Category: Mission and Ministries

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

A Little Odyssey,

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

Palm branches for Palm Sunday
Garden of Gethsamane presentation

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

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

Back to Roume
Tenebrae service

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

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

Easter Sunrise service

Easter Sunday
Easter Sunrise service

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

Two of the Carpentry trainees

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

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

Our OnBoarding family

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama where we enjoy going to eat.  

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

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

Masks on for another move

Followed by a long night

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

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





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

Going up in the world, doing new things. And going through a strange and sad few days.

Matthew Little,

So, the last month period between now and last post started (or ended, I can’t remember) with another week of night patrol. Since then, I have done another week of Night Patrol last week, actually followed by nearly a weeks time off. I’ll get to that later. Thankfully, and somewhat sadly, nothing happened. I say thankfully, because nothing happened and sadly, because, nothing happened. Ambiguity.

After I finished that week about a month ago and after two days off, I returned to my normal schedule of day shift, to be pleasantly surprised that I would be starting my fireman duty. Didn’t you already do that in Texas? That was fireFIGHTER training. As in, fighting a fire if it were to ever happen. My new fireman duty training has been working with the Fire Fighting equipment officer to pretty much ensure that all the fire fighting equipment Never would have guessed the firefighting equipment officer’s job and fire related systems on the ship is where it should be/ working/ not broken/sufficient enough to pass inspection. Here is a brief glimpse of the jobs of the duty fireman.

  • Check the fire points around the ship 
  1. Check if the hydrant isn’t leaking or rusting, which could lead to leaking.
  2. Check if the hoses aren’t broken
  3. If the fire points have spanners to couple/decouple hoses
  4. (if they have them) The fire extinguishers are… I don’t know…. fine? (all I have done with the extinguishers is give them a dust) All though, the powder extinguishers need to be picked up, to check if the powder hasn’t caked at the bottom. By turning them upside down to see if the weight shifts to the top. Thanks, gravity. If not, I can hit them with a mallet to shift the powder. Not too hard that it breaks the extinguishers, creating a huge, dusty mess.
  • Testing the fire hydrants
  1. This is actually testing whether the hydrants are working. which can be fun on a deck with now access to the outside of the ship. So you have to lay a bunch of hoses up staircases and through passage ways until you get to a door.  
  • Weekly inspection of the Fire Lockers
  1. If all the SCBA bottles have enough oxygen in them
  2. All the firefighters have the right equipment on their hooks and right things in the right pockets (gloves, torches, mask,  etc…)
  3. Testing the dead man alarms, a component of the firefighters ‘set up’ (A very loud, motion detecting, shouty box. ’nuff said)
  • Testing the fire doors
  1. Speaks for itself.
  • Fortnightly washing of the SCBA masks)
  • Testing of Smoke heat detectors
  • Checking if the EEBDs (Emergency Escape Breathing Devices) have enough oxygen.
  • Checking if the Fire Dampers over the ship will open and close properly and if they have readable, not broken, labels.
Was that brief? I have no idea, guess it depends on the person.
In terms of the work as a deck hand I have been doing as a deck hand recently, that is pretty much all I have been doing for the last month or so. Besides from night patrol, and the odd garbage removal.

‘Should they stay or should they…. move… slightly…. out the way.? or something?’

So, the port is in the middle of preparing for dredging. Which meant we we were supposed to move away from our berth for approximately a few hours. We were going to move on Easter Monday, where I would have been on the bridge on watch whilst we move, I think. After I had finished getting dressed up in my watchkeeping…shirt. With epaulets! We got an overhead announcement from our last (and just left Captain) Jon, that the moved has been postponed. Jon is a veteran Mercy Ships Captain, whom I met at the ISC during OnBoarding. As I write this, on Saturday 27th of April, We were scheduled to have the new move today. I would have been on bellbook duty. This would have meant that I would have noted down the time of shifts from ‘Full steam ahead’ and ‘full stop’ and all those in between.

One of these!

That move was cancelled yesterday. But, in preparation of that, I spent of yesterday preparing for the move by helping to secure down bins and pallets on deck 8. then, in the afternoon, I did Pest Control.

Other things that happened over the last month

  • Fought another boss in Dungeons and Dragons….. Guess what it was, I’ll give a hint, it’s in the title of the game! But, before that, the party was tasked by a druid (I disliked this druid NPC. In case you were wondering) to clear out the map of zombies and Groots (not Dutchies, Twig-blights) Or the Forest of Cheem. Now there’s an obscure reference and a half. 
  • I finally bought and started to play Skyrim. My ‘Dovahkihn’ (Don’t shout at me if that is spelled wrong you nerds. Jk. I gave it my best shot from memory, alright) is a Breton. am going down the swordsman route instead of sorcerer. I want to stab and decapitate things, OK!? And I have sided with the Stormcloaks. 
  • I had my 19th Birthday.
    A bit of a tale of disappointment with this one. I had planned to go back to Kassa for another night away with my friends like last time again. This time, I was excited to go, I had done it before, so I knew the drill, and I didn’t have any anxieties about it. I did the last time. Like the last time, we were going on the Friday evening, so I was going to wake up, on my Birthday, on an island. Sounds fun? Except, even though I was ready to go in the evening, things went wrong, from the morning. It was the day of a dive. The divers are supported by two crew members in one of the rescue boats, with the nets for the side of the ship that is not adjacent to the dock. That day, we decided that we would test one of the other rescue boats and ‘take it out for a spin’. I went in this boat. What I didn’t expect, surprisingly, was how intense the sun would be on that day. I forgot to take a bottle with me, as I lost my Mercy Ships bottle the week before. And chilly bottles don’t store much water. Long story short…. I got sunstroke, as well as a splitting headache for the rest of the day. So, then, when it was time to go to catch the ferry, I decided “I have a headache caused by the sun. Not a good idea to go out into the sun again with limited water. I’ll stay on the ship to recover.” I spent the evening in the cabin drinking water to heal myself and went to sleep. Then, in the morning, on my birthday, I was pretty much fine. So I spent my birthday on the ship. But I played some Skyrim, and after a decade, I went back to updating my collection of Doctor Who DVDs (besides from the occasional Christmas Special and ‘Day of the Doctor’ DVD between 2009 and now) as my parents (and Hannah in New Zealand got me the Complete Specials (The last David Tennant specials from The Next Doctor to The End of Time) and Series 5 through 8 boxsets. So my birthday was a bit ‘ehh this sucks’ and ‘ehh this isn’t so bad’. I also have a few classics, Including ‘The Beginning’ boxset.
I also said goodbye to a few couple over the course of a few weeks, including Elizabeth, who was a part of the ‘Star Wars marathon’ group. OnBoarding Jen returned to the States for a few months. She’ll be back though. Miss you! Georgiy, our FFE Officer from the Ukraine left. He got us all waffles (The Deck department, not the entire crew!). I had three waffles withing one morning. and how many did I pay for?  None. I didn’t steal them. So I had one from Georgiy, but he bought a couple spares. So I took one of those. That was my second one. Then, as I went to get a snack (I had a day off because I was OnCall that weekend) Esther, from Sales and the Starbucks,  beckoned me over to offer me (and some one else) the last two waffles that Lizzie, one of the British crew,who was also leaving that weekend had bought for a bunch of people. So that was my third. Then both Octavian, our former Chief Officer from Romania, and Brian from the States left on the same day a couple weeks ago. 
That almost week off… Easter on the ship is MASSIVE. I was told that Easter is just as special as Christmas on the ship, and it was. We had things going on throughout holy week. Such as, the Queen’s Lounge decorated to become the Upper Room where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the 12, and the International lounge was decorated to become the Garden of Gethsemane, with a soundtrack of night sounds for the atmosphere. Then, on Easter Sunday, there was a sunrise service on Deck 8, pastries in the cafe, another Service, then Easter lunch. It was special, except… I wanted to be alone. Mainly because I had just come off Night Patrol on Saturday morning, and my Circadian Rhythm hadn’t gone back to normal yet, and I was confused on Good Friday, because it was a ship holiday, which just felt like a Saturday, and It was hard  to get through that last night from Friday to Saturday. I wasn’t myself that weekend. I was a bit sad and a bit grouchy, but I didn’t want to take naps, because I was still trying to reset my schedule. That was also due to everyone being there. I must have mentioned this before in a previous post, that even with a crew of 400+, most of the time, the ship feels empty. Until Easter Sunday, then it was like ‘Woah. OK. Everyone is suddenly… here.’ I couldn’t cope. Luckily, the week coming…. which was the week that has just gone. I had nearly a week off to readjust. So of course, there was Saturday and Sunday off, two days. Easter Monday was a ship holiday, so it was a long weekend. I was on night shift on Good Friday, but it was a four day weekend because ship holiday. After Night Patrol, I have two days off, usually Monday and Tuesday, but this week, it was Tuesday and Wednesday. Another two days. But then, I had Thursday off (Wasn’t supposed to happen, but it’s on the schedule soo….) So, 6 days off! Then back to work for one day before the weekend. Now.
And that’s about it. Thank you for reading, see you sometime soon!

A post where I try to remember what I’ve done.

Matthew Little,

The thing that I have only now realised is that I should probably start writing about the events of a week then collate all the things that happened for a month when I set down to do another update. Because, to tell the truth, I have very little memory a lot that has happened since I last wrote. Obviously, I can remember things that did happen, but not a lot. If you have read all my posts (I do a monthly post, and I have only been here for 4 months now, so there aren’t many) you may remember me mentioning how blogging is basically a chore for me now. It’s hard to settle down and remember everything you have done. I am actually impressed by some of these crew who manage a weekly blog, and write them very well. But I think it’s different for me, whilst they are only here for a few months, I am here for two years, so I feel that I have a lot more breathing room to update loved ones back home or wherever they may be and international friends that this crazy season of life has given me the chance to meet and build relationships with. Also, did I mention that I have been here for 4 months already? It seriously feels like a long time that I joined. And in three months, the  Guinea field service will over.

So please, read on, whilst I in the past try to write about the things that I remember and try to remember other things.

Everybody has to say goodbye at somepoint.

I know, I know, that’s a fairly bleak (and ambigious) statement, but sorry kids, it’s true. Fil, my friend and former electronics technician from New Zealand (and Latvia), left the ship at the start of the month. But before he left the next morning we enjoyed a night out in Conakry, which looking back now semi-appeared to be a quest for some live music. Joined by Coltan, one of our officers, Kate, the Executive Assistant and Trinity, one of the bakers, we headed the Le Jardins de Guinee (Gardens of Guinea), an open air restaurant I had heard a lot about and not been to before, and I believe is a hotspot for Mercy Shippers. How can I make this hypothesis? There was another group of Mercy Shippers there at the same time, So we decided to join them. I had already eaten on the ship, so I had a gourmet coffee pudding platter-thing. It wasn’t a platter though, it was a place-mat made from slate. It was very nice, there were mini lemon tarts, candied oranges and a triple chocolate coconut mousse thing. It was one of those dishes that looked too good to eat, but I was hungry, so it didn’t last long. after a game of  doubles pool (le Jardins has a open air games room with a pool table and a table football table) we moved out to Mille Patte (I had been there before, it is in a previous post), where there was live music. And another group of Mercy Shippers! Overall, it was very nice social evening. Kate even got the musician to sing an apparently never ending ‘Happy Birthday’ to Fil after we found out it was his Birthday a few days later.  As it happens, a whole group of Mercy Shippers (I don’t think they were all in the same crowd though) were leaving the same night, including our previous captain, Milo, (Our current captain is Jon, a sort-of ‘reserve’ captain for Mercy Ships. He has captained with Mercy Ships before) so before heading out to find a taxi (totally not the most tense thing about Conakry),  we stuck around to say goodbye  to people. Where Fil was bombarded with “Are you leaving tonight!?” We also said goodbye to fellow nerd, Danita. You may be thinking “That’s a bit harsh, Matthew” but it is a self proclaimed title. And she was part of our DnD group, so you can’t get more nerdy than that. After a very nice evening and a good sleep, it was time to say goodbye to Fil.  It was upsetting to see someone off that you had bonded over a silly joke that didn’t make much sense. Goodbye guys, I miss you!

The British Embassy

The British crew and (and passport holders. We had  some Britain-born Australians) were invited to the British Embassy. I decided to dress up for it, seeing as I don’t have much opportunity to do so. We were asked to dress appropriately for meeting the Ambassador, so I did. And it surprisingly wasn’t unbearable in the heat to do so! Was I looking forward to the visit? Yes. Was I feeling the same way when I left? No. Truth be told…. I had the most boring time. What I thought would be an interesting evening was actually a social evening of conversations. I HATE those evenings, because not only am I terrified of conversation, I prefer to actually be doing things at that kind of ‘party’ which was why I didn’t have too much fun at house parties. Crack out some Mario Kart, and I’ll have a blast! The same weekend, the Men’s Retreat…. in the International Lounge…. on the ship…. was taking place. I heard some interesting responses to that, saying how good it was. I now wished I had gone to that instead.

What has work been like?

Like every job, working on Deck has it’s pros and cons. The pros are, I suppose, the new experiences and skills and lessons I have been learning, such as operating cranes, forklifts and power tools. Sure, you can tell me “You can learn how to do these things on land” But tell me if you learned how to operate a crane at 18 years old. If you can legally learn how to operate a crane at 18, I don’t know. I don’t know when cranes became a thing, either so if cranes became a thing after you turned 19, I guess my argument is invalid. I did (help)  to build a house in Mexico when I was 16, though. The cons are that, eventually, you will have do every deck related job on a ship imaginable, so then nothing is new anymore. Oh, I haven’t gone on the stage yet. I think we have finished stage work for the field service. At least staging over the side of the ship, there maybe minor, stage work that may come up between now and June. The new thing that I have done is mooring operations. Now, we haven’t left yet, but what we were doing was checking the mooring lines on the astern and forward ends of the ship. If they were too tight or too slack, and all that jazz. So that meant unwrapping the lines from the bollards, and wrapping them round the capstan. One deck hand will then operate the controls for capstan, to either give slack to the line or tightening them, whilst one or more deck hands will hold on to the line to hold the tension. This job requires focus and full attention, as you can imagine, elastic energy transfer into kinetic energy can be messy, if you let go of the line. Snapback is dangerous. and potentially fatal. Particularly with those heavy ropes. When the supervising officer has decided if the slack or tightness is just right, it is a rush to remove the mooring lines from the capstan and re-wrap them around the bollard before they become slack. That also meant more greasing for me! one of the rotating bollards was stiff, so we had to splice two ropes together and wrap them around the capstan and this smaller bollard. And then squeeze some grease into the nipple to get it turning properly. If it seemed like I was insinuating that I have done everything, I haven’t yet. It just will happen. But at the moment, I am pretty much doing everything that I have done before, but somewhere else on deck.  I just got off another week of Night Patrol. That pretty much went the same as the last two weeks. Which was good, as nothing happened, but still. It. Is. So. Draining. Going to sleep in the morning is the most rewarding thing. That and pancakes on Wednesday morning. We, the British crew, tried to get a pancake day thing going, but that that fell through. so pancake on Ash Wednesday had to suffice. Nom nom.
Better than watching the mess being made of Brexit by Westminster. Thanks, Cameron, where have you put your trotters up now? (A Danny Dyer reference, to all you non Brits)

Return to Kassa 

The Squad! or crew. I don’t know yet
Before I started the long stretch of Night Patrol, I had a night away on Kassa with Caleb, Laura, Laura Kate (USA. Apparently it’s just LK for short) Imani, Rimke (Netherlands) and Michiel (Netherlands). It was so good to get off the ship for a bit. We went to a different beach that I went to before. The others had been to this beach. I also had the first experience of a moto-taxi. We weren’t going to walk, since the beach was the other side of the island, and when we got to the island off the ferry, it was about half past five, and we wanted to set up camp before dark. We got a fire going, and just chilled. And then we chilled on the beach and swam for a bit before heading back to the ferry. Rimke also brought her Ukulele along for some light entertainment

This is the hat I have basically stolen from my mum.
My hat makes me look like a middle aged travelling woman.

LK and Michiel were determined to catch some crabs. And they did

This is the Photo of the Month

See that white speck? That’s the ferry. About half an hour away.

The lives that we save.

This is the story of one of the patients that we have “given new life to” over the course of four months, from the crew that I have spoken to,  heard  at the Wednesday Evening Medical In-Services and promotional material I have seen whilst preparing to work with Mercy Ships, that is one of the statements that stands out to me. I love how powerful it is, and it really does bring up questions in my mind about the lives of the patients. (As previously mentioned before, the communications team on board works to produce material ready for crew use, such as this one, as well as hosting media teams and vision trips)

Going back to losing memory of the last month, I don’t have amnesia, it was just…. it felt like nothing happened. But, as the Doctor says “Stories are just where memories go when they are forgotten” So as this vast and wonderful world keeps spinning through our universe, and whilst memories fade, at least know; no matter how small a memory created is, you still leave an invisible mark on the world.

Ok, so no more inspirational messages and philosophy. I’ll finish up now.

Thanks for reading and see you again soon!

Week 6 for Neal and Lesley

Tim Stephenson,
Neal with children in Oasis centre, 'playing tea parties'

It must always be physically, emotionally and spiritually difficult to meet people arriving at the Oasis. People who have just arrived having fled their homelands often in fear for their lives. People who are stuck apparently endlessly in bureaucracy. People who are facing being returned to exactly the places they fled.

However, it seems to have been particularly sensitive set of conversations and some hard ones this week. As you read, please pray for the refugees and perhaps you can share a word of encouragement with Neal and Lesley?

http://lesleyandneal.simplesite.com/442030382

Forty-two percent of what?

Steve and Gill Bryant,

So what is it? 42% of the world’s people groups are classified by the Joshua Project as unreached. This is a disturbing statistic. It means that in these groups, there is little or no history of Christianity and there are millions who do not know who Jesus is. There may be a handful of evangelical Christians but they make up less than 2% of the population. Many of the groups have no known Christians at all.

One unreached group in Bangladesh has more than twice as many people as the UK. Japan with so few Christians has almost twice our population. Some colleagues who recently returned to the UK from Japan commented that Britain seemed to be full of Christians, compared to the situation they had come from.

So what can we do? It’s too big for each one of us and despairing about it won’t help. Neither will dismissing it and finding a distraction. It is one which should challenge us deeply and drive us to our knees, and there is something we can do……we can ask God to give us a burden for one, single unreached group, and make them part of our daily time with God. Or we can pray for a different group each day using an app from the Joshua Project at https://joshuaproject.net/

It may only take 2 minutes of our day, and let’s face it, we are on our phones anyway. You can even see how many others are praying alongside you, so you are not alone.

Phew! That’s OK then. Sorted. But be prepared! As you ask God to open your eyes and give you a burden for unreached peoples, there may be more……..

Catching up on week 4 at the Oasis

Tim Stephenson,
One of our colourful 'craft and fellowship' tables at Ladies Night on Friday

If you thought that after the building trip and clean up was over it would be a quiet time at Oasis you’d be wrong. This week there are updates from Mary and Shiela (as well as the disabled loo!) and new arrivals from Nigeria too.

Head over to http://lesleyandneal.simplesite.com/441916944 for all the details.

A quick reminder: you can access all our weekly blogs from the same link.. Just click on the drop-down menu and chose the week you want to read about – see picture below smile

Ship Holiday Weekend and a day in the Life of Stuart

Stuart & Lynne Little,

This weekend is a three day Ship Holiday weekend.  Approximately every six weeks, to allow crew to take time out for a little longer and rest we go into Ship Holiday routine on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Many crew get the whole time off but, of course, this is a working hospital and crew live on board so …… the wards are still open and medical staff need to work, patients need caring for, dressings need to be changed; there was an unexpected admission yesterday to the hospital so OR (Operating Room or Theatre as we call it in the UK) had a surgery today; crew need feeding; housekeeping staff work as the ship is not self cleaning; launderers continue to wash bedding, towels, uniforms, scrubs as people are still coming and going; reception staff and the Gurkhas need to work too.  And this time, Matthew was on call Friday and Stuart is on call all weekend so they have both worked and Lynne went into the office for a few hours to keep up with the admissions and discharges and order patient meals for Sunday and Monday as it is bit tricky to order in advance.

We took the opportunity on Friday as we were both off to get off the ship and went to a local hotel to chill by (a different) pool.  (We have had a pool at almost every place we have been to since leaving the UK in September!)  It was a great place to relax and just be somewhere different; it was by the sea and, as is often the case, also next to a building site!  We tried to take a taxi back to the ship to get back in time to see a friend off but after about half a mile the roads were completely blocked (as they often are – with no warning or obvious reason and at any time – so we got out and walked back!  Only took about half an hour and we were back in time to say bye and we then went out again for shwarma and pizza.

A few of us at Roume 
View as we were walking

Last Sunday we went back to Roume Island.  We have been there once before and really enjoyed it so took the opportunity to go back as a friend was organising the boat.  Hopefully Matthew will be able to come with us next time – but he was on call!  The last time we went we met an Austrian lady who is a midwife and for a good number of years has been spending three or four months every year volunteering on the island offering midwifery and other medical care – amazing!  We bumped into her again as we got off the boat!  We had a fabulous day with some other crew.  We were serenading by some locals and Stuart couldn’t resist joining in.  We even met a young guy, born in Guinea, now living in Bristol who was on the island visiting family and friends!

Over the last couple of weeks we have both had the opportunity to be involved in our, or another, department’s devotions.  Stuart led devotions for the Deck and Supply Departments and Lynne was involved with the worship for the monthly Ward devotions.  Good to take time out with others in this way.  The Ward devotions includes time for staff to share stories from their work.

So, what is a day like for Stuart?  Well the deck department starts the day at 0745 with a time of devotion followed by a daily briefing, who is on duty who is watching the water supply and what deliveries are expected.  There may then be a specific safety briefing on firefighting, diving activity or working aloft  Then we disappear our carpentry shop to look at the list of jobs that come to us via the ship intranet.

 High priority jobs are those that impact the mission of the ship and these could be anything from a loose door handle or making up a special shoe for one of the patients.  Then there are the bigger items like moving fitted office furniture or making shelving.  At this time of the year we are also planning work for the maintenance period in June in Las Palmas. The is a constant stream of personal items to fix like, my shoe, my sewing machine, my bicycle,  can you make up a fishing net?  It all great and most work needs some ingenuity as we can’t pop down to Screw-fix or Wickes for stuff.  

Since being here we have realised that most of the workshop machinery is old, worn out and not as safe as newer items tend to be.  so with the captains support I have ordered some serious new kit that should arrive in the summer.

We are also training  some of the day crew in basic carpentry skills, as we seldom see any machine tools this training is based on hand tools and we end the course by building a tool box and providing them with a set of tools.  Sadly the only tools we can buy locally are very poor quality and look like they will last only a few months. 

At the end of this field service our day crew will leave the ship and try to find a job locally, if these carpentry skills help them find a job and feel needed then its a step forward.  

Below is a recent story from the hospital…

We love this verse on our cabin wall:

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you “Do not fear; I will help you”    Isaiah 41:13

When your smoothie spills…

Matthew Little,

Hello again, I did say coming soon, so a promise was kept! Unlike January, February has been a fairly slow month, so I’ll try my best to talk about things that happened. Some things, I can remember, however, they aren’t the best memories and fairly humiliating, but there are also good things that I remember. Life is like a dream like that. I did have a really weird dream a few days ago where I was back home, and I randomly kicked my sister in the stomach. And she was playing Assassin’s Creed, and when I realized that, everything went back to normal, and we started a discussion about Assassin’s Creed (weird). Almost, we just kinda… forgot that I kicked her. I would much rather dream about Padmé. So sit back as I blog and watch Torchwood at the same time. I mean I am watching Torchwood as I write, please don’t watch something at the same time as reading this. Or do, I am not going to know. Or will I?

Container day!

So, we had container day recently. This isn’t an official ship ‘day’, the latest Netherlands container arrived. As a deckie, one of my jobs is to help out with the crane operations on the ship when the containers arrive (A monthly thing) and when the ship gets local delivery of produce (A frequent thing, twice a week.) with the aft crane out of operation until shipyard in Las Palmas in June, we are now limited to using the stores crane for everything. (Everything deck related, not the surgeries and everything else) This means that someone has to be on the dock, slinging up the pallets and receiving the things that come out of the ship (the bin/trash container) and empty pallets. Someone operates the crane, moving these pallets and the bin from the galley hatch to the dock and vice versa, and sometimes to Deck 8. Finally, someone is in the galley hatch, basically doing thee same thing as the guy on the dock. When we get a container, someone is also on deck 3 and the cargo hold, receiving the pallets that come down from the galley to deck 3 via the ONE elevator. We have one elevator for everything, which can make it difficult to work with with lots of jobs going on all over the ship that use the elevator at the same time. 
This container day, I was assigned to the dock, where I was slinging up the pallets, whilst Mike, one of the carpenters with my father, operated the forklift, bringing the pallets from the container, at the aft of the dock, to the lifting area on the dock. Clear an LZ, Noble Six! Flynn, our German Deck storeman, was also on the dock with us, working in the containers, bringing pallets closer to the door of the container, for the forklift to move out from the container, to the lifting area. It can be hard work doing all this, particularly with the heat, and working in the sun in  dark blue coveralls, but I do enjoy it, and if it means that the ship can operate,  (Both actual ship stuff, with the Engineering side and the hospital side of the ship) then it’s good work all around, and it makes it easier to deal with the heat. Something that does keep coming into my mind is what is more important. Is it that this is a ship with a hospital on it, or is it that it is a floating hospital. On his visit to the ship in November, Don Stephens, the founder of Mercy Ships spoke to the Deck and Engineering departments at our Thursday devotion. He said that we are the beating heart of the ship. Others say that the hospital is the heart. But to me, it’s all a matter of perspective. I think this should be taken into account when considering the question:

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you.” Nor can the head say to the head say to the feet, “I do not need you” 1 Corinthians 12:21

We would normally use the stores crane and the transfer container, but it’s broken down, so we have to do container work by hand now. Technically it was always by hand, but you know what I mean.
At the moment, I do not have pictures from this, but I’ll put them on when I do.

Bow wow!

One of the most recent projects for the deck department has been working on the bow mooring deck. This has included…. Cleaning and painting! Pretty much just cleaning and painting. We have given the deck a fresh new coat  of  (insert paint code here) green. So it’s gone from dirty and dusty green with a hint of brown and pale, to a shiny, emerald green! I unfortunately don’t have any before and after photos, but it looks so nice now. What’s sad is that it will ultimately collect dust again and go back to dusty and dirty. Oh well, such is the way of the world. It looks nice now though. Our saying in the deck department is  “The party continues” and “The party never stops”. Which is true, because there is always something to be done.

Go Greased Lightning!

One of these tasks is greasing. I was working on greasing the exterior doors on decks 7 and 8. These things have to be done, to keep the doors opening. And like lightning, we did a fast job, me and one of our ‘Men of Guinea’. Apart from the doors which had a different greasing point to the other nipple. We have no idea where the other nozzle is. I think we are all done for now. I think this job has to be done every few months.

Hospital time!

I finally got round to doing one of the things I have been meaning to do on board for ages. Visiting the wards! John, an Australian electrician, invited me to visit the wards with him, to see one of the patients that he had befriended. We all played Jenga together, which quickly turned from regular Jenga into extreme/engineer’s Jenga. We haven’t decided on a name. This was pretty much the general game of Jenga, however, instead of the regular three blocks on a y axis and x axis, we tried to see how many positions we could put the blocks on top of each other, whilst keeping the tower stable. It went as well as you could probably imagine. 

Photo of the month

We are also working on cleaning and re-painting the aft crane. Which is fresh new coat of white. On the day that we started working, and I was observing stage working. I am intended to start stage work very soon. Apparently. I’ll try to get some of that filmed and put into a new vlog. So as we were working, this fishing boat tried to moor in the dock, and then that happened. Oops. The Tug boats tried to pull it out before anything worse happened. The next day, the boat was gone, and we don’t know how. Must have been when the tide was really high. There is also a wreck pretty much right next to where this boat was.

When your smoothie spills…. 

I have made up a proverbial phrase, please use it! If it was a full sentence, it would be “You just kinda freeze and stare at it with the people on your table and wait for a friend from another table  to come over with serviettes and get you a new one.” That happened to me. It wasn’t my smoothest moment in my life. I was trying to set it down on the table, and instead, it just fell through my hands and went everywhere. On the table, and on the scrubs of a new person. (Good job, Matthew. It was only a tiny bit though. But still)  If it happened in slow motion, Jim Croce or Eurthymics would not be playing, One of the following would be a fitting song. In no particular order:
  1. Enya – Only Time
  2. Simon and Garfunkel – Sound of Silence
  3. Gary Jules – Mad World
  4. Mad World but it’s that cover by the black kid from Vine

‘Sausage tree’. We never found out what this actually is
A week later, and I didn’t drop it everywhere.

The bay
I also went out to lunch one Sunday with Caleb (USA) Laura (Netherlands) Imani (USA) Octavian (Romania – Chief Officer) and Philipp (Switzerland), where we saw some interesting plants by the bay. 
Here are some pictures of me repairing tarp. Look at that determination.

And that’s pretty much all for this month and a bit. I think. I am not keeping track of how long between one update to another. Thank you for reading, where ever you are in the world. Including the few people from Indonesia, how are you? (read my reflection).

I also don’t know what happened to my 12″ remote control Dalek. This was ages before we I joined Mercy Ships, it went missing years ago. We didn’t throw it away or give it away, it just vanished. I miss my 12″ remote control Dalek.

Spick and span

Tim Stephenson,
Oasis refugee center from outside

While Martin and team returned home for some rest and recuperation from their bugs, Neal, Lesley and the team put things back to normal for the start of another week.

Click through to see the finished result.

Straight into the thick of it

Tim Stephenson,
Bibles stored whilst building work takes place

Sorry, I’m playing catch up with Neal and Lesley’s blog from last week. They managed to time their arrival to be just a week ahead of Martin and the building team so quite an unusual week at the Oasis I think. In the midst of a building site they still found time to minister to several though. Read their stories here: http://lesleyandneal.simplesite.com/441787942