The tumor on Grace’s face had been growing for nine years. It was shocking. On Tuesday, September 10, she had surgery in the operating theater that is down the hall from me as I write this.
Grace is a spunky 17-year-old. From the beginning, she said she was willing to share her story about coming to Mercy Ships. We interviewed Grace and her family and later a short feature about her was posted on Mercy Ships Facebook page. The response was overwhelming, there has since been a great interest in Grace’s progress.
When I went to visit Grace in the hospital the night after her surgery, I could tell she was hurting. It was late and my translator was long gone. Help? Who here speaks Lingala? A nice man named Chadley came over.
“Grace had her photo taken the other day, does she remember?” I ask.
I hear my words slip into the local language. Grace nods from behind a lot of bandages and gauze. Her lips are chapped.
“Well, Mercy Ships put up the photo on Facebook and I want her to know that there are lots of people all over the world – thousands – who know about her and are hoping that she gets well soon.”
As Chadley relays this, Christine, Grace’s mother, nods and smiles. She looks as if the magnitude of support is not unexpected. She says something to Chadley.
– “Yes, they know. Those people came before the surgery to see Grace,” he says to me. Grace has closed her eyes.
“Well, no, I’m talking about tens of thousands of people in Switzerland, all over Europe, Canada, the States, Australia – everywhere. There were thousands of people who saw Grace’s photograph on the Internet. They are all thinking about Grace and hoping she recovers. They are praying for her.”
Christine and Chadley speak again.
– “She knows about them,” Chadley insists. “She already knows those people. She is very thankful.”
Hmm. It seems that my message isn’t getting through. Were some zeros lost in translation? Does Christine know about the audience of more than 80,000, according to our analytics report, that has overwhelmed Mercy Ships Facebook page? Does she know about the thousands of likes and supportive comments? I look over at Grace, she’s fallen asleep, so I decide to let it go. I’ll try to explain again tomorrow. Maybe I should print out the post.
Perhaps sensing my disbelief, Christine says something to Chadley.
– “…She says she knows about them because those people came to Grace’s bedside. She saw people come and sometimes they would sit. Some people would put a hand on Grace to comfort her. There were many.”
Christine was smiling. I saw how touched she was, and suddenly it didn’t matter that we were talking about two different groups of people. I thanked Chadley and said goodnight.
The people Christine was referring to were some of the 390 volunteers from 40 different countries that live and work here. They had sat in my very spot. They had come to love Grace, to comfort her, to reach out and touch her. I’ve long admired these nurses, doctors, engineers, and crew-members who keep this place afloat. In fact, I’ve known for a while that they are pretty amazing.
So it was fitting then, that in a bedside conversation in Africa, their kindness was mistaken for that of 80,000.
It was the best thing I’ve ever found in translation.