Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Wonderful Encouragement...

Mercy Ships received the below letter a couple of weeks ago. This letter is so profound and I can feel the love and thankfulness with which it is written. It is a clear sign that God is at work. I don't know what else to say... I'll just let the words speak:

September 16th, 2008


Thanks for the joy you’ve brought back to my life and the lives of many others. God bless the works of your hands everywhere you go and may you be a blessing in the lives of others in the world. I will continue to pray for the Mercy Ships, her sponsors, and all those who make her what she is.

To the Captain, I say, Navigate well.
To the Engine Men, Let her never break down.
To the Counsellors, Take away our trauma with kind words.
To the Doctors and Nurses, I say, Make us smile, hold, walk, see, talk again in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

May the blessing of the Almighty God be with you all.

from Bami Seydou
on behalf of my son Yemi Seydou

This letter leaves me speechless. It is a wonderful encouragement for the crew as we come down to our final two months here in Liberia. Thank you for your continued support and interest. Without you, we wouldn't be able to do the work that we do here in Liberia. God bless.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Dreaming For A Brighter Future...

We had Bible Study out at New Matadi orphanage again on Wednesday night (24th September) and it was a really good, building time. We discussed Matthew 20 and then chatted about our dreams and ambitions. It was amazing to hear their goals. A couple of our guys want to become medical doctors; another wants to become the President of the Republic of Liberia. Some want to enter engineering; another agriculture or computers.

But what also came out of this discussion was a glimpse into their pasts. At least two (of the seven present) have lost their fathers in the civil war. One of the guys who has dreams of becoming a medical doctor would like to do it to honour his parents, both of whom he lost contact with during the war. One can guess what happened in this case. It is so unfathomable to understand what these young men have gone through, unless you've lived through a civil war yourself. And yet hope and a genuine desire for a peaceful, stable future remain. No desire for revenge.

In such a situation one must ackowledge the challenges and obstacles faced by these young men. They are hoping to obtain scholarships or find financial supporters to help them fulfill their dreams. And it won't be easy. The world may try to crush these dreams, pull them down, through situations and circumstances. But it is important to keep hope alive; to keep one's dreams alive. Step out in faith, trust in God, and go out and be an encouragement and a support.

“Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you
the desires of your heart.”
(Psalm 37: 4 NIV)

So I guess if I have a message to share it's to go out and be an encouragement. And if you have a dream then don't become bogged down or stuck in an unreal world; rather go out and take action. If it's a dream that brings honour and glory to God, then go for it. And most of all be an encouragement to those who have dreams. Keep hope alive; keep dreams alive.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Ducor Palace Hotel...

Yesterday afternoon I was also able to fulfill one of the objectives I've had for a while now. To visit the ruined Ducor Palace Hotel. I always say I'll visit it. But I always end up putting it off. So it was about time I went to this towering reminder of the destruction of war.

So a small group of us headed out to Ducor Hotel. It is the large building perched on the hill overlooking the city and the Freeport of Monrovia. It was built in 1974, but during the Civil War this former 5-star hotel fell into disrepair and ruin. It is now nothing more than an empty shell, used for various aerials and the main radio antenna for UNMIL (United Nations Mission In Liberia) Radio. It is another startling tragedy of war, like the Hydro-Electric Plant mentioned in an earlier post.

But Ducor Hotel does still have amazing views of Monrovia and the Freeport – and, of course, my beautiful home. It was also great to gain some perspective on Monrovia – to see the city from the sky. It was a wonderful, sunny day. This warm weather added to the spectacular views. You could see miles and miles of Monrovia and the surrounding districts.

So ends another good weekend here in Liberia. One week closer to my departure from this beautiful place. Twelve weeks tomorrow until I leave. I'm going to make the most of this time I have left. As I have been reminded over and over again this past week:

“Don't wait for tomorrow when today's opportunities are a knocking at your door.”

God's Children's Home...

This past Saturday (13th September) was a very busy, but fulfilling day. I woke up feeling a bit under the weather, but I had committed to drive a group out to the new site of God's Children's Home in Dixville in the morning.

So after taking a right turn just before the bustling Duala Market and then onto some rough terrain for several kms, we pulled up outside God's Children's Home. We caught Ilna, an ex-Mercy Shipper who helps run the orphanage, by surprise as she thought we weren't coming out due to a lack of numbers. But we improvised well and there was a good lesson taught on being athletes for God. We then had several mini-Olympic events including hula-hooping, kicking a soccer ball blindfolded, and a running race. It was great fun. It is also great to see how eager these little boys and girls are to learn God's Word.

The little children really love their new location. The orphanage used to be in Jamaica Road, a short 15 minute walk from the ship, but is now much further out. They have their own garden to grow vegetables and lots of space to play. And whilst they help farm and play together, the construction of the site continues.

The photos here are courtesy of Maria and were taken a few weeks back when we went and helped with the building process – before the children were moved from the old site. The building process is now nearly complete.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Tim's Farewell Dinner...

On Friday night (5th September), after an intense game of Ultimate Frisbee, a small group of good friends (Tim, Maria, Josh, Becky, Katy, Grace and yours truly) headed out to the Great Wall, a Chinese restaurant in the Sinkor area of Monrovia.

We each ordered a different dish and then placed the plates of food on a revolving glass in the centre of the table. We then had a lovely shared supper, taking off each other's plates and eating with chopsticks. It was a great time together.

Although the circumstances that brought it about could have been better. Two of my good friends here, Tim and Josh, left this past weekend. So it was a farewell for them.

I've realised how important it is to have close friends here. And it is sad when they leave, but I've got the coping mechanisms in place now. Here are some photos from this fun evening.

Highly Trained and Professional...

Last Sunday evening (31st August) I was down in the Ward with a patient whose story I'm writing. Now for those of you who are curious, the Ward is located down on Deck 3. There is only one accommodation deck below, which only has about ten or so cabins. It is then primarily engine spaces and cold storage and the like. So you're pretty low down. Certainly quite a way from Deck 7.

So I was sitting with the patient and his mother when suddenly the Crew Alert Alarm went off, and all the fire doors around began to close. I dashed through a closing fire door and sprinted the four decks to my muster station, Fire Control, on the Bridge. I man the Fire Panel in the event of an emergency. I don't even remember how I got there. I don't remember my route. It was all adrenalin. I just found myself up on Deck 7 in no time at all. Whilst standing-by, the PA system came on and it was the Duty Officer:

“There was a fire on-board, but it is out. All Emergency Teams stand-down. Again, there was a fire on-board, but it is out. All Emergency Teams stand-down.”

The fire was in the Snack Bar where some boxes of potato chips were too close to the lights. The heat had ignited the box. A quick-thinking person had hit a manual-call point (which sets off the Crew Alert Alarm) while another equally quick-thinking person had doused the flames with water.

It was just great to see how well trained our Emergency Teams are. The way we responded by getting to our muster stations quickly was just so professional. One of my good friends here had already got to his muster station and was already kitted out in full fire-fighting gear by the time the call came to stand-down.

Another thing this situation showed me is just how unfit I am. I may have got to the Bridge in quick time, but I really felt the effects of my mad dash. As soon as the call to stand-down came, I realised how much I was puffing and panting. It is definitely time for a more stringent exercise routine!
The photos here are from January when I was helping my friend Marius check the safety equipment in the Fire Stations.

Victory at SKD...

Last Saturday (30th August) Mercy Ships were again invited to play soccer at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex (SKD).

Back in July we played the same team, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and lost 3-0.

But this time, thanks to some enterprising play and resolute defence, we came out victorious 2-1! Our two-goal hero, Enoch Yeboah, was named Man Of The Match.

After a goalless first-half some may have had doubts about whether Mercy Ships were going to be able to be effective in the second-half. It was 0-0 at half-time the last time the teams met as well. And we all know what happened then. But the second-half saw Team Mercy Ships come alive... It was definitely a match to remember!

Team Mercy Ships may be in action at SKD at least once more before we sail away from Liberia. This will be the decider. I'll be there to let you know how it goes!