Greenwood resident Jennifer Daggett recently took a trip of a lifetime. It wasn’t a spring break getaway, a weekend with girlfriends or even a dream vacation. It was a trip to serve others and transform lives.
She left the country for two weeks on a Mercy Ship in Africa. Since 1978, Mercy Ships have been bringing healthcare to some of the poorest countries. She volunteered for a two-week stint in the operating room, and although this was her first experience, she is no stranger to the call of Mercy Ships.
A Family Legacy
“My parents served with Mercy Ships on the Anastasis back in the ‘90s on three different field services in Togo and Ghana,” explains Daggett. “Upon their return, a few different events all came together at the same time: my younger sister had a stroke, and I spent a week with her in the hospital. It was the first time I had spent a lot of time in a hospital around medical people. Our youngest child, Calvin, was going to kindergarten, so after staying home with our four children for over 10 years, I was starting to think about what I would do when he went to school. I then watched a special on ‘60 Minutes’ about Mercy Ships. It all came together for me, and I prayerfully made the decision to return to college with the hope of someday serving on a Mercy Ship.”
Throughout this entire process, her family has been very supportive and encouraging with her decision. “I couldn’t have done it without them,” says Daggett. She graduated from nursing school in 2007 and worked in the Emergency Department at Riley Hospital for Children full-time until four-and-a-half years ago.
In August 2012, she took a nursing position in the operating room at Methodist Hospital at IU Health in Indianapolis. Since then, she has been using her skills and has gone on three different medical mission trips to El Salvador with Stones Crossing Church.
Her faith is her foundation, and that’s why it is so important for her to help others. “My faith motivates me to serve with the hope that people will ask why. The answer is Jesus. I serve not to earn God’s favor, but from a heart of thanksgiving. I have been so blessed.”
Helping the Outcasts
Mercy Ships offer a variety of surgeries, from serving cataract patients to people with facial deformities such as cleft palates, tumors and goiters. Unfortunately, most people with these medical conditions are deemed “outcasts” in their own communities, so when they are able to have these types of surgeries, they (along with their families) are literally getting their lives back.
Daggett describes in detail what she experienced and how she saw lives change right in front of her very eyes. “Every Friday morning, there was a Celebration of Sight for the cataract patients and their families. This surgery gives the person back sight, but also freedom for the family who has been caring for a blind person. What a celebration each week for the blind who can now see!”
Before each surgery, the surgical team would also pray with the patient, specifically that the patient would know the love of Jesus. “Jesus is the answer for all people, in all places and all times,” she adds. “In our comfort and affluence, sometimes we think we can do it alone, like we don’t need a Savior. Anyone who spends any time thinking about life recognizes that there is a problem. That problem is ‘sin,’ and Jesus is the only answer to the problem. The Bible is a love story from God to us. He loves us so much … that He Himself provided a solution to our ‘sin’ problem. Jesus became the substitute for us.”
Daggett hopes to serve again next year on a Mercy Ship and absolutely loves this organization. “It is amazing. I appreciate the 450 people who live and work on the Africa Mercy. They were all there for a common purpose: to bring health to the world’s forgotten poor. Each individual knows that their contribution was necessary for the group to serve the patients. No one can do this alone.”
More About Mercy Ships
Mercy Ships currently operates the largest nongovernmental hospital ship in the world, providing humanitarian aid such as free healthcare, community development projects, community health education, mental health programs, agriculture projects and palliative care for terminally ill patients.
Globally, five billion people have no access to safe surgery. In low-income and lower-middle-income countries, nine out of 10 people have no access to basic surgical care. Behind every number, there is a name, a face and a story. They will break your heart, but they will inspire you to take action. To learn more, visit mercyships.org.