Category: Mission and Ministries

Fancy using your trade skills in a completely different way?

Tim Stephenson,
Paint brush, pliers and other tools

Our great friends and partners at Mercy Ships need our help – and it involves two weeks in the Canary Islands next summer…  Mercy Ships deploy hospital ships to some of the poorest countries in the world, delivering vital, free healthcare to people in desperate need. But a ship takes a whole lot of maintenance, and every summer their massive hospital ship goes into shipyard – this is a critical time when serious renovations and heavy-duty projects are tackled. 

Plumbing, welding, painting, installing new equipment; all together, they need 50 people to step up and offer their trade, to keep the medical ministry moving and make an impact for the Kingdom.

They are looking for people who can just spare 2 weeks (or more) in summer 2021 to work on the world’s biggest hospital ship in the Canary Islands.  Your trade is a mission skill, and they need you to use it to serve God.

Check out this video clip of one of their ships in dry dock undergoing annual maintenance

Want to know more? Why not get in touch with the team at Mercy Ships for a chat  volunteering@mercyships.org.uk

We are proud to stand with Mercy Ships as they are changing the lives of the poor but the success of their mission depends on guys like you – let’s do this!

Making the Message of Mark Matter

Steve and Ruth Lancaster,
Picture of Steve and Ruth

This post by Steve and Ruth Lancaster was originally published at Life in the Lancs Lane

Monduli seminar
The Monduli conference – the heart of
Masai land

We’re now midway through our conference season and preparing for our fourth event, this time in the wilds of Magambua (23rd-25th Sept), a 3 hour drive from the nearest tarred road. So far the IBM events have gone really well, with 90 pastors (and wives) in attendance. During the 3 day course we journey together through the gospel of Mark, although with only ten teaching sessions we’re only scraping the surface of some of the major events.  Here’s the breakdown, with a few added comments:

1: Intro to Mark.  A man who was possibly a failed missionary but was given a second chance by Barnabas, and who later became very useful to both Paul and Peter.

2: The Parable of the Sower.  A session that promotes more discussion than any other, quite possibly because many of our pastors are also subsistence farmers!?

3: Jesus calming the storm.  A key lesson for me this term, as I keep trying to apply the truth that Jesus is in the boat with me as I face the waves.

4: The feeding of the 5000.  Jesus doesn’t actually need the five loaves and two fish to do his work, but he chooses to use the small amount the little boy can offer to feed thousands!   

5. Peter’s confession of Christ.  If Jesus really is who he says he is, then we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him.

6: The donkey-riding King!  King of the Universe – yet he comes in humility and gentleness.

7: The authority of Jesus and the rumble in the temple!  What do we need to remove from the courtyards of our lives in order to give room for more reverence and worship to God?

8: Anointing the anointed.  The deep devotion of one woman who was prepared to give something of immense worth to Christ. 

9: The power of the cross.  Jesus (who didn’t deserve to die) was crucified, whilst Barabbas (who deserved to die) was freed.  Our middle name is Barabbas!   

10: He has risen!  Some of the most important words ever uttered by an angel!

Steve’s just relieved he didn’t get
the jacket!
At the three conferences so far, the day that stands out from the rest is the third day of teaching.  From a teaching/preaching perspective it has felt as though there has been an extra ‘uummpphhh’ to sessions 9 and 10.  Swahili utterance has felt more fluid and there’s been a real feeling of the message hitting home. The singing that follows these sessions has borne testimony to the fact that hearts and minds have been challenged and blessed, as we’ve considered the awesome power of the cross and the empty tomb.  It’s our hope that the teaching the pastors receive will enable and inspire them personally, but that they might also be mobilised to pass on what they’ve learned to their congregations.  

The Long Goodbye!  At each conference so far the closing minutes have involved a farewell presentation to us from the pastors and their wives, even though we haven’t shouted from the rooftops about our departure home to the UK!  I’d rather pop out the back door once the conference has finished!  A lengthy speech is normally followed by a procession of swaying gift-givers who parade to the front and wrap us up with tribal blankets!  At the Monduli event we were robed in Masai gear, followed up by the longest of photo-calls! 

At the Monduli seminar – clearly the couple on the 
right didn’t get the joke!


At the Pwani event, in an attempt to get us to rethink our exit strategy, pastor Reuben quoted from Acts 18:20 where the Ephesians pleaded with Paul to stay: They asked him to spend more time with them.  I politely quoted the end of the verse which says, but he declined!  Such farewells are indeed a blessing and enable us to realise that the work God has given us to do has not been in vain.  Such farewells also help us to finish well and give us the platform to say good goodbyes!  It also gives me the opportunity, in my closing speech, to lift up my Enabler in all of this. 1 Peter 4:11 says whoever preaches must preach God’s messages; whoever serves must serve with the strength God gives, so that in all things praise may be given to God through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs glory and power for ever.  In a season which has seen a few struggles, I am so aware that it is He who has given us the strength to do our work here, and therefore the glory belongs to Him.

End of a season.

Matthew Little,

This post by Matthew Little was originally published at Diary of a Deckie: My experience volunteering on a hospital ship.

The end of a season.

So. Here we are at last.

Said multiple fictional characters and probably some people who did exist and were in some kind of event that happened to be the proverbial ‘end of the line’. Probably, I don’t feel like fact checking this, but it doesn’t seem like much of a unique thing to say. I don’t know.

My time with Mercy Ships and my long service onboard the Africa Mercy has now come to an end, and now I feel in a state of  What is even happening right now. Presently, I am in in the middle of already left the Africa Mercy, and getting ready for starting the next season of life. University. It feels really strange.  The image below, taken from the plane, just coming over the British Isles is, I feel, a bit of an illustration of I am feeling.

It was only on the flight home, that I actually took time to notice the clouds over England. It is almost mesmerising just how still these big bunches of dust and vapours clouds are sometimes. I did A-level geography, but that was over two years ago, I have forgotten exactly the science of clouds, don’t judge. But it was like they were frozen in time, and, like all clouds do (well, most), obscure. At the moment, this time of transition feels like that. A bit frozen, surprisingly dynamic, and almost covered up. 

They also are a bit of a reminder of just how  breathtaking and complex His creation is. Whilst we as a species understand what clouds “are”, they are still incredibly detailed. The massive bunches of cloud, and how frozen they look are amazing on their own, then I noticed the tiny slithers of cloud branching out from the ‘main bodies’ almost suspended. I don’t understand clouds fully. I have seen the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets, particularly over the last 5 months, but nothing will compare to the wonder of clouds, in my eyes.

I didn’t expect that two Novembers ago, I would ”embark’ on a journey quite like the one I have just finished, but I am incredibly glad that I did. It has been a period of ups, downs, growth, experiences, adventures, and learning to live, work and serve in community. Through Mercy Ships, I have learned more, gained more skills and experience, that if I had blindly made  the decision a little over three years ago to just do what everyone else seemed to be doing after finishing education university, without thinking about what I would be getting into, or if I was even ready (I wasn’t) I would have never had the chance to do things that I have done. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. Through my work in the Deck Department, I have steered a ship, helped to tie off the ship, and operated a crane. I honestly cannot think how many guys or gals my age would be doing that straight out of school. Plus, I got something pretty dang neat out of my work, through training. As of about the middle of July, the slow months of trying to fill in sections of a training book, and also one almost long night of watching about 4 (some very boring) 20 minute training videos, to hand in my training book to Eric (then safety and training officer, now Chief Officer) the next morning, paid off. I became a Malta-recognised Deck Rating. Official title: Rating forming part of a navigational watch. What can I do with this, asides from shameless boasting, I could work on a ferry. #thinkingahead. All jokes aside, I am truly grateful to my officers onboard for helping me to get through this training, and allowing me to get to this level. If archaeology doesn’t work out, I have a career path to fall back on. God is good, and it was his will for this to happen in my life, and it is a great blessing. I am ready and looking forward to starting this new season of university. I don’t know if this is the path destined for me, but Jeremiah 29:11 gives me knowledge that I will be blessed.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future”

Side note – I may or may not have gone on a tiny tangent to work out the parallels between Halo and the Bible by finding 1 John 1:7. I didn’t work out the parallel, I just checked an interpretation on Reddit.                                                                                                                                                                                               

It has been a massive honour and a privilege to work alongside the guys I have worked with, directly. The Deck Department.  These guys are the most remarkable men I have ever met. It was very strange, not going to lie, I stood  out like a proverbial sore thumb. Being the only white guy and also by far the youngest team was a bit daunting, This was essentially my first job, and my entry into the working world, and I felt, at times, that I needed to prove myself to them all, but their warming nature told me otherwise, and I was quickly accepted into this unique working family, as a brother, and it is an honour to call them brothers as well. Looking ahead, I will probably never work in a team so diverse, coming from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Benin, Ghana, Madagascar, Guinea and Senegal. (Also The Philippines, Sweden, and Finland and Hungary. Though the Finns and the Hungarian were Deck Cadets)  I am incredibly thankful to have had this opportunity to work with and get to know these guys. Though, I feel like being different to the rest of the people I work with is going to a running theme, for me. Well, for the next year or so. As I go to start University, it is going to be weird, to introduce myself to my fellow students. Specifically fellow  first years, who will predominantly be made up of 18 years who just finished school, whilst I finished school two summers ago, and have been volunteering on a hospital ship serving in West Africa. 
Land ahoy! Oh wait, I am on a plane and not working
as a deck rating on a watch anymore.
Add caption

As well as the people that I have spent pretty much the last year and eight months working with, I have also met and made friends with the most diverse and extraordinary people. I will always be thankful and blessed by knowing and calling these guys my friends, and like my deck department work family, I will probably never meet a more diverse group of people, from all different nations, working in different departments on the ship. I have had friends from Engineering, from Food Services, from Reception, from Hospitality, from the Hospital, from Internet Serivces, from Finance, and from the Hope Centre. I will always keep these friends in my heart, and I cherished the moments of laughter, all the experiences and memories we made together, and I will always appreciate and never forget the time they took to make my birthday truly memorable (although, having a birthday locked down and under quarantine on a hospital ship in Tenerife is pretty memorable on it’s own), and to make me feel loved. Some of my favourite memories with the  different friendship groups have been spending a night on Casa Island, Guinea; Going for an unexpected sprint through Conakry Port in a desperate attempt to get back to the ship before curfew we didn’t; Going for an early evening swim on a beach in Las Palmas, which was much more pleasant than I expected for about 6/7 o’clock; A day trip Dakar, with 1 out of three planned visits done. Still bummed out that the western most point in Africa isn’t allowed to be stood on. Call of Duty matches on Christmas morning and Secret Santa; Completely ruining a teammate’s fun playing ‘Codenames’  with the intention of losing the game, and somehow succeeding in that task by accident; Nerf war in the Hospital (The hospital was closed, and we were in Tenerife, in quarantine) Want a solution for having a bonfire on a ship where bonfires are not  allowed? Two bits of wood carved to look like a fire, with fairy lights/ and chocolate-coated banana chips; mattress surfing (I can neither confirm nor deny) and the ‘Tour de AFM‘, or ‘Great Deck 8 Tricycle Race‘ This goes out to (in relative chronological order of friendship. Mostly) Caleb, Laura, Filips, Imani, Michiel, Kim, Philip, LK, Rimke, Michael, Simon, Stephen, Sam, Laurianna, Rachel, Ian, Kate, Moise, Luke, Leon, Anna, Cameron, Josh, Kees, Heilke and Justin. I just want to thank you all for walking with me in this journey, it has been an absolute pleasure, and I love you all.

Casa Island, Guinea
‘Funky sock Monday’ Tenerife
A bonfire made out of wood. But then, bonfires are made
of wood anyway. Mostly
So what about my time with Mercy Ships, how has that been? It’s been alright, I suppose. I have particularly enjoyed the opportunity I had back early into the Senegal field service, when I had a day off, and I had the chance to see what working in the hospital was like. No, it wasn’t a day to work in the Operating Rooms, I would be far out of my depth! I helped in Hospital Supply. It was almost satisfying to  see how my work in the Deck Department emptying containers full of hospital supplies, pays off. Apart from some of the medical supplies actually going towards the life-saving surgeries. It was like “So I empty the containers full of general supply and medical supplies, but where do they go after that?” then it’s like “This is so cool, I now know the complete journey of all this medical stuff.” I had two memorable moments of interacting with the patients. The first was playing Jenga, which quickly became a very advanced version of Jenga, where me, John the electrician from Australia and one of the young men competed to keep our tower stable, whilst putting the blocks on at really awkward positions. Even if we understood each other very little, it was wonderful to just have a laugh playing Jenga. Honestly, it was fun to watch the tower fall. The second most significant memory I have of interacting with a patient was purely accidental. It was  in Dakar, and one day, in the deck department we were engine testing, and I was stationed on the forward end of the dock, to keep an eye on the mooring lines, to make sure that they didn’t snap or become damaged, or unless we were getting too loose. As I was watching, I suddenly felt a small hand touching mine. I look down, and I just find a little girl, smiling at me. I smiled back, but then felt incredibly awkward. I was just thinking “I know there is a fence between us and the lines, but still, you shouldn’t be here!” But being British and not wanting to be rude and not trying to make her upset, I kind of just let her stay. I don’t know if I should done that. I think she just wanted to help me do whatever it was that that I was doing, she didn’t know what I was doing, but felt she wanted to help. I have no idea. Eventually, I think she got bored of not doing anything and went to play. I don’t know why, but that felt special.

So what now?

A very good question, that I will answer. I am starting University at the end of September, studying History and Archaeology with a Foundation Year, at Bishop Grosseteste University, in Lincoln. I am very excited about this, studying and learning about the past has been a passion of mine, and I have this opportunity to study further. Plus, the idea of interacting and discovering lost artefacts is really intriguing to me. Whether or not I find cursed occult treasures and end up running for my life keeping the artefacts at of the wrong hands, I have no idea. Indiana Jones is a very bad depiction of Archaeologists. 
I guess you could say that I am looking forward….. puts on sunglasses to looking back freeze frame, roll credits, 80s rock song plays in the distance

I am ready for this new season of life. I think. I think I am walking out into a new world. But this new world is…. my own country. Looking at this in the bigger picture, I have spent most of the last year and a half on a hospital ship in a completely different continent, serving two cities that I may never see anything like ever again. Conakry and Dakar were completely alien to me, but Lincoln, a city in my own country is also alien to me. I applied for University, on the ship, blind. No open days, just researching courses on the internet. I have never been to Lincoln. What is even more hard to get around is coming back to England in the time of Covid. I was expecting everything to be completely different, and all the towns being deserted. (Because I am a seafarer, and I have spent the last five months locked down on the ship, with very little contact with the outside world, I am exempt from self-isolation) But, apart from the social distancing measures in place, everything feels the way I left it, after returning back to the ship after my personal time off last August. The line between familiarity and  unknown is blurred. The first thing that I noticed coming back home, and I am sure most of my friends who have been to the ship and been away from the ship, is just how loud the ship is. There is always background noise, whether that be the air-con system, the generators below me (I have spent most of my time onboard on the smallest six berth on the ship on deck 3), loud work involving hitting things or grinding things (Both below me in the engine room or on the exterior of the ship, when I am on night patrol and sleeping during the day), my fellow fireman or the Firefighting Equipment Officer (miss you, Liang!) checking the SCBA bottles in the fire locker right outside my cabin early in the morning on Fridays (Also when I have just come off night patrol.), or the faint sound of the dead man alarm in the engine control room late at night, until the watch keeper switches it off. I will almost miss the background noise of the ship. 

Before I conclude, enjoy some photos from the promotion of myself and the rest of the deck crew. 

Me and Femi, my Bosun.
Eric putting on my epaulets, whilst I hold a certificate, which is a photo of the certificate.
Francis, Me, Djurre Jan (then captain), James and Cherif
(we became Deck Ratings); Richard and Patrice
(They became Able Seafarer Deck)
“The Firemen” and Liang, Firefighting Equipment Officer + Cherif, who is a waterman.

So what happens with the blog, you may be asking? I intend to keep the blog going, however, I don’t think posts will come out as regularly as I have tried to do, mostly because I don’t want to keep pumping out blogs about university life, and most of my time will probably be filled up with studies, and whatever I feel like doing. This will be more of a personal blog, writing about whatever is important to me and I want to share. Tune in for that, I guess.

Thank you!

This one will probably have a lot more meaning, I just want to thank you for reading. it has been a bit of a chore, at times, but to me, a read of any of my last how many or so posts is a big encouragement, so thank you for that support. I really hope that you, if you have been following the blog you have enjoyed reading.
Thank you,
And goodbye.
Matthew.

Tearfund letter about Connected Church

Tim Stephenson,
African villagers, presumably TearFund partner

We received this letter from Tearfund in relation to the Connected Church programme that we are part of, so I’m passing it along.

Dear Corsham Baptists,

I wanted to write to you and everyone at Corsham Baptist Church,  to thank you for your incredible faithfulness in prayer and giving to our Connected Church partners. 

In recent months, your support has been vital in helping many of our partners face the coronavirus crisis, with hygiene and the protection of livelihoods even higher on the agenda.

We know the crisis will have brought unique challenges for Corsham Baptist Church too. But we pray that this has been a fruitful time where you’ve experienced God’s goodness and grace in new ways.

A new season

At Tearfund, this season has given us an opportunity to reflect, in particular on the vital prayerful support of churches like yours. In these challenging times, we recognise the need to safeguard the work of our partners by finding new ways to reduce admin costs and free up funds for their work.

After much careful consideration, we have made the decision to bring the Connected Church scheme to an end. From the week of 14 September, your Connected Church regular giving commitment will be transferred to our Tearfund Partner Church programme. This change will allow us to direct your support to wherever the need is greatest globally and enable it to go further and wider.

We know that this may be a significant change and disappointment for you. Some have been supporting our Connected Church partners for many years. Please rest assured, your partner’s work will continue, just as before. And whilst we won’t be able to send you regular updates about their work in the future, please keep praying for them when you pray for our work.  

We trust you will appreciate that we do not take this decision lightly. If you have questions or concerns about these changes, our Churches Team would love to speak to you. Just email churches@tearfund.org, call 020 3906 3366, or write to the team at Churches, Tearfund, 100 Church Road, Teddington, TW11 8QE.

Getting to know who and where you’re helping

Through the new Tearfund Partner Church programme, we will bring your church updates from around the world – places you may have never seen or heard of before. This will include a quarterly video, giving a unique insight into the lives you’re helping, and the global impact you’re having. 

Any donations you make after 14 September will automatically be used where the need is greatest. But, if you notify us when making a donation, you can still send money to your Connected Church partner until 27 January 2021.

Thank you once again for your continued prayers and gifts, we are so grateful for your church’s partnership. You enable us to make a huge impact around the world in communities where people are really struggling. With your support, our partners’ beneficiaries don’t just survive, they thrive and flourish.

Yours in Christ, 

Nigel Harris
Chief Executive, Tearfund

An update from Souper Fridays

Tim Stephenson,

The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.

Psalm 126

This ministry has now been up and running for five months and in this time has greatly expanded throughout Corsham, and surrounding area. What started with four of us opening up on Friday lunch times at CBC Priory Street to provide free soup, bread roll and hot drink is now very different with three cars delivering food parcels on Friday mornings, with follow up pastoral care as necessary.

  • 17th January Souper Fridays started in church hall – 12 – 18 attending.
  • 27th March Food deliveries started after lockdown
  • 2nd April 17 deliveries to 22 people
  • 30th April 22 deliveries to 34 people (and one extra bag for residents where Pat B lives)
  • 28th May 25 bags to 45 people (and another extra bag for residents of Jargeau Court)
  • 11th June 27 deliveries to 47 people (plus the two extra bags for residential homes)

Such has been the expansion of both people and food supplies that we now have two of us (Joan and Jo) telephoning through the list of recipients on Thursday to find out what folk may be wanting. Colin collects food from the Coop in Corsham, Esther from the mini Sainsburys in Chippenham, and Cathy D from Allington Farm Shop. During the day on Thursday lovely photos of the goods are sent for us to update our distribution lists!

I hope you know that we now have a freezer donated by Jude in the church hall for this season, and Colin has this week been given a grant of £150 towards the purchase of a new freezer.

Whilst delivering on Friday mornings, we deliver a print out of Eddie’s sermon for the forthcoming Sunday, and pray (at the correct distance) “on the doorstep”. The recipients are a mixture of church and community folk, probably about 50/50. Many pastoral needs become evident, and if we can help, we do so. We have a pool of ten folk who are willing to deliver the food (5 stepped forward this week Tim) and another team of 7 who will help out with any pastoral needs, in addition to ourselves. (lifts to doctors, hospital, large print books, etc.)

Everyone is very appreciative of this service and we are receiving letters of thanks – and phone calls.

We are so grateful for the very many church folk who have stepped up to help. I think there will be a need for this ministry for some time to come.

Joan

Mission News – June 2020

Wendy Rowe,
Hands clasped over background of world map

Steve and Gill (WEC)

Steve has finished some intensive Child safeguarding training last week which went well but was exhausting doing it on line.

Gill has started adapting some of our MK staff training materials to teach on Zoom. Last Monday they talked together in detail about how to teach the first week. Please pray for us as we work out what we really need to include and how much study material to send in advance.

Our street is quiet and peaceful.

Stuart, Lynne and Matthew (Mercy Ships)

Hi and thank you for your continued support, we are blessed to serve with you all.  Main prayer points are:

  1. For clarity when the Africa Mercy will return to active service.  It is the intention to return to Senegal to complete our planned surgery – but when?
  2. For the health of the crew especially those who have returned home temporarily as they need to plan their lives amid all the Covid chaos.
  3. For us and our planned holiday in the UK mid August.
  4. For Matthew and for a good start at university in September.

Steve and Ruth (AIM)

We had 2 long days of interviews last week for the new accountant.  We now have a shortlist of 3, with one clear winner in my opinion.  He is overqualified but is the only one who talked about wanting to serve the people of God and who had done any research into what our vision is at Sanga Sanga.  He seemed to be a humble but competent person and a true believer.  Now we have to take our recommendation to our Institute Board (on Saturday) and I really hope they agree!  Thank you so much for your prayers.

Last week we had a long (5 hour!) management meeting at Sanga Sanga. The leader at Sanga, Rev Batano, doesn’t have strong management skills and no financial ‘nous’, so he leans on the missionaries very much for guidance.  He is a Bible teacher at heart.  Please pray for him in all his responsibilities.

Covid-19: the President recently announced that schools could open and that Tanzanian airspace would be opening up in June.  Amazingly, the country hasn’t been engulfed in the virus – praise God.  But now we see fewer and fewer people wearing masks, as if there is no danger.  We are still trying to be cautious, wearing masks, maintaining distances and avoiding groups.  

Steve is doing well, although his stomach issues came back last week – we pinned it down to eating tomatoes.  Please continue to pray for our health and safety.

Finally, please pray for our colleagues in AIM’s Eastern Region office in Nairobi.  One of their staff, Sammy, who had been with them for 18 years, died very suddenly last Friday after leaving work.  He had had a heart condition all his life.  He was one of their finance people who I liaised with regularly.  He leaves a wife and 4 children.  The staff team there is devastated – pray for God’s comfort on them.  

Blessings on you all.

Benjamin (BMS)

  1. Please pray for the safety of our street school children and their families.
  2. Please pray for the safety of the BMS Kolkata team
  3. Please pray for new communities which are opening so that we can begin schools and fellowships
  4. Please pray for all the new people who are finding the Lord during this time of crisis
  5. Please pray for some of the believers who are being baptized even in this lockdown period but also pray for the lockdown to be over so that we can see much more baptisms take place of the new believers who are waiting to do that eagerly
  6. Please pray for the trainings of our leaders happening online.

For this is the time to Praise the Lord, Delight in his commandments and we will not be afraid but our hearts to be steadfast and trust in the Lord. This is the time to be secure in Him.

I would like to go back to my title that God is not on lockdown (Ben’s latest newsletter). He is alive and working among the nations more now than ever in the midst of the greatest altar call that he has given to the entire world. As I am seeing what’s happening around, my mind goes back to Psalm 112 Blessed are those who know the LORD.

Oasis – Refugees

Three  weeks ago the Oasis was allowed to open their doors to refugees again for the first time since Covid-19 hit Austria. Due to continuing restrictions they have had to do things much differently. To ensure they could abide by the social distancing and hygiene rules they’ve postponed all their usual daily programmes. Instead, they are opening in shifts, welcoming any refugees that come by, but restricting to a maximum of six people in the room at any one time. This has proved successful as several refugees have come for prayer, to get Bibles and Christian literature and discuss the Christian faith. Others have called in for practical things like clothing, baby items and other household items, or just for a cup of tea and a chat. The team has also placed a book table outside the Oasis where anyone passing can pick up free Christian literature in their own language.

The camp had relaxed their quarantine rules and allowed refugees to leave, but last week another 13 CV-19 cases were identified so the camp is back on lockdown.

  • Please pray for refugees and workers in the camp, particularly those who know the Lord.
  • Pray that God gives the Oasis team wisdom as to how best to minister to refugees in these constantly changing circumstances.
  • Pray for the continued health of all the Oasis team and volunteers. Praise God none of them have succumbed to the illness.

With thanks from the Oasis Team.

Rhiannon (AIM work updates)

The third of 3 face to face meetings in Spain was cancelled (due to be at the end of April),  looking ahead with these meetings; the leader is on home assignment for 1 year (supposed to be gong to the States this month,  not sure if that’s happening). Because he will not be in Africa, the Leading from the inside out training won’t run this coming academic year.  He has said that if he is still in the position of leader then he would definitely want me to be involved, likely to be sept 2021. As far as the big conference in Kenya in November,  Eddie is going to contact the organiser to find out at this stage what the plans are.  If it does go ahead one thing that could be a difficulty is that arrangements might need to be made close to the date,  not sure if we will be able to get a team together at a late date. Plus,  finances might be a bigger issue if people have not been earning during lockdown.  At the moment,  no news on that one.  Eddie may have had a reply by the time you meet so might shed more light on that one xx

Compassion

The government, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, is working extremely hard to ensure that all citizens are safe. Health prevention guidelines have been disseminated and re-emphasised … Social distancing and health hygiene are also being emphasised. Even with all this, it is a personal responsibility. We are on our knees praying for wisdom and safety for each other. God is our refuge.” Lenny Mugisha, Compassion Uganda National Director  

  • “We will keep monitoring the situation in the slums and respond to needs as they arise. We appreciate your prayers for strength and courage and for God to protect the children and their families.” Ken, Compassion Kenya Social Worker
  • “My prayer for the health practitioners [in our country] is that they don’t contract the COVID-19 as their health is important to that they can serve patients better. I pray that this pandemic ends quickly.” Jeanette Nikuze, Compassion Rwanda graduate and pharmacist (above)
  • Our partners in Ethiopia are praying that God will heal people who are ill with COVID-19. Please also pray that our Father God will provide wisdom to the people in government as they try to mitigate the spread of the virus and its social and economic impact on the country. 
  • “Please pray for our leaders, anyone sitting on the decision making table to have wisdom to provide contextual solutions. Also pray that the Church will be the Church. The Church should not operate from fear.” Richmond Wandera, Compassion graduate, Ugandan Pastor and Compassion UK Trustee

Tearfund

See this useful link for those in prayer partners praying for coronavirus.

Our local church partners are already on the frontline, providing crucial hygiene and sanitation assistance. Nations in lockdown, widespread uncertainty, hospitals struggling to cope – we’ve seen with our own eyes how devastating Coronavirus can be. But for people living in extreme poverty, the impact will be far worse. Please pray .

TearFund

Bible Society- Malawi

So far there has been a limited number of confirmed cases. Please pray that this will continue as the health system will not be able to handle any outbreak such as the Coronavirus.  Pray that Christians will help others to look to God for hope and that we as Christians will look to God for help. 

Open Doors

Lord Jesus Christ

You, who hugged the leper and healed the lame,
Be with all those who are reaching out to you at this time.
We think especially of all who already pay a high price for following you:
     those who are poor, and running out of food,
     those who are hated by their community and are always the last to receive help – if they receive it at all,
     those to whom the fear of Covid-19 is just the latest in a long list of fears which they must carry every day
Encourage and protect the pastors who lead their flocks,
     and the Open Doors partners who bring help.
Bring courage to those who are afraid,
Strength to those who are weak,
Comfort to those who mourn,
and hope to us all.

AMEN

Covid and an early farewell to Senegal

A Little Odyssey,

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

  

An update from our mission partners: Bible Society

Tim Stephenson,

Sue W writes to encourage you to get an important date in your diary – and it’s an opportunity that may not come again! The morning of June 30 sees two significant linked events.

The National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast has become a fixture in Parliament’s timetable, but until now numbers have always been limited. However, because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year the event will be held online – and everyone’s welcome to attend.  The Breakfast will be livestreamed on Tuesday, 30 June, from 8.30–9 am.   It will be hosted by Marsha de Cordova MP and the main speaker will be the Bishop of Kensington, Rt Revd Dr Graham Tomlin, whose theme will be ‘Hope and peace in a time of fear and suffering’.

It’s free to register, and you’ll have the chance to hear not only from Bishop Tomlin but from leading parliamentarians as well. You’ll also be taking part in prayer for our nation’s leaders at the most critical time in our history since the Second World War.  So please visit EventBrite to register for the event, and share this news around as widely as possible.

It would be particularly good if you could encourage your local Member of Parliament to attend. For Priory Street congregations, that’s Michelle Donelon and for Church on the Green that’s James Gray. Even if they aren’t churchgoers, it’s good for them to know that Christians are supporting them.

After the Prayer Breakfast, Bible Society – the principal sponsor of the event – will be hosting a seminar for church leaders and Bible communicators. Entitled, ‘Mission during lockdown and beyond’, it will last from 10 am to 11.15. It’s designed for church leaders and Bible communicators who want to know more about the implications of the coronavirus crisis for the Church and the world.

Contributors from within and outside Bible Society will talk about how churches have responded to lockdown, how the virus will change the church, and what resources we can offer to support you.   You’ll be able to register for the seminar when you book your (free) ticket for the Prayer Breakfast (click on ‘Church leader’ or ‘Member of the public’ when you’re asked for your role, and there’s a drop-down menu).

Bible Society’s Deputy Chief Executive Paul Woolley said: ‘This is a great opportunity for Christians to pray with and for our nation and political leaders at a tremendously challenging time.   We’re all deeply conscious of the burdens carried by parliamentarians at this time, and the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast provides a great chance to come together and stand in solidarity with them.  The event is a good opportunity to reflect on the challenges and opportunities facing the UK today, listen to parliamentarians and church leaders, and worship together.

‘Bible Society’s webinar after the Breakfast will offer some great insights into the way the church has responded to lockdown and how the experience will change our approach to mission. We’ll hear from leaders of organisations and church networks, consider resources that can help us, and pray, and I’d really encourage church leaders and Bible communicators to attend.’

At the crucial time in the life of the world, we want to pray for our political leaders, and to resource and inform our church leaders. We hope you can join us on 30 June.

An update from our mission partners: Compassion

Tim Stephenson,

You may have been wondering how our mission partners have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis? We have so far escaped relatively lightly in Wiltshire but what of some of the children that we sponsor collectively or individually in emerging economies around the world?

Compassion’s site has some updates about the delays in communications as well as lots of tips to help you find what to say and write sensitively about the current situation. Well worth taking a look here: https://www.compassionuk.org/blogs/how-to-write-in-a-time-of-crisis/.

Like so many other parts of life at the moment, Compassion has found the easiest way to minimise disruption is digitally. So whether you want to keep in touch with, pray for or give to Compassion you can do it all with the app available here: https://www.compassionuk.org/app/.

Finally, you can find out about who all our mission partners are on the Mission page.

A different kind of ship-life, reflection and two decades of life.

Matthew Little,

This post by Matthew Little was originally published at Diary of a Deckie: My experience volunteering on a hospital ship.

A Different kind of ship-life, reflection and two decades of life.

Hello. It’s me, Matthew Little. The author of this blog I just want to start by recognising that yes, I haven’t updated this blog in a few months. My reasons are that I just didn’t know what to write. I had honestly felt like that I had written everything that I possibly could have about life on the M/V Africa Mercy (This is the name of the vessel I have been serving as a deck hand for about a year and a half . There is a United States Navy Ship Mercy, which is also a hospital ship, and has been in the news recently for an unfortunate reason but we are two completely different vessels. I just felt I should clear this up.) 
Without repeating myself by recalling doing the same tasks over and over again, but in a slightly different part of the ship, in a slightly different circumstance, neither, did I want to flood the blog with other information about what I did in my free time. Whilst I have heard that some of my readers like that, and it allows them to have a virtual way into Senegal and West Africa, but I also didn’t do too much exploring, asides from the occasional night out with friends getting food or something. There just wasn’t much that I thought was interesting. But now times have changed. I think we all know that. 

Be warned, this may also be a long one. Stick around, if I ever publish my blog posts as volumes, this post may just be it’s own book. And if it is adapted into a film, Peter Jackson managed to adapt one book into a trilogy of movies, so why not this one. Just add characters who don’t even appear in the book, it’s fine.


For those curious about what has happened in Senegal, please read this official statement issued by Mercy Ships:


The current situation of COVID-19, highlighted by the W.H.O.’s announcement of the designation of COVID-19 as a pandemic and the increasing travel restrictions applied by several countries, have made it increasingly difficult for Mercy Ships to continue to carry out its programs to the required standards, while protecting against the possible spread of the virus.

Therefore, in line with the measures taken by the President of Senegal with the Ministry of Health, Mercy Ships has reviewed the activities associated with the Africa Mercy and has decided to wind down the programmatic operations of our mission in Senegal.

The main concerns of Mercy Ships are the health of the Senegalese people and the safety and well-being of our own volunteers, crew and staff worldwide

While we regret these measures, we are convinced that they are necessary for the safety and well-being of all concerned.

As we face these challenging events, we would like to thank you for your ongoing prayers and support to Mercy Ships and our mission to bring hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.


And now, we are no longer in Senegal, and we have sailed to Tenerife, where I write now. Over a course of a few weeks, I will add. I can’t sit down to write one post in one day. When we received this news on board, that was when I realised the world had just been turned upside down. And everything on the ship changed. Well, not literally, but for a few days after this…. It was hard to process the news, but on the ship, I noticed a very stark change of atmosphere. 

Already, the world seems a bit less bright. – Joshamee Gibbs, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

It was really strange, that us on board, looking in, reading the news from back home about how COVID-19 is spreading rapidly around our home countries. We were worried for Family and friends back home. I had decided that I would give up Facebook and Instagram for lent, but then, not knowing exactly who to talk to, not knowing exactly what to ask, who to ask if they were ok, I just wanted to read a message saying a “Yeah, I’m ok”, I just decided to break my social media fast, just to see updates, to see that they were doing ok. Starting these conversations scared me. But social media updates were just a huge a relief. I didn’t like deciding to break that fast, but it was worth it, to see that people were ok. 

It was also very strange, to read updates and statistics, to think that being so far away from home, where there were no cases in Senegal or Africa yet, and to think, we were safe where we were. But then that all changed, hearing about the first confirmed case of Senegal, reading that the World Health Organisation declaring Covid-19 as a Pandemic, and suddenly, shore leave has been stopped, and we will prepare to sail away to safety as soon as possible. But where was safety? Covid-19 was everywhere. It was the most unexpected thing in the world, and it was scary. For all we knew, we could be sailing out of Senegal, with no clear destination, stuck, out at sea for who knows how long. Out of all of the fictional universes that I know, The Last Ship was not the one I wanted to live out. Bearing in mind, the only episodes of The Last Ship I have watched are the last three episodes of the final season, so apart from that a Navy Vessel goes on a research mission in the Arctic, only to return to a world where a pandemic is running rampant, I mostly have no idea what it is about, only how it ends. 

Books I have read, and how they strangely apply to my life now.


On the ship, I joined a book club, headed by a chaplain with such members as the Captain, an IT Specialist, an Academy student, a Hospital Supply Assistant, a Medical Capacity Building team member, and a few from Human Resources. We have read two books so far. Looking back, I didn’t think that I could have possibly put myself in the shoes  of the two main characters of the books we read. Until now. Well, one of them was a biography, but still. This book was The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel. This book tells the story of the so-called last true hermit in North America amongst other names such as North Pond Hermit. This guy lived as a hermit in Maine for nearly 30 years. Reading and discussing the story of this guy, trying to make sense of a guy who decided that in his prime, finished school a few years prior, supposedly had a few good friends, and a good family, just decided to run away from home and live in a well hidden campsite close to a few holiday cabin, for no reason. It was a good book, and I would recommend it. Whilst reading, I did think “What if I did that?” and I will admit that growing up, I did think about “What if i just ran away and  ceased communication and contact with humanity one day” I could do that, I could survive (probably, I’ve read The Hunger Games) I could identify with the hermit, I’m an introvert, face to face conversation sometimes overwhelms me. But he also taught me that even when we don’t want to talk to people and we just want to run away, we still crave some form of connection with people, even if it is by listening to music, podcasts, or by watching people on YouTube whether they are vloggers or a gaming channel, just sharing their passion with the world. I would never actually run away. But when you are quarantined to a ship with many other people for an unpredictable period of time, it is near impossible to be a hermit, and alone time is a rare moment, and perhaps a gift. I have found the only time at the few moments of solitude you can get on the ship at the moment are in your cabin. There is a lot  cabin movement, just to push for seperation, to prevent the potential spread of Covid-19, or just illness in general. Also being a Deck Hand, doing Night Patrol, is also one of these rare moments of solitude.

The other book, however, is one that right now, I want to be in that world. The book is Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. It’s about this man, Jason, A physics professor at a university, who is one day abducted, and wakes up in another universe. It’s a book about travel in the multiverse, and how with every decision you make, an infinite number of parallel universes are created. There is no wrong or right decision, but there are a never ending number of outcomes. It was a crazy book, but these days, I wish I could be in that world, where you can essentially become a god, creating a new world with thoughts and emotion, just to escape this world we live in, with a pandemic. It’s an incredible power. How insane must it be, to explore different outcomes, and to live in a world where you can go to a world where you can live in a world as if you corrected your own mistakes, or just imagine a new paradise, and to not look back.

Looking back on working in the Deck Department, and the opportunities i had.


After pack up was completed, the cables were stored and the anchors on board, we were ready to begin our earlier than expected journey to wherever next. And boy, was I given new opportunities and responsibilities than I never expected to get – ever, let alone not long before my 20th birthday. I was given the responsibility of steering the ship during a man overboard drill, where we had to do a fancy manoeuvre, which was pretty much a 180 degree turn. Although, it wasn’t a straight up turn around, we had to go a certain degree off course, then sort of back again by about half. All so that if there ever was a man overboard, we don’t hit the man overboard, or they got chopped up into little bits, and also to give the rescue boats space to rescue the victim. If you ever find yourself being asked to take the helm of a ship during a man overboard rescue, I’ll tell you this: Don’t get your hopes up for excitement at the wheel, it’s pretty uneventful. 
The expectation: Many wheel turns in quick succession and a bunch of momentum and fluidity.
Reality: “Starboard a certain amount of degrees” says the Captain, calmly. The helmsman dutifully repeats the command just given, conveying calm and confidence, as a show of understanding, then begins to carry out the order. When the order is carried out, the helmsman yells “Starboard a certain amount of degrees, sir.” With the same degree of calmness. The Captain then acknowledges the completed order, and the helmsman stands-by for the next, calm collected command.
No matter, to be given that amount of responsibility was an incredible honour, and I am very glad to have been able to do that. During my time with Mercy Ships thus far,  I have had the opportunity to do many cool  and different tasks working in the Deck department. To look back on my time, months after finishing school, doing things such as operating a crane, operating a forklift, being a team member on mooring operations, to get the ship tied up and freed (I Guess? How else do I call unmooring operation? de-mooring? un-porting?), hauling heavy mooring lines and operating capstan winches to make sure the lines tight and loose, Night Patrol duties (Even though they are very boring, mostly uneventful, and long) keeping lookout for the safety of the crew and the patients we care for, when they all rest. (But a benefit is that it is  one of the only times on board where you get to be alone), assisting with container operations, and as I have already mentioned, steering the ship. If you look at Mercy Ships and wonder “How does this help to bring hope and healing and life-saving surgeries?” I sometimes ask myself the same question, but watch your favourite film, watch the credits, MARVEL has been rewarding audiences for patience since time began. You find that a film is more than just the actors/actresses, directors, producers and writers. A whole, sometimes global team work to bring entertainment together. It’s the same way with Mercy Ships. We need staff to cook and serve the food for the crew and patients, to give them sustenance, strength and to keep us healthy, housekeepers to keep the ship clean, and the crew healthy. The plumbers to work on the vacuum system and make sure the toilets are working. Engineers and electricians to keep the lights on and power running. Information Services to give us internet. The team in the only Starbucks in Africa to give us our caffeine and waffles. Transportation and maintenance to keep  the vehicles and off-ship facilities running. The deck department to make sure that the ship is strong enough and in the right conditions, to keep the ship sailing, and to continue bringing hope and healing. I am sure I have already written about how the jobs we do on deck help, such as emptying the containers of the medical instruments and equipment, moving into another container, lifting that container on board, emptying the container, for medical supply to provide for the operating rooms. It may not be on the front line, but the fact that I can say that I have supported bringing hope and healing with the work I do on board, all before I was twenty years old, is a very cool thing.

What has happened? Why is the world so new?

Right now, the ship is docked in Tenerife. In quarantine. For about two weeks. But when that two weeks is over, we still have to follow the Spanish regime of lockdown. So we don’t actually know the next time when we are free to leave the ship and explore. It is a stark contrast to ship life a little over a month ago. It already feels like months ago when shore leave was restricted, and the priorities of the ship changed. It all happened so fast. over a weekend. Going from “We are going to continue  bringing hope and healing in Senegal until we are due to leave” to “We are going to get ready to leave as soon as possible” in under two days was a surreal thing. I maybe repeating myself, but for a few days after we received this news, I sensed a very different vibe on the ship. It was a vibe of sadness and confusion. The next few weeks were like looking through a dirty window, and no-one knew what was going on anymore. Then began a slow, mass exodus of crew, desperate to get on the last flights home before borders closed and charter flights became available. They were bittersweet farewells. On one hand, they may have been final goodbyes, depending on plans, then might have been the last time we would see them again, with repeat offenders or just good friends saying goodbye unexpectedly. I can personally put faces and names to some of these people. I am due to leave to ship (Hopefully, in August), saying goodbye to crew who I know would be returning to the ship once this whole COVID thing blows over, I may never see them again if they return unexpectedly later than I leave. But on the other hand, they left to go back home to help in the fight COVID in their own countries, using their skills and gifts when they can’t use them now. Or they left because they recognised that we needed a certain number of crew onboard to sail, and they wanted to reduce numbers. They made sacrifices, and we are truly thankful for the sacrifice and hard decisions they made to return back home. whilst this was going on, It was just a fast push to get the ship ready to sail, breaking the dock down, bringing everything on deck, tying it all down, cleaning and securing. I don’t remember leaving Guinea in the same way last year. Leaving Senegal just felt like a huge rush, we were evacuating, leaving for uncertain safety. Whereas when we left Guinea, we knew we were leaving, and we knew where we were going. And we had done all we had done, in Guinea, we had finished. But we left Senegal with unfinished business. We also couldn’t say goodbye to our deck day crew. Only about 50 essential day crew were allowed to live in our tents on the dock, the ward day crew, housekeeping, the engine control watch keepers assistant and galley staff. We didn’t want to break our quarantine bubble. But, the men who I had spent about 8 months working alongside, whilst teaching each other about our respective cultures, growing in friendship and respect, working together, even with big cultural and personal differences. I am truly glad to have worked with them. And also sad that there wasn’t any closure. We celebrated with the day crew from Guinea, having food together. We couldn’t do that this time. I wish we could have. I may not see them again. Going from working in safety and out of reach from the disease to “We are unable to continue, we don’t feel safe here anymore” was a strange thing, all around.

Things haven’t been so bad, though. Reasons to celebrate. Living in a rare thing today.

It is easy to think about the sad things that have happened recently. But things haven’t been all bad though. There were things that we thought we would be doing differently a few weeks ago. These things include Birthdays. Over the last few weeks, the Adventure Crew celebrated a few birthdays, albeit differently than we expected. The first of these birthdays was Cameron’s. Cameron worked at the Hope Centre, our sort-of hotel for those living out of Dakar, and we waiting for surgery, or had surgery, but were still with Mercy Ships for recovery. Cameron was from America, but had heritage from Asia.  There was a Korean place in Dakar, and we surprised him with a meal there, a few days before his birthday. Why before? He had an interesting story regarding flights. His birthday was on the Saturday after (Also the Saturday that shore leave was restricted), and he was due to fly to Paris before his birthday, so we decided we would surprise him before his Birthday. The Adventure Crew gathered at the Korean place, and he was told that he would go out with just the Hope Centre team, so they showed up later. And surprise, all his friends were also there! It was a delightful evening of fellowship, friendship, and broadening horizons of food. But then Covid-19 and the flight was cancelled, so he was able to spend his birthday in Dakar, or more rather, on the ship, as that was the Saturday when everything was turned upside down. We were planning to go to a beach in the evening. But at about half 10 in the morning: Shore-leave had been restricted, and everyone who had already left the ship were called back. Everything had changed, in a matter of less than 24 hours. So we decorated the Crew Mess with MEMES! We had to wait for Cameron to get back from the Hope Centre in the evening, and we spent the evening celebrating Cameron in a tiny room. And there was cake. We miss you Cameron. (Cameron did manage to leave)

The next birthday celebrated was Kate’s. Kate wanted to go snorkelling, but as plans had shifted, we improvised. By transforming the Queen’s Lounge into the ‘ultimate underwater experience’. complete with Gabriel, a fish caught earlier in the day (R.I.P Gabriel). My contribution to the whole thing was being asked to watch and guard the snacks and juice for the punch. Until Anna and Rachel forgot about the task they gave me for over an hour. But hey, none of it was stolen, so I think I did a good job. It was a very cool sight. The room had a blue tint, there were paper jelly fish, streamers, fish, and to top it off, there was a marine life themed MEME WALL! We said Happy Birthday like we were whales, and I have never seen someone walk into a birthday party for themselves get so excited  wearing flippers and a snorkel mask, and it is that much joy radiating from one person that makes life worth living. And lock down not so bad. We also managed to get in touch with some previous members of the Adventure Crew (Although, once part of the Adventure Crew, always part of the Adventure Crew. Unless you accidentally make someone leave voluntarily). We spoke to Simon (EAGLES, WOW) and Meg (his girlfriend, who I haven’t met in person), In New Zealand, and Philip, who now works at the Mercy Ships headquarters. (At least, we tried, with the Internet being SO BAD at the moment, because no one can leave) It was very nice to catch up with ‘The outside’. 

And then there was a break for a few weeks without Adventure Crew birthdays, but in between, there were other activities on board for the rest of the crew to get involved in and enjoy together. (which is a rare thing these days, and it is a privilege to be one of the only people in the world right now, who can celebrate Easter and birthdays, or just being together) These have included, pub quizzes, (I joined a team with my parents and Stuart and Frances, the parents of a British family here onboard. We won the last quiz. I am convinced that me knowing thee difference between the Rolex and Hallmark crown) Mandalorian marathons (This is the Way.), A few Deck-department lead Irish/ sea-shanty evenings. My father on acoustic guitar, Riku playing the violin, Adam (Deck Cadet, Hungary) on guitar, and me playing (or at least, trying to play) the ukulele, Kim on the Cajon, Cherif (Guinea) on the keyboard, and Femi. Oh yeah, Femi came back with his wife Jennifer, and their daughter, Meghan, just after Christmas! I was super excited for them to return to the ship. As I type this now, a ping pong tournament is going on. There was a bake-off, Prince of Egypt, amongst other activities.

And then there were two Adventure Crew birthdays within one week. The first was my own. Yeah, I didn’t think I would be spending my 20th under quarantine, but these things happen. But I had people to celebrate my birthday with, which was just nice. What was even better, is that because I was on Night Patrol the week before, I had my birthday (on a Monday) off! But the celebrations really happened the day before. And how did my amazing ship friends surprise me? With escapism; from reality, and the Death Star. They made a Star Wars themed escape room, and transformed the Queen’s Lounge pantry into a Death Star data centre. My team of Rebels (Kate, Kees-Ake from the Netherlands. He also returned to the ship, Rachel, Luke and Patrick) were stuck on the Death Star, during the finale of A New Hope, and the Rebel Starfighter pilots were beginning the attack. We had to translate Aurebesh like all nerds do, do maths Ugh. Maths, answer Star Wars trivia, identify a character who said ‘I have a bad feeling about this.’ All to discover the find the location of Rebel Allies, before the Death Star explodes. We were told that the Death Star blew up 5 minutes before we escaped, but whatever, we said we won. Also, Josh, fellow Star Wars nerd, created back story for my character: a force-sensitive Ewok, trained in the Dark Side of the Force as a Sith. My Sith ability: The ability to discern the ways of the Universe, but at the cost of taking a life. Putting it simply, I could kill a team mate for a clue. It was a hard decision, but for time, I had to kill two teammates. (Rest in Peace, Luke and Patrick) but that wasn’t all. Rachel and Anna baked a BB-8 cake for me haha, BB-Cake got BB-8, and we spent the evening after the Sunday service in friendship, all because I was alive, and almost lived for 2 decades. And the gifts I was blessed with…. An african Fabric Hat, an African model of some description, a novel about being an IT Leader and a fake Handle Bar Mustache. The Hat and Mustache I gladly wore for my actual birthday. At least, when the tape actually did it’s job and actually stuck. My actual birthday was fairly chilled out. I was called out by John, our Operations Director during the Monday morning briefing. I wasn’t very camouflaged. But, what was the first thing I saw when I walked out the cabin door? A MEME WALL!  There was the Queen, Star Wars, British memes, inside jokes, MARVEL and references to birthdays during the time of COVID-19. If the Great Wall of China was built to keep the Mongols out of China, then a Great Birthday Meme Wall of Deck 3 can keep out COVID19 and quarantine depression. In the evening, my Parents and I watched Master and Commander: Far side of the World for the first time. It’s a good film, I would recommend, and gave me presents. A Mercy Ships  t-shirt, A book on the history and Archaeology of Petra, the once capital of the Nabateans, the city carved into a rock, and the location for the hiding place of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones, Toffifee and the most important and crucial item to have today…. a bottle of hand sanitizer. The Adventure Crew also made a card, with I guess… their favourite photos of me. I don’t take many photos of myself, or have many photos taken. Or take many photos generally. Anyway, It was a great few days, I felt so appreciated and loved, and I couldn’t have asked for better friends to celebrate my life with under quarantine. To Laurianna, Luke, Kees, Patrick, Kate, Anna, Rachel, Josh, Moise, and anyone else who contributed, or were just there, I love you all so much, thank you for what you did for me that day. or days. Also, to my parents, who brought me into the world, and with whom I was around to celebrate with, thank you. Who knows if this will be the last of my birthdays we will celebrate together, but I am glad you are here, with me, on this ship.


OK, Self-indulgence over.

The last birthday we celebrated, in the form of a Garden Party Brunch on Deck 7, was for Laurianna. Because, if we can transform a room into an underwater scene or a room on the Death Star, then Deck 7 can definitely be turned into a garden. And so we did. Kinda. But what other garden has a sea and mountain view. Yeah. Not many, so it is instantly better than yours. My role – enforcing the ‘Wear nice clothes and be ready on time’ directive. At least, it was my primary role in the whole thing, but I did have others. But it was a nice morning, we had Galettes buckwheat pancakes. This was my first galette experience, and, they are, surprisingly, quite nice. At least the galettes that Kate prepared. So the bar is already quite high. Good job, Kate! Anywho, it was another time to gather with some pretty cool people, and celebrate the life of a friend. And another MEME WALL. was erected in the honour of Laurianna. Because MEME WALLS are the next best thing.  Thank you for the friendship, Laurianna! Then later that day, I found an error in the book about Petra, which labelled one monument as another. I know, the horror! 

And, of course, it’s spring, so Easter happened. Last year, I didn’t enjoy Easter on the ship. It was an extravaganza, and this Easter was no different. I think the main reason why I didn’t enjoy Easter last year, was because the concept of celebrating the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ in community was so new to me, and I couldn’t handle being around the number of crew on board. Christmas has always been a time where people get together to celebrate the Birth of Christ, but not Easter. But this Easter has been different, and I think that after last year, I knew what would be going on, so I could mentally prepare myself for the season. It was both that, and I had become used to the number of crew onboard, Because nobody has been allowed to go off-ship. Last Easter, everyone just seemed to suddenly be onboard, but we had gone for nearly a month where everyone was here. During a Sunday worship service recently, we were reminded, that this year, because with so many countries going into lockdown, and everyone staying inside, not being allowed to make large gatherings, and with us onboard, who have to remain onboard, in community, we would be some of the only people in the world, who could celebrate Easter, with other people. And how privileged we are to be able to do so. My question “Why, out of the billions Christians on the planet, have been given the honour to celebrate with people?” So I was ready to celebrate, to make the most of what others could not do.  Out of all the Easters and Birthdays I have celebrated up to now, this year will probably always stand out to me, not only because they were both during the time of a pandemic and I was under quarantine, but also because I was onboard a ship, with a celebrating alongside a crew of 200-odd, and we could celebrate together. 

And now, my plans, during a time where nothing is certain to happen anymore. I have always been fascinated by history and artefacts from history, and I have the opportunity to study such things, and I have realised that, through working in the deck department, from the stories told by our officers and cadets, a life at sea, is not one for me. So, I have plans to return back to the UK later this year (hopefully) and start a four-year course studying History and Archaeology. I believed coming to Mercy Ships this past year-and-a-half was my calling, but it has only been my calling for the past year-and-a-half, and a few more months. It’s roughly 3 months off two years. I am certainly happy with what I have done during my time, and I have done things I never would have expected to be doing, during my late-teens. I have met people, and become friends some of the most extraordinary people I have ever, or will ever met, that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t come. Those people are both the crew on board, and also the African day crew. So I wasn’t ready to face University a year and a half ago. But after spending  a year and a half, helping to bring hope and healing in a completely different continent. So, to my parents. Thank you for inviting me along for the ride. Another thing you should know about me, is that I could not reflect on myself to save my life, and I could not pick out a personal development that has stood out to me. 

So, that’s probably about it for now. At least, all that I am allowed to share, and all that has happened in my life for the month or so. Sorry that this has basically become a book in itself, but I truly appreciate you for sticking through it. 

Thank you,
Matthew.
Now, enjoy some photos, just so that this book has something for the eyes.

The very wet (and somewhat salty) forward mooring deck,
from the port side bridge wing. I hadn’t seen the spray get as high as the bridge before


This is me in the chainlocker
BB-Cake got BB-8 (Thank you, Rachel and Anna.)
And that is punch, not blood..
Sailing away from Dakar, from the Aft mooring deck
The horizon….. somewhere in the Atlantic
Happy birthday to me, I guess.
Aft mooring deck, leaving Dakar
A view of the Atlantic from Starboard side, in Tenerife

Artsy photo  number one
Arriving in Tenerife  (photo credits: my mother)
Artsy photo number two
Artsy photo number three




A sunset in Tenerife






The first thing I saw leaving the cabin on my birthday.
And yes, that is Nigel Farage
(From January)  Surviving twin cannons from the French Danton-class semi-dreadnought battleship Verginuad, on Goree Island.  I was looking forward to seeing these in person.