Missionary Hospital Ship: Mercy for Africa

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Lately, stories from the high seas have been about deadly pirates hijacking ships for ransom.

But this story is about life-giving missionaries who travel the seas bringing healing.
  
It's the maiden voyage for the Africa Mercy, a converted ferry that recently entered service as the world's largest privately-run hospital ship. The port of call is Cotonou, capital of the small West-African country of Benin. 

Benin's president, Dr. Thomas Yayi Boni was one of the first on board. He thanked the crew for their partnership in meeting his country's health care goals. 

"Everything you are doing enters completely and perfectly into what we would like for Benin," he said.

The ship's contribution is substantial. A ten-month stay in Benin will give volunteer surgeons the opportunity to perform thousands of surgeries in the Africa Mercy's six new operating theaters. 

Word of the free medical care spread fast, and the ship's personnel screened 5,000 people in the first week alone, each one hoping to receive a life changing surgery. 

Dr. Keith Thomson is an anesthesiologist from Britain.

"Here we've got people with no health care at all," he said. "No doctors. No nurses. No dentists. No drugs. Very little at all."

Now they have a chance for free surgeries, thanks to European and American sponsors of the Mercy Ships ministry. Within days of their arrival Dr. Thomson and volunteer surgeons began to remove goiters, mend cleft lips and palates, repair severe scarring from burns, and remove cataracts. 

"I am very happy that Mercy Ships wants to help me remove my tumor," a patient said. "In my village, many people would laugh and say bad things. I will be really grateful if they can help me and I can live normally among other people."

Giving this young man and many like him a chance for a better life is what motivates the Christian volunteers of the Africa Mercy.

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.