Monday, October 26, 2009

Daily Duties

So what do we do on a daily basis? Well today the Pursers Office has to enter all the details of crew who arrived over th eweekend into our database, remove the ones who left, so that we can update all our crew lists, Articles, emergency lists etc. Then we normally have to take all their passports to the Port Immigration to get them processed and get them shore passes to allow them to go ashore. However today is a national holiday so we'll have to do all that tomorrow.

We've just had two boxes of mail delivered which we've been tracking through Fed Ex - so that's two less to worry about. Typically we get about 3 boxes of mail per week and one shipment of ships parts.

There's also a 40' shipping container of supplies/ spares due to us this week. Not sure when it will get here because we're having trouble tracking its progress. Hopefully by Friday night it will be at the ship.

Visas - many crew are wanting to go to Ghana for a weekend so first they have to get a Benin visa, then a Togo visa before they can apply for a Ghanaian one. 6 people have been in so far today for forms and info on that process.

Lots of other miscellaneous stuff as well now about our visit to Tenerife (who needs visas and who doesn't), stuff about Togo Field Service in 2010 and South Africa in August 2010, so never a dull moment.

Just had a call to say another box of mail needs collecting from the agent in town - so I'm outa here:-)

Fun and Games

Just over a week ago we had the 'Africa Mercy Olympics' where a dozen teams of crew competed in various bizzare games - just for the fun of it. Rachel and Iona were part of a team called 'GIRLZ' who finally won the prize for best team mascot (Meg the Alsation). The game on the photo was to get all the team onto a small wooden platform for 10 seconds - quite a task!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Can work be fun?

In my previous role at Rolls-Royce Aerospace we often had training guru's telling us how we should make the workplace an enjoyable place to be. If you spend 40+ hours per week in an environment that makes you miserable how productive will you be?
Do we work hard onboard? Definately. Do we have fun? We're working on it......

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What does poverty look like?

Because we live onboard a ship, we always see more of the port city than the rest of the country that we are in. That means that it's sometimes easy for us to forget just how much need there is here in West Africa. We see hundreds of people coming to the ship for surgery and medical assistance - but what does poverty look like? A few miles outside the capital of Cotonou people live totally different lives from anything most of us will ever experience. Not just another country, but another time, another world. A place where every day is about struggling to survive. A place where wondering what to wear is due to having nothing to choose from, not from an abundance of choice. A place where a simple skill like weaving or sewing can make the difference between a family starving or surviving. A place that needs everything we can offer - and more.

Friday, October 16, 2009

African Food day

Each Tuesday we have an african meal onboard. Typically here in Benin this consists of beans, yam, eggplant with potato greens, plantains and of course rice. It tastes great, is very filling and looks like this....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Place two - reception

Now I know I may be slightly biased but I think we have some of the best people onboard the M/V Africa Mercy working in reception. This picture shows Tim (the Assistant Purser) de-briefing the team after last weeks emergency drill.
Whenever you walk onto or off the vessel you do so through reception, so these people are very familiar to all our crew and day volunteers. Having a bad day? Had an argument with a cabin mate? They still need to be at the desk extending grace and assistance to everyone they meet. Who are they? From L-R Robin (Hospital Admin), Tim (Assist Purser), Heather (Recep), Leah (Recep), James A (Recep), Hannah (Recep), James (Translator), Ryan (Recep). Hiding at the back behind Heather is Dr Craig our crew physician.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pretty in Pink

Last Wednesday many crew members on the Africa Mercy wore pink and took time to pray to support Breast Cancer Awareness day. Many of us have family and friends who have had or currently have cancer (in any form) and it was a great way to mobilise the crew to pray for them. Even the Captain sported some rather dashing pink socks!

Hungry Anyone?

Those observant ones amongst you will have seen the little questionnaire that we had running on the blog last week. A few of you said you wanted to see more photos from around the ship, whilst others want more daily news about what or how we're doing. So in answer to the first part of that, here are a couple of pictures of our dining room, showing the servery etc. They dish out 3 meals a day for 40o crew and 2 meals a day for our 150 day volunteers(they start work after breakfast). Many of the dining room staff are short term, younger crew who want to experience Africa and/or foreign mission work but don't have formal training for other areas on the vessel.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I was just e-mailing a friend and his family who work in Moldova with Operation Mobilisation, and was struck again by what strange lives we lead.
It’s amazing what we accept as normal after a while isn’t it? We’re so used to living onboard a ship that the thought of being in a house without any other people around is almost scary. At nights we prop bedroom doors open to stop them banging as the ship sways on the swell in the harbour, all showers are less than 3 minutes (no baths onboard), food is whatever is prepared for us, is shared with 400 other people and is always at the same time.Go too late and you go hungry. Flushing may or may not work and the water varies in colour from sparkling clear to dark brown depending on which tank/part of the system is being used; and of course our home visits 2 or three different countries each year! All this is normal for us. For our friends in Moldova normal is something totally different, yet for all of us England is more and more a foreign country.

Hope and Healing - Together

Why did we move away from family and friends in the UK to live on a ship in West Africa?
To help bring Hope to those who without the ships visit would have no hope for a better future

To help return smiles to the faces of those who have known so much pain. Behind each picture is a life that is changed forever because someone cared enough to pray, someone cared enough to give, someone cared enough to come. Together we can all make a difference.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Emergency Drills

We've mentioned before that we have regular emergency drills onboard to ensure that all crew can be accounted for quickly in the case of a fire etc. Last week Rob was taken out of his usual emergency position to see how his team coped without him (very well actually!) so he managed to get a few rays on the dock for a change, and took a few pictures as well.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Daniel's Story

During this years summer program Rachel-Elise spent time getting to know one of our patients called Daniel. Here are some highlights of his story......

Daniel stood up for the first time when he was eight years old. He was on the Mercy Ship, with his legs in casts up to his thighs. He pitched forward on a child’s walker as he moved one foot in front of the other. Contracted hamstrings and Achilles’ tendons had prevented him from such independence before.

“When he was six months old, we tried to get him to sit up like other babies, but he couldn’t,” his mother Odette said. “When he was two years old, we wanted to help him stand and walk, but we could see that his legs would not straighten. We went to many hospitals and tried many things, even traditional healers. But nothing helped.”

So all his life, Odette carried him. Everywhere she went, Odette had Daniel on her hip. She carried him to the table to eat, she carried him to the toilet, and she carried him to bed at night. Going to school wasn’t even an option for Daniel.
“I was very worried about it,” Odette explains. “As a human being, I will die. I worried about what would happen when I die because he needed me for everything."

The surgeons successfully released his contracted legs, a condition probably caused by cerebral palsy. A physical therapist from Canada began working with him three times a week just after his surgery.

The last few months have brought healing to Daniel in many forms. He’s had physical healing, gaining the ability to stand and growing stronger each day. He’s had psychological healing, learning to believe in himself and to fight for each step he takes. And he’s had relational healing as well. The bond between Daniel and his mother has blossomed – he looks for her affirmation, and she shows him her approval.

“When he took his first steps, I was overjoyed,” Odette says. “I was saying to myself, ‘Can he really walk?’ I couldn’t believe it.”

“I am so happy about all the things, for the doctors and nurses,” she continues. And Odette has a special blessing for Olivia, who helps Daniel shine: “I pray that God will give Olivia wisdom and blessings, and that God will have his hand in many things that she does because she is taking care of my son.”

Daniel will probably need a crutch or cane to help him along, but he will have a chance to be independent and even to go to school. Daniel works hard to improve each day, and he does it for a simple reason – “Because I want to walk.”

Mango where others daren't

I mentioned yesterday that we went out at the weekend with friends and had vehicular challenges. The place we went to is called Babs Dock and among other things they have canoes that you can take out to explore the river and the 'mango swamp' that edges it. Nathaniel and Rob took a two person canoe out and had fun watching fishes jump and exploring the little tunnels that have been cut through the trees by local fishermen. Here are some pics of one of the areas we paddled through.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Here's a prayer sent to us by our friends Robert and Ros as part of their weekly newsletter. It just seemed very timely and applicable in many ways so I wanted to share it with you.

So often, Lord, when we are feeling insecure,
it is because we are using the wrong set of measuring tools.
Were we to see the weighing scales
You use to value all we do,
we might not recognise them as such,
for You evaluate by entirely different criteria,
seeking less the outcomes that the world considers good
than the love and devotion with which we carry out our tasks –
and the measure of obedience that lies within them.
So realign our heart’s desire
to be more in tune with Yours,
for the more we succeed in doing this
the more joy we will know in our spiritsand the more comfort we will bring to others too

Flat Out

Yesterday we went out with our Norwegian friends, despite the rain coming down by the bucket load and the road (sandy track) being undriveable in anything but a Land Rover. Thankfully the rain stopped by lunchtime and the kids could enjoy running about and playing whilst us older folks sat and played cards! When it was time to return to the ship we found we had a flat tyre (though it was only flat on the bottom!). Nathaniel thought it was great and set about helping with the wheel brace telling us all how he knew what to do because they'd been shown how to change a tyre at school once. After a bit of sweating and getting covered in sand we were off again, bouncing and weaving round big holes, looking forward to a shower and some dinner when THUNK the high ratio gearbox selector disconnected itself. No worries, a quick pull on a lever and we're off again.THUNK out it pops again. We managed to drive back to the ship with three more THUNKS but instead of being faced with a large garage bill and no vehicle for a few days, we just fill in a form saying what the problem is, and the transport guys take care of it for us. This is one of those times when we really appreciate the car maintenance guys onboard (Olly and Moses) so THANKS guys for all you do. Oh and next time we'll take a newer vehicle ok?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hitting the Bottle

Re-fuelling your car or moped here in Benin gives you an interesting choice. Do you pay more money and use one of the modern petrol (gas) stations in the town, or do you buy from a vendor at a road side stall? Even in town there are lots of small stalls with coke bottles full of petrol that the moped drivers buy from. Thank fully not many people smoke here (yet). If you are out and about though you will probably need to buy fuel from one of these stalls, but the service is excellent and you even get it poured into the tank for you. None of that self service nonsense here!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hurray for the Fan Man

Whenever we go out somewhere here in West Africa we look out for the 'fan Man'. Fan Milk ice creams are deliciously creamy, cold and very cheap (125CFA - about 25c or 18pence). They're sold from the insulated boxes fitted to the front of old bikes, and if you don't see one you listen out for the 'beep, beep' of their old bulb-type bike horns. The only real problem with them is the litter caused by people throwing the empty polythene tubes on the ground.