Category: Mission and Ministries

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. 


News from BCS, Senegal

Tim Stephenson,
Logo of Bourafaye Christian School: "Living to love, loving to learn, learning to live arranged in a circle around a tree

Hello dear friends, writes Teresa, one of the young people who came to Corsham last summer for the MK Staff Training course. She is serving as a short term worker at Bourofaye Christian School, Senegal.

11 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 hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah 29 v 11

I hope that in these particular circumstances you are all well and not too anxious. In the last few weeks the world has turned upside down and it feels like you’re in a film. I wanted to give you all an update about my current situation but each day brings change and within a short space of time everything could alter.

Trust God for all the future unknowns

Big changes have happened over the last two weeks. At first it was just the tightening of hygiene regulations in school and then a short time after the Senegalese president announced that all schools should be closed and large gatherings forbidden. (Nearly) All of our children were to be collected in 48 hours for the pre-organised Easter holiday. However, we knew that they wouldn’t just be staying for the holidays. After Easter we would attempt to do our best at continuing school with online homework. The Cambridge exams that the eldest children would have completed have been cancelled and so for these children their schooling will be finished even earlier then expected and perhaps they will have to leave the country.

Planning is difficult, it is actually quite uncertain if and when the school can continue.

The news is that 70 tested cases are positive and about 1500 isolated.

Senegal seems to have reacted quickly with enforcing protective measures; anything else would be fatal because the medical infrastructure is not prepared for a pandemic.

Although at first for staff it means a holiday it is not quite so straightforward as there are several in the team who are at risk. Nevertheless we are here and are blessed with a large site, sports hall and field, library and for us all, fellowship! Together we can play sports, cook and watch films everyday. But also praise, worship and pray together. Given that, for the moment I would prefer to be here rather than in Germany.

However, as already mentioned, for the next 24 hours everything remains uncertain and several staff are considering travelling back to their home countries.

Eye of the storm

Immediately it came to me the picture of God and we as Christians in the eye of the storm. The world around us is sinking into chaos and we are in the middle. But unlike the rest of the world we know that there is hope and that we can leave all our cares with God. Of course that doesn’t mean that we are free from sorrow but like the above verse says ‘He has plans for us, to prosper and not to harm us.’ and his word remains forever. I hope that we can all take this on board and trust him completely. Is this not exactly the right time in which we can bring love and hope to those around us? This is a wonderful opportunity, a sign for many who because of fear have lost that understanding. One thing we know: this storm will not last forever! Be encouraged and let us use this time to grow our faith and share the good news!

For the moment that’s all from me in Senegal. I’ll do my best to keep you all in the loop but please feel free to write to me privately.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support!! As always, it is indescribable how much God has provided for me through your support and how many people are thinking of me daily.

God bless and see you soon!

Your Teresa.

Points for prayer:

  • For peace and good health in our team.
  • That we will know God’s plan for the future.
  • Wisdom for the government and our line managers.

Thanks for:

  • My health.
  • The blessing of being here.
  • The lovely fellowship. 

Teresa D, 25th March 2020 

Prayer evening for WEC

Tim Stephenson,
Steve and Gill head shot

Unfortunately we are not able to all come together tonight to hear from Steve and Gill in person but we have the next best thing. Below is a complete presentation, complete with worship for you to work through at your own pace.

When you get to the testimony, some people have said they found the link doesn’t work for them, in which case please try this one: https://corshambaptists.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/A-testimony-from-our-time-in-Africa.pdf.

Life in the Lockdown Lane!

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

Some of you will know that Steve was recently granted a month’s medical leave in the UK as he had been diagnosed with anxiety and burn out.  I stayed behind in Tanzania for 3 weeks and joined him in the UK for his final week there, last week.  I’m thankful to say that the break has done Steve good and he is improving, and he has even regained enthusiasm for life in Tanzania!  Sleep has at last returned for him thanks to the medication and his head is a lot clearer.  Thank you so much for all who have prayed for Steve during this last month – your prayers are being answered.  I’m also thankful for your prayers for me while I have been sorting out the Sanga Sanga accounts.  That work is now done and the 2019 accounts closed.  An audit of the accounts was very helpful too.

Rush hour on the London
Underground!

We travelled to Heathrow on 22nd March for our flight back to Tanzania.  We knew that we would probably have to self-isolate at home in Morogoro but we could do that quite easily.  However, 5 minutes after checking in at the airport we received news from our team mate in Morogoro that the Tz Government would be quarantining all passengers arriving from a Covid-19 zone for 14 days.  With no other information to go on – would that include us?  Where would we be quarantined?  – we wrestled with whether to pull our bags out and remain in the UK, or to go on with our plans and return to Tanzania.

We spent an hour trying to get more information from friends on the ground in Tanzania.  One said she’d been told that all arrivals would go to a hospital ward for 14 days, another said it would be a hotel – at our own expense.  Despite the uncertainty and after more than a few arrow prayers for guidance, we decided to go ahead and get on the plane.

Route map on the Qatar Airways flight…hmm,where has
Israel gone?!
Getting 40 winks at Doha Airport

It was a long journey – we had a 7 hour layover in Doha.  Actually we met a few missionaries at the airport who were heading the other way, back to the West, including a family of AIM missionaries who had just left Tanzania (the leaders of the Zigua team who we mentioned in our last blog).  It was good to see them and say our goodbyes, as Steve had been their Unit Leader and involved with them and their team in various ways. 

On our 300-seater Dreamliner aircraft from Doha there were only 12 of us aboard!  Behind their masks the cabin crew were undoubtedly smiling at how easy their job was going to be!  On arrival at Dar yesterday afternoon we were processed through Passport Control but then gathered together to be told that we were going to a hotel to be put into quarantine.  Our pleas to be allowed to return to Morogoro to self-isolate fell on deaf ears.

The view from our window 

So here we are in quarantine.  The hotel is quite comfortable and there is good wifi.  The staff and manager are being helpful and sympathetic.  That said, we have to take all our meals in our room and are not allowed to leave the 3rd floor – and to make sure of that there are now armed police outside!  Officials from the Ministry of Health will be visiting us every day to check our temperatures and health.  It’s a bit frustrating not being able to be at Sanga Sanga, especially as I was due to pay wages there at the end of the month.  But we understand the reasons for our quarantine and are happy to comply with the instructions of the authorities here.  During the next few weeks Steve still has some prep to occupy him and I will be keeping a remote eye on finances at Sanga Sanga.

Interesting bathroom tiles in our hotel room (sorry, we’re a bit
desperate for good photos!)

Pray for Tanzania – if Covid-19 takes hold here the results will be devastating.  Social distancing is almost impossible with large families living together under one roof and public transport cramming in as many people as possible.  Many have underlying health issues that they can’t afford to have treated, making them very vulnerable.  Medical facilities will not be able to cope with an influx of patients, and protective equipment and ventilators will most likely not be available in the quantities that will be needed.

Please pray for us too, for grace and patience in this enforced period of confinement, albeit with room service!  Pray that we won’t get cabin fever and will use this time wisely – and not throttle each other in the process!!

Bird of the month: Southern African
White-faced Owl…on the streets of
Keswick! 

Settling in Senegal

A Little Odyssey,

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