Monday, December 22, 2008

Top of the Charities

Ever wondered which charity you should give to - and which should be avoided? With hundreds of charities to choose from, and many of them knocking on your door at this time of year wouldn't it be great to have an independent 'watch dog' who reviewed them for you?
Well '' does that for many christian charities around the globe. They've just published their lists of the best and worst and Mercy Ships is up there in the top 30 (of the best)!
Check out their web site to see how it works.

Ah Tenerife

Tenerife at last Yes we arrived safely on Friday 19th. We picked the pilot up at 06:00 and got alongside around 07:00 so it was an early start for us all. Unfortunately our usual berth is busy so we are still sat at a dock used to unload cement and coal from ships, so you can imagine it is not the cleanest of places! I would love to show you some pictures, but after 4 years our trusty old digital camera has given up and gone to camera heaven. I've added it to my list for Santa and posted it up the funnel :-)
The weather (always of interest to us brits) is a cool 25'C with a gusty wind that makes a jacket, scarf and hat essentil - at least until we get acclimatised!
On Saturday we took a long walk and then a bus ride into town and enjoyed being able to walk around without being asked for money, operations or greeted by "Mery Ships, Mercy Ships!"
In the next few days we have over 70 crew leaving the ship either for good or for vacation so it is VERY busy. Hopefully after that we can settle down and try to relax a bit.......

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Roughing It

Well it's now Wednesday and we've been at sea for 5 days. Those of us who like being out on the wet stuff are very happy that it's been a bit 'choppy' lately. However there are a good few 'lilly livered landlubbers' who aren't so happy. Let's have a moments sympathetic silence for them. (OK enough - don't want to soften them up anymore:-) )

You know there's something very satisfying about sitting in the International Lounge on deck 6 watching the waves break over the bow and then hitting the windows in front of you (for anyone who knows the ship you'll appreciate how high the waves are getting).

Our ETA in Tenerife is still Friday 19th so only 2 more days of fun before the work begins again.

Last night at 8:30 Iona and I (Rob) went onto deck 8 to look at the stars. WOW - millions of them blinking down on us. We didn't stay there long though as the wind was whistling around us and the deck pitching enough to make walking a new art form. It's always humbled me to see how BIG the universe is.

Low Flying Landrovers

Eat your heart out Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - Mercy Ships Landrovers rule the skies in the 21st century! How do we transport all our 4x4 vehicles from one port to the next? With a little help from our crane and a lot of space borrowed from the crew's 'relaxation' area on deck 8 that's how.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Going, Going, Gone

Bye Bye Liberia. At 14:25 on the 12th December the m/v Africa Mercy pulled away from the LNP Fishing Pier in Freeport, Monrovia and headed for the open sea. So many memories, so many prayers, so many tears, and of course goodbyes! Our final goodbye for the orphange children was to have them visit the ship. It was incredible to see even the older children struggle to be confident on the stairs - they aren't used to them! We gave them a tour of the ship and then asked which was their favourite part - the older ones, who are responsible for chores, said the washing machines and or the toilets.....basic things we take for granted would revolutionise their living conditions. We also said goodbye to our friend Pastor Charles and his wife Courage. It was particularly sad as just the week before Charles's eldest daughter died suddenly - no on knows why. there is no way of knowing - this is daily life in Liberia.

Final Liberia Pics

How often do you get the chance to take your photo with a sunken ship in the background? In Freeport, Monrovia you get th echance every day and also have a choice of wrecks! This afternoon was our last chance as we prepared to sail.....

Beach Baptism

Last week one of our German families onboard celebrated the baptism of their oldest daughter. She decided to get Baptised by a local Liberian Pastor at ELWA beach and a number of us were able to be there to share the experience with them.

Fancy dress night

To lighten the load on the crew as we faced the task of packing up in Liberia we had a fancy dress evening. Rob was Dr House, Rachel was Black Bess the Pirate. Iona was the rich lady Rachel was going to steal from, Nathaniel was another Pirate, and Anne was the woman from the shower scene in Psycho! (Not shown - Phew) The captain and his family won - Dressed as the Flinstone Family.

Update on Pastor Charles

Apologies for not blogging for a few days - it's been crazy busy getting ready for the sail. I visited Pastor Charles on Monday to see how he was doing. The daughter that died was 24 with two young children. Apparently she had been unwell and gone to a local 'clinic' where Charles had gone to check on her and paid the medical bill. After he'd gone back home she had apparently become worse, but by the time she had been sent to the 'hospital' she was dead. The funeral may be tomorrow (Saturday) if arrangements can be finalised. Please continue to pray for them.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

call to prayer

Some of you may remember us telling you about Daniel Coleman the immigration officer who died last year. He had become a friend and his death was a shock for us all. Through that sad event we got to know his younger brother Charles, who is a local Pastor and has taken over responsibility for Daniels children as well as looking after his own 5 daughters. 2 weeks ago Charles called to say that his youngest daughter (who is 4) had maleria, but was thank fully getting treatment.
Yesterday morning Charles called us again to say that his oldest daughter (16yrs?) had just died in an accident. We don't know the details yet but obviously they are very upset. He hasn't asked us for anything but prayer, even though we know they are desperately poor. Infact the whole time we have known him he has never asked for money - the only Liberian we know who hasn't! Maybe that is why we feel we have a real friendship and have felt free to bless them with money from time to time.
Please would you take a moment to pray for Charles, his wife Courage and their family as they walk through this. I'll post more information as I know it and as it is appropriate to do so.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Final Running Club

Every week the dock vibrates under the feet of 4o young people (and some of us not so young) who are part of the Africa Mercy running club. The children run up and down the dock and get a special card stamped to mark each lap. 3 laps equals one mile and they are all aiming to do the 26 miles required in a marathon over the length of our field service. Last night was the last chanvce to gain miles. Rachel and Iona already had done more than 26 miles so their medals were 'in the bag'. Nathaniel needed three more miles. He'd never done more than 2.6 miles in one go. He was nervous. Mum was nervous. Dad (who runs with him) was feeling guilty for not getting him to run a bit further in previous weeks. Dad was also nervous. 6pm starting time came around and the clouds had gathered. Not itty bitty little grey ones like in England, but thick, black menacing clouds that seem to suffocate the sky and soak up the sunlight. Would we run? Would Natty miss his medal by only three miles? "WE WANT RUNNING CLUB, WE WANT RUNNING CLUB" The children started to shout as the rain started to fall. What could the teachers do? We lined up, got ready, braced ourselves for the starting whistle, and the heavens opened! Torrential, freezing, thumbnail sized shards of rain lashed down on us and the whistle blew.

40 minutes, thousands of gallons of rain, and hundreds of smiles later it was all over. The rain stopped, the sun set and we sat on the dock to eat our celebration chocolate cake. Wet? I've been drier in a swimming pool! And what of Nathaniels performance? Oh .....he did 4 miles :-)


Tomorrow our ship will be rather dark. Infact it will be VERY dark as there will be no electricity onboard due to essential maintenance. Whilst the engineers work with only emergency lighting, no running water, A/C, toilets, or computer access most of the crew will be either out on the dock enjoying the fresh air and sunlight or at the beach making sand castles and drinking Sprite. For reasons of confidentiality I cannot say what our family will be doing. Now where did I put my spade?

Closing Down

Today was a day of closure. The last day that our wards would be open in Liberia and the last day for our 120+ Liberian day workers. Whilst on a field service Mercy Ships employs local people to help with almost every aspect of the ministry from cooking and cleaning to working with our deck department, engineering, hospital and field operations. To honour them we had an African meal at lunchtime and then a short program in our meeting room where we had a time of (lively) african worship and then Ken Berry (Managing Director) and Tim Tretheway (Captain) thanked them all for their work. The ship will seem very empty next week without them around, but as we prepare to sail there will be many more goodbyes to be said.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Iona's Big Day

How many of you have ever met a vice-President? Well Iona did yesterday when she was chosen to give a bouquet of flowers to the vice presidents wife! The Vice -President, along with the minister of health, USA Ambassador and numerous other high ranking officials arranged for a meal to be cooked for the crew of the AFM yesterday as their way of saying 'Thank You' for all the work we've done here in Liberia. So all 330 crew plus 50 guests sat in the dining room in our best bib and tucker (clothing) and enjoyed a meal courtesy of the Government. This was followed by a presentation of the work we've done and then by speeches from the Vice -President and others thanking us (AND YOU) for what has been achieved.

Looking back at our blog I see I forgot to mention that the President was onboard last Wednesday (26th Nov) for another event which was for us to say thank you to her and 100+ others for their assistance and partnership. Sorryo.

Teddy Time

Whilst in the UK earlier this year a friend passed onto us three bags of knitted teddy bears. We had hoped to donate them to the orphanage that we attend (CAOAC) but there weren't enough for one for each child. So we passed them onto Ellen (who works in reception) and she took them to the orphanage that she has been involved with - much to the delight of the children and staff. OK the children on the photo don't look delighted - but they were waiting for the teddies to be handed out. The suspense must have been almost too much for them..................

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jail Break

On Monday 202 Prisoners broke out of Monrovia central Prison. So far only 36 have been re-caught. Unfortunately for the 600+ prisoners still locked up, those escaping stole all the food on their way out so they had nothing at all to eat yesterday. Mercy ships responded by taking round 5 sacks of rice (amidst the cheers of the inmates) to help until they get re-supplied.

Meanwhile we are being extra vigilant whilst ashore, just incase.

Little Eddie

Yesterday when I was talking to an immigration officer at the gangway, 5 month old Eddie was brought up for some freash air. He was severely burnt when his mosquito net caught fire and has been having 'plastic surgery onboard to release and repair his eyelids (to protect his eyes) and to have skin grafts on the back of his head. Needless to say he will need many more operations in the future, so as we leave Liberia please remember to pray for him and the thousands of others who need our help.

Scool Pics

School photo time again - what more do I need to say? Here they are. Nathaniel looking cool!
Nathaniel with classmates

Miss Iona
Iona's Class
and of course Miss Rachel-Elise