Lisa, Steve, Zodi and Elsa Schwind, good friends of the MPC family who lived in Mattituck, worshipping and serving with us, began a ministry on Mercy Ships. You can read more about Mercy Ships HERE.
To watch a video that gives you a brief introduction to their experiences on the ship, click HERE.
They are unsalaried volunteers and depend on donations. To find out how you can partner with them click HERE.
In Their Own Words - Reflections on Their Time in Togo
Zodi: (paraphrased) I liked visiting an African boy named Darius in the ship ward. He came to the ship to receive eye surgery. Just one year earlier, he had chicken pox and it went into his eyes and blinded him. My dad went with me to visit him. We would bring play-doh and water marbles for him to touch and play with. My dad would read him books and we would always pray for him before we left. I was so sad to hear that our doctors could not help him. Mercy Ships tries to help as many people as they can, but sometimes it isn’t possible. Darius taught me the importance of spending time with people who are suffering. In some places in the world people like Darius are rejected for being different. Darius was my friend and even though we couldn’t change his life, he sure changed mine.
Elsa: ”Spending time off the ship with the local people was my favorite thing. Learning how to gather water from the well, how to wash clothes by hand, visiting the local market and trying new foods were some of the things I enjoyed doing most. While we are worrying about a stain on our clothes, the people here have to wash their clothes by hand. They don’t complain.”
“While all the kids are playing with video games and having fun in America, the kids here are washing clothes, cooking the food and getting water from the well. They work hard here but they are at peace with each other. They don’t complain about doing all these things. Living on the ship sometimes feels like I’m in America again. I love getting off the ship with my family because it makes me feel like I’m at home, the place where I was born. It feels like I never left home. Did you know that I was born in Ethiopia? I’m from Africa and that’s why I loved being in Togo spending time with my Togolese friends.”
Lisa: “I was so grateful to be able to offer my services as a dental hygienist to the crew and our local Togolese day workers. There was such a great need because dental hygiene had not been offered consistently onboard for the past ten years. Although I find my work rewarding, my most memorable highlight was when I befriended a female patient named Tene who underwent vesico-vaginal fistula surgery.”
“Tene’s condition began 18 years ago when she experienced prolonged labor while giving birth to her fifth child. It caused a fistula or hole between her bladder and vagina. As a result, she lived with a constant trickle of urine, making normal life impossible. This condition is what I would consider the modern day leperosy because these women live as outcasts in society. Their husbands often leave them because of the stench and they are forced to live outside the community in isolation, left to suffer alone. To pay for transport to the ship to receive surgery, Tene sold her family pig for a mere $16. She lived a whole day’s journey away. Tene expressed to me how everyone in her life had left her. After her surgery, I visited her almost every day for three weeks and felt a real connection with her. We would play games together. Her favorites were jenga, pick up sticks and an African bean game. Through the help of a translator, we would talk about life, tell Bible stories and pray with one another. Her successful surgery gave her renewed hope for a better future upon returning home. On the day she left the Africa Mercy, Steve and I said our goodbyes and then gave her an envelope with 15,000 cfa ($30), enough for her to get home and purchase another pig for her family. The gift we gave Tene was small compared to the priceless gift of friendship I received from her.”
Steve: “God did so many remarkable things in Togo in my life, but if I had to pinpoint one thing that made a significant impact on me, it would be the close relationship I developed with Kodzo Ben Afidenyo. Ben was hired as one of our ward translators while we were in Togo. He and I had the opportunity to get to know each other in the hospital ward during the times I visited the patients recovering from surgery. By western standards, he would have been considered materially poor, but he made up for it in intellect and character. He soon became a fellow colleague of mine and trusted confidant.”
“Ben helped me gain an understanding of Togolese culture that I could never have acquired in any travel book. I especially enjoyed collaborating with him in the design and implementation of a Togolese culture learning class which we co-taught to Mercy Ships crew every Tuesday evening. Over the past six months I have marveled at the lives which have been physically transformed through the ministry of Mercy Ships, but at the end of the day, the most meaningful experiences for me have been the relationships I’ve developed and nurtured. It has been a tremendous privilege to work alongside the Togolese people. My life will, undoubtedly, never be the same.”