Friday, November 20, 2009

Presidents Dinner photos

As promised here are some pics from the Presidential Dinner showing Don Stephens receiving his award, some of the dancers and the beautiful layout of the dining room.

Lots of Lasts

Yeah I know it's poor grammar! As we get nearer to sailing we have lots of "This is the last time we'll do this in Benin" moments. Last week we had our last refuelling and last container delivered to us here moments.
The re-fuelling barge came alongside and the whole process went very smoothly thanks to the expertise of our technical crew.

The last container was full of frozen food and true to form it came in the evening. Before I could sign off the paperwork I had to check the temperature guage to see if it had been kept cold. If not then the thousands of dollars worth of food inside would have quickly spoiled. However the guage was at the end of the container that was against the cab of the truck, so I had to try to squeeze into a tiny gap to see it. I tried, failed and had to let the drivers (very skinny and much younger) assistant do it. I'm in the blue T-shirt with the white writing on the back...

The last frozen one,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

ITV - TYNE TEES check it out.

The film footage of the AFM in Benin should be shown on Tyne Tees television (ITV) each night from 7th – 12th Dec (5 x 5min news reports). The footage will also be on their web site so anyone else shoul dbe able to log on a take a butchers (butchers hook - look). However be warned - it may contain footage of us ..... Aaargh!

Presidential nosh

One thing you can always say about Mercy Ships is that it gives you opportunities to meet people and visit places that you would never otherwise experience. Last night was one of those events. The whole crew was invited to the Presidential Palace to have a meal with his Excellency Yayi Boni, the President of Benin. Unfortunately Rachel-Elise was poorly so couldn't go, and Anne volunteered to stay behind and look after her, so it was just me Iona and Nathaniel (and 300+ crew members)

What do you do at a Presidential dinner? Well we waited in a large meeting room for over two hours first, then were allowed into the (very posh) dining room where we sat at tables seating 9 for another 30 minutes or so before the President made his entrance. Then he presented some very prestigious awards to Don Stephens (founder), Deyon Stephens(co-founder), Dr Glen Strauss (eye surgeon and VP of medical stuff), Ken Berry (CEO of AFM) and Daslyn Ouenounou (Mercy Ships Benin Country Representative). Then there were some speeches, then FOOD - YES!! By this time it was after 9pm and Nathaniel and Iona were almost passing out from fatigue and hunger - but they behaved impeccably. Fish, Chicken, Rabbit, Goat (I think), rice, noodles, chips (YES), salad.... yum. Oh and wine and Coca-Cola.

This was accompanied by some local Beninese dancing from about 5 different groups which the kids found particularly interesting. A very colourful, memorable and honouring experience. We weren't allowed to take cameras but if any photos get published by our comms people I'll stick them on here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

British Matelot cements anglo-french relations

Last week the French amphibious assault ship 'SIROCO' came into port for a few days. I (Rob) had spent 3 months onboard a similar ship (HMS Intrepid) when I was in the Royal Navy, so i was quite keen to check it out.

Thankfully some crew were invited to attend a cocktail party onboard and I was one of the few who got the chance to go (Anne had work commitments that she couldn't re-arrange). So accompanied by the Captain, Chief Officer, Security Officer, Chief Engineer etc I was able to enjoy some refreshments and also got a tour of the Siroco's Hospital and Bridge. It was a all a bit of a 'flash from the past' and even though the Intrepid was a much older vessel the two were extremely similar in layout and design. It was great to get back onboard our much more comfy ship at the end of the evening though!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Adopt a patient

Anne and the children have been spending time getting to know one of our patients. Hervey is 10 years old and had lost the use of his hand due to contractures caused by untreated burns. As the burn had healed the skin had shrunk causing his hand to close up. The surgeons onboard managed to release it and have grafted skin onto the wounds. Please pray that the wound will heal quickly as it has not been responding too well lately, and that he can then lead a full and productive life.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Boys n Bugs

West Africa is full of intersting uggly-bugs. Recently the ship was home to dozens of large moths, crickets and dragon flys. Each evening Nathaniel would rush to deck 8 to see how many he could find - yes, he's a boy! Here he is proudly showing off a rather juicy moth and a small crickety, stick thing!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

At the going down of the sun

'They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.'

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), is probably most famous for that 4th stanza from his poem 'For the Fallen' written in 1914 (see full poem below). It is read at thousands of memorial services around the world on this day, the 11th of November to help us all remember the horror and futility of war, and the great sacrifices that so many have made to preserve our freedom.
As the sun starts to set on our 2010 field service in Benin I pray we will all remember the thousands here and in other parts of the world who still need to experience hope, healing and the real freedom that comes from faith in Christ.

For The Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Remember, Remember

The 5th November for all the Brits was 'Guy Fawkes Night' or Bonfire Night as it is often called. Some very well organised brits had managed to get three small 'Roman Candle' fireworks and some mini-sparklers, so it was down to the dock and time to party!

Ok it was all over in less than 10 minutes - but another of those rather strange memories that will stick with us for years to com.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Five minutes of fame (x2)

A couple of years ago a film crew from Tyne Tees Television filmed us in Liberia. They've now returned to do a follow up on the work the ship is doing, including filming us again. So watch your TV's in late November / early December to see how good our tans are!

As if that wasn't enough media exposure, we saw a copy of a new book today that has a photo of Rachel and Iona (plus some other ships kids) on the front cover and an article inside. It's about different schools around the world and mentions, amongst others, the academy onboard Mercy Ships. You can check it out online at

Now who wants an autograph?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Too busy to Blog

strange thing about all this facebook and blogging stuff is that when I have time to think of doing it that means I'm normally not doing much. However wheniI'm busy and stuff is happening I haven't the time to tell anyone about it! Life's full of coundrums I guess.

Well we're starting to plan our departure from Benin and there is a huge amount to do before we can go - including cleaning!