Guest / Limited Access /

In Liberia, people knew Aminata as "the witch of Freetown." Elsewhere in Liberia, 40-year-old Beatrice's appearance was so shocking, local taxi drivers refused to pick her up. In another rural area, Angelle's relatives thought someone had cursed the orphan girl, so they kept passing her off to other caregivers.

Aminata, Beatrice, and Angelle all had one thing in common: Large tumors grossly disfigured their faces. In many parts of the developing world, such untreated facial tumors can grow enormous, distorting eye sockets, foreheads, and jawlines. People afflicted with these tumors are severely stigmatized: some think they are cursed, while others just find them repulsive. The complex facial surgery necessary to treat these tumors and reconstruct a face is not widely available for the chronically poor. But if left untreated, the tumors will keep growing, sometimes suffocating the victim. The non-malignant, 6-pound tumor on Beatrice's face so restricted her eating and breathing it nearly killed her.

While the Western world has plenty of surgeons who can deal with such tumors, the developing world has few. Which is why on July 7, 1982, the Anastasis, a rehabbed 1953 Italian cruise liner, set sail for major ports throughout the majority world. It was the beginning of Mercy Ships, founded in 1978 within the nondenominational mission agency YWAM (Youth With a Mission).

As a floating hospital, its mission was to bring world-class surgeons and free medical care to the poor in the name of Christ. It was a dream come true for missionaries Don Stephens, his wife Deyon, and a dogged group of YWAMers who volunteered their labor for years before the Anastasis entered service. "Mercy Ships focuses on the lowest tier of need," founder Stephens ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedHow 727 Megachurches Spend Their Money
How 727 Megachurches Spend Their Money
Leadership Network and Vanderbloemen find what determines pastor salaries (and who might be most underpaid).
TrendingChristian Pundit Dinesh D'Souza Sentenced to 5 Years Probation
Christian Pundit Dinesh D'Souza Sentenced to 5 Years Probation
Former president of The King's College avoids prison time for campaign finance violations.
Editor's PickThe Bible Is More Than a 'Mystery'
The Bible Is More Than a 'Mystery'
Peter Enns makes the case that Scripture doesn't tell us everything. So does it tell us anything?
Comments
Christianity Today
Saving Faces
hide thisDecember December

In the Magazine

December 2007

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.