A baby named Aissata was right at the center of a major milestone in the ministry of Mercy Ships. In fact, she is the milestone but she doesn’t even realize it.
You see, Aissata is only seven months old.
On May 20, 2019, Aissata became the 100,000th person to receive free surgical procedures by the volunteer staff of Mercy Ships.
The Mercy Ships ministry was started in 1978 fulfilling the vision of founders Don and Deyon Stephens. That vision was to provide free medical services to millions of the world’s poor “who suffer or even die from easily treatable medical conditions.”
We forget that millions of people in the world have no little or no access to trained doctors or modern medical facilities.
Forty years ago, the Stephens realized that more than half of the entire global population lives within 100 miles of a coastline and that 95 of the 100 largest cities in the world are also port cities.
They envisioned reaching multitudes of patients by equipping ships as hospitals that could sail to and make port in regions when people had no access to medical care, “bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor, following the 2000-year-old model of Jesus.”
According to Robert R. Selle in his article “Angel of Mercy,” “A visit with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India . . . deepened [their] commitment to serving the world’s neediest people.”
Since its inception, Mercy Ships have anchored in nearly 600 ports in 56 different nations in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Nearly three million poverty-stricken people – men, women, and children – have received free medical treatment from Mercy Ships.
The organization began as an outreach of Youth with a Mission (YWAM). It has had four ships in service during its 40 years. Africa Mercy has been in service since 2007 and is larger than its three predecessors (Anastasis, Good Samaritan, & Caribbean Mercy) combined.
The not-for-profit NGO is staffed by more than 1,600 short and long-term volunteers. Four hundred serve onboard the Africa Mercy in the multiple capacities required to keep the ship operational in addition to those who volunteer as trained medical staff.
Prior to heading to a new port, volunteers on the ground distribute flyers announcing the ship’s imminent arrival. Advance teams screen potential patients to determine and prioritize their needs, including which may require surgery.
Dr. David Chong performed cleft lip surgery on little Aissata in Conakry, Guinea. The Africa Mercy has been docked there since August 2018. The ship is set to depart port in June, following which, it will be restocked and re-staffed before heading to Dakar, Senegal from August 2019 until June 2020.
Perhaps, someday Aissata will become a believer who will share her story and the Good News of Jesus Christ because of this experience.
Sir John Major, former Prime Minister of England praised Mercy Ships, saying,
“Mercy Ships exemplifies for me a spirit of compassion for those in need. I personally am proud that in a world in which selfishness and greed are so often presented as prime motivators, Mercy Ships stands as a living antidote to self-interest.”