Waiting out the pandemic in the Canaries…..

This post by A Little Odyssey was originally published at A Little Odyssey

Our home for a few years getting grit blasted to remove the paint and rust.
 

So, it’s been some time since we have blogged, long months have passed by, suddenly it has been well over a year since Covid demanded our retreat from Senegal and we made a dash from Dakar in Senegal to Granadilla in Tenerife.  18 months on we find ourselves on the Africa Mercy (AFM) in dry dock in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria coming to terms with the facts that we will remain in the Canaries for the remainder of this year and not be returning to field service in Africa until early 2022.  How did this happen?!

Before leaving Africa, the hospital ceased operations and all our patients were either discharged or placed in local care to fully recover.  Lynne’s work as hospital Administrator came to an end and she is now the HR Director on board after spending a short time in Hospitality sorting and cleaning cabins that were abandoned in the exodus from Senegal.  The position of HR director became available after previous incumbents left early due to Covid and then her replacement ended their commitment early due to pressure of work.  So, Lynne is now working in a senior position with only a couple of experienced staff, not enough to do the job and is feeling the pressure.  The pressure has been exacerbated by the need to quarantine crew either on board or in local hotels and find ways for our African crew who find themselves on European soil with no visas to return home for leave and then return to the ship.  Times are not normal.

Matthew completed his two-year term last summer when we all travelled back to the UK and Lynne and I took taking the opportunity to settle Matthew into his University in Lincoln.  He is studying History with Archaeology, something very different after working with the deck department onboard.  We are so proud of Matthew of the way he conducted himself on board and that he has identified history as a subject that energize him.  

Lynne and I returned to the AFM in November to make ready to sail to Africa in January but soon learned that this would be delayed until May ’21, this was disappointing but understandable.   Ship staff continued to carry out maintenance and sort the belongings of crew who had left the ship from Senegal at a rush expecting an early return.   Thinking we would arrive in Africa in May, Lynne and I came back to the UK to see our family and get ourselves vaccinated, but soon after returning on board we found out that our return to Africa would not happen until early 2022.  After so many months closed up on board on a remote and windy half constructed port with only short spells of a few hours shore leave granted, this was yet another blow.  Many crew started to re-assess lives and decided that it was time to leave the AFM, either for good or until the pandemic has passed and the mission of the AFM can restart.  

Delaying the return by so many months gave opportunity to carry out some serious ship maintenance so we sailed to Las Palmas on Gran Canaria, the island a few hours to the east of Tenerife where we were lifted out of the water and placed in dry dock for thirteen weeks which is where we are now.  All the paint has been grit blasted off the ship, about 80 holes have been cut into the hull either to gain entry into tanks for cleaning and painting, or to cut sections of rotting steel out to be replaced with new.  Work continues on board 24/7 on fire main, sprinkler systems which have been drained and parts replaced and the tank work.  My project was to replace 130 windows onboard with a team from Poland.   All this work is intrusive to life on board a vessel with limited ventilation and most spaces at an average of 30oC.  We are also very short staffed and have needed to employ contractors for many key positions and non-technical crew are staying off ship overnight for comfort and safety reasons.

We are grateful to so many short-term volunteers who arrive from so many nations and of many and varied faiths, with a crew of around 100 there are about 40 nations represented.  As a religious order, (it is – Mercy Ships has a legal status as such) with so many non-Christians on board, a split crew living on and off the ship,  we are making extra efforts to maintain times of prayer and worship and retain a focus on the mission of Mercy Ships and our four core values: Love God; Love and serve others; To be people of integrity; and Strive for excellence in all we say and do.  

So here we are:  serving, working hard and long hours, struggling with constant change, the heat, and an uncertain future.  This is the joy of the Lord!

 

 

Covid and an early farewell to Senegal

This post by A Little Odyssey was originally published at A Little Odyssey

                     
Well, it’s been a few months since our last blog and like all of you, our world has been tilted by Covid and only now do we feel we can take stock of all that has happened and that which is before us. The first sign of Covid impacting us came on Friday 13th of March when we were told that the Senegal field service was being suspended, no new crew would be arriving and no further visitors allowed.  We had planned a trip out on Saturday morning to visit a The Pink Lake, a local attraction that we had tried to visit on several occasions previously, (another story there!).  Well, mid Saturday morning leave was cancelled and those already ashore were contacted and told to return on board immediately so no trip to the Pink Lake!  And that was the last time we left this vessel other than a walk on the dock to empty the bins or a time limited stroll.

So having been told that leave was cancelled the next problem was how to end the season of surgeries well with minimum impact to the patients recovering from operations and the heartbreak of telling those waiting that our mission in Dakar needed to end early.  Most of our day crew, recruited locally for the period of the field service, needed to be dismissed whilst retaining the  translators and other key day crew until we could leave Dakar. Remaining day crew were told they needed to move onto the ship or our dockside tents and not return home until the Africa Mercy sailed.  It was a sobering moment to realise that we had not said goodbye to many of the locals we had come to know so well.  Thank goodness for WhatsApp. 

Preparation to depart Dakar.  after the initial shock the medical teams set to work ensuring those post op patients in recovery were brought to a safe condition and make sure that they were in good hands locally for the necessary followup wound care, physio and rehabilitation.  All volunteer staff at home planning to travel to serve on board were told not to come.  Alongside that activity the deck crew began to dismantle to shore side support infrastructure and begin to lift the vehicles back on deck.  This activity normally took about 21 days with visiting help but we did all this in 10 days with just ships staff.

Waiting for the pilot


Sail to Tenerife.  The last patients waked down the gangway on 23rd March and we bade a sad farewell to the remaining Senegalese day crew. Then followed a hectic period as many volunteer staff left the Africa Mercy at short notice to return home to countries just becoming aware of the impact 
Covid was having at home.  As so we sailed from Dakar on Friday the 27th March setting  sail for a safe haven in Tenerife arriving Tuesday 31st March in Genadilla at the very far end of a very remote concrete jetty well away from civilisation and prepared for two weeks of quarantine.  And there we drew breath…
Arriving in Tenerife




Quarantine  Whilst we have been here and observed the chaos around the world we realise we have been blessed to be isolated with a household of Mercy Ships family not needing to socially distance ourselves. We have organised many shipwide activities including a British cream, quiz nights, cooking competitions, music nights and many more.  But now we are hearing of the Spanish authorities beginning to relax lock down it is not clear what happens next,  crew are continuing to depart the ship for home as repatriation flights become available. 

Brits host a Cream Tea
    

No Escape from the Escape Room!

Deck Folksy Singalong
1st baptism ever on the AFM! 
  

But the Africa Mercy is a hospital ship!  So why couldn’t a hospital ship such as the Africa Mercy stay and help fight the epidemic in Africa?  Well, we simply we are not equipped,  our hospital beds are crammed in with barely 50cm between them, we have very limited intensive care facilities and the crew are also packed into a very small space. If Covid were to get on board it would spread easily among patients and crew alike, our surgeries would have to stop and we ourselves would become a burden on our host nation.  Looking back we are thankful for decisive leadership from Mercy Ships in taking some hard decisions early on; we are aware of the problems many cruise ships and merchant ships are facing now especially if they have cases confirmed on board. 



Ship maintenance period.  A period of maintenance is planned for the summer months but how this will happen is not clear as international travel restrictions remain fluid.  It is the intention that we will return to Senegal to complete the planned surgeries when conditions allow, but again, who can tell when that will be  ..

As for us... we intend to stay with the ship during the maintenance period and return to the UK in August.  Matthew will be starting University to study History with Archaeology in September and we intend to return to serve on board the Africa Mercy in October for another two years after settling  Matthew into his University in Lincoln.  We are still in isolation in Grenadilla but we really can’t complain ….. we are safe and continue to live in community even as people leave to return to their home countries.

Please pray for us.  As we enter the next period of uncertainty pray a peace as life on board seems very remote for the provision of life changing surgeries.  Pray that we continue to keep the Africa Mercy ready to bring hope and healing to the poor who otherwise have no access to life giving surgery. 

Our view of Mount Teide

  

Settling in Senegal

This post by A Little Odyssey was originally published at A Little Odyssey

We can hardly believe that we have been in Senegal since August and are more than halfway through the field service!  This blog was started a few months back as we approached our first anniversary on the ship (we have now just completed fifteen months!) – but was never finished!  Our apologies and we hope that some of you may have caught up a little with our Instagram or Facebook posts.

Restocking the Omnicell
Ready to go – one side of one of the wards

A bit of a recap!  We arrived in Dakar, Senegal in the middle of August and the first three weeks were spent getting everything ready for the opening of the hospital on 9th September with surgeries starting the following day.  Stuart spent a couple of those weeks down in the OR (Operating Room – or Operating Theatre to the British!) in and out of the five ORs doing all sorts of jobs and repairing things that couldn’t be done once the hospital opened to ensure they were ready.  Lynne helped the nurses wash, clean, disinfect, remove numerous straps, unpack and set up the hospital.  What a job – but a privilege to see how it all comes together.

One of the ORs set up
Open Evening – Intubating
Open Evening -checking Noah’s vitals

A week before the hospital opened crew were invited to the Hospital Open Evening which is an opportunity to visit areas of the hospital that are normally out of bounds and have a go at some ‘medical procedures.’ OR staff, Anaesthetists, Sterilising Technicians, Lab Technicians, Bio-medical Technician, Ponsetti Team, X-Ray Team and nurses nursing and ‘playing patient’ showed us around their work patch, demonstrated equipment and procedure for a couple of hours.  We took six year old Noah round with us as mum and dad were either involved in one of the stations or looking after younger brother Judah.  He had a great time and kept us moving quickly from room to room!  Before the hospital opened it needed another clean and disinfect – but at least the unpacking was done!!

Monday 9th September saw the first patients arriving and being admitted to the wards and at around 8.00 am on Tuesday 10th September, the whole ship stopped as the tannoy sounded and our Chief Medical Officer prayed – for the field service and the first operation which was about to commence.

“Saliou was the very first patient in Senegal to receive the free surgery that could change his future! After the operation that repaired his cleft lip (a Maxillo Facial surgery), he’s on the mend, and his future is already looking a bit brighter!”
 
(Picture and quote from Mercy Ships Communications Department
 


The start of the field service saw Maxillo Facial surgeries, General surgeries (hernias, lipomas) and the first block of Plastic surgeries: many burn contracture patients of varying ages who stay with us for many months, initially in the hospital and then many at the Hope Centre (our off ship ‘hotel’ ward type facility) because they live too far away to come back for their regular Outpatient and Rehab (Physio) appointments.  Although there are new patients coming in daily Monday to Friday, some staying just two nights, with others staying much longer, each patient is shown such individual love, care and compassion by all the crew (those living on the ship and the Day Crew) they come into contact with.

We have about 250 Day Crew, many of whom are our translators for the patients, and without whom we just could not do what we do.  The Senegalese Day Crew are just wonderful, keen to teach us Wolof (the main language in Senegal) and many are incredibly tall!  We have 12 Day Crew who work with Hospital Chaplaincy and every morning they go to each of the wards and sing, share some scripture and pray with the patients and ward team.  It is loud, joyful and moving.  During the rest of the day the Hospital Chaplaincy team are on the wards, in the tents outside or at the Hope Centre spending time with the patients, talking, playing games, cuddling the younger patients (never a shortage of willing arms to cuddle the babies and toddlers!) praying if they would like, couselling patients and caregivers and supporting the caregivers as their loved one goes off to surgery.

Seny – one of our Maxillo Facial patients
Seny – on the day of her final discharge

Seny was studying Economics at the University of Dakar,  With goals to graduate and have a career in Finance, the future looked bright for this highly intelligent young woman. Then suddenly a small bump appeared on the inside of Seny’s lips.  It slowly grew larger and eventually Seny had to give up her dream.  Surgery on the Africa Mercy will give her the opportunity to return to school and accomplish all that she’s been hoping for.  After her surgery, Seny looked at her reflection – her face free from the tumour.  It was then she realised her dreams were possible again.  On the day of her final discharge, Seny glowed from the newfound hope in her eyes.  This 25 year old woman left the Africa Mercy with plans to return to school, get a degree and find a job in her hometown of Dakar.  Seny wants to use her intelligence and education to better her country.   (Used with permission of Mercy Ships)

Plastic block one finished and eight weeks of Orthopaedic surgeries started in November, along with continuing Maxillo Facial and General Surgeries.  The hospital corridors were filled with children in brightly coloured casts practicing walking with frames (called hoppers), including many made with plastic pipes and plumbing fittings that Stuart and Mike (the other carpenter) had made because the hospital ran out! (A previous crew member had designed them a few years ago and the instructions are still good!)

Djimby – one of our Ortho patients

Djimby is a strong-willed little girl. It’s no surprise. This six-year-old takes after her grandmother, Ndeye, who’s spent the last two years tirelessly searching for healing for Djimby’s windswept legs. Neighbors and family members, including Djimby’s own mother, criticized her, calling her efforts useless and hopeless, but Ndeye pressed on. “As long as I am living, I will look for a solution,” she affirmed. 

God answered her prayers when He sent a hospital ship to the port of Dakar. Two years of hardships in the face of adversity was wiped away, replaced with the hope of healing for Djimby. 

(Used with permission of Mercy Ships)

Aliou – one of our new Plastics patients
(Used with permission of Mercy Ships)

We have just finished two weeks a paediatric eye surgery – what an amazing gift for a child who has either never seen or has limited vision and also two weeks of Cranio Facial surgery where we welcomed back a Paediatric Surgeon and Nurse from a hospital in Oxford.  What hope for the youngest of patients.

Adult eye surgery also started after Christmas and continues for some months and the second block of plastics has begun again. The hospital is a busy, often loud and sometimes chaotic place with many people trying to pass each other in the narrow corridors! But good!

Visiting BCS School

We have been exploring Senegal – and a little further afield too.  In October we visited Bourafaye Christian School, part of WEC (Worldwide Evangelisation for Christ) in Popenguine about an hour
away; our church at home has a connection with them and hosts some of their training before they come to Senegal.  It was great to be shown around and to meet new and old friends.  Some have also visited the ship since.

African Forest Buffalo
Two of the many giraffes at Bandia

In November we visited Bandia Wildlife Reserve.  What a treat to travel out of the port and away from the city of Dakar and see native flora and fauna and breathe in different air.

Stuart on the zip wire
Matthew on the high ropes

After a great morning there we went to Accrobaobab – ‘thrill seeking among the baobab trees’ – and some adventurous souls went zip wiring thorough the trees.  Stuart and Matthew opted in to the adventure, Lynne opted to take the photos!

The ‘Door of No Return’

We also visited Goree Island, a short 20 minute ferry ride from our port.  This was an island where West African people were taken before being deported to so called civilised nations as slaves.  The ‘Door of No Return’ is synonomous with Senegal Slave Trade and is on Goree.

Making music at the Bazaar

December saw many Christmas activities on the ship, experiencing traditions from crew nationalities – the Christmas Bazaar, Dutch Sinterklaas, Scandanavian Festival of Light (always on our Wedding Anniversary on the 12th!) Australian Carols by Candlelight on the dock (really! Thought it was a British tradition), British Crew Christmas Party, all the while travelling through the Advent Season culminating in celebrating our Saviour’s birth.

Brit Christmas Party
27th Wedding Anniversary
The restaurant at Evergreen Lodge
The round huts we stayed in


The three of us opted to take a longer break over the Christmas and New Year period where there are no planned surgeries and went to a fabulous eco-retreat in The Gambia.  It was beautiful and we loved it.  The Gambia is very small, English speaking and home to many beautiful birds.

Juffure
Kunte Kinteh Island

We visited the Roots village of Juffure and Kunte Kinteh island.  Another legacy of the slave trade.

One of the Wassu Stone Circles
Dinner by the river

We also visited the Wassu stone circles in the interior of The Gambia.  Then on to lunch by the river before a trip on The Gambia River which has a number of protected islands (which visitors are not allowed to go on) to house chimpanzees.

One of the chimpanzees


The eco-lodge where we stayed had just built a bird hide on their grounds.  Having spent a morning with a bird watching guide, we enjoyed spending time at their bird hide trying to spot some of the birds we had been told about. Unfortunately, camera phones don’t take good photos of birds so we took photos of us instead!

One of our highlights of this field service was the visit of our girls, Hannah and Zoe and Hannah’s boyfriend, Nick, in the middle of January.  It was a joy to see them again, to show them around the Africa Mercy, our current home and spend a bit of time with them.

Zoe stayed on the ship and spent some time with Stuart in his workshop making the hoppers and then with Lynne in the hospital, while Hannah and Nick did some surfing up the coast.  All too soon we had to say goodbye again!

Won’t go far like this
Lompoul Desert
Maybe this would be quicker!
Just waiting!

We had a very eventful family trip to Lompoul desert where our taxi broke down at some point every part of the journey culminating with the wheel flying off down the road!    We came to a halt in a little village in the middle of nowhere.  We kept our eye out for ways home!  It took a while to find an alternative taxi back to the ship and involved several lifts and taxis but we won’t forget our trip!

On Ngor Island

It is now February and we had a lovely day with some friends from the ship at Ngor Island last weekend (a short pirogue ride across from Ngor town,Lynne’s birthday on Thursday took us out for ice cream with other friends. Today, Saturday we have taken a crew member back to the airport for her flight home to Australia and tonight we are out for a curry, back to Ngor, with some other friends.

It was used the next day!

Life aboard is truly unique and we feel this is our season to be here.  In the main, we have stayed well, although we have all succumbed to a bout of GI illness (Lynne had Salmonella!) and the odd cold.  Stuart became one of the many crew to become a member of the ‘living blood bank’ on board, donating blood on one day which was used during a surgery the following day. (We have limited space to store blood.)  Lynne’s knee continues to work well, if aching occasionally.  We are praying that we will steer clear on Influenza Type A which a number of crew currently have.

We are rejoicing for the seven containers that arrived over Thursday and Friday meaning surgeries can continue (it was pretty tight!); Deck, Engineering, Medical Supply and General Supply can have replenished stock (some supplies were zero!); and the galley has more food (they cook for about 450 for breakfast and dinner and 650 for lunch).

 
 
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.’  Lamentations 3:22

Leaving Guinea, having a break and arriving in Senegal

This post by A Little Odyssey was originally published at A Little Odyssey

It’s been a while now since we last posted – thank you for your patience – and thank you for the many encouraging comments we had regarding our blogs when we were home in the summer.

We left Guinea in the middle of June.  We had grown very fond of Conakry and the people that we met – the Day Crew, the patients, the church we attended towards the end of the field service and our friends from Christian Missionary Alliance (CMA) who we stayed and worked with for our field practice last November.  We are grateful that we are able to stay in contact with some of them through Facebook and What’sApp.  Although we had not publicly stated our departure day and time, nevertheless there were a good number of people there to wave us off from the dock.  The dock had been cleared, the gangway lifted up and we were off, waving madly, holding back tears and some led us in worship as we left.

About to leave Guinea
Up with the gangway
Artwork from the night before
On look-out
Matthew steering us to Las Palmas
We enjoyed the sail, Matthew was on two four hour watches each day on the bridge – 12 noon to 4pm and 12 midnight to 4am.  He did a great job and we are very proud of our 19 year old being part of the team that steered us safely to Gran Canaria – and here to Senegal.  
Worship on the bow
Dolphins


Dolphin watching, worship on the bow – oh and some work too – were all good parts of our five day sail to Las Palmas.
Looking great at night!
We arrived in Las Palmas and had only a few day there before flying back to the UK a bit earlier than originally planned, for an appointment with a knee consultant for Lynne’s knee,  but we took the opportunity to look around a little, and take a day trip on the day the ship came out of the water for ‘dry dock’. When we returned from our day trip, the only way on to the ship was via 72 steps up a scaffold type tower.  We (well Lynne really) was very grateful that the Tower of Terror only had to be negotiated once!  Matthew was staying on, on his own for a couple of weeks and cabin sat for us, meaning for the first time in nine months he had his own personal space.
Get that gangway in place!
    
Night out with friends
Las Palmas Old Town
   
Returning to the Tower of Terror!
          Looking across to Tenerife
On our day trip 
We arrived at Bristol Friday 21st June – exactly nine months after leaving!  Discombobulated (a word we used during our training in Texas and field practice in Guinea) described exactly how we felt for the first couple of weeks!  But it was good to be back.  
We had an appointment three days later with a knee consultant – Lynne didn’t need an operation after all.  The meniscus wasn’t torn – but there was wear and tear on the knee!  The joys of getting older!!  After the initial surprise we sought a physio – who was fab – and made plans to be as fit and healthy when we returned to the ship and then took the opportunity to enjoy the extra time we had at home!
Matthew arrived safely home as planned on 9th July, flying on his own for the first time.  Was great to attend our daughter Zoe’s graduation and greet our older daughter Hannah when she returned from a six month trip to New Zealand, as well as catching up with other family and many friends.  It was also great to welcome two friends from the ship, Ian and Sarah, who were on a flying visit to the UK for a weekend.
Off we go again! 5am on a Tuesday!
The same view by night
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  All too soon it was time to pack our bags again and return to the Africa Mercy which by now had moved from Las Palmas to Tenerife!  We had an early morning flight from Bristol and arrived back at the ship by lunchtime.  A beautiful island but we only had a few days to explore a little before sailing for Senegal.
          Our view from the ship

Getting ready to sail again

  

Cathedral in Tenerife
Our new neighbour – we didn’t think we were that small!
We were due to leave Tenerife around 6pm Saturday 10th August.  If we missed our slot our larger neighbour would take it so everyone had to be back on board by midday.  All were present!!  We left as planned, and as warned, the ship rolled quite a bit that first day – and a bit for the rest of the nearly four day sail.  Some of our number unfortunately suffered quite badly with seasickness.  We did take medication for the first day or so but were generally okay which we were thankful for.  Stuart and Matthew were very busy when we left and during the sail and Lynne had meetings but it was a bit less intense for her.  We do enjoy the sailing.
Securing the gangway for sail
Ready to sail
Ready to sail
Matthew and Min, one of our Ghurkas
Securing the gangway in Senegal
Arrival in Dakar
Arrival Ceremony in Dakar
The Advance Team were waiting to greet us on the dock.  They had been in Dakar since April preparing for our arrival.
We arrived in Dakar on 14th August.  There was a three week set up plan to prepare for the opening of the hospital on 9th September.  Much to be done in that time – such a huge job but it was great to be involved in it all and be on the ship for the start of the field service.  We look forward to what is in store for us in the next nine months.
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Still enjoying being here and what is a typical week like?!

This post by A Little Odyssey was originally published at A Little Odyssey

Where does the time go?  Life is busy here and we realise that it has been too long since we last posted and in just over three weeks the ship leaves Guinea!  Around February and March is apparently the time in the field service where many people feel quite tired – several months have gone by and there are still several more to go.  Although, we weren’t here at the start of the field service in August, we were busy until we left the UK in September to head to the States for five weeks training, arriving in Guinea for field practice in October and finally arriving on the ship in November and it is true, we had times earlier this year when we have felt really tired.   We were also not able to get out and about as much during this time as we’ve been hampered by an injury to Lynne’s knee which has made getting around difficult.  We are so thankful that we have access to a Crew Physician, Rehab team and Radiology Team here on the ship.  An MRI has confirmed a torn meniscus (with a bit sticking out!) and Baker’s Cyst so we have just organised slightly earlier flights home in June to see a Consultant with a view to having an arthroscopy.  Despite these things, we have continued to so enjoy being here doing the jobs we have, serving with fellow crew members and meeting the nationals and the tiredness and knee pain (thanks to a steroid injection) are receding.

Palm branches for Palm Sunday
Garden of Gethsamane presentation

Easter is a very special time to be on the ship.  Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday and we had palm branches brought down from up country to put round the boundaries of our dock space and on Deck 8 at the top of the ship and a service in the evening. 

During the week there were various events and services.  The Youth’s ‘Presentation in the Garden of Gethsemane’ on Maundy Thursday was particularly beautiful, reflective and atmospheric, as was the Good Friday ‘Tenebrae’ service.  Tenebrae is Latin for ‘darkness’ and the service is characterized by the gradual extinguishing of candles (battery operated ones for the ship!) until the room is in darkness at the end. 

Back to Roume
Tenebrae service

Easter Saturday we took the opportunity visit Roume Island again – probably for the last time.  We have really enjoyed the peace and beauty of Roume and enjoyed going with friends and making new ones.

There was an Easter Sunrise service, an Easter Celebration Service then a feast at lunchtime not dissimilar to Christmas.  So grateful to all the crew who put so much time and effort into planning and organising this week, including Chaplaincy, Food Service and Crew Service as well as other crew who use their creative and craft skills to make the ship look amazing.

Easter Sunrise service

Easter Sunday
Easter Sunrise service

We continue to be amazed and humbled at the work Mercy Ships does.  Tomorrow is the start of the final week of surgeries and the hospital will stay open for one more week after that.  The second round of Plastic surgeries has finished and a six week stint of Women’s Health surgeries (childbirth injuries and gynaecological) has also finished.  Medical Capacity Building where nationals are trained in many different medical areas continues pretty much all field service long in different parts of the country but has also now finished.  The final week of surgeries bring General Surgery (hernias and lipomas) and Maxillo Facial cleft lips.  Stuart and Mike, another carpenter, have also been capacity building by training the local day crew, in twos, in some basic carpentry skills.

Two of the Carpentry trainees

So, what is a typical week like.  We were ‘warned’ before we arrived at the ship that is is very easy to develop ‘FIMO’ (Fear Of Missing Out’) and we fairly quickly realised what that meant but we have still managed to fill our week!  Hmm!

We both generally work an 8.00 am to 5.00 pm working day which just whizzes by and our evenings have started to fill up – Stuart and Matthew also do ‘On-Call’ and Matthew has ‘Night Patrol’ to fit into all this.  We usually have dinner around 6 pm.  On Mondays Stuart goes to a book study group from 7.00 pm to 8.30 pm, Lynne started a small group but hasn’t been due to needing to rest, ice, etc her knee.  At 7.00 pm on Tuesday evenings we usually go to a ‘Music Get-Together’ to play and sing with a group of others, and on

Our OnBoarding family

alternate Tuesdays at 8.00 pm we meet up with our OnBoarding group (those that we did our training with in the US and Guinea field practice) to hear how we are getting on and encourage and pray for each other.  On Wednesday evenings from 6.00 pm to 7.00 pm there is a ‘Medical In-Service’ which is when one of the surgeons will give a presentation about their specialty or another area of experience.  It is fascinating, awe inspiring, at times somewhat incomprehensible to us non-medics and we have heard about facial tumours, thyroid surgery and goiters, obstructed labour, paediatric brain surgery, in-flight CPR,  treatment of  sacrococcygeal teratomas (what?!), ponsetti – we have learned so much!  For the medical crew, attendance at these, depending which country they are from counts toward their continuing professional development.   

Deck Team on Ice Cream duty
Local church we’ve attended recently

 Thursday evenings there is a Community Gathering from 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm followed by ice cream.Mercy Shippers seem to love their ice cream!  Fridays sometimes see us going out or Stuart going out with some of the men but has been on-call quite a few Fridays. 

Saturday we might go out for the day or  sometimes there is a film or just for part of the day,other event in the evening and Sunday varies – we have been to the Hope Centre service several times, we have recently been going to a local church or we may rest and catch up with things as in the evening is Church on the ship, followed by Brits tea in one of the family cabins.  There are always other ad hoc events going on too. 

‘All British’ goodbye breakfast to Judith
Bye to Lee at Guinea Gardens

We have made many new friends since arriving here.  Many have come and gone and those goodbyes can be tough but we are thankful for them all – we would rather have had them even for short while. Goodbyes are also a good excuse to eat out .

Obama where we enjoy going to eat.  

Hey!  That’s our berth!
Getting ready to move again

As the field service draws to a close, the ship had to move out of our berth to allow the berth to be dredged.  After two cancellations we moved one day; then moved another 20m later that day; we stayed there for two days – no make that another day
 

Masks on for another move

Followed by a long night

 – next to a ship unloading dusty stuff; then time to move back – oh wait, we’ll move once, and then again that day at 10pm!  It was a long night for the Deck crew as the Day Crew needed driving home when they’d finished.  Amazing how many football games are being played on the roads at 2am!!

As we start to pack up the outlook changes again and yesterday we watch the resident T-Rex (Terex) move two containers into place ready for the pack up team to begin their work.
Getting the pack up containers in position
Love this view of the islands and the sunset
Father and Son at work
As we finish this field service and look back over the last year, we are thankful to God for His goodness and faithfulness.  We thank Him for all of our friends we’ve met on this ship, the work of this ship and our family and friends back home supporting us.  In just over five weeks time we will be home for six weeks and Matthew will be following us a couple of weeks later as originally planned; we will return to the ship in August in time for the sail to Senegal and the next field service.





‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness.’    Lamentations 3:22-23