Friday, 31 January 2014

Pointe-Noire's Lighthouse...

Pointe-Noire's lighthouse is located a short distance from the Port and overlooks the harbour. It was built in 1927, and is certainly an interesting design. As far as I could tell, the lighthouse is currently inactive. Other lighthouses that Candace and I have visited on our travels include Cape Sierra Leone in Aberdeen, Sierra Leone, Jamestown (Accra) in Ghana, Lome's lighthouse in Togo, Pensacola Lighthouse in Florida, USA, as well as lighthouses in Tenerife, Guinea, and many in South Africa, including the Great Fish Point Lighthouse. We like our lighthouses! :-)

The lighthouse as seen (with 30x zoom) from the Africa Mercy.
A friend drove me to the lighthouse so I could get a closer view. :-)
The top of the lighthouse.
The early evening light certainly made the lighthouse look brighter! :-)

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Pointe-Noire's Train Station...

Pointe-Noire has an impressive railway station located a short distance from the Port. It's an old colonial building that looks as if it belongs in the Swiss Alps or in another alpine location. Pointe-Noire also has a good rail infrastructure and working diesel engines can often be seen around the Port area.

Diesel train in the Port.
Well-maintained 1929 steam locomotive on static display in Pointe-Noire.
Pointe-Noire's train station as seen from the platform side.
 Another view of the station.
The front of the building. I'm a big fan of old historic buildings! :-)

Saturday, 25 January 2014

The Hope Centre...

The Hope (Hospital Out-Patient Extension) Centre is a land-based operation, run by Mercy Ships, where patients can stay if they need long-term recuperation after surgery. In this way, beds are freed up in the hospital so that more surgeries can be performed on the ship. The dental team also operates from the Hope Centre.

I was able to join Mercy Ministries in visiting the Hope Centre this past week. (21st January.) Mercy Ministries organises visits to orphanages and prisons in the nation in which we are docked. At an orphanage (and at the Hope Centre) we share a Bible story, make a craft, and play games with the children and adults. It was lovely to see the physical transformation in each of these little lives!

 Pouring water for a little boy.
With some new friends. :-)

Friday, 24 January 2014

AFM Congo Reception Team...

Here is the current Purser and Reception team on the Africa Mercy. We went out to a local pizza restaurant for a team dinner last Sunday. (19th January.) It was great to hang out outside of the work environment.

These lovely folks are at the forefront of ship communications and are always ready to give information with a smile. :-) I've really enjoyed being part of the team for this month in the Congo!

 Candace-on-a-Stick snuck into the team photo! :-)
Silly photo. :-)

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Port activity...

One thing I like to do is to stand on Deck 8 and watch the ships coming and going from the harbour. I always find it so fascinating to watch the tugs as they pull large container ships and bulk carriers away from the dock. I also like to think about all the foreign countries that these ships have visited on their voyages. They must see some amazing places!

 The tug boat pulls the ship clear of the dock.
 Taking the strain!
 Sturdy little tug boat.
Modern tug.
 Ship's propeller churning up the water.
 This vessel is registered in Liberia. I miss that country!
Safe voyage, African Iris!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Sunsets in Pointe-Noire...

I haven't been in Pointe-Noire long, but I have enjoyed watching several lovely sunsets. Here are some of Congo's beautiful sunsets!

 The Port soon after sunset.
 Looking west towards the ocean.
 Fifteen minutes after sunset.
 Golden colours in the sky as the sun slips behind a heavy cloud bank.
 Sunset through the clouds...
... Above an oil-rig on the horizon.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Fresh Produce...

Our Stewards department does a great job setting up relationships with people ashore who help supply the ship. One of those important people is our ship's chandler who sources food and produce from local markets. Pointe-Noire has an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. This is definitely a necessity when you have to feed over six-hundred people, including patients and day workers, each meal!

 This is not even half of the day's supply!
Here we have baskets full of apples, bananas, mangoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, cabbage and more! :-)

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Atlantic Hotel...

The Atlantic Hotel is a large hotel in downtown Pointe-Noire, about 45 minutes walk from the ship. It has an amazing swimming pool and the hotel has a special deal that allows Mercy Shippers to use the pool at a reduced rate. Last week a friend and I walked there to spend several hours relaxing by the pool. It was a great way to unwind after a couple of tiring night shifts at Reception!

 Relaxing by the lovely pool.
 It's about half-Olympic size.
 Back at the ship after a great day out!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Working Reception...

One thing I've failed to blog about in much detail is what role I'm doing here on the Africa Mercy. Well, the Purser left the ship in early January and a Receptionist had to step into the role in the Purser's office while they trained up the long-term replacement Purser. This switch in personnel left Reception short-staffed for a month. Therefore, God's timing in bringing me back to the ship was perfect. I simply slotted back into the Reception job I had when I first came to Mercy Ships over six years ago.

I'm working shifts in Reception, including this current night shift, and am loving it! I'm answering phones, monitoring the Fire Panel (the ship's fire detection system), embarking and disembarking crew members, signing out keys and cell phones, and loving being a part of an amazing Purser-Reception department. It's also nice to not have the responsibility I had in the Purser's office, but still have an important role to play here on the ship. It's great to be back - even if it's only for a short time! :-) The photo here is of me checking the Fire Panel.

 Answering a radio call. (The photo is totally staged, by the way. :-) )
 It's good to be back behind the desk!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Just like that...

I got an SMS from Candace at 3am this morning. I woke up and was AMAZED by how wonderful the news was! But let's back-track a bit...

Candace and I are in the process of applying for a US spousal visa, so that I can live in the USA with my lovely wife. We have been on different continents since early November, as we wait on our paperwork. We applied in April last year, so we'd been waiting for quite a while. But we both really felt led this week to be direct in our prayers and not limit God with our requests. We knew that if He wanted to, He could move our case forward. Just like that. And so we were praying that we would hear back from USCIS on our case status before it reached this coming weekend.

I spent time in prayer and reading my Bible, and was feeling quite peaceful yesterday morning. I was reading Jeremiah. There's a well-known passage (Jeremiah 29: 10b - 11) there that states:

"But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."

This is a letter from God (through Jeremiah) to the exiles in Babylon. They were far away from their homes. But God gave them a promise and brought them home again. I'm separated from Candace by a vast ocean. When I'm finally with her, I'll be home. And God is putting the steps into motion for our reunion.

And as I thought about these words and the plans that God has in store for Candace and I, I knew deep down that God was at work. Candace had the same feeling too. She sent me an SMS yesterday morning saying, "I believe God is moving today." At her Bible Study group that morning, she had a vision spoken over her of angel's wings carrying our paperwork forward. I shared this with my ship family at supper yesterday evening. I told them that we believed God was working on our case that very day. That we'd get word soon on our case status. But I didn't think it would happen so quickly!

And so at a little after 3am this morning we got the news that our paperwork is moving on to the National Visa Center. Just like that step one with the USCIS is now complete! The National Visa Center will now process the visa and will determine which embassy I will go to for my visa interview. This process may still take some time, but we have seen how God has moved mountains for us. We know that He is with us through it all! :-) Our God is an awesome, faithful God!

We have a huge community both on the ship and abroad praying for us. Thanks must go to all of them for continuing to lift our marriage and our paperwork up at this time. Thanks again for your prayers and thanks be to God! Please keep praying for this next step in our paperwork!

Much love, Murray and Candace

Monday, 13 January 2014

Dock BBQ...

Mercy Ships holds a barbecue on the dock with our day crew in our field service location every six or so weeks. (9th January 2014.) This is a special event that builds community between our local workers and the ship's crew members. There is also a vibrant worship service to end the evening. It's always a lovely day!

 Hanging out with the Chandra family. :-)
Serving lines.
 Ship community enjoying good food and fellowship together...
... Followed by good worship, too! :-)

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Port pictures...

Here are some more photos of Pointe-Noire's port. There is always activity with work boats and fishing vessels entering and leaving the harbour. This is probably one of the busiest ports I've seen during my travels with Mercy Ships.

 Small work boat enters the port.
 There's a busy fishing fleet just next to the Africa Mercy.
 Fishing boats docked.
Port fire engine.
 Transfer vessel undergoing repairs.
 Almost ready for the water.
Pilot boat.
Another shipwreck in the harbour.
 Large cargo cranes at work here.
 Harbour entrance.
Loading a cargo of logs.
 Looking towards the city. 
 Another view of the port water tower.