Saturday, 30 April 2011

Royal Wedding AFM-style!

The crew of the Africa Mercy joined the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations in celebrating the Royal Wedding held earlier today. We were able to watch the service live thanks to the BBC and our DSTV satellite system and the Town Square area was the place to be throughout the morning. In the evening the British crew onboard hosted a street party in the Midships area where we had quintessentially British cupcakes and chocolates.

Crew from many different nationalities watch the service live.

Union Jack-decorated cupcakes.

Close-up of the cupcakes.

This says it all...

In Community Meeting last night we had a focus on prayer for Sierra Leone as they celebrate 50 years of Independence from Great Britain. This is the large map of Sierra Leone in the Town Square area of the ship where we could share our prayers for this great nation.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Celebrating 50 years of Independence!

Sierra Leone celebrates their 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain today.

Over the last months people have been painting some streets in the national colours (green, white and blue) and there is festive bunting draped across many of the main roads in the city. There have even been cleaning days on Saturdays in which the whole population are encouraged to take pride in their city and clear the streets of rubbish and other pollution.

I didn't see any of the festivities as I was on the ship working the whole day, but I believe that there is quite a party atmosphere out on the streets. Happy 50th Independence Sierra Leone!

On a side note, South Africa also celebrated 17 years of democracy today. It is Freedom Day back home - commemorating the first democratic elections held back on the 27th April 1994. Happy Freedom Day in South Africa too!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Diving for Mercy...

So often at Mercy Ships we focus (and usually justifiably so - since this is what we are all about) on those who do the amazing work down in the Hospital, but I want to cast some light on those who ensure that the Hospital is kept running through their selfless acts. This includes those who give up their free time (even on ship holidays - like today) to ensure that the intakes for our engine room cooling systems and air-conditioning are kept clear of debris.

The divers take to the water at least once a week to do this important task - and it is really appreciated! Some are nurses, receptionists, electricians and workers in our transportation department - but all sacrifice their time to ensure that the Mercy Ship continues to reach those who need hope and healing most!

Thank you divers for all that you do!

The divers on the port side have to be lowered down in our Man Overboard (MOB) Boat - because the currents at the harbour here are so dangerous.

Nearly at the water level.

Getting ready to start diving to clear the intakes.

The blue rope is attached to the ship and to the MOB boat and thus allows both divers and boat to remain alongside the vessel.

Looking forward from the port side.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Good Friday...

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
(Isaiah 53: 5 NIV)

Friday, 22 April 2011

Water Taxi...

Here in Sierra Leone, the airport at Lungi is located a fair distance from the main city of Freetown. They are separated by a large inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, which ultimately forms the beginning of the Rokel river. We have a water taxi company that assists in bringing our arrivals from the airport, and taking those departing to the airport too. Last week I took some departing crew to the floating dock where the water taxi pulls alongside, and was able to snap these photos there.

This is the floating dock.

Crew members await the water taxi's arrival.

Luggage going in the boat...

And once fully-loaded it speeds across the waters...

To take some dedicated crew members to the airport. Thank you for your service!

Board games AFM-style!

One of the traditions amongst my friends is to play a competitive game of The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game, or Horses for short, from time to time. Playing board games with my friends is one of the aspects of community life that I also appreciate. Sometimes a good board game can really brighten up the day!

Intense horse-racing...

... And good friends make for fun times!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Open Mic Night...

One of the things that I really LOVE about community life is the amazing diversity of our volunteer crew - in terms of nationality and gifting. This last Saturday evening we had an open mic night onboard the vessel. It was such a privilege to witness so many talented crew members blessing the crew with their God-given gifts.

Crew enjoy listening to the many talents on show.

Keith Chapman and friends entertain us.

What an awesome event for the crew!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Laundry day West African-style!

West Africans have a unique way of drying their laundry... On any available space in the sun! This can include the tarmac of any available road or even the rocks of the Atlantic Ocean... Better watch out for high tide though!

Bureh Beach...

After a busy week of work in the Purser's office, a group of my close friends headed out to Bureh Beach, only an hour's drive from the ship. We drove along a beautiful, scenic road, with many Sierra Leoneans out and about cleaning their streets and communities ahead of their 50th anniversary of independence celebrations on April 27th. We arrived at the beach and were blown away by the beauty of this quiet spot on the Atlantic Ocean. I'm sure you'll agree!

The crystal clear waters off Sierra Leone's coast.

A beautiful island several hundred metres off the coast.

Fishing canoes anchored off the coast.

A couple of my friends walking along the idyllic beach.

Sewing West African-style!

In a country where electricity can be scarce, many people use old Singer-style sewing machines to make their often-colourful clothes. This is one of the vendors selling his wares at the small market at River No. 2.

(I apologise for the quality of this photo - it was taken just after my camera took a dip in the river last weekend...)

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Hiking and relaxing in Sierra Leone...

A group of us went exploring out to the area near River No. 2 beach yesterday. We had intended to go to an old hydro-electric plant (Guma Valley Water Company - Guma Dam and Treatment Works) and walk a hiking trail there, but unfortunately the military were doing an exercise, and so we headed to the beach instead.

We dropped the majority of our group at the beach and then drove inland along a rough path to a rocky river bed, where we hiked up for a couple of hours. It was so lovely to scramble over rocks and admire God's creation all around, far from the bustle of Freetown. What was not so lovely was when I slipped into a rock pool with my cell phone in one pocket and my camera in the other, but thankfully despite being thoroughly water-logged they both survived the submerging! We then spent another couple of hours relaxing on the beach before braving the three hours of traffic to get home again!

As these photos show, Sierra Leone is a beautiful country!

The rocky river bed we walked along.

It was so peaceful and calm in the forest.

The beach at River No. 2 is amazing.

Local fishing boats at anchor in the bay.

Another view of the beach.

Sign on the road near the dam.

It's good to be driving Land Rovers again!

The roads are pretty dusty out in the country...

... But the traffic on the outskirts of Freetown is horrendous!

In Freetown itself - nearly home!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Perspective Shift...

It has been a frenetic week here on the Africa Mercy. Work has been busy and in the busyness it can be easy to lose focus. But that was until 1am this morning, when someone said something which got me thinking.

Let me give you the background. Mercy Ships had some wonderful folks arriving last night and we were concerned about how they would manage with the water taxi. And so we asked for a couple of volunteers to go across the river to the airport and assist them. This would mean having to give up your evening plans until at least 11pm, possibly later... And spend at least two or three hours hanging out next to a West African airport. Not the nicest experience, if you look at it from a human perspective.

The arrivals only came in a little before 1am, since the water taxi was slightly delayed, and I was there on the dock to assist them into the vehicles. We got back to the ship and I thanked the two individuals who had given up their evening and their plans to help out. But, what blew me away, was the response I got.

Thank YOU for giving us the opportunity to be of service.

I was blown away because it was totally not the response I was expecting. I know if it had been me I may have been a little grumpy and responded somewhat differently. This really showed me what selfless serving truly is about here on the Africa Mercy. It's a refreshing reminder of why we are here.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The Cotton Tree...

Ben, Sam and I walked into town yesterday. We headed to the market to look at Sierra Leonean football (soccer) jerseys and then went on to the Cotton Tree, an important historic landmark of Freetown. The inscription on the plaque at the Cotton Tree reads as follows:

The 'Cotton Tree' became an inherent part of Sierra Leone's history in 1792 when a group of former American slaves, who had gained their freedom by fighting for the British during the American War of Independence, settled on the site of modern Freetown. They landed on the shoreline and walked up to a giant tree just above the bay, and offered prayers and thanksgiving for their deliverance from slavery.

Looking up at the massive tree.

The Justice buildings just near the Cotton Tree.

Mercy Ships has a strong connection with Sierra Leone. This is a painting on a wall near the port.

Painting of the Mercy Ship Anastasis near the port.

OM Ships M/V Logos Hope was also in Freetown last year.

The Africa Mercy alongside the dock in Freetown.