Thursday, 31 December 2009
Friday, 25 December 2009
This Christmas we have learnt that Away in a Manger has a different tune on the other side of the world, that there are no candy canes to be found in the local area much to Toms disappointment and that it is possible for someone in their twenties to have never tried a mince pie before.
We are enjoying celebrating Christmas, spending time with family and friends, eating food we have missed this year and driving on the left side of the road. But we remember the reason for the season, the One who without which we would not have Christmas, and give him thanks.
Saturday, 19 December 2009
It is amazing to come back, to see the man playing the trumpet there on the dock to welcome us, just as he did when we left. To know that we have come full circle, that we have completed a whole outreach with the ship, that we have survived our first year. We can look back and see all the God has done in Benin and in us during the last year and are amazed.
Friday, 18 December 2009
We didn't let the boys up until 7.30 (school at 7.55!) and then temporarily failed to remember it was dress up day. Tom almost went in his dinosaur t shirt. Anyway. Here's some pics...
Thursday, 17 December 2009
It seems similar views shared by others! :
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
So what else have we been up to? There have been lots of ship activities to keep us all busy in the evenings, each of which I kept meaning to blog about, and maybe will about some of them. We have had Santa Lucia, which I had half blogged about - but which needs some photos added, a Scandanavian festival of light. We have been to the Winter Wonderland, a night to feel festive with Christmassy smells in the air from the punch, eating popcorn and where people sell crafts and cookies. We have been to the kids craft night and made a Christmas wreath for Nanny out of African fabric and made a few decorations. The boys have had Daniels pirate party and Libbys birthday party as they will both soon turn 5, in addition to Josh turning 3. We have visited the bow and watched the green flash at sunset (as if seeing a water spout and meteor shower haven't been exciting enough on this sail), seen wildlife swimming by and watched stunning sunrises from our cabin.
We can't complain the sail has been bad at all, but we will be pleased to arrive, pack our bags and then come back in time for Christmas.
Monday, 14 December 2009
Imagine being in the middle of the ocean. It is very dark, there is no light pollution as no land is in sight. Imagine a million stars all twinkling over your head. Now imagine that every few seconds or every minute or two one just shoots across the sky. Awesome.
Brings to mind this song:
From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation's revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go
Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow
Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light
Yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night
None can fathom
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
You are amazing God
[Indescribable by Chris Tomlin]
Sunday, 13 December 2009
Mercy Ships, as an organisation, is focusing the resources of the organisation towards utilising the donations and time given to them as effectively as possible. Now that is more than just numbers and cannot be captured in a spreadsheet, but since I like numbers and they are an easy way to see one aspect of what we have done in Benin here is a summary:
33,851 eye evaluations and other treatments;
13,174 oral health education;
10,175 dental patients seen;
7,083 pairs of sunglasses distributed;
5,689 pairs of reading glasses distributed;
3,521 cataracts removed;
1,161 general surgeries;
996 reconstructive and plastic surgeries;
794 dental hygiene patients;
570 other eye surgeries (pterygia and stabismus);
231 orthopedic operations;
154 obstetric fistulas repaired;
185 cleft lip and palate repairs;
119 church & community leaders trained in mental health;
50 prison officers and workers trained in mental health;
28 patients received palliative home care;
25 oral health teachers trained;
23 local agricultural trainees;
19 mental health workers trained;
19 families trained in wound care;
18 community eye field workers trained;
10 agricultural staff trained;
6 Burkitt's Lymphoma patients received palliative support;
2 local surgeons trained;
2 local eye surgeons trained;
4 local surgeons trained in fistula repair;
2 dental assistants trained;
1 hostel constructed for agricultural college;
2 church leaders conferences attended by 602 attendants;
and 12,000 people watched the Jesus Film
In total we have directly helped almost 80,000 people in Benin. A record breaking field service for Mercy Ships.
Saturday, 12 December 2009
Friday, 11 December 2009
Our door is feeling a little left out, I have been concentrating more on simple tasks like trying to breathe with a stinking cold and how to balance the sea sickness versus taking the sea sickness tablets that make you feel awful in a different way dilemma. Still, we are enjoying everyone elses doors, the boys love the Security Officers pirate snowman :-)
Today, so far the smaller people in the school are caroling around the ship, and then are ending with cookies (they baked yesterday) and hot chocolate, whilst watching the snowman film. I just met them in the laundry room, singing 'we wish you a merry christmas....we hope you don't get sea sick...we wish you lots of dolphins....', not sure where else in the world you would hear that version!!
Plenty more festive fun to come...
Thursday, 10 December 2009
If you scroll down on this page, the first TV programme link is called Africa Mercy: Part 1
By the way we are heading past the Ivory Coast now....
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
Saturday, 5 December 2009
This is something from Toms teacher's blog...
Ps Tommy says thanks for everyones birthday messages!
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
In between we have the school Christmas play, winter wonderland and story telling evening and all sorts of other fun things, we are hoping to see more dolphins and killer whales and the odd pirate ;-)
Most of all we are excited to be seeing more of our favourite people in the world before too long.
Tom and Joshua
Liberia (where Mercy Ships spent 3 out of the last 5 years) had a horrible 14 year civil war that ended in 2003, by which point it was probably the poorest country in the world. Since then the country has begun the process of getting back on its feet under the leadership of an excellent, democratically elected President.
They have managed to improve their position in the UNs Human Development Index, thanks to wise use of overseas aid and development (a model other countries in the region could learn from) and debt relief from developed countries.
On Thursday last week the High court in London ordered Liberia to pay $20m to settle a debt from 1978 (originally $6m), that had been bought by these two caribbean 'Vulture' companies.
To put it in perspective, $20m is 5% of the country's total annual budget, and paying it to these companies will do nothing to help the millions of people in the country who have no access to healthcare.
So is this a good way to make money? Is there something that we should do about this, or maybe I can just forget and concentrate on sorting out my plans for Christmas...
Click for more info
Friday, 27 November 2009
Some of the day volunteers have been working alongside crew in departments around the ship, some have worked as translators in the different areas of our health care work. Somehow they all know Joshua and a good percentage will say hello to him everyday or give him a turn with the mop or randomly grab him and turn him upside down. Tommy has spent many hours learning French with one of the day volunteers as his tutor.
But now the outreach is ending...and they are leaving...but we are grateful for all they have done and for the friends we have made...and we may well see some of them next year in Togo...
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
In the wake of heartache and tragedy, Abisoye has always remained optimistic and joyful. When I asked Abisoye - who likes to be called "Biso" for short - if she'd ever doubted God's love, she paused. Then she casually replied, "No, not really." Thirteen years ago, shortly after the birth of her first daughter, Biso's difficulties began. She noticed a small swelling on her tooth which slowly grew into a facial tumor. As it became noticeable, she was made an object of ridicule and scorn. "Some people thought I had HIV and that the tumor was contagious. It was hard for me to find employment, and people wouldn't invite me to parties," said Biso. "Even my sisters would not be part of me anymore. Sometimes they could be kind, but they were not proud that I was their sister. They didn't like introducing me to others as their sister."
Five years ago, her husband was shot in the chest while serving in the Nigerian Navy. Surgery to remove the bullet was expensive - more than they could afford. He recovered from his injury, but the bullet was never removed.
A year ago, Biso's husband died suddenly. The bullet had affected his heart, causing him to experience sudden "heart failure." It was a devastating loss - she still cannot talk about him without crying. "I saw him dying, and I couldn't help him. I didn't know he was going to die. I wish I had known," she said.
Today, Biso is the single mother of four children - two boys and two girls, ranging in age from three to thirteen. When her husband died, she and her children were promptly evicted from Navy housing. Surviving in her homeland, Nigeria, has become a daily struggle. Biso and her children are self-described squatters, having no home or property. The oldest daughter lives with an aunt, while Biso and the other children stay with her mother. "We used to live in a nice house, but now we don't have a home. We squat and are living with my mom. The apartment is very small, and it is not very comfortable," said Biso. A college-educated woman, Biso previously held a job as an accountant. However, because of her tumor, no one will hire her. She has started baking and selling bread to support her family.
As she grieved the loss of her husband, Biso became increasingly frightened and worried about the tumor. "When I would feel the tumor in my body, sometimes it was really painful. I read a book that said it could go to your brain, damage it, and kill you. I was so scared when I read that. Who would take care of my children if I died?" At that time, her six-year-old son, Donald, developed a bony lesion on his head. The lesion needed to be surgically removed. They both needed surgeries she could not afford. Biso began to fervently pray, asking God to provide for them. One day, her pastor received news that the Africa Mercy was coming to the neighboring country of Benin. A church member sent photos of Biso and Donald to the ship. After being reviewed by the medical staff, both were scheduled for surgery. "When they said they could help, I was so excited. I thought, 'At last the Lord is doing it!'" said Biso. Soon after, Biso and Donald traveled to the Africa Mercy. They were placed in neighboring beds onboard the hospital ship. The next day, within hours of each other, they received free surgeries. It took Biso more than a week to recover. During that time, she was a great encouragement to those around her.
"Abisoye was a light when you came to the ward," said ward nurse Katelyn Billings. "She always had a positive attitude and was very encouraging. Her faith really impressed me. After all she'd been through in her life, the many struggles and challenges, still the first thing she would say to you was, 'God is so good.' Considering everything she has been through, it is pretty amazing that she can still say that." Wanting to share her experiences on the Africa Mercy with her community in Nigeria, Biso kept pen and paper at her bedside. Whenever she had a "memorable" experience, she wrote it down. Before leaving, she compiled a list more than three pages long. Hoping to gain supporters for Mercy Ships, Biso will use this list to write a story about the Africa Mercy. Biso doesn't have the words to express how grateful she is. "What can I say that will express what I feel? I feel like I have had spiritual heart surgery - everyone has been so kind and loving. This is a special group of people. I have been so inspired by everyone. Keep up the good work." As Biso returns to Nigeria, there are many unknowns. But one thing she is certain of is God's faithfulness to provide for the needs of her family. God has used Mercy Ships to demonstrate this to her. She says with great sincerity, "I am so happy. He has a special place in His heart for the widows and fatherless. He has been taking care of us, and I can see it. God is wonderful."
Story and Photos by Megan Petock
Monday, 23 November 2009
Saturday, 21 November 2009
I'm not sure that there would be anything happening most weeks to top having dinner with the President of the country you are living in, but this has been one exciting week!
Uncle Sam and Miss Amy are getting married!!!!
Joshua did protest a little because HE loved Miss Amy and wants to marry her, but hopefully, he like the rest of us will just be very, very happy to have such a lovely friend join our family. Tom is still pondering having two Auntie Amy's and has suggested maybe changing her name to Talullah, but the idea is not really catching on just yet.
Anyway, Amy we are so excited you are marrying Sam, he is a lucky man.
For Amy's account of the news and a pic of the beautiful ring that finally made it to Benin this week...
The Africa Mercy has almost 400 hundred crew members serving onboard. The crew is extremely diverse, coming from over 30 countries and ranging in age, profession, and length of service. But they share a commonality - everyone needs to eat. In West Africa, access to food supplies is limited, and most crew members don't have personal space for food storage onboard. Various jobs on the ship have immediate and time-consuming needs, which don't allow time for food preparation.
Fortunately, the Galley has taken on the challenge of meeting the nutritional needs of the crew. Every day, a staff of 20 prepares 900 hot meals, which are served onboard the Africa Mercy. They begin preparing food at 8 AM every morning, including weekends, and continue until 7 PM.
"We feed all crew members living on the ship, the Beninese day workers, and the patients in the hospital," said Galley manager Jesse Mitchell. "It's such a big responsibility because food is such an important part of people's lives. Eating a good meal can really make your day."
Professionally trained as a chef, Mitchell is utilizing his culinary skills as Galley Manager on the Africa Mercy. Mitchell is responsible for planning the weekly menu, ordering supplies, and managing the galley staff. As galley manager, he has faced several challenges unique to the Africa Mercy environment. One example is planning menus to accommodate the international crew and their varied taste preferences.
"It is very hard because there is absolutely no way you can please everyone. We have over 30 nationalities living onboard, and everyone likes and wants something different. I try to give people options with salads, fruit, and sandwiches. There is enough that I think people can find something," said Mitchell.
Also, while the Africa Mercy is docked in West Africa, access to food supplies is limited. Utilizing available supplies and incorporating local resources to generate appetizing, nutritionally balanced meals requires both careful planning and creativity.
"In West Africa, you can't just say, 'I would like to have this spice or food product' and have it. You can order it, but it may not arrive for three months," said Mitchell. "I have to carefully plan the menus, keeping in mind the quantities of the items available in our storeroom."
Although it can be challenging and sometimes stressful, Mitchell has really enjoyed serving on the Africa Mercy.
"I never thought I could use my culinary skills for missions. I always wanted to serve in Africa, but I didn't see myself in a traditional missionary type of role. When I heard about Mercy Ships, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to go, do my job, and serve God overseas. I'm making a difference in the world, and working here has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life."
The work of the Galley staff often goes unseen. However, without their consistent dedication, the Africa Mercy would be unable to bring hope and healing to the lives of thousands.
"When someone has had a long day, a good meal can mean a lot to them. Sometimes crew come to dinner exhausted and tired from the day. Several times, the OR staff has expressed how grateful they were for a good meal after a long day of surgery. It's an amazing privilege to have such influence on people's lives," said Mitchell.
Written by Megan Petock
Friday, 20 November 2009
...but this is our family outfit that we wore to the Presidential dinner. It is common here for families to wear matching clothes, I always thought that it was because fabric comes cheapest in large quantities, but someone told me recently that it is also a sign that a husband is proud of his wife if they match.
These are a couple of attempts at a family picture (thanks PJ), the only problem was it was so sunny that someone has their eyes shut in nearly all of them, but you get the idea at least!
...read more and see pics on the chief dentists blog...
...and they have seen their 10000th patient in Benin...
Thursday, 19 November 2009
Every other Thursday we have fire drills, on the first/crew alert alarm the fire team heads for wherever they are told the fire is. On the second/abandon ship alarm we all have to leave the ship and muster on the dock. We all have to confirm that we are there and not burning to death on the ship and then they make sure that everyone is accounted for. They never are, usually there is someone caught in the area of the fire or something so then they make announcements that start with 'if anyone knows the whereabouts of the following crew members please phone the bridge...'. And then we wait, usually for up to an hour, sometimes longer, while they put out the fire and the emergency medical team has to deal with whatever scenario they are given etc.
Yesterday was our last 'in port' fire drill for 2009, we now start having 'at sea' drills so everyone is prepared for sailing. The pre-school are going to be spending some time practising putting their life jackets on and off soon so they don't get frightened by the drill.
Richard has some great pictures of what happens inside while we are all mustering on the dock...
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
We arrived with the first group of people about 5.45 having followed one of the shuttle buses in a landrover, and wondered if we were going to be let in at all after observing a very heated debate between the bus driver and the men with the guns at the entrance! Then we had quite a wait until the shuttles had finished and everyone was there (we are talking about an hour and a half or more) at which point they put out (not quite enough) drinks. It was like being at a wedding, everyone dressed up, hanging around chatting, although I have never worn clothes quite so similar to my family before, and as I don't have any photos yet that will have to be a whole different post later!
We were shown into a banqueting hall where the tables and chairs were all dressed, giving a bit more of a wedding like feel, although with not quite enough chairs so we ended up being shown to a table that had been reserved for military personel near the top table, making us slightly anxious about having small children present!
So...about 8.30pm we all stand to the Benin national anthem while the President and his ministers enter. By this point Joshua has fallen asleep on Tommy, who held him (while standing) through the Presidents arrival, through the welcome and presentation ceremony for about 40 minutes. Part way through all the talking, which was being translated from French to English, (except for the last bit which was paraphrased significantly according to the man who told us 'that was what they said - in a nut-shell') Tom sat down, put his head on the table and fell asleep too.
Finally it was announced that we could eat, some what tricky for those of us with sleeping children on us, but still a lovely meal and the first time we ate rabbit - as well as a lot of other food! Then we watched some African dancing, all sorts of different dances with different dress from different areas of Benin, dances with people wearing unusual objects on their heads and a dance where sticks were banged on the floor! It was an experience to remember. It was a shame the boys slept through a lot of it - when we got home and Tom had been carried in he asked - 'so was there any food?'
No cameras were allowed, but you can see most of our friends in the picture on Amys blog and how lovely they look, and I will try and get the photos of our family that our friend PJ took of us and add it soon.
Here is an article written by one of the communications team Megan Petock about the Operating Rooms on board...
For thousands, the 60-second walk down the long hallway which runs through the Africa Mercy has been the final leg in a long quest for physical, emotional, and spiritual restoration. At the hallway's end is a pair of sealed doors which lead to a state-of-the-art operating suite, filled with teams of nurses and surgeons. Every day patients walk through the sealed doors, crossing a threshold of transformation, to receive life-changing free surgery.Over five thousand surgical procedures have already been performed on the Africa Mercy during the 2009 Field Service in Benin.Surgeries performed onboard include orthopaedics, maxillofacial, plastics, general, vesicovaginal fistula repair (VVF), and cataract removal.
The Africa Mercy has six operating theaters, predominately staffed by short-term crew who come from around the world to share their expertise with the forgotten poor. "Everyone stays for a very short period of time. Our entire operating room team consists of 50 people, and only five of us are long-term staff," said Operating Room Supervisor Alison Brieseman. "We bring in people who know what they are doing, so we can have a higher turnover. Short-term people come in, they scrub up, we point them towards a table, and they are fine. If you can work in the OR in one country, you can work in the OR anywhere else. " The Africa Mercy operating suite is a diverse and dynamic environment which Alison Brieseman thoroughly understands. She has served with Mercy Ships for five years. She first worked as an operating room nurse and has held the position of Operating Room Supervisor since the inauguration of the Africa Mercy in June 2007."Somehow it (the OR) work when it really shouldn't. People come from everywhere, and they all know different things. They speak different languages and do things different ways. The staff is constantly changing; everyone is new all the time. You would think there would be a really high stress level and that people disagree about everything. But it's just not like that. It's a fun place to be. It's a real testimony to the grace of God," said Brieseman.
For most of the 2009 Field Service in Benin, the OR has run at full capacity, utilizing all six operating rooms and maximizing the number of patients served."Recently, I was going over the statistics from this field service.Compared to last year, by week 21, we had doubled the amount of procedures performed. So, many more people have received surgery. It's been a really exciting outreach," said Brieseman. She attributes this increase to better staffing and a more efficient use of resources. A major accomplishment of the OR during this field service has been the successful training of three Benin nurses in operating room procedures. "At the beginning of the year, they were registered nurses but had never worked in the operating room. One of our long-term OR nurses, Glenys Gillingham, has been working with them throughout the field service," said Brieseman."Now, they all scrub, circulate, and inject anesthetic into the eye. They are now teaching the short-term staff what to do. When new staff comes, the Benin nurses are saying, 'This is what you do,' and 'Come here; I'll show you.It's really great to see. We've never trained local nurses, and it's been one of our coolest achievements."
For many years to come, the OR suite on the Africa Mercy will continue to be a place of healing and transformation for thousands of individuals. As the OR staff continues to grow in statistics and achievements, the focus of their work is still to impact the lives of individuals. Brieseman saw a poignant example of this principle earlier this year."During our last round of VVF surgeries there was a debate about whether we should perform surgery on the last patient of the day. It was already 4 p.m. and if we did the case, we knew we wouldn't finish until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m.Everyone had just worked the past three days and three nights and was exhausted. As we stood around discussing it, someone just went, 'All right, that's it; we are doing it. I remember standing at the door, watching this patient waddle down through the hallway holding her gown. I saw her back, and it was all wet. We could have ended on time and had our dinner, but she would have stayed wet in her bed. Instead, her life was going to be transformed. There were three or four of us standing there saying, 'I'm really glad we made that decision.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
..they are now better! It is always so special being at dress ceremonies, a time of celebration for women who are going home no longer leaking urine after successful surgery. The women are given new clothes and some symbolic gifts and praise is given to God for all he has done. The shy women who hid under their sheets have emerged, more confident and look beautiful. I love working with these women.
PS...The ITV film crew came to one of the dress ceremonies so look out for the Mercy Ships feature at 6pm one evening at the end of the month, hopefully they will put that in rather than the interview with Tommy...
Some beautiful pictures can be found here:
Monday, 16 November 2009
Friday, 13 November 2009
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
That may all be very well, but the question is what do you do with the ever growing collection of artwork, mostly it goes on the wall for a bit, this piece however is flaking paint everywhere and will soon be re-homed in the B.I.N. but before that I thought Nanny and Grandma should have the opportunity to see.