Tuesday, 22 April 2008

More Goodbyes...

Since I last posted - which was a little over a week ago - it has been a season of much change here on the Mercy Ship. My closest friend left on Sunday. Marius Moe. He had been the M/V Africa Mercy's Deck Cadet for eight months. I remember the first time we really had a deep conversation was when we had just docked in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. I was being my usual judgmental, critical self, and was talking about the image of Mercy Ships and how important it is to uphold it. I was concerned with how some crew members (in my eyes) were portraying it. And whilst I was being critical, Marius said, "Why don't we pray for them?" Marius is indeed an amazing man of God, who constantly challenged and encouraged me to focus on what's really important in life. And he will be missed. He certainly made an impact in my life, and there is a gap now.

And, unfortunately, Marius's departure is not the only one to take place over the next few weeks. This coming Sunday sees another good friend, Chad Meyers, along with one of the really quality ward nurses, Lisa Sullins, head back home. Chad is a Canadian who has been here since October. He initially served as a Housekeeper before moving into the Communications office. The reason for this change may not have been the best circumstances imaginable (a broken leg brought about by pulling off a Matrix move off the wall, whilst dodging bullets in Spain - no, not really, it was a skateboarding accident), but it was certainly a move orchestrated by God. The Communications department has been really blessed by his presence there. And we will miss him.

But that is life on the Mercy Ship. A constant stream of arrivals and departures. But what is exciting is that there are so many more new arrivals coming whom I haven't even met. And who will have the potential to be wonderful friends. I'm on the ship for another seven and a half months! Plenty plenty time to meet new people! So not all is so sad and depressing. That's all for now. God bless.

Sunday, 13 April 2008


As I've mentioned in a previous post, crew members - especially those serving in the technical departments (that is, not in health care or in the off-ship ministries) - are encouraged to get involved with the patients down on the Ward. One of the ways in which you can do this is sign up to adopt a patient for the duration of their stay in the hospital. You're their friend. You can visit outside of visiting hours and I think the most important thing is to just spend time with the patient. So that the individual feels loved and special. And it's a great way to show God's love in a practical way. This is what I'm doing at the moment.

I've adopted a little six-year old boy, Matthew, who arrived on Thursday and has already had surgery. His story is a sad story. And one that is, unfortunately, all too common here in Liberia. He fell in a pot of boiling oil when he was two. So he is here to have some plastic surgery done to his hand. When I first met him he was sitting on his bed down in B Ward, and my friend Megan, a nurse from Philadelphia, was giving him oxygen to help with his asthma. Hearing that he was my adopted patient, she offered me the oxygen mask to hold over his mouth and nose. So I gave him his oxygen. He just sat there, breathing the oxygen, and when we were done he held my hand and pulled me down to his level, smiling all the while. It was really special.

Over the past few days I've been visiting him twice a day. Unfortunately working night shifts means that I can't visit in the mornings, but I do my best to keep up a regular routine of visitations. On Friday (the day he had his surgery) I was sitting with him and he was hungry. So he handed me a banana and I fed it to him. And then we played balloon volleyball. We also talk, but I don't think he really understands me, and I struggle to understand him. But one thing he does see is the willingness to spend time with him, and he appreciates it. The one evening I went and spent over an hour in the Ward. We played hide-and-seek, balloon soccer, coloured in books, and I made a domino chain out of Jenga blocks. I'll take him up onto Deck 7 tomorrow. Crew members are allowed to sign out a patient for a short while, so that they don't get too bored down on the Ward. Although with the wonderful ward nurses that we have here, it's a wonder that that ever happens. We are truly blessed. Anyway, that's a very brief update on things here on the M/V Africa Mercy, currently on Field Service in Monrovia, Liberia. God bless.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The US Navy Visits Monrovia...

Last week the US Navy visited Monrovia. Several naval vessels, including the brand-new HSV-2 Swift and the USS Fort McHenry, were stationed in the waters off Liberia, as part of the US Navy's Africa Partnership Station. The US Navy are visiting several African states in order to facilitate humanitarian projects as well as to increase cooperation and understanding between the US and these countries.

Mercy Ships crew were invited to tour these ships. The first vessel that was in port was the HSV-2 Swift. HSV stands for High Speed Vessel. It is a very modern, ultra-fast catamaran, built and owned by the Australian Government, and on loan to the US Navy for a period of five years. It is capable of reaching a top speed of 50 knots. By comparison, the top speed of the Africa Mercy is only around 18 knots, and we typically cruise at 12 knots! I went with a large group of Mercy Shippers to this vessel last Wednesday, and we had a wonderful party with the US Navy! They also gave us a tour of this very interesting vessel.

The Swift left on Thursday morning and then it was the turn of the USS Fort McHenry to show us its colours. However, it did not enter the dock, but had been at anchor in the waters outside the harbour for the past week. So we embarked this vessel in a rather unique way. We boarded a troop landing craft and went out the port to the ship. It was very exciting - and great to be on the open sea again, albeit for a short period of time! I commented to my friend Paul Waldron as we boarded the landing craft, "Doesn't this remind you of the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan?" Indeed, the landing craft were very similar to those used to storm the beaches of Normandy back on D-Day, June 6th 1944.

The USS Fort McHenry is a very interesting ship. It is able to flood itself in order to load its fleet of landing craft and other amphibious vehicles. It is also a defensive platform, and thus is not capable of being involved in heavy offensive manouevres. Of course, the vessel does have high-tech weapons systems and defensive capabilities that allow it to defend itself if attacked. But it is primarily involved in humanitarian relief efforts throughout the globe. A couple of years ago, for example, it was one of the main US Navy vessels involved in the clean-up efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Being able to flood its central compartment, it was able to retrieve many small yachts and leisure crafts that had been washed out to sea in the storm. So having said that, this past week was very exciting - being able to visit two US Naval vessels, and to travel out to sea in a troop carrier! And, of course, it is always nice to get a different perspective on the M/V Africa Mercy! And how blessed we are to serve on this vessel!