Thursday, February 26, 2009

Screening etc

Screening took place last Thursday and Friday (19th and 20th Feb). Over 2500 people were checked by our medical team and more than 400 scheduled for surgery onboard, with hundredes more getting appointments for eye examinations or surgeries. Check out this great video on facebook (and look for me in the first few seconds - wearing the hat).

We'll try to stick some pictures up as well soon.

Surgeries started on Tuesday 24th so the Africa Mercy is once more a working hospital ship. Please pray for the many patients who will be coming to us in the next 10 months.

Monday, February 16, 2009

6 day week

There are many parts of the Bible that are hard to live up to or understand. I've never been keen on the 'work 6 days and keep the 7th day holy' as I much prefer to just work 5! Last week though turned into a full 6 day event with two more trips to Immigration to resolve various issues on Saturday. Praise God we made progress and everyone who needed to join over the weekend got here safely and everyone who needed to leave got away safely - I couldn't ask for anything more.
Anne and the children had a walk into town with some friends and were impressed with how friendly, peaceful and well developed everything seems here - especially after doing two field serices in Liberia.
However you have to watch out for those 'zemidjans' (moped taxis) of which there are approx 80,000 in Cotonou alone! They are identified by the yellow shirts they wear and do not need to wear helmets, have licenses, training or insurance so you can imagine what it is like.
Driving is always an experience in Africa and here it really takes things to another level. I stood at a 4 way junction on Saturday for 10 minutes just watching the mopeds zoom around, showing neither fear, coordination or knowledge of any traffic laws or etiquette.

Needless to say our leadership has recommend that the crew do not use them as a form of transport!

Friday, February 13, 2009

All aboard the Rollercoaster

After a very bouncy night at Anchor on Monday we sailed into Cotonou Harbour at 0845 Tuesday morning. The advane team and representatives of the Ministry of Foreign affairs greeted us together with the Mercy Team leaders (if you don't know what a Mercy Team is have a look at and you might be tempted).
Since we got alongside it has been a hectic whirl of officials, paperwork, meetings and more officials as we start getting set up to work here in Benin. Immigration have been to the ship 4 times already (and were supposed to come back last night but couldn't make it).
I've been to the airport twice to help new crew get through with the Mercy Ships paperwork and to meet the Head of Immigration there. So far so good - though the first arrival had her passport confiscated and we had to persuade the officer to give us it back!
Today we have a Civic and Media Reception onboard to get to know some of the other civic officials and for them to get to know us, then tonight we have 18 people arriving on one flight so another trip to the airport for me. There are many challenges that require prayer - our vehicles aren't registered yet so we can't use them, our mail isn't being allowed through customs, the crew neeed all their passports stamping to allow them to travel easily and many more things.

Next Thursday and Friday we have the main patient screening days and we're expecting up to 4000 people to show up. Please pray that those days go smoothly and that everyone that the Lord wants to be seen gets seen and that those that He has other plans for would not get there.

Here are some photos of our arrival...... (in reverse order for some strange reason!!)

Monday, February 9, 2009

So near and yet...

We're within site of Benin but due to a fault in one of our engine control systems we've had to go to anchor whilst the engineers work hard to fix it. If you've never been at anchor, at sea, in a flat bottomed ship, in a rolling swell you are blessed!! It is the only time I dislike the motion of a ship at sea. The vessel just wallows, pitches and rolls totally at the sea's mercy which is very uncomfortable.

Please pray with us that God will help the engineers repair the fault so that we can get alongside and start the work He has called us to do. We've already missed our ETA of 14:00 and so our friends will all be sat on the dock waiting for us........

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sail Out, Sail On , Sail In

8 days since we left Tenerife.
8 days of a smooth rolling sea
8 days of being cooped up in the AFM with 3 children and very little place for them to play.
8 days that sometimes feel like 80!

Tomorrow we get to Benin for the start of the next 10 month field service. I don't speak French, I've never been to Benin and I am nervous of having to start again with the whole Immigration, Customs and Shipping agent routine in a totally strange country.
But we'll keep you up to date with all that as it happens.

Tenerife gave us a chance to catch up with friends, get plenty of fresh, cooler air and enjoy what for most of our friends back in the UK is a more 'normal' life without the preasures of living and working in West Africa. A large part of the crew took the opportunity of cheap flights to go home and have a break, whilst others were blessed to have a vacation on the Island. However for the technical crew and those of us who stayed on board the work continued at a fast and rather furious pace as repairs, improvements and essential Surveys were done onboard. Our time at sea is in many ways the only time that the Pursers Office gets a bit of a breather (once all the paperwork is done) so a 9 day sail gave me and my new assistant (5th one) time to catch our breath a bit before the blur of activity that a new port brings.

Anne's first week back at work (Rob's been hard at it since beginning of January) mainly involved connecting with new crew (about 100) to make sure they are settling in and to deal with any issues they might have. This week, she has been more focused on the long term crew and how they are getting along. She's had a couple of wonderful opportunities given by the Lord to encourage people in their walk with him. Over the next couple of weeks she will be continuing to plan for a community living workshop on handling conflict biblically and also on training new debriefers to help departing crew prepare for leaving the ship. Small groups are being started once again and she is hoping to be able to lead one for short term crew who work shifts (i.e. medical and technical crew mainl

And now here is a glance of our time at sea......