CROPWELL -- Ever since Brenda Braxton was a little girl, she dreamed of one day helping others onboard Mercy Ships.

That dream became a reality for Braxton not once, not twice, but three times, and a fourth trip is planned for January 2020.

Braxton has lived in Cropwell the past 17 years. She is a member of New Life Assembly of God in Westover.

Mercy Ships is an international faith-based organization bringing hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.

These trips have taken Braxton into parts of Africa where little or no surgical care is available. She just returned from her third trip.

Her first trip was to Benin, where she stayed for 3 1/2 months, while the second was to Cameroon, where she spent five months and then another 3 1/2 months in Guinea. She returned from Africa two weeks ago.

“It was something I had dreamed of doing since I first heard about Mercy Ships as a child while it was still in its planning stages,” Braxton said. “I raised six children, spending 25 years home-schooling them, and my husband passed away while they were all still at home. I had really given up on the dream.

“But as they began to grow up and leave home, I thought about what I would do with my life. Mercy Ships kept coming back to my mind, and I realized I was at a time in my life that I really could do it. I went to nursing school, worked a few years to gain experience and then applied. I’m now serving on the Africa Mercy for the third time.”

Braxton said her children support her.

“They miss me, and I miss them when I’m gone,” she said. “We have WiFi on the ship, so I am able to stay in contact with them.”

The last two times Braxton was on Mercy Ships, she worked as a wound-care nurse.

Braxton said her fourth trip to Africa will take place in January 2020, when she goes to Senegal.

When she is not being a nurse on the ship, Braxton works at The Village of Cook Springs. She enjoys working there, mainly because the management allows her to go back and forth on these mission trips on Mercy Ships.

About Mercy Ships

As many as 5 billion people lack access to safe, affordable surgical and anesthesia services worldwide, and less than 6 percent of all operations are delivered to the world’s poorest countries.

Mercy Ships programs offer holistic support to developing countries, striving to make health care accessible for all.

Since 1978, Mercy Ships has delivered services to more than 2.71 million direct beneficiaries. The countries served by Mercy Ships are ranked as the poorest in the world by the United Nations Human Development Index.

Founder & History

While living in Lausanne, Switzerland, Don Stephens began a journey that led to the founding of Mercy Ships. Stephens formed and led a team that surveyed suitable ocean liners for the dream of a hospital ship to serve the world’s poor.

In 1978, the dream became a reality with the purchase of the first ship, the Anastasis. Another milestone was reached in 2007 with the launching of the Africa Mercy, the largest of the four hospital ships operated by Mercy Ships in its 40-year history.

Stephens and his wife, Deyon, and their four children lived onboard the first Mercy Ship for 10 years. Now based in the United States, Don Stephens continues to inspire the staff and crew toward the future.

The Stephenses have overseen the growth of Mercy Ships from its humble beginnings to an organization in which tens of thousands of professional volunteers have served. Stephens is on the 38-member Mercy Ships International board with members from 14 nations.

Reach Gary Hanner at ghanner@thestclairtimes.com.

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