Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Here for you...

When I first came to Mercy Ships back in 2007 and certainly early in 2008 I struggled to view myself as being a missionary while working in the Reception department on a ship. I was not on the so-called "front-lines". I wasn't working in the Hospital, where the nurses and doctors have daily interaction with patients. The extent of my serving the poor and needy in West Africa seemed to be when I adopted a patient in the Mercy Ships "Adopt-A-Patient" programme. This was one of the few opportunities I really got to serve the people. That was my early experience in Liberia. Later on I got more involved with the New Matadi Orphanage in Monrovia. A group of dedicated crew members would lead a Bible Study there every Wednesday evening. That was a special time.

But on the ship I still struggled to see myself as a missionary. However, God has begun to shift my perspective. And especially this past year, going to America for Gateway last June/July and then on to the ship in September, He has continued to reveal to me that my role on the ship is my primary ministry - and it carries the same weight as that of a nurse or a doctor. I may work onboard the ship and have limited opportunities to get out and visit orphanages - or head down to the Hospital for that matter - but the Reception department is where I am a missionary.

Reception is a very public ministry. Crew members on the ship whose names I do not know, somehow seem to know my name! I've got to allow God to use this to His advantage. Yes, crew members know my name. Now I need to know their names. So often showing an interest in people's lives and asking questions like "How's your day going?" really do lighten up a person's day. Praying for situations, such as a medical emergency, as I sit at the desk, is also a way in which Reception is part of the ministry. Even a smile can turn a dark day to a bright one. I've seen it happen.

I may not minister to those in the Hospital, those in need of physical healing, but I do minister to the crew of the Africa Mercy. I am here for you.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Happy Birthday AFM!

Today marks the Africa Mercy's 11th birthday. It was on this day eleven years ago, Thursday 25th March 1999, that Mercy Ships took ownership of the then Dronning Ingrid. And so begun the conversion of a Danish rail-ferry into the world's largest non-governmental hospital ship.

These are some photos which I snatched off the Transfer Drive a couple of years ago, and have now discovered on my laptop again. I wish I could take credit for these photos, but alas they are not mine. They were taken back in September 1999. But what they do show is the amazing transformation that the AFM underwent to become what she is today - a wonderful tool that God has used (and is using) to touch the peoples of Liberia, Benin and Togo.

Long may God continue to bless the Africa Mercy and all who serve on her, from the Dining Room steward to the Captain. May God bless those who support the ministry of the ship herself and of Mercy Ships in general - whether it is the staff at the International Operations Centre and other home offices, or our international donors and supporters. And may God bless the people of Africa and those we come into contact with on a daily basis. For they are the reason that we are here.

Happy birthday Africa Mercy and long may you continue to touch those in need of hope and healing.

This is Deck 3. Back in those days a railway track ran down the length of the ship. Today this is where life-changing surgeries are performed on a daily basis!

This is the Africa Mercy as she is today. Long may God bless her!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

I'm Back!

After being dropped at Cape Town International Airport by my parents and nephews late on Tuesday afternoon, I soon found myself safely through check-in and security and on a South African Airways domestic flight headed to Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. I was able to check my bag straight through to Accra in Ghana and check-in for all flights at the SAA counter in Cape Town, which made things a lot less stressful in Jo'burg - all I had to do there was pass immigration and security again. So late on Tuesday evening I boarded my SAA flight from Jo'burg to Accra via Lagos. After an uneventful flight I landed in Accra at 05h00 on Wednesday morning, a full 45 minutes ahead of the scheduled arrival time.

A friend met me at the airport in Accra and kindly arranged transport to the Togo border. And so by 11h00 I was passing through the border and, after another much shorter taxi ride, I was safely back onboard the Africa Mercy in Lome, just in time for lunch.

The first few days back have been extremely busy, because I have been playing catch-up and readjusting to being behind the front desk again. But it has also been lovely to reconnect with my Mercy Ships friends who I truly missed when I was back home in Cape Town. The genuine friendships you make here are one of the aspects that really make living in a Christian community such a beautiful thing.

Reflecting back on my time in Cape Town, I can truly say it was a wonderful, much-needed break. I was able to accomplish a lot, but also take some time to reevaluate my life and where God is leading me. I spent lovely time with my family and saw many of my closest friends. I was able to relax in some pretty spectacular scenery, like Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, and cycle many rides around Cape Town, including the Argus Cycle Tour. It was a perfect break and I come back to the ship rejuvenated and ready for the next few months here in Togo. The photos here are some of my favourites from my trip to Cape Town.

Keep posted for more regular posts... Until next time, God bless!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Biking round the Cape Peninsula...

This past Sunday I cycled my 20th consecutive Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour. I rode with my dad and brother and we cycled the whole route together. It was my dad's 19th tour and my brother's 21st tour. Here is a photo of the three of us together at the start.

The sun was shining on race day, but despite the sun there was a strong wind blowing from the south-east. The Cape Doctor, the local name for the south-easterly wind, (because the south-easter blows away all the fog and pollution out of the city) was certainly not going to let cyclists have an easy day! What follows is a general route description with some of my favourite photos from these areas of Cape Town. The photo here is a basic route map (not to scale). The ride starts at the top of the image (the centre of Cape Town) and winds along the route in a more-or-less clockwise direction.

Having heard the starter's gun, cyclists set out from the start under Cape Town's Civic Centre up the first climb of Eastern Boulevard to Hospital Bend. From there the route winds down towards the south peninsula, passing the University of Cape Town nestled on the slopes of Devil's Peak, before coming to Wynberg Hill. This is the start in Hertzog Boulevard.

From the top of Wynberg Hill it's a lovely downhill section along the M3 Freeway, also called the Blue Route, before tackling the climb of Boyes Drive above Muizenberg and Kalk Bay. After nearly 40 kms of cycling you'll reach Simon's Town, the home of South Africa's navy, and a few kilometres later you make the turn up Smitswinkel towards Cape Point. It's always a nice feeling when you reach this point after around 50 kms, because the wind (if it's a south-easter) is now at your back for the second half of the ride. Pictured here is Simon's Town.

The race breezes down past the seaside conservation villages of Scarborough and Misty Cliffs and then heads towards the first of the two major climbs of the day. The breathtaking Chapman's Peak Drive (hereafter Chappies) comes after around 75 kms and winds from sea-level at Noordhoek to some 300 metres above sea-level above Hout Bay. If you still have the strength and energy then be sure to enjoy the views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It is no surprise that this coastal road is one of the most scenic drives in the world. Photo here of Chapman's Peak.

Having summitted Chappies, you can now free-wheel down to Hout Bay, but remember to conserve energy for the gruelling climb of Suikerbossie (Afrikaans: "little sugar bush") just ahead. Conquer this climb and you're pretty much home, as once over the top of Suikerbossie it is a mere 15 kms to the finish-line in the shadow of Cape Town's 2010 World Cup stadium at Green Point. This is the view towards the Sentinel (the prominent mountain dropping down to the water at left of shot) and Hout Bay from the top of Chappies.

So, after 109 kms of wonderful scenery and cycling amongst God's creation, my Dad, brother and myself all finished together in a time of 4hrs 53 minutes. It was one of my best Argus Cycle Tours simply because I cycled with family the whole way, had no major mechanical or accident issues, was relatively fit and didn't cramp (I managed to get out on the bike for five decent training rides in the past two weeks I was in Cape Town - not to mention the cycling I did in Tenerife), and cycled the tour in Mercy Ships colours to create awareness for the ministry in which I serve. And that is why I am thankful.

Later on today (Tuesday, 16th March) I fly out to Ghana and then make my way to Togo to rejoin my Mercy Ships family. Please pray for safe travels - thanks! Much love, Murray

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Official story...

Click here to access the Mercy Ships Southern Africa site and look on the right for an edited version of the below Cycling for Mercy post.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

2010 Cycling for Mercy...

The Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour is the world's largest-timed cycling event, attracting some 35,000 cyclists, and taking in some of Africa's most scenic roads along a 109 kilometre route around Cape Town's Cape Peninsula. From your rookie riders aiming to finish under the cut-off time of seven hours, to those elite riders racing for the victory in some 2 hours 30 minutes, the event attracts a diverse crowd of cyclists.

I am one of those cyclists who will be doing South Africa's premier race on Sunday 14th March. It will be my twentieth consecutive tour, which is quite a feat considering I am only 26 years old!

For many years my cycling was all about the competition, beating personal bests and improving my seeding for future events. But then God used my cycling to call me into missions. I'll never forget that day early in 2007 when I was cycling along and God spoke to me through a friend those words that deep down in my heart I needed to hear: “I feel God telling me that He wants you to serve Him on the Mercy Ship”. The rest, as they say, is history.

Since that day I decided to dedicate my cycling to God and to ride the Argus Cycle Tour to create awareness for Mercy Ships. This started small in 2007 when I returned from Liberia and rode my 18th tour, with a flag and a Mercy Ships t-shirt. Now, I have returned from the ship currently docked in Togo for a brief two-week visit, and will be riding my 20th tour with a much larger Mercy Ships flag. I have had official Mercy Ships cycling gear made, and will be taking my time around the route – enjoying the scenery and talking to fellow cyclists about the message of Mercy Ships.

And with the strong possibility of the world's largest non-governmental hospital ship (and my floating home), the Mercy Ships flagship M/V Africa Mercy, visiting South Africa for several months towards the end of this year, my prayer is that through my “Cycling for Mercy” campaign God would place a hunger in people's hearts to hear about Mercy Ships and the message of hope and healing that we bring.

(Photos here of me in my first-ever Argus and then again last year in preparation for the Tour.)

Monday, 1 March 2010


I haven't shared here how God provided for me in the last few days before I came back to South Africa. Well, I think I should as it is pretty amazing and there is now a remarkable twist to that tale!

Initially I was only meant to be arriving in Cape Town on Thursday, the 4th of March. This would mean leaving on Wednesday, 3rd March. I wasn't too happy about travelling to Ghana on my own in the middle of the week, the day before the Togo national elections. There were rumours that the borders could be closed and there are some travel restrictions in effect. And so I investigated with my travel agent regarding changing my ticket to get into South Africa the weekend before. The only problem was that as I was wanting to bring my flights earlier at such short notice, this would cost a rather hefty amount of money: in the region of R 2,000 (about USD $ 250).

I was rather uncomfortable spending this amount as it would put my finances under serious strain over the next few months - but I really wanted these tickets. So I sent out a prayer request to some friends on the ship. And just like that, the money appeared! I was able to change my flights and get into Cape Town a full five days earlier than initially planned!

But now here comes the twist! It just so happened that a couple of my closest friends, Brad and Lydia, who live in East London (South Africa) were in Cape Town for a wedding this past weekend. The very same weekend that I arrived in Cape Town. The last time I saw them was in December 2008 when I was at their wedding. And to top it off, Brad and Lydia were instrumental in making me take that step and follow God's call into Mercy Ships. In fact, God used them in the moment that changed my life forever. The moment where God used my passion for cycling to push me into missions. You can read the full story here.

So we were able to connect and spend most of Sunday together relaxing and catching up. We went out to Stellenbosch, a quaint university town in the Wine Route region of the Western Cape, and had a lovely picnic by the side of a river. It was such a blessing seeing Brad and Lyds before they flew back to East London in the afternoon - one which I definitely would have missed had God not provided the funds to change flights. God has an amazing way of blessing his children! And I am so very thankful!