Tuesday, 27 October 2009

An Apology...

When I left the ship last year I didn't know if or when I would be coming back to Mercy Ships. But God works in mysterious ways and before long I found myself called back to my floating home.

While I was in South Africa and later doing the Gateway course people on the ship talked about me - in a good way. They were excited for my return. I had left a lasting legacy. I even found a sign outside my cabin door upon my return which stated "The Legend Returns." This is all great and I really appreciate that people were happy to see me back again. But I'm not sure how much of a "legend" I am.

The problem is that I find the person who I am this year is not who I was last year. Thus I cannot live up to the perception of who I should be and how I should act. The stories that have been told about me belong to a Murray that is in the past. And I am here now. So what is different nowadays?

I find myself a lot more serious this year. I am more rule-oriented (some may say too rule-oriented) and even more conscious of the responsibilities behind the Reception desk. I get frustrated when my plans don't work. (Then again, they should probably be God's plans and not my plans.) I'm far from "the face of Mercy Ships" or "Mr. Mercy Ships" that some people call me here. I find it is a difficult line to tread being a Team Leader and also a friend. Sometimes I offend my friends in the course of my work. I tread on toes. I hate it. I love doing what I do here in Reception but often I have to make the unpopular choice. Asking people to be quiet in Reception is one of those choices. Maybe people don't understand the reasons behind it. That's fine. I'm not here to argue. I only ask for a little respect for the on-duty Receptionist. I pray that people will have the grace to forgive me and to understand the position I am sometimes in - when I do step on toes.

And so because of this I feel I am not living up to the standard of what people expected me to be. And I don't have to. That's fine. I'm not here to impress people - although I do hope to make friends and solidify existing friendships along the way. What I am is a man who is trying to be all that God created me to be. I may not be there yet, but this journey called life is a learning process. And one day I'll get there.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Our Reception Team...

Here are the lovely guys and girls who man the Fire Panel, answer internal and external phone calls, embark and disembark crew, make overhead PA calls, as well as a multitude of other tasks. I am privileged to work with such a great team! Left to Right: James (Canada), Tim (USA - Assistant Purser), Leah (USA), Rob (UK - Staff Purser), Heather (USA), Me (South Africa), Hannah (USA) and Ryan (USA). Our wonderful Day Volunteer, James (Benin), is missing from the shot.

But a word of warning... make too much noise in Reception and prepare to be dinged! This is not because we don't like you, but rather due to the fact that we need to be able to hear the ship's emergency systems should an issue arise. So if you get dinged, know that we're actually friendly people who care about your safety!

Photos here thanks to my good friend Ali.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

My New Cabin...

Last week I was given the opportunity to move into a three-berth cabin. I have either been in a six-berth or a four-berth cabin over the 14 months I've spent with Mercy Ships through 2007, 2008 and 2009. So I was not going to let this blessing get away!

My new cabin is cabin 4330 on Deck 4, port side. I'll give you a very brief tour of my space. As you enter the cabin there is a corridor going down towards the ship's hull. My cubicle is the first one on your left (after the bathroom) as you enter the cabin. I have my very own bed (not a bunk) and desk, as well as plenty of storage space. There is a wooden wardrobe and two large drawers under the bed. Here are some photos.

This is my bed - note the photos of home on the wall. It's always nice to have some memories to put up on my wall.

As we swing around my cupboard comes into view.

And here's my desk and some more shelves for storing books and DVDs. Also note the Cape Town calendar on the wall.

And finally we look out towards the large curtain that separates my cubicle from the rest of the cabin.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Allez les Ecureuils!

Or "Go Squirrels!" This was the phrase going round Cotonou when the Squirrels of Benin took on the Black Stars of Ghana in a FIFA 2010 World Cup Qualifier this past weekend. And whilst this match meant nothing as far as World Cup qualifiers are concerned (Ghana are already through to South Africa 2010, while Benin were knocked out in the last round of matches), it did count towards the African Cup of Nations in Angola next year.

I joined a group of good friends (all donned in yellow Benin soccer shirts) in going to watch this international football match. We were at the stadium a full two hours before kick-off and sat in our plastic seats soaking up the atmosphere and colour of a vibrant crowd. Behind us sat a band consisting of trumpet, shakers, djembe drums, and other instruments seldom seen in a full orchestra. They played the whole game, and despite the noise, this really added to the football extravaganza.

The crowd itself was really well-behaved, closely watched by a large contingent of riot police and army troops. The match kicked off at 16h00 local time and from the start it was evident that Ghana did not have their hearts in the game. They were playing to prevent injury, while the hosts were playing to secure a spot in the African Cup of Nations. Benin pressed Ghana throughout the match, and after countless opportunities, Benin scored the winning goal off the post in second-half injury time.

And the stadium, frustrated due to some squandered opportunities mixed with the heroics of the Ghanaian keeper, erupted in rejoicing. Allez les Ecureuils echoed round the field. Driving back home one would have thought Benin had won the World Cup... The roads were full of people waving Beninoise flags and celebrating a victory over their much-fancied West African rivals. But more than that, Benin had qualified for the 2010 African Cup of Nations.

The capacity-filled stadium.

Giant Beninoise flag pulled over the fans.

The stadium erupts after the winning goal.

Fans and supporters storm the pitch on the final whistle.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Now I've Seen It All...

On the way to the FIFA World Cup Qualifier between Benin and Ghana earlier today I snapped this photo of goats being transported on a zimi-djon (motorbike). I felt this photo merited its very own entry.

There were six goats and they were all very much alive. Again, certainly not animal-friendly transportation! More on the match (which Benin won 1 - 0) later this week.

Fire Drill Thursdays...

Every so often we do drills here on the ship in order to keep the crew well-trained in the event of an emergency situation. Fire Teams and other emergency groups will respond in a real situation as their training has taught them. Thus, this training needs to be good and needs to simulate a real situation as closely as possible. And so scenarios are set-up that allow all emergency teams to gain practice and confidence in their respective roles.

The last fire drill we did simulated a weekend emergency when many crew members (and emergency team members) were off-ship. I was one of those emergency team members "scanned ashore" and thus had the afternoon off. It was my first fire drill I have had off in over 14 months (combined) with Mercy Ships. I watched the drill from the Bridge.

The teams did an outstanding job in "fighting a fire" with depleted emergency teams. Muster Control (Reception), where I usually muster, also did a great job in accounting for all crew and day volunteers quickly. Photos here of the muster on the dock courtesy of Rob Cairncross.

This is Muster Control at Reception.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


We had our departmental devotions yesterday and we watched a really good Nooma DVD by Rob Bell, Shells. In it he basically said that so often we can be so busy doing good deeds that we miss out on God's best for us.

Rob Bell used the example of how his family were at the beach one day, collecting shell fragments. While he was picking up bits of broken shells with his sons, a giant starfish floated by in the waves near the shore. Rob encouraged his son to go out and fetch the starfish. The boy would run out into the water, only to return empty-handed. This happened a number of times until Rob asked him why he wouldn't fetch the starfish. The son replied that it was because he would lose the shells in his hands if he picked it up.

So often we're so busy collecting broken shells that we miss our starfish. We don't want to let go of our commitments for fear of disappointing someone. We miss something amazing that God has in store because we're too caught up in the busyness of it all.

Often I've been really busy doing things that perhaps I've missed out on something so much better. This is especially applicable in community life - there's so much on the go that so often one can lose touch with God. Quiet times tend to go down the drain. It's all about finding a balance and prioritising time with God and time alone, away from the crowd.

My prayer today is that I may discover God's best for me. May I find and take my starfish. And may I never let it go.

Monday, 5 October 2009

So You Think You Can Dance?

So what do you do to entertain yourself in your time off on the ship? Well, some play sports; others play games; and still others watch DVDs. During the last month I've joined some old friends from last year in watching season five of So You Think You Can Dance. Last night we all dressed up and had a lovely sit down supper in the Queen's Lounge before watching the grand finale of the show. Here are some photos of this fun evening.

The room was really beautifully decorated. Thanks Meg and Jess! And thanks Jesse and Tim for the wonderful food!

Watching the final episode. It was intense.

Striking some awesome poses.

The cool kids.

Serious happy photo. We had to do one.