Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Christmas on a Mercy Ship...

Christmas on a Mercy Ship is always a special time. Although I just missed being on the Africa Mercy for Christmas this year, I was able to see many Christmas decorations around the ship. The ship certainly looks festive as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour!

Reception desk.
Christmas tree in Reception.
Dining Room.
Decorations in the Dining Room.
International Lounge.
Town Square area of the ship.
Gingerbread House in the display window near the Snack Bar.
 Midships Lounge.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Frisbee Feet...

I was very happy to see upon my return to Mercy Ships that Ultimate Frisbee is still going strong. :-) There is a large contingent of Mercy Shippers who play at a field about 10 minutes drive from the ship. A shower is definitely needed after an intense game of Frisbee! :-)

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Mercy Ships dock in Pointe-Noire...

Mercy Ships has a lovely, spacious dock here in Pointe-Noire, Congo. There is lots of space for the ship vehicles, as well as for the dockside hospital tents. The port itself is quite well-developed with many ships coming and going. There are also many vessels at anchor off the point. This harbour is probably one of the largest that Mercy Ships has been in for quite some time. It's over a mile in distance to get to the main port gate from the ship!

Looking across at some of the harbour from where we are berthed.
Large container cranes - a sure sign of development.
Naval vessels across the harbour.
Tug boats and work boats.
View towards the berth aft of us.
Dockside tents. The Admissions tent is the brown one on the right.
The Port is operating at Security Level 1.
Walking down the gangway to investigate our dock.
Transportation tent towards the aft of the ship.
Portable patient toilet on the dock. :-)
Admissions tent. Candace was the Admissions Team Leader throughout 2012.
Another view of the tents from the top of the gangway. The Rehab and Infant Feeding tent is the first one, then there is Outpatients, Hospital Photography, and finally the Admissions tent.
Shipwrecks are common sights in ports visited by Mercy Ships.
Mercy Ships M/V Africa Mercy docked in Pointe-Noire, Congo.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Arrival in Pointe-Noire, Congo!

After leaving Cape Town at 06h20 yesterday morning (December 26th), I have arrived back at my home away from my two homes! (Indiana and Cape Town, if you're confused!) I'm back on the Mercy Ship for the next month, and I'm so excited to be here! This is the first glimpse I had of my ship home - other than from the plane when we flew over the harbour area on approach to the airport. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera handy. :-(

My travels went well. I flew from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then boarded my South African Airways flight from Johannesburg to Pointe-Noire, Congo! The most eventful part of my flight was getting drinks knocked on my legs not once, but twice, by my neighbour. He was definitely making the most of the free in-flight drink service!

The flight landed in Pointe-Noire on schedule, less than four hours after leaving Johannesburg. Immigration and baggage claim went very smoothly, and I was met at the airport by my friend and work colleague Philip, who was in the Purser's department as a translator in Guinea and who has been working as a Receptionist this year.

We drove through the busy Pointe-Noire traffic - although nothing compared to that of Freetown or Conakry - and soon the M/V Africa Mercy was in sight. It was quite something to come home again to my ship home after more than a year away. I was surrounded by many hugs, greetings and love from my ship family.

In a sense it's as if I've never left. As much as things change with Mercy Ships, they always stay the same. The only downside is not having my pretty wife by my side this time round. It definitely adds a bittersweet element, to be sure! But I'm excited for all that God has in store for this next month ahead! :-)

Port fire engine outside our dock area. I've already noticed that the infrastructure here is definitely better than other West African ports.
My cubicle. I'm in a four-berth, but I actually have a whole cubicle to myself. :-)

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Happy Christmas 2013...

We'd like to wish all of our friends, family and loved ones a fantastic Christmas and a blessed New Year! We hope that you reach your dreams and goals in 2014. We're certainly hoping and praying that our goal of being together in America would come to fruition soon!

Happy Christmas all! :-)

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

New ship for Mercy Ships!

Mercy Ships has announced plans to build a new purpose-built hospital ship! The ship will be more than double the size (in terms of GRT) of the Africa Mercy, and will hopefully enter service sometime in 2017! It will be built in China, classed by Lloyd's Register, and will sail under the Maltese flag. For more information on the project, just click here.

 Digital image of what the ship may look like once complete.

This is a very exciting time for Mercy Ships! "Now we can again add the s to Mercy Ships", as a friend of mine said on Facebook. :-)

Monday, 23 December 2013

Kirstenbosch Carols...

Kirstenbosch Carols is an annual Christmas tradition in Cape Town, and sees anything from 3,000 to 7,000 people pack onto the beautiful lawns to enjoy the Nativity concert and carols. People arrive early to picnic and enjoy good music before the carol service gets underway after sunset.

I had the opportunity to play Joseph in the Kirstenbosch Carol service last weekend. (December 14th.) My sister helps out with the concert every year, and this year they needed some additional help. The individual playing Joseph dropped out at short notice, and so I took on the role of being Joseph for one of the evenings - alongside my sister who was playing Mary! I was very nervous initially, but as soon as I stepped out onto the stage my nerves disappeared quite quickly. It helped not having to speak - since the whole Nativity concert is narrated by one speaker.

I actually vastly enjoyed the evening and it was amazing seeing thousands of glow-sticks being waved back and forth as we all sung "Silent Night" together. After the service, children are allowed up on stage to have photos taken with Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus, as well as with the angels, shepherds and wise men. It was a great evening!

Nelson Mandela photo and flag at half-mast next to the stage.
The band of the Cape Town Highlanders entertained the crowd early on.
Being Joseph on the stage!
King Herod on the stage.
Dance sequence during one of the final songs.
My nephews Rhyenn and Jesse came to say hello!
Candace-on-a-Toothpick also made an appearance! :-)

Return to Mercy Ships...

Candace and I know that our paperwork has been transferred to the Nebraska Service Centre, but we still don't know how much longer it will be. This process continues to teach us patience and trust!

And so in the meantime, we have decided that while Candace has a job as a nurse in Indiana, I'll be heading back to the ship to help out in their Reception/Purser team. It's only a four-hour flight from South Africa, and it makes sense for this season of our life. I've been having a number of dreams about Mercy Ships and have found myself missing the ship quite a lot lately. It would also be good to be kept busy with a distraction while Candace and I continue to be in separate countries.

I will be jetting off to Pointe-Noire, Congo, on the 26th December to serve back onboard the M/V Africa Mercy and help out during a transitional phase for the Purser/Reception team. I'll be there for just a month, but I am really looking forward to being back and connecting with old friends again, as well as being kept busy as we wait on the Lord. It'll be strange being back on the ship without Candace, but we know that God is in control and will continue to grow our marriage during this time.

So that's my news. Please continue to lift up our US spousal visa application process in your prayers, as well as Candace's new job as a nurse in Indiana, and my upcoming trip to the AFM.

Thank you for your continued support as we adventure with the Lord!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Mercy Ships family...

It's always lovely to meet up with Mercy Ships friends outside of the Mercy Ship context. My friends Richard and Megan and their son Isaac are in South Africa on holiday, and I was able to meet up with them for supper last Friday. (13th December.) Richard is from South Africa and met his wife, Megan, on the ship. She's from America and they went through a similar process to Candace and I before settling in the USA. It was great to share advice and tips on the visa process, and also spend time reminiscing about ship life. It was also fun to meet their four-month-old son, Isaac. :-) I am very grateful and blessed to have such an extended family of Mercy Shippers!

Speaking of ship life, I do have some exciting news to share! But I'll wait for my next post to do that... :-)

Richard and Megan and little Isaac. :-)

Long-distance birthday celebrations...

It was Candace's birthday on December 9th. It's difficult being apart for special occasions, including Thanksgiving, Candace's birthday, and soon Christmas too. But we can make the most of modern technology and still celebrate these special occasions. We had a little party here in Cape Town for Candace, complete with rainbow cake! Rainbow cake is kind of a tradition in my family. There is always one made for a birthday. Candace's family also surprised her with a party in Indiana, and her mom even made her a surprise rainbow cake from me! (Thanks, Lavone!)

Candace-on-a-Toothpick made an appearance on the real Candace's birthday.
Jesse with Candace.
Candace and Flicka.
The budgie and Candace.
Candace with the mountain in the background.
Birthday cake celebrations.
Rainbow cake has a rainbow pattern inside.
In Indiana, Murray-on-a-Stick made an appearance at Candace's surprise party.
My pretty girl lights her candles. Happy birthday, Candace! I love you!