30. Niki, Cote D’Ivoire 1991

In a remote fishing village in the Ivory Coast a midwife was tending an abandoned premature baby. The Anastasis team visiting the village included a huge-hearted couple who made a life-transforming decision

Peter and Suzanne had travelled to the Ivory Coast village by dug-out canoe that morning knowing a tiny one-kilo, two-month-old baby girl was waiting. Two weeks earlier the midwife Emma had visited the Anastasis with the baby. They had been given the opportunity to hold and watch over the baby struggling for life. Suzanne had grown up with the dream in her heart to adopt an African child. The couple were unable to have children of their own. They had some big questions.

For this visit, the ship’s paediatric anaesthetist Keith Thompson was with them. ‘Are you serious about this baby?’ he asked. ‘Because if you are, you need to bring her back with you today – she will not survive otherwise!’

So the return trip in the dug-out canoes included another tiny passenger.

The fragile baby was admitted to the Mercy Ships wards and intravenous fluids were immediately administered through the only viable vein in the severely dehydrated child – in the middle of her tiny forehead. Dr Thomson confesses, ‘I was in terrible trouble with the medical administrator, as one is not supposed to pick up random babies and bring them on board. After a heated discussion, he agreed to allow me 24 hours to rehydrate her.’

The rest, as they say, is history (continued below)

She was named Nikola Joy (meaning Overcomer, Victorious). With her new-found parents and a ship-load of mercy, Niki began to thrive and after her first few months, she outgrew her baby bed that was literally made from a shoebox.

A year later in 1992, Niki was formally adopted as the family moved back to Canada. The Tucker family later grew with the addition of an adopted younger brother.

“I have always known I was adopted and all I’ve ever felt is love and family,’ shares Niki. ‘Nothing else was ever an issue in regards to having been left behind by my biological mother that dark night. Suzanne Tucker is my mom and always has been from Day One.’

In 2011 Niki and her mom made an epic journey together back to West Africa, They volunteered together on board another Mercy Ship, this time docked in Sierra Leone. Niki says she profoundly connected with her African heritage as she visited the patients in the ship’s wards, played with the children on Deck 7, and attended worship services on board.

‘I may have been born in Africa, but Canada has always been my home. But returning to Africa felt like I’d found my second home,’ reflects Niki.

These days 26-year-old Niki is a qualified Health Care Assistant and works as a Community Support person in several group homes in Canada.