Sunday, 27 November 2011

Greg and Becca's Wedding!

It's always special when God brings a couple together - a common love of serving God through missions and Mercy Ships often has the potential to forge a solid bond. I've seen it happen with many friends here on the ship.

A large proportion of Africa Mercy crew turned out to witness the wedding ceremony of Gregory Kulah and Becca Taylor yesterday afternoon. Greg and Becca met on the ship and are both serving as Long Term crew, and Becca is one of my Gateway sisters from back in June/July 2009.

It was a lovely service followed by a beautiful reception at the Team House. It was great to escape the ship for the day and witness how God brings people together through serving Him. Congratulations Greg and Becca!

On the way to the wedding we passed this vehicle... Now that's quite the decoration!

With Candace at the church. Ignore Alex's fingers in the background. :-)

Hanging out with Phil at the Reception.

With the happy couple. :-)

Day Worker Thank You Celebration...

It is the end of November and our Field Service in Sierra Leone is slowly winding down. The Hospital has closed and is being cleaned and packed as we make ready for sailing. The last In-Port fire drill happened on Friday morning and the At-Sea muster lists went up on Friday afternoon. Also on Friday was the Day Worker Thank You event.

Mercy Ships employs some 150 - 200 local Day Workers who assist us in our operations in any given port. Some, like Pastor Mark and Bridget, help with our arrivals and departures over at Lungi; others, like Santigie and Patrick, help drive crew to and from the ferry terminal. The Hospital also has many day workers who help in a wide capacity of roles, from translators to launderers and cooks. Deck and Engineering also have many watch keepers and paint-chippers who ensure that the Africa Mercy is kept in tip-top condition for sea.

Thursday was the last day for the vast majority of our day workers and so on Friday we hosted a Thank You celebration to honour our hard-working day workers. There was an amazing African lunch before the official event in the International Lounge. There was lively African worship followed by speeches by the Captain and our Managing Director. Once the function had concluded there was ice-cream in the Cafe area.

It was a great day and made the Mercy Ships family feel very special to be able to partner with so many amazing day workers! I pray that they will continue to bless Sierra Leone in their future endeavours, and may God bless them for all that they have done!

Our Captain addresses the International Lounge.

Ice-cream in Town Square.

Packed cafe area.

Farewells on the dock.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Back to Tacugama...

For the second time this Field Service I found myself, with a few close friends, headed out overnight to Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary this last weekend. It's no small wonder, since it is definitely my favourite place in Sierra Leone. This is how our lovely weekend unfolded.

We departed the ship at 9am on Saturday morning and arrived too early to check-in for our lodge. So while they prepared the lodge, we decided to walk to Charlotte Falls, about a 90-minute trek away. We walked through the small village of Bathurst, passing the quaint church of St Peters and St James Parish, founded in 1816, on our way to the Falls. The waterfall itself was beautiful, with crystal clear water cascading over the rocks. There was a small pool near the bottom of the falls, where we waded and enjoyed the serenity of the Sierra Leone countryside.

We returned to the Chimpanzee Sanctuary a little after 3pm and checked-in to our Eco-Lodge, Christo. The rest of the afternoon we spent relaxing, reading and napping in the comfortable surroundings, as all around us the birds chirped and the cries of the chimpanzees resonated through the jungle. Supper comprised of spaghetti followed by s'mores roasted by candlelight. It was the perfect end to a great day.

During the night we awoke to the sounds of thunder and the bright flashes of lightning as a storm moved through the night sky. Hard rain pounded the roof and for several minutes sleep was evasive. But soon the rain died away and all was silent, apart from the noise of the jungle insects outside. It is strange to be only an hour outside of the city and yet hear nothing of the city itself. All you can hear are insects, animals and birds. It is so peaceful here.

Sunday morning came and we were brought a lovely traditional breakfast, including grapefruit, bananas, oranges, eggs, bread and butter with jam or cheese. We then had a guided tour of the Sanctuary and it was lovely to see the work they do in rehabilitating the chimpanzees. Most of these chimps had parents who were killed for bushmeat, and the babies were raised as pets in the city. Tacugama rescues these chimps and rehabilitates them for their release into the wild.

After our tour we checked-out and walked down to the Congo Dam, and then headed down to the main road where our driver picked us up. Shortly we were speeding back through the city streets of Freetown, and were dropped outside the port gate near the Africa Mercy. It was a lovely weekend that left the four of us refreshed and ready for the final few weeks here in Sierra Leone.

Tacugama do a wonderful work with Sierra Leone's chimpanzees. Check out their website here. Here are some more photos from our weekend away.

You have entered the Western Area Forest Reserve!

The West African jungle is simply beautiful!

Phil and I survey the scenery from the Falls.

Candace and I.

Christo Eco-Lodge.

S'mores by candlelight.

Clinging on tight!

This plant closes its leaves if you touch them - a defence-mechanism.

Another pretty flower - reminds me of a Red Hot Poker back home but on a smaller scale.

Congo Dam.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Reluctant donor... But definitely worth it!

Last week - and for the second time this Field Service - I was called upon to donate blood for a patient with a low haemoglobin count. I made my way - rather reluctantly, I'll be honest - down to the Hospital, where I gave my donation. I'm always nervous about donating because I have a fear of those large, nasty needles! But the pain is all worth it knowing that it is a way you can be of service to someone in need.

As I've said before, it is always such a great privilege as a non-medical crew member to serve in this way. It is another way you can connect to the mission of Mercy Ships by giving a literal, life-saving part of yourself to the people we serve.

Resting up having given my unit of blood.

Monday, 14 November 2011

AFM Airport Drivers...

The Africa Mercy's Purser's office employs a couple of day workers other than Pastor Mark and Bridget over at Lungi. Meet Patrick (centre left) and Santigie (centre right), in this photo with Tim and I. (Photo thanks to David Peterson.)

They often work late to ensure that our arrivals or departures are taken safely to their destination - either the ship for arriving crew or Government Wharf Ferry Terminal for departing crew. They spend many hours fighting the Freetown traffic for Mercy Ships. Thank you Patrick and Santigie!

Friday, 4 November 2011

A wedding... Sierra Leone-style!

Last Saturday (29th October) a small group of us had the privilege of attending the wedding of one of our day workers here. The wedding ceremony was conducted in a small church 30 or so minutes drive from the ship. It was a long service, lasting some three hours, but it was a privilege to witness how a wedding ceremony is conducted in Sierra Leone. It certainly is different from weddings back home. A wedding in West Africa is very-much an event in which the whole community comes together to celebrate the happy couple's joy. Here are some photos from our day. Most of these images are courtesy of Candace Miller.

Candace and I.

The front of the church.

Children's choir performs.

The happy couple having their wedding photos taken.