Missy Brown arrived at the CURE Hospital in Zambia ready to work. Instead, she found herself watching, waiting—and learning a beautiful lesson.
Missy has volunteered with Mercy Ships for the past nine years. In the busy role of operating room manager on the Africa Mercy®, she doesn’t spend much time sitting around. When she went home on leave during the pandemic, she soon found herself ready to return to work.
She applied to work with a CURE International hospital in Lusaka, Zambia. CURE runs hospitals in several African countries, and in early 2021, Mercy Ships began helping staff those hospitals with some of our medical volunteers. This partnership was just one way that, through the pandemic, Mercy Ships was able to continue delivering safe and accessible surgery to those who need it most.
Before her seven-week trip, Missy began the process of registering as a nurse in Zambia. When she got to Lusaka in August 2021, though, she learned there had been a holdup in her paperwork. Until her registration was complete, she couldn’t do any hands-on patient care.
Missy started helping out in other ways, charting for the OR team and helping in the hospital ward. What at first appeared to be a short delay stretched on for nearly the entire trip. Missy finally received word that her registration was complete just days before she left.
“It was sweet in those final three and a half days to be fully a part of the team,” she said. “I could fully be myself and fully be a nurse.”
But Missy now believes there was a different purpose for her trip. “I think there were other things that I was meant to grasp,” she said.
Missy grew close with the CURE staff, worshipping and praying with them. She soaked in the experience of being fully immersed in a local African hospital. “They drew me right into their OR family and I was part of the team,” she said. “They do things with less resources, and they give a really high standard of care.”
She watched kids come in and receive life-changing orthopedic surgeries. “I was a part of that every day,” Missy said. “I had to just kind of step back and reevaluate my own attitude of, ‘OK, you’re not practicing or doing what you thought you would do, but does God see that as any less? No.’”
Little did Missy know that she’d use the lessons she was learning sooner than expected. She traveled to Senegal immediately after her trip to Zambia to help with an ambitious project.
When the Africa Mercy left Senegal in 2020 due to the pandemic, dozens of people weren’t able to receive their scheduled eye surgeries. In the fall of 2021, Senegal’s Ministry of Health teamed up with local surgeons to reschedule and complete those surgeries.
Missy and a team of Mercy Ships volunteers offered resources, supplies, and mentoring. “Basically, just helping however we could but not actually being clinical ourselves,” she explained. Once again, Missy found herself playing a supporting role and watching others do the hands-on care.
And once again, Missy knew she was part of it—even as she stepped back to let others lead. All in all, the Senegalese team performed 111 eye surgeries. “There are people now here who have sight,” she said. “It was really, really special to be a part of that.”
Missy will rejoin the Africa Mercy in 2022 as the OR manager, then board the Global Mercy® and support the team as they begin their first field service.
As for her work in Zambia, Missy’s nursing registration will last for two years. Someday, she may still get to finish what she started. “I think I will go back,” she said. “I believe for sure. I just don’t know when.”
Want to join volunteers like Missy aboard our hospital ships for the experience of a lifetime? No matter which role you play or how long you serve, there’s a place for the unique skills, passions, and perspectives only you can bring. If you’re ready to make your mark and find your place onboard, visit https://www.mercyships.org/makeyourmark1/