Saturday, 30 May 2009

Jamie departs...

Today Jamie left to go home to Oklahoma City. I had the honour (and I do consider it an honour) of driving Jamie to Cape Town International Airport. The photo here is of the two of us at the airport earlier today. The reason this meant so much to me was that in Liberia (and if you knew me from those days you'll agree) I was a Ship's Driver and whenever a good friend left I would make it my mission to drive him or her to the airport. This was a coping mechanism for me to deal with all the sad farewells that become a part of everyday ship life. It also enabled an additional hour-and-a-half of quality time together on the long drive to Roberts International Airport, Monrovia.

With Jamie it wasn't really sad because I know I'll see her exactly three weeks from today, when she picks me up in Dallas enroute to the Mercy Ships International Operations Centre and the Gateway course. It's been a great two months getting to know a new friend in my hometown - and becoming a tourist in my own backyard! Safe travels home Jamie!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Counting down...

As I sit here at my laptop late on a Thursday night it is pouring outside and there are the sounds and flashes of an approaching thunder and lightning storm. This weekend sees another large cold front come through bringing lots of rain and even some snow to the high-lying regions of the Western Cape. It's that time of the year again here in Cape Town, South Africa. And so I am thankful to be wrapped up warm and to be sipping a hot chocolate while I type.

But I will not be subject to this cold winter weather for much longer. Soon I will be in the heat of the Texan summer, and I've been told to bring plenty of t-shirts and general summer clothing. It is now under two-and-a-half weeks until I board a flight to Heathrow and then connect to Chicago and Dallas. The countdown is really on. And I am so excited!

Yesterday (Wednesday) I worked my final day at Global Migration SA, and it was a great four months working for this company. I gained experience and was often challenged (always a good thing) in the corporate world. But now it is time to move on. And then this weekend (on Saturday) my good friend Jamie also leaves Cape Town to spend a few weeks back home in Oklahoma City before the Gateway course. It'll be different from so many of the often painful ship goodbyes, in that I will see her again three weeks from Saturday!

So now with this countdown comes a time of preparation. I have a couple of prescribed books to read and need to do some souvenir shopping. But more than that, I've got to prepare my heart for what's in store for me over the next couple of months. God bless!

Monday, 25 May 2009


When I thought about this post late yesterday it was going to be positive. I had a couple of great chats on Skype with two really good friends from Mercy Ships last year. I saw a friend from England yesterday morning who I only see once a year. I spoke to my mentor on Friday night and did lunch with another friend on Saturday. It was a great weekend of catching up with old friends. But when I was thinking about that I hadn't yet received the first bad news of the weekend.

A couple of events happened that rocked my world this weekend. They didn't happen to me, but they involve people I care about. The first incident happened on Saturday night to a friend who's in my cell group. A fire destroyed his room and all his possessions. He escaped with third degree burns to his hands, but unfortunately both his dogs died in the blaze. And then last night one of my really close friends was pulling into her driveway after church (I'd seen her 15 minutes beforehand) and a couple of guys robbed her at gunpoint. They made her lie on the pavement (sidewalk) while they stole everything she had on her. This makes me so angry! But praise God that physically she's fine, although obviously shaken. So it has been quite a rough weekend.

It just made me see things again from a different perspective. How often I worry about me and how bad I perceive things to be in my life (the past week had not been the best week for me), and then these events happen which leave me shell-shocked and thinking, "Wow. I am speechless. I am stunned." I'm not saying that my struggles and issues at this time are any less valid, but it certainly showed me that there are things that are happening that are so much bigger than my own struggles. And of course God is bigger than any of our struggles and is in control of every situation. Please keep both of my friends in your prayers at this difficult time. Many thanks.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Cape Town - Not just a perfect holiday destination...

Well, since I'm bored and not doing much, I thought I'd update my blog... But not really an update on my life itself. I can sum that up in one sentence: Things are going well and I only have three weeks left in Cape Town before I head to the USA for my Mercy Ships long-term training. So now I thought I'd introduce you to Cape Town and a few images of my hometown. I wrote this piece for my company but thought I'd put it here as well. It's aimed at selling Cape Town as not just a great holiday destination - but actually a great place to live too.

Cape Town, South Africa. The thought of this place conjures up awe-inspiring images of the mighty Table Mountain, the breathtaking Chapman’s Peak Drive, and Robben Island, notorious as the island prison that held Nelson Mandela and many other political prisoners during the apartheid regime. But Cape Town is not just a perfect holiday destination with many tourist attractions. A thriving place both for industry and business, Cape Town is an ideal place to live, not just to visit.

Affectionately known by locals as the Mother City, in reference to the city’s place as the oldest town in South Africa, Cape Town is located at the south-western tip of the African continent. Cape Town is situated in an area known for its mild weather and favourable climate. The Western Cape has a Mediterranean climate, characterised by warm summers and mild, wet winters (summer temperatures peak at around 30 degrees Celcius and in winter the daily temperature is around 15 degrees Celcius).

Apart from this attractive climate, there is also a vibrant culture in the Mother City. There is the Cape Minstrel Festival on “Tweede Nuwe Jaar” (Afrikaans: “Second New Year”, the 2nd of January). This annual festival sees some 13,000 minstrels (part of local troupes) take to the streets dressed in bright clothes and playing various musical instruments. This is one of the many highlights of Cape Town. Cape Town is indeed a kaleidoscope of cultures, with descendants of Malay slaves and European settlers living side by side with African (Xhosa and Zulu) locals. The Bo Kaap in upper Cape Town is a particularly colourful area, as are the sprawling townships on the Cape Flats. Seeing these areas is a definite must for both local and tourist alike, as is sampling the vast variety of local cuisine.

Cape Town is a major sporting centre of South Africa, with international sports stadiums like Newlands Rugby Stadium, Sahara Park Newlands (cricket), Athlone Soccer Stadium as well as the under-construction 2010 FIFA World Cup stadium at Green Point. There are many cricket, rugby and soccer clubs that are based in the Cape region. The Cape Peninsula hosts the Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour, the world’s largest-timed cycling event (some 35,000 participants), and the Two Oceans Marathon. Many fine schools and tertiary institutions are also based in the Cape Town area. The University of Cape Town is a world-renowned place of higher education, nestled on the slopes of Devil’s Peak.

Business, technology and a world-class infrastructure make Cape Town an ideal place for investment and economic opportunity too. Many companies have their headquarters in Cape Town’s Central Business District and Cape Town also boasts important links to the world through the Port of Cape Town, South Africa’s second busiest port after Durban, and Cape Town International Airport, which has flights departing direct to destinations in Europe and America. An effective road and rail network also links Cape Town with the rest of the country.

Steeped in history with a rich natural and cultural heritage, and a world-class infrastructure, why not consider settling in Cape Town today?

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Camping and Cape Agulhas...

This past weekend was a good one. I had Friday and Monday off from work as I had some paid leave owed to me before I leave the company at the end of this month. My sister, Debbie, and a group of her friends were travelling out to Montagu, a country town a couple of hours drive from Cape Town, for a weekend of camping and fun. Although Cape Town was bracing for one of the first winter storms, we decided to continue with our plans. And as Debs had a couple of spots free in her car I decided to ask my Mercy Ships friend Jamie and her Child Life colleague from Boston, Danielle, if they were keen to come along. Dani also has a great blog which chronicles her time in Cape Town at

I picked up the girls from the Red Cross Children's Hospital shortly after lunch on Friday and then drove home. Debs then picked us up there with all our camping equipment and we drove the 200 or so kilometres to Montagu, travelling on the N1 national road (which links Cape Town to Johannesburg) and through the Huguenot toll tunnel, an eleven-kilometre long tunnel that goes right under the Drakenstein Mountains. We reached the peaceful town of Montagu in the dark after 18h00 and pitched tents and had a braai (barbecue) for supper.

On Saturday morning there was the Mountain Mania festival at the Montagu Hotsprings and while Danielle did the ten-kilometre trail run and Jamie the four-kilometre fun run, Debs and I ate bacon and egg sandwiches by the hot springs. It was cold and wet and I wasn't feeling as brave as the two girls! After swimming in the lovely warm natural spring waters bubbling up from the ground and sitting having lunch, we all made our way back to the campsite. The rain really started to come down in the afternoon, and so Jamie, Dani and myself sat in the car chatting and drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows before relocating to their tent where the three of us played a really fun camp game that required a lot of thought. (And which left me pretty tired by the time the game had finished!) Dani gave Jamie and I a statement which comes at the end of a story (we were given the statement, "If he had seen the dust, he would not have wanted to kill himself") and then we had to figure out what happened. What is the dust? Why is it that had the man saw it he wouldn't have killed himself? You ask Yes or No questions that eventually lead you to the answers and reveal the full story. It's quite a complicated story, but we eventually managed to undercover enough clues to get to the truth. It was quite fun hanging out in the tent all warm and dry and listening to the rain pattering on the canvas. In the evening we went to a quaint little restaurant for supper, and then drove back to camp before 22h00 and headed to bed shortly afterwards. We were all pretty beat.

Sunday was probably my favourite day of the weekend. We packed up camp and then the four of us (Debs, Jamie, Dani, me) drove down towards the southern-most tip of the African Continent, Cape Agulhas. It was a great time of roadtripping and sharing stories as we drove to the place where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans officially meet. We got out and stood on both the Indian and Atlantic side of Africa and then drove a little way along to one of the many shipwrecks that litter this treacherous coastline. I've always had a deep fascination with shipwrecks - ever since I was a little boy. We then drove back to the lighthouse at Cape Agulhas and enjoyed the museum and shop and exploring this beacon of hope and safety to many ships over the past 160 years (the lighthouse was built in 1849 and is the second-oldest lighthouse on the South African coast).

We then drove along some beautiful winding roads overlooking the sea and through many coastal villages and towns on our way home towards Cape Town, including such places as Gansbaai, Stanford, Hermanus, Kleinmond, Betty's Bay and Gordon's Bay before we joined the N2 national road (linking Cape Town with Durban on the east coast) in Somerset West. We got home at around 16h30 and I then drove the girls back to their flat (apartment) in Cape Town. It was a great day but I am now (at the time of writing this - Sunday at 21h45) fading fast. I'll sleep well (and late) tonight - and it is nice that I am off work tomorrow, because I definitely need the sleep! Here are some more photos of today's roadtrip to Agulhas.

Fishing boats in harbour at Struisbaai, near Cape Agulhas

Jamie and Dani in a fishing boat at Struisbaai

Being blown off the spot where the two oceans meet

Jamie and I at the southern-most tip of the African continent

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

A new look, but still the same adventure...

After having the same blog design for the past 18 or more months, I decided it was definitely time for an upgrade. So here is the new look Murray's Mercy Ship Adventure. Still the same adventure, just a new look as my thoughts turn towards these next few months. Keep posted for more!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Approaching the summit...

Just over two months ago I wrote a blog entry( about how it seemed as if I was facing insurmountable obstacles. Or rather, insurmountable in the world's eyes. And yet in this uncertain time with economies in turmoil and the global recession, I can be certain of God and His plan for my life.

He has come through in remarkable ways in the past two months. I have seen these obstacles crumble as God is in control. He has provided me with so many confirmations that there is no reason for doubt. This is God's call on my life.

So with that being said I can now tell you the plan ahead for the next few months. I will be travelling to Texas in mid-June and then after a few days in Dallas, I will be going to the Mercy Ships International Operations Centre in Garden Valley, Texas, for the Gateway training course - the prerequisite training for long-term crew. Once the course ends I will have a few days in the USA, spent primarily with friends in Oklahoma City, before flying back to Cape Town at the end of July.

After a month at home I will then head back to the M/V Africa Mercy in Cotonou, Benin, at the beginning of September. I will initially serve in Reception (man, I've missed that Fire Panel!) and then transfer to the Communications department as a Writer onboard from February 2010 onwards.

So that is what my itinerary looks like over the next few months. But despite the busyness of it all I am constantly amazed by God's provision. I managed to raise enough for my US airfares as well as the Gateway course fees and the cost of the US visa. God has been so faithful. And I am so thankful to those who have given both financially or in prayer. I've really appreciated it!

Two months ago I was standing in front of a huge mountain. I was wondering how it would all happen. Today I am approaching the summit - with God's help.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Another fun long weekend...

This weekend is the last long weekend in a long while. South Africa has had around five public holidays in the last month or so, resulting in three long weekends in the past four weeks. In fact, the last time we had a five day working week was the week of the 30th March to the 3rd of April. These next few weeks are going to feel like an eternity in comparison to the month of April!

It was nice to have a great couple days spending time with good friends again. I had initially thought of heading to Cape Point Nature Reserve yesterday but then an sms (or text message) received earlier in the week quickly put those plans to death. It was from Lee and Dana De La Rue, inviting me to a Mercy Ships braai at their place out in Kraaifontein. Spending time with former crew members always takes priority over any other plans.

Lee was the Chief Officer of the Africa Mercy and Dana was a primary care giver onboard and they are both amazing people and good friends to me. Knowing that some former Mercy Ships crew members would be there, I also invited my friend Jamie (who's doing Gateway and Mercy Ships with me in June/July) as it would be useful for her to get tips and hear stories from some of the South African Mercy Ships contingent. It was great to see the De La Rues again (and their children Emily and Lucy and the new arrival, six-week old Judah Luke), as well as Katherine Spindler (Academy teacher) and Cindy Hawkins (Receptionist), and have a lovely meal together and reminisce over memories and stories from the past years. Good times. The first photo above was taken last December in the Dining Room of the Africa Mercy of myself and the De La Rue family. The second photo is Emily and Jamie taken last night.

Then tonight my Dad and I took Jamie and her Child Life friend Danielle to a Cape Town - and indeed South African - tradition. A rugby match at Newlands Rugby Stadium. The Cape side, the Stormers, were playing the Waikato Chiefs of New Zealand in the southern hemisphere's largest rugby competition, the Vodacom Super 14. This tournament sees provincial teams facing each other from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. It was a great time, although the Stormers did lose the match 28 - 14. It's always nice to introduce traditional South African sports such as rugby to Americans who are not familiar with it. And it's also a great cultural experience in the rugby stands, with all the different accents and languages and cultures!