Church Offers ‘Comfort’ from Floating Hospital
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“Church Offers ‘Comfort’ from Floating Hospital,” Ensign, August 2009, 78

Church Offers “Comfort” from Floating Hospital

Dozens of LDS humanitarian volunteers rotated on and off the United States Naval Ship Comfort on a four-month humanitarian mission this summer as part of a government-sponsored mission to provide medical care to countries in the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The Comfort was converted from an oil tanker into a hospital ship in 1987. Its primary purpose is to serve as a combat trauma facility, treating wounded U.S. military. However, its secondary mission is to provide full hospital services to support U.S. disaster relief and humanitarian operations around the world.

The ship carried a crew of about 800, but after all the rotations, some 1,200 medical professionals, engineers, and volunteers from the armed forces, public health services, and nongovernmental organizations were involved as the ship visited Antigua and Barbuda, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Panama as part of Continuing Promise 2009, an annual humanitarian civic assistance operation.

Church Humanitarian Services further contributed by sending 10 shipping containers of medical equipment and supplies, which were unloaded along the way at each country.

With the 2009 mission beginning in Port Au Prince, Haiti, and ending in Corinto, Nicaragua, organizers planned to perform more than 90,000 medical procedures, including 3,000 surgeries, as well as several community relations projects.

Those who volunteered through LDS Charities did so for many reasons, but all seem to have learned a common lesson: all are children of God.

“On this trip I’ve met sick people, hungry people, ambassadors, dignitaries, and high-ranking officers,” said team leader and nonmedical volunteer Jenna Rix. “We are all children of a Heavenly Father who places us together to help each other.”

“Heavenly Father loves all of His children,” said Melissa Elmer, a registered nurse from Highland, Utah, USA. “He will put people in our lives who will touch us, and He allows us to touch others.”

Angela Berrett, part of the LDS envoy and a registered nurse, worked with an orphanage in Haiti. She recalled a four-year-old girl who was “running around wild.” To keep her out of the workers’ way, Sister Berrett picked the girl up and held her.

“She sat in my arms for a minute or two, and next thing I knew, she had just snuggled into my arms,” she said. “She laid there for an hour, and every once in a while she would readjust.”

Sister Berrett wondered if the girl had ever been hugged like that before, but concluded, “She needed me as much as I needed her.”

The USNS Comfort is an oil tanker converted into a floating hospital. A small contingent of member volunteers was aboard during a 2009 humanitarian trip.

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Landon Stephenson