Tuesday, 20 July 2010

OM Ships through the eyes of a Mercy Shipper...

Operation Mobilisation is an interdenominational mission organisation that operate the M/V Logos Hope, a ship that sails the globe distributing books through their onboard book fair. They are also an entirely voluntary ministry that brings hope to many people, through the gift of reading and the knowledge that this brings.

Over the last three or so weeks the Logos Hope has been docked in Tema Port in Ghana, about four hours away from the Africa Mercy. When I first heard that this special ship would be so close to our ship, I made it my mission to go and see her and the work that Operation Mobilisation does through their floating book store.

And so this past weekend Phil and Ali and myself headed over the border to Ghana and travelled to the port in Tema. Here we met up with another Mercy Ships friend, Tim, who had taken vacation in Ghana, and the four of us spent most of Saturday and half of Sunday seeing the OM Ship and the work that they do. The photo here is of the ship's Reception area.

We were shown to our cabins and then had a lovely lunch in their dining room - where they have powdered milk that tastes like real milk, by the way (I had about four glasses of the good stuff). After lunch on Saturday we had a tour of the ship and were shown the Bridge, Engine Room, the Hope Theatre (a two-deck high theatre in the aft of the ship, fitted with real stage lights and A/V equipment), the book fair, and many other places of interest.

Paul, the First Engineer and our tour guide, had mentioned that they were rather short-staffed out by the gate where many people were waiting to come into the port area and see the book fair. Having all received crowd control training with Mercy Ships, the four of us unanimously volunteered to help lend a hand with the queues of eagerly-awaiting people. We donned orange security vests and went out to the front line. Here we interacted with the crowds, shared stories and laughed with the Ghanaian people.

This was such an awesome experience, just to be part of another floating mission aimed at bringing knowledge to the masses. It was especially special since on the Mercy Ship I work in a job which requires me to be in my office from 8 - 5, Monday to Friday. And while my role onboard as the Assistant Purser is very necessary and I do enjoy it, I do miss being able to get out from the ship and interact with the local community. I know that the OM people were very happy to have the extra numbers out in the lines - and we enjoyed the experience too. It was somewhat comparable to a screening day - although with perhaps less numbers and less desperation. Altogether, Saturday saw 7,944 people tour the ship's book store - a record for the Logos Hope. It's not often that you can say you worked with two ship-based mission organisations in the space of 24 hours!

Having helped for most of the afternoon, we returned to the ship for dinner and then spent some of the evening watching an event that the OM crew were putting on for the Ghanaian youth in the Hope Theatre. We then spent time relaxing and making new friends in the lovely Dining Room.

Sunday dawned with breakfast followed by a visit to the large book fair, the main ministry of OM Ships. The whole of Deck 4 is an amazing visitor experience, starting with the safety orientation in seats shaped like that of a lifeboat. From here you walk past a wall commemorating the history of OM Ships and then enter the book store. Their book store easily rivals that of Exclusive Books, one of the major book shop chains back in South Africa. You then walk through a section showing the story of the Prodigal Son in pictures and audio, and from here head into the International Cafe, where you can enjoy self-serve ice-cream and popcorn.

In the book fair I bought a number of items and then headed to the church service up in the Logos Lounge. They welcomed all Mercy Shippers in the congregation and then took an offering in aid of our upcoming generator replacement project, which was a really lovely expression of the mutual closeness and respect that there is between the two ship mission organisations.

And shortly after the service, having had a lovely time on the Logos Hope, it was time to head back to our own floating home docked a relatively short journey away. Before long we were walking up the gangway of the Africa Mercy, with plenty of gratitude for a lovely weekend with good friends and being able to see another ship ministry in operation. I'll remember my trip to the Logos Hope for some time to come.

Here are some more photos from our trip to the OM Ship...

This is the Bridge of the Logos Hope.

The Logos Lounge, where church services and other community events are held.

This is the awesome Hope Theatre.

The Dining Room - pretty similar to our set-up.

Our guest cabin - and note my Mercy Ships water-bottle, essential gear for any travels!

This is the entrance area of the book fair.

The seats where the safety orientation is held before entry into the book fair.

The wall chronicling OM Ships' history.

Books galore!

The story of the Prodigal Son.

In front of the Logos Hope.

At first glance you may mistake the OM Ship as the Mercy Ship or vice versa. They're very similar - both being converted ferries (the AFM was a rail ferry and the Logos Hope was a car ferry).

Monday, 19 July 2010

A little taste of heaven...

"It's lovely to have a little taste of heaven again."

These were the words of a departing surgeon as he came and chatted with us in the Purser's office prior to his departure last week. This has got me thinking about how serving here on Mercy Ships is like "a little taste of heaven" - and I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, because from my experience serving in this sort of community is the closest thing to heaven that you can get here on earth.

Of course, we're all fallen human beings, saved by grace, but there is something more in this environment. There is unity. We are all here serving one God. We are all here on a common purpose and mission: to serve God through bringing surgical intervention to the poorest of the poor. This includes our national offices back home, the departments that keep the ship running, such as Deck and Engineering, and then the Hospital itself, where the primary focus of our mission is centred. And despite the fact that the focus of the ministry in the Hospital, it is no more important than the people who clean the toilets and mop the floors. They are also integral to the mission.

Mercy Ships crew are people of integrity who serve humbly and really see their work as their worship. And this - along with our common purpose and unity - is why the Mercy Ship is "a little taste of heaven" here on earth.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Strange Blessing...

Here are some more photos (courtesy of the Transfer Drive) that give another glimpse into why I love serving with Mercy Ships in West Africa. This past Saturday I joined a group in going to Maison Bethel Orphanage again. I love these little children. It's a strange blessing. We go there thinking we're going to show God's love... and yet we are given so much more in return. I'll let the photos do the talking.

Doing the arts and crafts with the children.

Playing "Duck Duck Goose" - the Togolese equivalent.

Plenty plenty fun.

Tatiana shows off her hula-hooping skills.


Playing with the giant parachute.

Of course, getting to the orphanage (and back home again) is also a fun adventure. The roads are transformed into lakes after the heavy rains.

Approaching muddy waters ahead.

Heading back onto the main road.

Navigating the course through the "road".

Spraying mud everywhere!

Back at the ship - group photo.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Finish Strong

With only six weeks remaining in our 2010 Togo Field Service, a strange feeling has fallen on the ship. Or maybe it's just fallen on me. I don't know. But it almost feels as if it is Tenerife again. The Dining Room is hardly ever full, the queues for food are short, and many of my close friends have either departed, are soon to depart, or are on vacation.

I almost wish I knew more people as friends - who I could sit with at lunch or dinner. Sometimes when you eat a meal you don't want to have to make small-talk and polite conversation. You want to be able to relax and joke around and enjoy each other's company.

You don't want to have to ask the three questions of Mercy Ships over and over again. "Where are you from?" "What do you do?" and "How long are you staying?" It's not that I'm against getting to know new people. It's just so hard to break into new groups. Sometimes it's easier to remain solidly entrenched in your comfort zone. And then the question arises as to what will you do if your comfort zone is pulled out from right under your feet? Who will be there for you? Where will you go? God must have a sense of humour. He calls us out of our comfort zones to come and serve Him in West Africa. And we, out of apparent necessity, form comfort zones within this context to protect ourselves.

I think He's challenging me on what I will do, how I will react when I am, so to speak, on my own. Out of my comfort zone. Alone. So come on Murray, no longer feel sorry for yourself. Get up, dust yourself off, don the armour, and move on with God.

It's the final stretch. Six weeks to go. Finish strong, Soldier.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

My (Mercy Ship) Family...

Meet my Mercy Ships family. These are the close friends who, over the last few months, have become family here. We represent many different nations (America, Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany and South Africa), but have all been brought to West Africa because of our common mission to serve God and show His love through what we do here. I am so blessed to be a part of this amazing family!