Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Easter Time on the Mercy Ship...

The past few days have been very busy. But not in terms of work. I have had a number of days off – in fact, four in a row – since last Thursday, and only started a rather eventful night shift five hours ago. Eventful why? Well, let me tell you... last week Tuesday I gave a sample of my blood for analysis to become a potential blood donor. I got the results back on Wednesday and I have very healthy O Positive blood – so healthy in fact, that if O Positive blood were required, I would be number one on the list.

So I was sitting at Reception at 23h45 last night, having a chat with my good friend Chad Meyers, when the phone rings. It was the Laboratory. Before I pick up I say to Chad, “I hope they don't need my blood”. They needed my blood. Urgently. The patient who needed my blood is one of our VVF ladies who was bleeding and had a very low haemoglobin level of 6,2. My haemoglobin is extremely high (and healthy) at 16,2. And so I went down to the lab and then on to ICU where I donated. It was the first time I've ever donated blood. The 450 gram bag of life-giving blood took just twelve minutes to fill. But what made the process extra amusing was that Daniela Reger (one of our lab technicians) and I had chatted earlier and I had asked whether they would need my blood any time soon. She said that she didn't think they would need O Positive blood for a while. But they did. And she knew that I was working night shift and even organised with one of our Fire Panel Trained ward nurses to watch the desk while I was down below donating. It is rather strange (but awesome) to think that my blood is now flowing through (and helping save the life of) another human being. It is a very special feeling. The photo above shows Daniela and myself with my blood. That's my most important news, but let's now get on to the celebration of Easter on the M/V Africa Mercy.

Easter is a very special time. It's a time of sadness and joy, a time of crucifixion and resurrection, a time of life conquering the grave. And on the ship there were many activities that highlighted the beauty of our Saviour's sacrifice. Last Thursday (the whole night into Friday morning) there was a very informal set up on the dock, for those wanting to come and pray with Jesus. The theme was the Garden of Gethsemane, and the agony of Jesus's tears. Friday was of course Good Friday, and we had a lovely service in the International Lounge. I really enjoyed it. After the service the crew were invited to kneel down on a red ribbon symbolising Jesus's blood washing over our sins. We then could pray together or alone and just focus on what Jesus's sacrifice meant to us. I sat next to Marius Moe, a great friend, brother, and man of God. We had our arms on each other's shoulders, brothers in Christ.

Saturday was a very busy day. I went to God's Children's Home Orphanage in the morning, and that was a really good experience. Working at Reception, one often is unable to visit such orphanages (as shift work can be debilitating to one's involvement in external activities), but I was really happy I had the day off to visit this one! God's Children's Home is a twenty minute walk from the ship, and it has 37 children there, ranging in age from about three right up to sixteen. We had the children perform an Easter play and then decorated crosses to hang in their windows (CROSS = Christ Rescued Our Spirits and Souls). I then went outside and played soccer with some of the older boys. It was great fun. In the afternoon I went to Duala Market with Liz Ketels, Liz Espeland, and Christine Martin. We went to the UNMIL store and then on to the Market. We browsed in the stalls, looking at fabrics and materials. After a while we took a long, slow walk back to the ship. My feet were not happy! But that was because I chose to wear my strops and not proper shoes. Dinner on Saturday was out on the dock, relaxing with good company.

Easter Sunday started early with a service up on Deck 8 aft at 06h00 – the traditional sunrise service. After this time there was another service at 08h00 on the dock. It was a good service, but I must have lost half my body weight in terms of sweat! Phew, it was so hot! Easter Brunch was at 10h00 and once again our galley and dining room staff did an outstanding job! It was a wonderful meal. In the afternoon I headed to Elwa Beach with my cabin mate Dan Huber, and several other Mercy Shippers. It was good to spend some time away from the ship. And swim in the sea! The first time I've done that here in Liberia! In the evening there was Easter Open House on the ship, where various families opened up their cabins to the crew. It is really good to spend time with the amazing men and women of God here on the ship. We are truly blessed.

Yesterday (Easter Monday) a group of Mercy Shippers headed out to Cece Beach, and so I joined them. The only difference was that I cycled there and they went in the Landrovers! It was a good cycle and a good workout. Although the traffic cycling through Duala Market was a bit scary. But the beach at Cece was fantastic! Quality time spent with quality people. And I was so happy I brought my rugby ball! It's a mini rugby ball I bought at Johannesburg Duty-Free. It has been a really good purchase. Although the Americans throw it like an American football and the South African, Australasian, and British crew members throw it the way it was made to be thrown! But nevertheless it has brought great entertainment to my friends. And with that little comment on the differences in throwing technique between rugby and American football, I bid you all a very fond farewell – and a belated happy Easter – until my next entry. God bless.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Home - The Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour...

As I type this, I am sitting back in Reception on the Africa Mercy. I had a wonderful, relaxing break in Cape Town, South Africa. I arrived back on the ship on Wednesday late afternoon, after a holiday of nine days - although it was only a week in Cape Town. Travelling home took a lot of time! Being home reminded me of how much I love Cape Town. It is where I grew up. My family and friends are there... But being home also made me realise how much I love the M/V Africa Mercy, and her crew. That being said, I am really happy to be back on the Mercy Ship for the next few months.

This past Sunday I took part in my 18th Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour – the world's largest timed cycling event. I cycled it for Mercy Ships and the people of Liberia. That was the vision that God gave me when I heard I would be coming back to do the race. So I cycled it with a large Mercy Ships flag streaming behind my saddle, and I wore a Mercy Ships t-shirt as well. This can be seen in the photo here. It was a wonderful experience, and rather humbling as well. I now know that I certainly am not “Murray The Cyclist”. I was humbled because I cramped from around the 40 km mark. I cramped for over 65 kms of the 109 km route! It was terrible. I had to stop a couple of times to get massages. But it was good in that I knew I wasn't riding it competitively, and so I was happy to complete the event in 5 hrs 10 mins. It was great to give Mercy Ships the publicity. And, hopefully, some spectators or fellow cyclists will be curious as to what Mercy Ships does, and will google it on the Internet. It's all about creating awareness. But all glory must go to God. I am so thankful that he gave me this opportunity to return home to Cape Town, and I am so thankful to be back on the ship.

Moving on, I am really wanting to extend my time of service on the Mercy Ship, until possibly the end of the 2008 Outreach in November/December. I feel that God is wanting me to stay on longer. This would be for another five months (from my original departure date of June 2008). If you feel led to support or continuing to support me, then please contact me.

Finally, I must thank all of you for your support – both financial or in prayer – towards me and my time on the Mercy Ship. I have really appreciated it. I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog, and I will keep the posts coming! God bless.