Dispatches from the Africa Mercy # 7: A Vision of Mercy (Final Dispatch)

Mercy -- the disposition to be compassionate or kind.

Friday, March 11, 2016  13:00: Chris Elliott and I are very different surgeons. He is a military general surgeon who has served in war zones and come face to face with raw violence. I am a pediatric surgeon who practices in the safe and protected environment of a children’s hospital. Despite this, we have found much in common, and today there is yet another.  We are both quite emotional, conflicted, and ambivalent as we perform our last operations on the Africa Mercy. We both miss our families, but we both also yearn to spend more time in this most healing environment, different from any we’ve experienced in our medical careers. (Photo above: Africa Mercy crew). 

Over the last two weeks on the Ship and in its Hospital, we have lived with the crew through the high highs and the low lows – the triumphs and the losses – the wars won and the battles lost. We have seen them celebrate together and mourn together  -- rallying to each other’s side during the most difficult of moments.

In our OR hall meeting this morning, my voice cracks as I thank the team who supported me through operations on thirty children. They have done so much for me – taught me so much. I came here to serve, but I have been served. I came here to give, but I have taken. I came here to teach, but I have learned. I came here to heal, but I have experienced healing in the most profound of ways. (Photo right: the Africa Mercy). 

I tried to share the story of the Africa Mercy these last two weeks through these dispatches. But I have only scratched the surface. You see – the real story of the Africa Mercy is not just about free surgical care among the poorest of the poor of Africa. It is not just about planting hope in the midst of despair. It is not just about capacity building in resource-poor countries. It is not even just about making a difference in the lives of tens of thousands– one life at a time – one country at a time. The real story of the Africa Mercy is about mercy – a merciful community, diverse and always changing, that has chosen to show its love through its actions. And in a world where evil is not only done, but also celebrated, advertised, and paraded, the people of the Africa Mercy remind us of what we as humans can accomplish if we are driven by mercy. 

As I get ready to start my long way back home, I will cherish the vision of mercy I have experienced these last two weeks. And if I can apply that lesson in my own life – among my family, my patients, my colleagues – then I will succeed in keeping part of the Africa Mercy experience within me, until I join this loving community again at a new port in a new country. (Photos left: Dr. Emil with patients and parents on his last day on the Africa Mercy). 

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”  Matthew 6:7.





Dr. Sherif Emil is a pediatric surgeon and Director of the Division of Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgery at the Montreal Children's Hospital. Over the 2 weeks, he will be part of the volunteer crew of the Africa Mercy, currently docked in Tamatave, Madagascar. The Africa Mercy is the world's largest civilian hospital ship dedicated to bringing hope and healing to tens of thousands of the world's impoverished populations.  

Read more: 

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy # 1: The End of the Earth

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy # 2: Can it get any better?

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #3: The Heroes of Africa 

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #4: The Power of Camaraderie

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #5: It Takes a Mercy Ship

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #6: Jane