About Barki's

Our family is embarking a new adventure we feel God is calling us to. We have accepted a volunteer position with Mercy Ships that carries a minimum two-year commitment. Mercy Ships is an organization that delivers free medical care aboard a traveling hospital ship to the poorest parts of Africa. The ship is a state-of-the-art facility that offers clean water, reliable electricity and care centers. Many of these patients are truly hopeless, afflicted with disfiguring and immobilizing conditions. Often viewed as cursed, family, friends, and entire villages want nothing to do with them. Through God’s healing touch, Mercy Ships offers a chance at a new start and a picture of hope and healing that Jesus offers to all. Brian will serve as the anesthesia supervisor. In addition to taking care of patients and providing leadership to the anesthesia department, he will also be helping to educate local healthcare workers to improve the quality of care being delivered in the host countries. Jamie will be doing administration in the hospital. Brandon, Maya, and Hannah will attend the accredited academy on board. Jamie and the children will also be able to help with other ministries, such as orphan care, and with the patients on-board. We will be docked in Madagascar during the first year. Our destination the second year is not yet known.

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 https://www.nationalgeographic.com/tv/surgery-ship/.

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.



Tulsa Get-Together 2018

Hello Tulsa Friends!

We are back in the US for a little break, but unfortunately we will only be in Tulsa a few days.  We’d love to see as many of you as possible, so we are having a get-together a week from today, Tuesday June 19th from 6:30-8:30.  We’ll be at the Church at Battle Creek (3025 N Aspen Ave, Broken Arrow, OK 74012) in room S1.

We know it’s short notice and that you all are very busy, but we’d love to catch up.  Hope to see you there!


Brandon’s First Blog

We asked Brandon to write his first blog.  It’s only been about 3 years, but we thought it was about time!

First a quick update about the end of the field service:

The last scheduled surgeries of the Cameroon field service have taken place.  The hospital closes next week.  It’s been an awesome, but long 10 months.  We do need prayers in particular for one patient that will need ongoing care at a local hospital.  Please pray for continued healing for him after the ship leaves.

And now, for Brandon’s blog!

“On board the Africa Mercy, while the adults are working hard, the children attend the school. It is normal school for children ages 1 to 18, except that they do a few different activities. Field trips to the beach, going to an orphanage, and swimming at local pools are just some of the many activities that the children get to do, but on this occasion, the children in 6th to 12th grade got to shadow a department on the ship.  While doing this activity, there are many job options and you have to choose. Some options include engineering, teaching, and supply.

This year I had the privilege of shadowing the communication department. They are in charge of marketing and publicizing Mercy Ships. Jobs in this department include photographers, videographers, writers, and media liaisons. Over the course of three days, I followed two photographers, two writers, and a media liaison.

My first day was spent hosting a group of Dutch donors. My second day I got to shadow a photographer. On that day I learned how to edit and process photos. My third and final day, I went to the patient recovery site called the H.O.P.E. Center where I followed a patient and took pictures for a little bit. Then for the rest of the day I was with the writers, and interviewed crew for stories that are posted online.

I really enjoyed photography (I had already been interested in it before) and editing pictures in LightRoom. During this job I also realized how important the communications department is to the ship and organization.”

Some pictures of Brandon and pictures that he took and/or edited:


Conquering Fear: Fanta’s Story

It’s hard to work if you’re a teacher who’s afraid of children, a jockey afraid of horses, or even a nurse afraid of surgery, like 44-year-old Fanta. Despite working in the medical field for over 17 years, Fanta was too frightened to undergo surgery to remove a 10-pound Lipoma tumor under her right arm. For nearly 10 years, she learned to strategically hide the tumor under draped shawls while she worked, refusing to have surgery to remove it.

“How can I expect people to respect me as a nurse and not be scared themselves when I am too afraid to do anything about my own problem?” Fanta said.

Since she was a young girl, Fanta saw nurses at her local hospital in their uniforms taking care of people, and she knew she wanted to be a nurse, too. But, after hard work and a long journey to achieve her dream, her watermelon-sized tumor made it hard for her to wear the uniform she’d longed to wear as a girl. As the tumor grew painfully large, she knew something had to be done. However, working in the local hospital only heightened her fears of having surgery.

“My colleagues told me I would die if I tried to have it removed, and that I had left it too long,” Fanta said. “I see the surgeries, I see the blood, and I hate the thought of not being in control of my own body.”

When she heard about Mercy Ships through her hospital, she was filled with hope instead of worry. During her consultation with Mercy Ships, she felt more at ease than she had ever felt before.

“The nurses at the ship are so compassionate and loving,” Fanta said. “They kept reassuring me that everything was going to be more than okay, and something in me trusted them!”

It only took a three-hour surgery onboard the Africa Mercy for Fanta to realize how much her fear held her back for the past decade. Her lighter arm and brighter smile made her wonder why she’d waited so long.

“I can now lift my arms with ease! I will be able to dress like the other ladies at my hospital,” Fanta said. “My husband has already bought me some new fabric so I can make more dresses that show off my arms!”

For patients like Fanta, Mercy Ships removes more than just tumors. After her free surgery, Fanta’s fear and anxiety were dispelled as quickly as her hope was restored.

Story by Georgia Ainsworth
Edited by Karis Johnson
Photos by Saul Loubassa Bighonda

To avoid scaring her patients, Fanta strategically hid the tumor under draped shawls while she worked, refusing to have surgery to remove it.

44-year-old nurse, Fanta, was afraid to undergo surgery to remove the 10-pound tumor that had been growing under her right arm for a decade.

“The nurses at the ship are so compassionate and loving,” Fanta said. “They kept reassuring me that everything was going to be more than okay—and something in me trusted them!”

“I am so thrilled to be out of surgery I can barely believe it. My arm is so light,” Fanta said. “As soon as I can, I am going to wear strappy tops to show off my new arm!”


Since she was a young girl, Fanta saw nurses at her local hospital in their uniforms taking care of people, and she knew she wanted to be a nurse, too. But, her watermelon-sized tumor meant she couldn’t fit her arm through the sleeve of her uniform. Now, she wears her scrubs with pride.

Her lighter arm and brighter smile made her wonder why she’d waited so long. “I can now lift my arms with ease!” said Fanta.