Merry Christmas!

It’s difficult being away from home during the holidays, but we had a great day nonetheless.

It started with the Dutch tradition of leaving our shoes out in the hallway on Christmas Eve. Everyone then goes around the ship putting gifts in everyone’s shoes. The kids always love this.

We had an awesome Christmas lunch that so many of our crew and local crew worked hard on. Part of the lunch was an absolutely incredible cake in the shape of our ship. It took one of our crew members months to design and make it, and I was pretty sad to see it being cut to pieces, but it was delicious!

After lunch, we had a surgery to do that presented some challenges. The surgery itself went well, but I had to place a special IV called a PICC line in the patient. We had some technical difficulties with our equipment that made things hard, but our on-call team was so extraordinarily patient and helpful. We worked til nearly 8pm…on Christmas…as volunteers, and not one complaint or even a hint of impatience.

When everything was finished, I thanked everyone for their help and apologized that things went so late. Everyone on the team said something along the lines of, “No problem. Whatever is best for the patient.” This is after having to do emergency cases on both Sunday and Monday. This place is special.

Got to finish the day with a showing of “Avengers: Infinity War” on the big screen in our main meeting room. First time to get to see it. Great film!

So, we end this day missing home, family, and friends, but also grateful that God would choose to have us here in such a special place with such an amazing community.

Hoping that you all had a great Christmas Day too, and that you know how much God loves you.

Merry Christmas!


Rough Week: An Update

First of all, thank you to all of you for your prayers and encouragement.  It was exactly what we needed.

The week ended okay.  We had one emergency surgery early Saturday morning (4:00am) that ended well.  I saw the patient this evening, and he was smiling and in good spirits.

Got news that my father is doing better.  He should make a full recovery without surgery.  Please pray for continued healing.

Our dear friends left the ship today.  Difficult doesn’t begin to describe it.  Goodbyes are always so hard.  Jamie and I feel it, and the kids feel it too.

You might say, “Only 3 years?” but for those of you who haven’t been on the ship, ship life is intense.  3 years can feel like 10.  Imagine seeing someone literally every day for 3 years–living and working and going to school together all in the same place.  Often on the ship, if we don’t see someone for a day or two, it feels like weeks.  It’s hard to explain.

Today’s goodbye got me thinking about time.  I found myself being grateful for the time we shared, but also asking myself, “Did I use my time with the Borrows well?”  Surely there was more I could have done or said.

It’s kind of like life in general, I suppose.  It’s a good reminder that when I reach the end, I want to be able to say, “I spent my time well.”  Sure there will be things that I could have done more or differently, but I hope to not have any regrets and to be full of gratitude for a life well spent.

Here’s to a new week…

Rough Week

It’s been a rough week.  Long, busy days.  Surgeries that haven’t turned out as planned.  My dad has been having some health issues.  Our close friends that have been on the ship with us since 2015 are leaving this weekend.  We could use some prayer and encouragement.  Thank you to all of you who continue to walk this journey with us.


We Made It To Guinea!

We sailed into Conakry, Guinea yesterday after a 5-day sail.

I (Brian) always have mixed feelings about sailing. I like the idea of it. I enjoy being out in the middle of the ocean. I love the team-building and community-building that happens on the sail.

I just don’t like actually sailing.

Even though this was a smooth sail (thank the Lord), that gentle rocking just makes me want to sleep. I feel like a little baby being rocked in a cradle. At least this sail, no couches or dishes went flying.

This morning was our first opportunity to go off ship. I joined a group of my fellow crew on a run. It was nice to set foot on land and to see some of the city. Immediately, though, I could tell the difference between Conakry and our previous destinations. The poverty here is much more tangible.

The United Nations uses the Human Development Index to measure a country’s progress. Guinea ranks 183 out of 188. People are literally struggling to live.

We’ve been told there are 6 anesthesiologists in the entire country!

Still, Mercy Ships has been to Guinea several times, and so many of the long-term crew say it is their favorite country.

I look forward to getting to know the people and experiencing the warmth we have been told about. I also look forward to all the miracles that God will perform while we are here over the next 10 months.

Thank you for continuing to pray for us and support us. Thank you for making this possible!

Arriving in Guinea. It’s rainy season, and it was pouring!

When we enter a port, the crew get to hold the flags of their home countries. It’s very cool seeing all the flags lining the deck.

The arrival ceremony. The First Lady can be seen in the middle of the action.

Just finishing the first run in Guinea with my friends Emmanuel and Fred. Always a good feeling to be finished!

National Geographic Update!

Exciting news for those of you, especially in the US, who have been waiting VERY patiently for the National Geographic series on Mercy Ships. It’s now available to stream online!

You will need a cable/satellite provider.

Enjoy, and if you watch Episode 2, please do your best to disregard my funky Friday attire. I’m not always that ridiculous!

Go to

Happy streaming!


Teaching to Fish

You know the saying.  “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day.  Teach him how to fish, feed him for life.”

I’ve always been a little hesitant when it comes to fishing.  I think it all goes back to my first fishing experience, when I went to a trout farm as a young boy.  I was told that we were guaranteed to catch a fish every 5 minutes.  3 hours later, nothing.  While everyone else was reeling them in, I didn’t even have a single nibble.  I think a little teaching could have gone a long way.

This year, I’ve had the privilege in Cameroon to do some teaching with our Medical Capacity Building (MCB) program.  The goal of this program is to increase the capacity of the medical systems of the countries we serve.  In other words, teaching people to fish.

When we first decided to join Mercy Ships, I admit that MCB was not the reason.  I wanted to be a part of the amazing surgeries.  After all, aren’t we all drawn to those stunning before and after photos?

Now I’m not dismissing the importance of the surgeries we do on the ship.  They truly are life-saving and transformative for the patients we serve, but they are the giving of fish.  With MCB, we have the opportunity to come alongside our African colleagues and empower them to use their God-given talents.

Our MCB programs have been growing each year.  We train surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, OR nurses, PACU nurses, ward nurses, ICU nurses, sterilizers, biomedical technicians, physical therapists, and even farmers.  Why farmers?  By improving agricultural practices, we can improve nutrition, which leads to better health.

Anyone who has seen my gardening skills knows that I am in no position to teach about farming, but I do know a little about anesthesia.  This year, we trained 6 Cameroonian anesthesiologists and 12 nurse anesthetists on the ship.  I am so thankful to our short-term anesthesiologists that put in the extra effort to pour into our local doctors and nurses.

In addition to our usual anesthesia mentoring, I was also able to do some extensive teaching in ultrasound-guided regional anesthesia.  This is a type of anesthesia that uses ultrasound to inject medicine around nerves in order to make a part of the body numb.  These injections may be used to decrease post-operative pain, but can also be used as the sole anesthetic in certain situations.  It can be an extremely valuable tool in high-resource settings, but also in low-resource settings when the ability to give general anesthesia or pain control may be limited.

I trained several local anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists through a series of lectures and hands-on workshops where they practiced on both artificial and live models.  They also performed nerve blocks on some of our patients on the ship.

The most exciting part for me was to spend several days with our course participants at their local hospitals in order to help them start regional anesthesia programs and reinforce the training that we did earlier.  Thanks to generous donors around the world, Mercy Ships was able to donate an ultrasound machine to each of their hospitals.  These machines each cost several thousand dollars, but are invaluable when it comes to regional anesthesia.

This was the first time I was able to spend a significant amount of time teaching in local hospitals.  Let me tell you that it has brought a different kind of satisfaction to my work with Mercy Ships.  I’ve always loved the feeling of taking a person’s pain away and easing their suffering.  Seeing someone else do this, someone that I taught, was incredible!  Not only seeing their patient’s pain melt away, but also seeing the passion for regional anesthesia come alive.  And when I say passion, I’m not only talking about the anesthesia personnel.  The surgeons got on board (pardon the pun) quickly as did the OR nurses.

At one hospital, the Chief Medical Officer, an orthopedic surgeon, thanked me many times for the training that was provided.  He said, “You have changed the culture of our OR.  We now know what is possible.”

At another hospital, an OR nurse was asked what the best part of the MCB program was.  She could have said any of the dozens of programs we offered.  I would have thought she would have said surgeon or nurse mentoring.  Or perhaps biomedical or sterilizing mentoring.  Instead she said, “Regional anesthesia.  It is cheaper for the patients and the hospital.  It is safer, and the patients are also much more comfortable after surgery.”

It’s always sad leaving a country at the end of a field service, but I do feel that because of the MCB program, of which regional anesthesia was only a tiny part, we have left Cameroon a better place and their medical professionals better equipped to use their talents to continue the healing long after we are gone.

I truly thank God for this chance to teach regional anesthesia and the friends I made along the way.  And also that He didn’t ask me to teach actual fishing.