Wednesday, 24 December 2008


Change can be tough. And difficult. But today I am going to focus on the positive changes that I've seen on coming back to Cape Town after 13 months with Mercy Ships.

One change has been the marriage of two of my close friends, Brad and Lydia. They were married on Saturday, the 13th of December. It was a beautiful ceremony and I was so privileged to be here for their big day. Brad and Lydia were really instrumental in this whole Mercy Ships experience. They supported, encouraged and prayed for me when others maybe didn't see the vision and the dream. Had their wedding not been on the 13th of December I would have sailed with the Africa Mercy to Tenerife, and disembarked there. But as it was, God called me back to Cape Town for their wedding. And I was blessed to be able to witness this happy occasion.

Another change I noticed was my nephew Rhyenn. When I last saw him it was March (I was able to get home for a week-long vacation) when he was a little six-month-old baby. Now he is a large, energetic, 16-month-old! The photos here attest to the change seen in him - one from March and one from now. Just look at that hair!

One other change I've noticed is a change within myself. And it is a change that is important. I came back home, walked into my room, and thought to myself, "Wow, I have a lot of junk!" And so I have been tearing posters off walls, clearing out cupboards of unnecessary clothing, dusting my shelves, and having a major spring clean and general tidy of my room. Beforehand I would always hoard stuff, keep souvenirs and items I thought meant something to me. But now coming back home I see this materialistic lifestyle as completely meaningless. Thousands of Liberians live on practically nothing everyday. Why must I live in this luxury? What is the point of it all? So it all needs to go. I have discovered that simplicity is the key to life.

May you all have a blessed Christmas. And may you not only see, but also meet, the Christ of Christmas this year. God bless.

Sunday, 14 December 2008


I am now safely "home" in Cape Town, South Africa. I disembarked the M/V Africa Mercy last Monday, 8th December, after 13 magical months onboard. A large group of friends saw me off on the dock and one good friend, Theo Biney of Ghana, even jumped in front of the vehicle to try and push it back, trying to keep me from leaving! But alas, I had a plane to catch and Rodrigo Silva, a good friend, drove me onwards to the airport.

My flights on both Kenya Airways (Monrovia to Nairobi via Accra and then Nairobi to Johannesburg) and the domestic One Time flight (Jo'burg to Cape Town) were uneventful. No turbulence whatsoever. And before I knew it, the One Time plane was on final approach into Cape Town International Airport, with the majestic Table Mountain on our right.

All my luggage made it though fine-o (yay!) and out stepped a tired, emotional and shell-shocked Murray. I was finally home. 13 months had ended like that. And it hit me.

Being home presents a small small dilemma to me: in that I am home but am also away from home. Where is my home? When I was on the ship (and no one can disagree with this) I was staunchly patriotic, referring to Cape Town as my wonderful home and being proud of it. Now I'm not so sure. In my mind I actually think it's the other way round: the Africa Mercy was my home. Cape Town is now my home away from home. And one day, if it is God's will for my life, I'll be back home on the Africa Mercy. We'll see how and where this adventure continues!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Leaving Liberia...

How do I sum up the most amazing and unbelievable 13 months into one blog entry? It can't really be done. But I will share something I wrote a couple of weeks ago. It is by no means exhaustive, but it gives an idea as to what has happened the past year. I am so thankful and blessed to be able to have served with Mercy Ships:

Let me just first say how thankful I am to God that he called me on this wonderful adventure with Mercy Ships. It has certainly been the experience of a lifetime.

I would also like to thank all of you who have supported me, either in prayer or financially, through my ministry here in Liberia, West Africa. I have really appreciated it and also hope you have enjoyed hearing my news and sharing in my stories from the M/V Africa Mercy.

If you had told me two years ago that I would be serving as a missionary onboard a hospital ship in Monrovia, Liberia, I would probably have laughed out loud. I did not see it as my future. But God has amazing ways of working and shaping events to meet His will for your life. And I am so thankful to have followed when He called. I’m not going to share about my call to Mercy Ships now, but rather just tell you what He has done in my life over the past year.
Both through the work I did at Reception and now in Communications, I have been stretched and challenged, but it is wonderful to see how God has grown me and helped me discover different sides of myself I never knew existed: a side that is more confident, a side that is able to make friends more easily, a side that can deal with situations that demand a cool head. The list goes on.
But I am most thankful for the opportunities I’ve had here to get involved with the people of Liberia. They are warm, loving people who continue to amaze me with the love they show to us. Over my time here I have been involved with God’s Children Home, one of the orphanages that Mercy Ships are involved in. I have also been involved with leading a Bible Study for a group of teenage guys out at New Matadi, a district of Monrovia. Here I have been shown unconditional acceptance and warmth. These kids really care for us. It was difficult saying goodbye.

Forget about stereotypes and prejudices and what the world says is happening in Liberia. We see the changes here in people’s lives. Our God truly is an awesome God.

I am also thankful for the wonderful friends I have made here over the past nearly thirteen months. Some of these friendships were just for a season. Others will last a lifetime. God has been so faithful. God has been revealing to me my own character strengths and weaknesses in my daily interactions with these friends, for which I am thankful. It is certainly a melting-pot of different cultures with 33 different nationalities living together. Despite occasional personality clashes and cultural misunderstandings, this is by far the closest thing to heaven that I have ever witnessed.

And what does the future hold? Well, 2009 is looming large and I am trusting in God to provide. I have a rough plan of what I would like to do, and I’ll just say that I’m keeping my options open for now. A return to Mercy Ships could be possible, but I’ll keep you posted on that.

May God continue to bless you in whatever area you serve Him.

I started this blog back in October 2007 as a means to record my thoughts and keep those interested updated on my progress here on the Mercy Ship. As such, I named it "Murray's Mercy Ship Adventure" and gave it the web address But it is not the end of my adventure. My story will continue. And it is this Mercy Ship adventure that has shaped me, changed me forever. And I am so thankful. So this blog will remain, and I will keep you updated on my progress back in Cape Town here. So stay posted for more. God bless you all.

The Final Weekend...

As I type this, it is one of my last entries to this blog from Monrovia, Liberia. It has been quite the year. But that being said I still had one weekend before my departure on the 8th of December. It was the infamous "blackout" weekend, where everything for the Saturday was shut down as our Engineering staff cleaned the main engines ahead of the sail to the Canary Islands.

With the engines and generators being off, the ship can be a rather uncomfortable place to be, with no flushing toilets (we use a vacuum system), no lighting (apart from emergency lighting), no air-conditioning and no Internet and e-mail. And so I decided to head off-ship to the Francis Gaskin Orphanage in Paynesville, a district of Monrovia, pretty close to the SKD Stadium actually. I went to this orphanage last week and thoroughly enjoyed it.

It was a good time yesterday. We put on a Christmas party for the kids, making Christmas decorations and then playing games and spending time with the kids. Apart from a couple of friends who I ferried across to Thinkers Beach at lunchtime, the rest of the Mercy Shippers remained at the orphanage for the afternoon. I then returned at around 16h00 and we all bundled into the Land Rover and headed back to the ship. It was another sad farewell to these wonderful kids.

We returned to a dark, hot (but not unbearable) ship. And then at around 18h00 everything came back on, as the Engineering team powered up the generators again. The Captain and Chief Engineer had thought that today, Sunday, may have been needed as a day for cleaning as well. But they did a sterling job and finished everything yesterday. We are so blessed by our wonderful God and of course the dedicated crew we have here on the Mercy Ship.

Marthlyn Smith...

Thursday, 4 December 2008

The Reality of Departure...

It started on Monday. I walked up to my cabin and there, presticked (blu-tacked) to the door, was a note. It was my official Mercy Ships disembarkation form. And then it happened on Tuesday morning. My name was called out in community meeting. I had to stand up and be acknowledged as a departing crew member. Then today I had my official debriefing meeting with one of the chaplains. It is coming fast.

The reality of my departure is clear. I've been preparing myself, reading a book dealing with Re-entry (Re-entry: Making the Transition from Missions to Life at Home), but to be honest I don't think I can be prepared for what is to come. I'm just trusting in God. I pray that I will take back the lessons I have learned and all the changes that have happened in my life and implement these back home. May I truly return to Cape Town a changed man. That is my prayer.

I'll be sure to keep you posted how it goes.

The picture above is an evidently shocked me, holding my disembarkation form.

Gearing up for 2010...

On one of Monrovia's main streets is this large billboard. It shows a soccer (football) player dressed in Bafana Bafana (South African) colours in front of a large stadium. The world - even Liberia - is gearing up for the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Photo courtesy of Emily Adams.

My Farewell Dinner...

This past Monday, 1st December, a small group of close friends headed out to the Bamboo Bar where we had a little farewell for me. While we waited for our dinners my friends shared their favourite "Murray Moments" - memories of me that will forever stick in their minds. It was a really fun evening! And caused a lot of laughter!

Our meals then arrived. I was looking forward to my meal: I had the spicy Liberian pepper chicken. I've never had it before, mainly due to the fact that it is extremely spicy and Murray and spicy, hot food do not mix! But this evening I decided to man up! And wow, it was so hot, but nevertheless I impressed my friends by eating all the Liberian pepper sauce - despite sweating profusely and constantly gulping down mouthfuls of fresh water! But it was so good.

This evening made me realise how extremely blessed I've been. God has been so faithful over the past year in surrounding me with people who love me and look out for my best interests. I am so very thankful.

I'll miss my friends here, but I know that they are here for a reason and for this season. Some friendships here will last a lifetime. But despite this fact, the goodbyes on Monday will not be easy.

Monday, 1 December 2008

The Final New Matadi Visit...

This past Wednesday, 26th November, was our final visit to the orphanage at New Matadi. We went an hour early to allow us to spend extra time with these great kids. It was quite an adventure just getting off the ship. The President was attending the "Thank You" event held onboard that day. We had to make a quick dart through Reception, past numerous secret service agents and heavily-armed UN troops, to our trusty Land Rover parked down on the dock.

After arriving at around 16h45, we started the activities by playing some water balloon throwing games with the younger kids, although the older guys and girls did join in as well. It was a lot of fun, as the photos here testify.

Josh, Drew and myself also did a little programme for our boys - just like they had done for us the week before (see blog entry for Saturday, November 22nd). We opened in prayer, gave parting comments, presented gifts to the boys who had scored the most points for scripture memorisation, did a song piece (Drew had his guitar and sung "Everlasting", a popular worship song), and then played more games.

We played a game where you have a balloon tied around your ankle and then you take on an opponent - also with a balloon tied to his ankle. The object is to stand on the opponent's balloon before he gets yours. For simplicity, I'll just call this game "Stomp the balloon". It was a tournament leading to semi-finals and then the grand-finale.

Another game we played was the "Flour Game". Here you put some flour in a cup or tupperware and invert it onto a plate. An M & M or Smartie is then placed on top and you have to cut away at the flour without dislodging the sweet. The one who dislodges the sweet has to eat it - without the use of hands - by placing your face in the flour. It was hilarious.

But then, after our fun afternoon, we came to the sad part of the day. We had to say goodbye to these boys who have been very much a part of our lives for the past six months. I will miss each one of these guys. Please continue to pray for the children of the Mother Victoria Thomas Orphanage Home in New Matadi, Monrovia, Liberia. God bless.

The Mercy Ships Dental Team: Helping Liberia Smile Again...

Sunday, 30 November 2008

War Child: An Art Exhibition...

Last Saturday, 22nd November, I joined a few fellow-Mercy Shippers and we went to see a gallery of Liberian art in the National Museum of Liberia. The exhibit, "War Child", was organised by a freelance journalist friend of ours, Christina Holder, and was held in conjunction with the Liberian Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.

All of the art was done by people who grew up during Liberia's brutal civil war (1989 - 2003). Some of the artists were even soldiers. It was a great exhibit as it portayed the changing dynamics of Liberia, from the brutality of the war to the post-war revival.

There were three sections to the exhibit. The first was entitled "The War Street" and through the paintings one was able to experience the horror and destruction of war. However, this was shortlived as one came to the section "From Ruins To Reconciliation". Here the focus was on the changing situation, as initially ECOMIL (Economic Community of West African States Mission In Liberia) and then UNMIL (United Nations Mission In Liberia) came and brought stability. Here the process was on disarmament, reintegration of soldiers (and child soldiers), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the establishment of free and fair presidential elections in 2005. The final chapter was "New Hope, New Land", which looked forward to a brighter, hopeful future for this beautiful nation.

It was a privilege to be taken on a journey of revival and reconciliation through the artist's paintbrush. It was a wonderful exhibit and there are definitely some talented artists here in Liberia.

Rising From The Depths...

The story of the M/V "Torm Alexandra".

Friday, 28 November 2008

Dedication Ceremony of Tenegar...

Last Friday, 21st November, the clinic out at Tenegar was officially dedicated. The Communications team and Public Relations team were there in force. Carmen and myself, the two Africa Mercy writers, busied ourselves getting information for the International Operations Centre in Texas. Both of our pieces were used to spread the word about Mercy Ships - in terms of a press release. Below is an edited version of my article on the dedication of Tenegar. I hope you enjoy it!

There was a jovial atmosphere in the Tenegar community as people waited for the arrival of Madame President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Her Excellency was coming to officially dedicate the newly-reconstructed Tenegar clinic.

The clinic was destroyed during the civil war and it lay in ruins for many years, until a joint effort by Mercy Ships and the local community rebuilt it. The clinic will be able to reach over 6,000 people in the surrounding area, who previously had been without adequate health care facilities.

The anticipation in the crowd was tangible as they waited, some for more than five hours. Hundreds of people from the community and neighbouring villages had turned up, the vast majority in traditional Liberian dress or their Sunday best. Some just came in the hope of getting a glimpse of their President. Children dressed in school uniform came marching up the dirt road from the neighbouring villages. Shakers were shaken, songs were sung, people danced. The scene was set for the arrival of Her Excellency Madame President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

There were many dignatories and officials present, as well as between 30 and 40 Mercy Ships crew who had been integral to the project’s success.

And then, at 4:30pm, the President arrived. There was dancing and shouts of joy as she arrived. Her Excellency walked up to the VIP tent with the whole community. Her arrival signified the start of the formal proceedings for the official dedication of the Tenegar clinic.

Dr Meimei Dukuly, the master of ceremonies, started proceedings by saying, "This is Liberia’s day." He also expressed the community’s gratitude at the President being present.

A certificate was presented to Ken Berry, Managing Director of the Africa Mercy. This was from the community in appreciation of the services rendered to the people of Tenegar. Ken Berry then spoke on behalf of Mercy Ships. He started by saying how in the city of Monrovia, there’s a billboard. This billboard has a picture of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf with the words "Liberia will rise again."

"Today we are celebrating a wonderful demonstration of rising again, both in this beautiful building being dedicated today and the faithful people who built it," Ken said. "Yes, indeed, Liberia is on the rise."

He also stressed the fact that the community of Tenegar did the work. It was not about Mercy Ships. It was the local community who did the hardwork and ensured the project’s success. Ken went on to present the keys of the clinic to Her Excellency The President.

Next a gowning ceremony was held in which Mercy Ships crew members Ken Berry, Charles Awagah, Marcel Eveleens, Karl Schmutter and Paul Waldron all received traditional gowns in appreciation of their hardwork to the community of Tenegar.

Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Walter T. Gwenigale, spoke and emphasised the importance of a Christian organisation coming in and building a clinic for a Muslim community.

"I am very pleased that this Christian ship did not say, ‘No, we will not serve Muslims.’"

Her Excellency Madame President then spoke:

"We have been trying to find someone to [repair the clinic], and we talked to many people. Everybody said, ‘That is not a real priority. We will get around to it in due course.’ But Mercy Ships, which has done so much for our country, which has served our people so well, administering to the sick people whose lives have been changed by their operations, by the fact that they had nowhere to go and no money to get medical service or no facilities to go to. They go to the Mercy Ship, and they get treatment. They have done very well for us.

"But in addition to serving our people, they so readily agreed when we asked, ‘Please do Tenegar Clinic.’ When we got the message that Mercy Ships would do the clinic, what a wonderful day it was! And now we have the results of this major contribution to our medical services."

The President went and cut the ribbon and in so doing officially dedicated the Tenegar clinic. After a brief tour or the clinic and agricultural programme, Madame President left and headed back to Monrovia. In the meantime the community continued to sing songs in celebration. It was a wonderful day that highlighted the unity that can be achieved through hardwork and commitment to a project.

The word Tenegar means "on the hill," and it is certain that this clinic "on the hill" will be a shining beacon of hope for many people in need.

*Photo of the Nigerian UNMIL soldier above courtesy of Tayler Neill.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Making All The Difference: The Adopt-A-Patient Programme...

The Adopt-A-Patient Programme is a key part of Mercy Ships. It encourages crew to get involved with patients down on the ward. Click to enlarge.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

New Matadi Appreciation...

This past Wednesday at the New Matadi Bible Study something special happened. Something we did not expect. We went into the yard at the orphanage as usual, but this time there was a large circle of chairs set out.
Not knowing what was happening, but just told by our group to sit down, we waited. It was both the guys and the girls combined. They then opened the evening in prayer and sang a song for us before each one of us were presented with wonderful gifts: shirts for us boys and dresses for the girls.

We were overwhelmed by this show of love and appreciation they showed to us. It will certainly be a difficult goodbye this coming Wednesday. Please continue to pray for these great guys: Emmanuel, Jacob, James, Lamin, Moses, Mulbah, and Winston. Here is a photo of me in my new traditional Liberian shirt, as well as a group photo of all the leaders in our new attire. This photo courtesy of Josh and Sarah Becker.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Your Work Is Your Worship: Phil Chandra...

Phil Chandra. One of my friends here. Also one of my favourite stories.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

God's Children Home - The Finale...

Yesterday, Saturday 15th November, a group of us headed out to God's Children Home in Dixville. This was the last time that Mercy Ships are visiting this orphanage. As our 2008 Field Service here in Liberia slowly winds down, the Mercy Ministries come to an end. We now have the reality of saying so many goodbyes to our local friends here. And yesterday was tough.

We played various fun games with the kids and loved on them. But it was sad when it came to the goodbye. Picture the scene. A group of ten Mercy Ships crew from all over the world. Between thirty and forty little children. We are all standing in a circle, holding each other's hands. Heads bowed, praying. And the tears just start to flow. Especially during Arthur's prayer. Arthur is the caretaker/overseer of the property. He is praying and this is the most heartfelt, meaningful prayer I have ever heard. The tears are flowing as he prays, and this causes all of us leaders and most of the kids to start crying too.

We then closed it with a well-known Liberian goodbye song:
You're My Brother, You're My Sister,
Now Take Me By The Hand.

While this was sung we all went round the circle shaking hands and embracing these kids who have meant so much to us over the past year. I will miss little Anointing, the “baby” of the group. I will miss the soccer stars Joshua and Aaron. The friendly smiles and loving hearts of all these kids.

In one sense it was good to say goodbye now, and not later. It is definitely beneficial to start pulling out my commitments now, as my time comes down to just on three weeks before I return to Cape Town. But it is a good reminder of how difficult it will be to leave this place: this ship, these people, this country.