of commitment, a big heart of love and am passionate about injustice and I hope I will be these things wherever I am.  I’m looking forward to a break and to new life and fresh perspective. I will take a couple of months to catch up with friends and family before starting 6 months of French Language School in Albertville, France. I see it as a time for refueling and equipping myself for the next season and I have to say, I’m pretty excited! 


I know there will be adventures and ones that loom like huge crater lakes, too big to climb. So remind me if you can – it always seems impossible until it’s done.

Love always, KWW

‘Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for His miraculous power constantly energises you’. Ephesians 3:20