Category: Overseas Mission

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

Building team safely away

Tim Stephenson,
Rear door of van open to show all the supplies going to Oasis

Martin, Paul, Chris and Andy left yesterday and made it at least as far as the port! Presumably by this point they are actually in Austria but probably a bit tired from the journey.

If you’d like to keep up with the latest, follow CorshamBaptists on Instagram.

Getting Away and A Day in the Life of Lynne

Stuart & Lynne Little,
View of workers in field. Several rows of planting in the foreground, banana or palm trees in the background

Getting Away

It is high time for another update and Matthew has put us to shame by publishing two since our last one!!  See Matthew’s blog  They say that time on the Africa Mercy takes on a different dimension – and that seems to be true!  Or it could be our age!

It is now February, Christmas has been and gone – but we had a great time.  A very different Christmas although we still managed our Little family Christmas Eve tradition of reading ‘The Night before Christmas’ but this year over Skype.  We are very grateful for the good internet on board and also managed a family Skype the Sunday before Christmas with our girls, Lynne’s mum, sister and her two children; on Christmas Day we joined with our church congregation for a carol and prayer; and later that day with Hannah and her Christmas day hosts – friends from church.

We took advantage of the long ship holiday weekend between Christmas and New Year and took a three day trip up country to Kindia with our friends who we did OnBoarding in Texas and field practice in Guinea with – Jennifer, Ian and Merryl.  It was good to get out of the noise, busyness and dust of Conakry and see green vegetation and hear the birds and insects (outside not inside the hotel).  We were reminded of how noisy the ship is!  You may have seen some photos that we posted on Instagram and Facebook but we visited some beautiful waterfalls and were fortunate to have a tour of the Mercy Ships Agricultural Centre where nationals are trained in sustainable farming methods – absolutely fascinating.  We had a brilliant driver in Abdulay who took good care of us, took the potholed tracks in his stride and also acted as our interpreter.

Bride’s Veil Falls

At the Agricultural Centre
Still not good at selfies!!
Or positioning photos!


Mushroom farming on the left



Aquaponics under construction on the right
Pool at Kissili Falls
Time for lunch before heading back
Spent some time swimming until something was spotted moving in the water at which point we got out quick – it was a bra!!

It was back to work as normal on January 2nd – whatever normal is but we are certainly enjoying ship life, living on a ship and community living.  We are constantly in awe of everything that goes on here and often look around and think ‘this just shouldn’t work’ ….. but it does.

So, what is a typical day …. or week?

We both work ‘business’ hours of 8.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday, although Stuart has now been put on the ‘On Call’ rota for the Deck Department.  He could be called out for anything at anytime on the 24 hours he is on call – but hasn’t as yet so we can’t tell you what that entails.  Although Matthew has been for a while and he was putting out rubbish on Christmas Day!

We normally go to breakfast 7.15 am to 7.30 am and then Stuart goes off for Deck Devotions.

Lynne’s day as Ward Administrative Assistant is a bit like going to the airport – ‘hurry up and wait’ followed by ‘hurry up and wait’, etc!  The day involves checking which patients are on the ward, keeping the statistics and database up to date, finding out which patients are being discharged (only after Doctor’s rounds are finished), making their Outpatients appointments, organising discharge photos (all patients being discharged are offered a ‘souvenir’ photo of themselves and fellow patients, nurses and anyone else they want in the picture to take home.  These are precious items and we heard of a patient who had been treated on a previous field service, kept his photo showing it to crew when coming for follow up surgery some years later when the ship returned.)  Some patients go home but some live too far away to get back to their Outpatients or Rehab appointments and so need booking in at the Hope Centre (which is the the Mercy Ships ‘hotel’ type accommodation off ship.) Then it’s finding out which patients are being admitted for surgery the following day (when screening is finished!), which beds they will be in and if any patients are changing beds.  

There are three wards, with another 10 bedded ward available if needed.  Two of the wards have 20 beds, and the third ward has 15 beds plus two ICU beds and two Isolation beds.  The wards are very busy, and usually noisy, places, particularly in the morning when Hospital Chaplaincy visit each of the three wards to speak, sing and pray with the patients, Doctors are doing their rounds, patients and caregivers are having breakfast and getting up for the day.  Caregivers, who are needed for all patients under 18, sleep under the patient’s bed on a mattress.  Spaces between the beds are about 18″.  Wards are mixed – male and female, adults and children but they are such friendly places with crew and patients look after, and looking out, for each.

Lunchtime is 12 noon to 1.00pm – but we rarely manage the hour.  After lunch, nurse allocations need doing in time for shift change at 2.00pm; patients meals are ordered for the next day (which is slightly more complicated than imagined depending on the type of surgery, when the surgery is, how many caregivers, etc; also for meal purposes children over 12 are adults!); patient visiting lists are needed for each ward and the gangway for the Gurka guards; more statistics; scanning charts for discharged patients (currently more are discharged than scanned each day!).  All this fits around random jobs, queries and phone calls.  

We normally have dinner about 6pm and try to get on deck to watch the sunset.  Have to be quick though as it happens surprisingly quickly!

  
We are loving our time on board here but don’t want to bombard you with too much information at once, so Stuart will share a typical day with you in the next blog (which will be more timely than this one!) and we will share a non-working typical(ish) week another time.

In the meantime these three photos show some of the impact Mercy Ships has had during 2018.

 Although only about 400 crew serve on board at any one time most are short term and this photo shows just how many serve during a year and from so many different countries!  It’s great living in a multi-national community!  Interesting, fun, challenging and sometimes just confusing!!

Cranes at Christmas, Night patrol, maybe an actual Union Jack and very expensive mistakes.

Matthew Little,

I am aware that this is my second post in a row with ‘crane’ in the title AND the first word of the title, but it’s hard to come up with a creative title that truly grips the reader. It’s not like a gripping few words also appear in the title. Leave me alone, alright!

So, I am back with a new update, and a lot of things have happened since my last post. The main thing was that Christmas happened! Yes, my first Christmas on a ship in Africa has been and gone, and it was great! As I mentioned in my last post (Is that plagiarism from myself or uncreativeness?) we have a large multicultural crew, which has meant opportunities to enjoy different Winter festivals and traditions from all over the world, such as the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas as I wrote about last time. The Scandinavian crew also celebrated Santa Lucia. Yes, that one saint who carries a plate of her own eyes like she is a Del Toro enthusiast. Lucia (or Lucy) means light, which Scandinavians celebrate by wearing very fetching white robes and carrying candles and singing. I can admit, I wasn’t actually there, I was instead playing Dungeons and Dragons. It looked spectacular from the pictures I have seen.

I helped to judge the various Christmas decorated doors for the ship’s annual Christmas door competition. The crew here are very creative, as we saw trains, a Mercy Ship themed version of Twas the Night Before Christmas, human-animal hybrids, Grinches, Minions, toothless reindeer advent calendars, Christmas trees made out of rope and toilet role and LEGO. After this, the winners were announced on the dock at Carols by Candlelight , an annual tradition from Australia. I didn’t actually ask any of the Aussie crew about this, I just looked it on Wikipedia. the Australian contingent of the crew treated the rest of us to an Australian edit of Jingle Bells (Still have no idea what a ‘Ute’ is.) That same night, I learnt  that Australia is actually a continent, and Australasia is a region. which  is a sub-region of Oceania. Just so you know, I did pass A-Level Geography, but Geography isn’t about locations anymore. Instead, it’s about beaches  and volcanoes, and maybe a few other things. At least that’s how it is in the British National Curriculum.

I was also given the honour of reading Isaiah 7: 11 to 17 at the Christmas Eve service for the final Advent Candle lighting. My partner read from the book of Matthew. I like to think I was asked because I am the only Matthew on the ship. I didn’t light the candle, but I was standing by to extinguish the flame if got out of hand. I’m a trained firefighter, might I add. Then I played Crazy Uno and enjoyed a family tradition that turns out will not go away even if one half of the family is in a different continent.

And then came that very special day. I put out my stocking (Sent from home. Thank you Hannah and Zoe, I miss you very much!) whilst most of the crew put out their shoes, to find goodies from other crew in the morning. We enjoyed pastries and free coffee from Starbucks in the cafe. Soon enough, I received the on call pager. On call at Christmas? Yeah. I know terrible. It was a ship holiday though. Taking out the ship’s rubbish wasn’t how I was planning to spend Christmas, but I did get some more training in operating the stores crane after. My parents and I also connected with our home church and joined in worship over Skype. We enjoyed a Christmas lunch. One very talented crew member made a very nice cake replica of the ship. Of course, when enjoying various traditions, it is important to remind yourself of home, so the British crew were invited to watch the Queen together and play Charades in one of the British family cabins. Soon enough, another (and very special) Christmas was over.

And soon enough after that, I made a very big and expensive mistake.

After enjoying Boxing Day off, I returned to work. Crazy how fast you grow up to have two weeks off Christmas holiday one year, then next year. Working and only having a few days off for Christmas. This is still a operational ship, even when the hospital is closed for Christmas, so work still goes on twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I was given the job of continuing the work that I mentioned in my last blog on the exterior of the bridge, which was grinding at rust and painting. My job as a deck hand is essentially taking care of the ship. In the morning, I had given various ‘ash’ patches (ash is the gray primer we use) a coat of white paint. These patches were easy to get to and reach. After lunch, I was going to use a ladder and harness to paint over the patches which were hard to reach, and I was joined by one of my colleagues to help me where I was working. I don’t want  to go into too much detail, and this is very hard to write about, but basically one of the Bridge windscreens was hit, of course by accident, during work, and now there is a very large crack. I found out today (22nd January) from our new Danish Captain (the third in three months. We are still looking for a long-term captain) that a new window costs about 10,000 Euros. My fellow Deckies have been super supportive of me, and have been taking care of me, and really want to see me complete my training, and keep telling me that it was just an accident, and these things happen. And if I think about it, it is a lesson for tomorrow and to reflect on, not to grieve over.

“I get knocked down, but I get back up again, you’re never gonna keep me down”

Ok, so maybe Chumbawamba isn’t the most appropriate. But it’s the most motivational thing quote about growing from mistakes from the top of my head. But hey, we’ll be singing, when we’re winning. We’ll be singing…….

“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God – those whom he has called according to his plan” Romans 8:28

Ok, so that’s the bad news. More good news! As for my training and work as a Deck Hand, I have started my duty as Night Patrol. What does that mean? That means that I have to work night shift. On night patrol, I have four fire and security and rounds to complete, which means taking a trip around the ship – from the Bridge working the way downwards to deck 2. Four times a night. And they take roughly an hour to complete. Walking round the ship for an hour, walking down many staircases. It is safe to say that I work all over the ship. Boy, does walking non stop for an hour do some ugly things to your feet. Somethings that I didn’t know could happen. In the morning, at sunrise, you have to raise the flags (Mercy Ships flag, flag of the country we are docked in, this case, Guinea, and the civil ensign of Malta. The Africa Mercy is registered as a Maltese vessel) so that’s pretty cool. Today, I received Fire Panel training, which means that I am authorized to watch over the fire panel during night shift when it’s needed.(receptionist needs a break, for example) It’s always needed. It has to be manned 24 hours a day. Thankfully, nothing big comes up during the night shift, which is good news, but nights to yourself go on for soo long, I had to motivate myself before my last night shift by listening to the Halo 3 soundtrack. I got a couple things signed off by the training officer in my training book. Steady progress. As for day work, It’s going good. I was a bit unsure whether the jobs of a Deck Hand would actually help the work on the hospital, but today, I was on Deck Three receiving and moving Medical Supply pallets, so I feel good. Some days can be good days at works, others are ‘Nothing days’ (my own term) which can be hard, particularly when the jobs don’t involve much physical work and it’s very hot.

I wore my Union Flag T-shirt last week. It was the same day of the vote in Parliament regarding Theresa May’s proposed Deal. Even in a different continent, you don’t escape Brexit. I just felt like wearing it, no political agenda. I was practically invisible that day. It had me wondering, because I am on a ship, is it a Union Jack?

Unfortunately, we recently said ‘Goodbye’ to Femi, the ship’s last Bosun and his wife. Whilst it is sad to see them leave, he is moving up, so it’s not all bad. Soon, they will be going to good ole’ England so that he can go to Officer School in Newcastle. He said that he would be happy to support me and answer any questions I have about my training over Messenger though. Our new Bosun, Ibrahim, who was getting ready to take over from Femi, as the Assistant Bosun is also great though, so us Deckies have been left  in good hands. Monce, our last Filipino Chief Officer departed a few days ago, and his replacement, Octavian, looks to be a good replacement. (Monce, if you read this, I did want to see you off. Consider this my goodbye!) And yes, we have had three Captains in three months, our current Captain being Milo from Denmark.

For the New Year’s weekend, my parents and the other three wonderful people from our field practice took an excursion to Kindia. We saw a couple waterfalls, and we also visited the Mercy Ships Agricultural Centre. As well as the life-changing surgeries, Mercy Ships leaves a legacy in the countries that they serve in, with the Medical Capacity Building teams. At the Agricultural Centre, Eric, one  of our  volunteers, and a small group of Mercy Ships volunteers works with and trains representatives from a bunch of different NGOs different methods of sustainable development, which the NGOs will continue when we leave in June. They grow vegetables in a greenhouse, work to reuse water that has been used for the growth before, grow mushrooms, have a worm farm to produce compost and raise rabbits, to use their manure for fertiliser. It was truly amazing to see and learn more about.

As I mentioned we also visited a couple waterfalls in the area. The first we visited was ‘Brides Veil waterfall’. I tried to look it up, but it turns out the ‘Bride’s Veil’ is the name of a type of waterfall, that resembles a Bride’s Veil. Surprise, Surprise!

Here’s a big damn ant. Brownie points for those who understand the reference

The effort put by visitors making their mark on the huge tree by the waterfalls in mind-blowing. Some people haven’t just etched their name into the bark, they have chisled into it. Impressive. Never felt a waterfall before. It hurts your back with the strong, main part of the waterfall, It felt like getting shot with a machine gun. A very cold machine gun.

One of the cascades at Brides Veil.
Yours truly.
This is a spiky tree. Never seen these before.
The main falls and the pool.
A hut, some bamboo and my father
Surprise Merryl!

The hotel we stayed at was very nice, with some quality food. Due to a missunderstanding, We have come up with a ‘Matthew Special’ deal. Basically, thinking you have ordered a shawarma, the staff bring out something else, but then you get you get your shawarma a little later. Delicious shawarma, delicious fish and some delicious omelette for breakfast. I also did some basic late night plumbing when I had to refill the cistern just to flush it, then part of the ‘flush’ mechanism broke off, and one of the bolts had to be put in just right to hold the button in place. Our driver became an honourary member of our group, which was helpful for us all, when we needed translations. The next day, we visited Kholissi falls. Sorry, Game of Thrones fans, it’s not what you think it is. Sadly, as the rainy season came to an end a few months ago, There wasn’t much to see, but it was cool to see apart from the two waterfalls there. The big somewhat green area between the fall areas car park and restaurant was an interesting sight to behold. I would like to say the ruins and rocks scattered across the land felt like a fantasy world landscape, the best comparison I can think of Amon Hen from Lord of the Rings. Although instead of fallen statue heads, there is an incomplete, industrial concrete structure. Hannah, maybe we can both be in New Zealand, except I am in a different continent at the same time. Astral projection, sort of?  As of right now (26th January) the Little family is spread out across three continents. Enjoy your trip!

Finding a ledge to get into the pool was difficult
Collecting water to be recycled.
Inside the Greenhouse
A dragon fly
Part of the plot of land growing crops

During the Monday morning meeting, we have a ‘photo of the week’ the most recent was the Africa Mercy found in the port on Google Maps.
My own photo of the month is this. I was discussing productivity (golly, makes it sound like a business meeting) with a friend during a coffee break, and I forgot to mention how productive  I was before the break. I was cutting rags. Amazing how you  can put effort into an attempt of a professional, nice photo, which ends up looking terrible, yet not much effort can look
                                                                                    so  much better. You want proof, I took this photo of the Super Blood Wolf Moon during the eclipse.

Rule Brittania! Brittania rule the waves! I stopped working for a bit,
just to watch this Welsh registered fuel ship.
A school of fish between the ship and the dock.

Of course, New Years happened. I managed to inspire one of my fellow crew members with a Bible verse neither of us had really looked at before after another crew member asked us to collect a bunch of inspiring Bible verses to hand out to the rest of the crew to encourage us this year. We had an open mic in midships before gathering up on Deck 8 to watch the fireworks at midnight. Even fireworks let off from the islands. I was asked to blow the foghorn (Is that the verb? Blow? Sound? Operate) But they had enough people to do it, but I was on the Bridge and I was asked if I wanted to, so that is what is important. Is this the part where I reflect on the year that was 2018? No, I don’t like reflecting, read someone else’s blog for that. But what I will say, is that it was a big year for me, and marked the end of one chapter of my life, and start of another, and I pray that for everyone else who also had this in 2018, and for those who are in the middle of their current chapter, that they will have an enriching and good new chapter, even during an uncertain time for the world.

That’s all from me at the moment,  thank you for reading! I also recently uploaded two new vlogs in two consecutive days on my YouTube channel, If you want to learn about animals and their species name, check them out in my Texas vlog part 2. Link to my channel in the side bar.

Cranes, forklifts and Presidents, apparently.

Matthew Little,

Another month has gone by, so now I must update my blog. No-body told me doing a blog would be such a chore.*

So what has happened since I left off? Quite a bit, and I shall start from where I left off. Don Stephens, the founder of Mercy Ships, visited the Africa Mercy, and during the same week, Guinean President Alpha Conde also visited the ship. During this visit, I had my first experience of being a security guard….. Thankfully, nothing happened, but it was a good opportunity to practice my stern ‘You are not allowed in here’ face and posture. However, I don’t know whether to hold my hands in a ‘attention’ position around my back or at  my front. But I will have other opportunities to do this ‘special job’ during other VIP visits to the ship, to get more practice of this.
After that (not immediately. It might have been the weekend after, I can’t remember), I went on a day’s excursion to the beautiful and picturesque Kassa island, one the three islands in the ‘Iles de Los’ island group off Conakry. Both the two boat rides across the harbour to the island were just as good and pretty as the island itself, but it was just so good to escape the scenery of both the ship and the city of Conakry, which is dusty, dirty and smelly, and just outside the port gate, on a very busy roundabout, it can get very chaotic with the sudden appearance of cars and motorbikes. Seriously, you could be crossing the road, and out of nowhere- BEEEEEEEEEEEEP! a few feet from you.. Quite the contrast across the water. and it was a relaxing Saturday.
Beach on Kassa
Jungle
View of one of the other islands
Another view of the beach
Boats between the island and the mainland

The ship moored next to us that day. 

An interesting sight that constantly amazes me whilst working on Deck is the constant move of ships in Conakry’s port. One day, I could be working around the Bridge (which I spent the whole day on the 14th doing. A few days before I started this blog. That was a relaxing day), looking at the ship next to us, and the next day, it’s a new ship. And they all follow a similar colour scheme to the one on the picture on the left. Its’s like “What could they be loading/unloading today- Oh, that wasn’t there yesterday”. Meanwhile, there is this stationary white ship.

Bow of the Africa Mercy

Work has also been great. On my first weekend on-call duty (which meant that I was confined to the ship for two days), I got up to some pretty impressive things, that I never thought I would do on a Saturday morning, such as operating the stores crane and driving one of the  ship’s forklifts. What exciting purpose was that for, I hear you ask? Emptying the trash. Probably better to start with a trash bin than a very heavy pallet of cooking oil, tbh. I also learned to drive one of the ship’s rescue boats during a practice for Sinterklaas. Because Mercy Ships has a crew made up of different cultures, the Christmas period allows for the crew to experience a bunch of different Christmas festivals. A few weeks ago, the crew celebrated the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas, where children leave a shoe out for Sinterklass to fill with yummy goodies the night before! Sinterklaas arrived via one of the ship’s rescue boats, to wave to the masses (The ship kids and Dutch crew, mainly. Maybe, I didn’t actually see the spectacle. I did watch as Sinterklass gave the Ship kids Christmas presents in Midships, above the Starbucks. (Fun fact: the only Starbucks in Africa. Sorry, Okoye.**) Just to be clear, I didn’t drive Sinterklaas on the day, I was just given a lesson the Saturday. Also, my shoe went missing that morning. I say missing, some ‘practical jokers’ moved it further up the corridor. Almost forgot! I have received my training book, which means that I can now begin my training to become a Deck Rating, maybe even Able Seafarer, later down the line. I’ll be a Captain in no time! I still don’t know what I want to do, actually, but I have really enjoyed my first month of being a deck hand. I have been transfered to a different fire team on the first, I was on hose and gear, which meant being a support role and getting the hoses and things for the SCBA guys. in this new one, I am on SCBA. which means that I have to wear all the bunker gear, and am meant to be right in the action during the event of a fire

The community here is wonderful. A few of us have even started a Dungeons and Dragons group (my character is a Dwarf Paladin). Found out that watching Lord of the Rings is all the more entertaining commentating on it in D&D references. I have also joined the group on the ship that plays Super Smash Brothers, This was the first time playing Super Smash Brothers (suprisingly)  and I have getting good at it. As long as I am not against a pro. Did beat the ship’s ‘Smash Master’ once, though. . And a group that plays Dominion. And other board games. I have even started playing Minecraft again.

The amazing Communications department /team here on the Africa Mercy work hard to produce materials to promote the amazing work that the hospital down on Deck Three does, including this piece below. This patient’s story has really inspired me from when I first read it.

Well, that’s all I have to say for this month. I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and pray for good fortunes to come in 2019.

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

*Just kidding, I enjoy writing this blog.
** Avengers: Infinity War reference

P.S. If the patient’s story doesn’t show the first time, please let me know in the comments. My parents’ had an issue with that on their own blog. Please check that out, too! It’s called A Little Odyssey, the link is in the side bar.

Follow up on July 2018 training

Reaching the 42%,

Mission Training at CBC July/August 2018

“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.”

Romans 15v20

As Paul wrote to the church in Rome, ‘preaching the gospel where Christ was not known’ remains at the heart of the vision of many missions. Sending workers to preach that gospel among people groups in West and North Africa, the Middle East and beyond who do not know Christ demands commitment and determination, both from those who go and the organisations and churches that send them out. Good sending involves adequate training, which is where our course fits in.

Who came?

We had 12 adults and one little girl representing 7 nationalities –
Germany, Netherlands, the UK, Belgium, South Korea, Brazil and South
Africa. Someone from another mission also attended part-time.

Where were they going?

The biggest group went to Bourofaye Christian School (BCS) in Senegal, and two others went to North Africa and the Middle East. Allof the destination countries have very few believers, which means that long-term cross-cultural mission is essential to reach the people there with the gospel. Without practical support such as teaching and caring for the missionaries’ children, many long-term workers find it almost impossible to stay. Our group members are an essential element in church planting teams. Ten of the staff are now in place, and the Belgian family are engaged in pre-departure training.

How was CBC involved?

CBC kindly agreed to host the course in 2017, following the sale of the WEC property in 2016. Given how well it went, we repeated it this year.

Paul wrote to the Romans:

“I plan to do so [visit the Christians in Rome] when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.”

Romans 15v24

Just as the church members there were encouraged to assist him on his journey to the unreached, so CBC assisted our group members on their journeys with the same purpose.

We had over 50 people directly involved, some giving many hours, in hosting, child care, catering, transport, devotional messages and more. The support and engagement was brilliant and so much appreciated. Without the enthusiastic and committed involvement of so many CBC members the course would not be possible. Thanks too to those who were involved in prayer and encouragement for us and the group.

Our group also contributed to each Sunday morning service and in Junior Church, as well as running a mid-week session where they spoke about their journey into mission and were prayed for.

What was the course about?

The course at CBC has a specialised focus on working with missionaries’ children to help equip teachers, family tutors,administrators, and dorm staff for their roles. It covers safeguarding (including health and safety), looking after boarding children, emotional well-being, teaching skills, the missionary kids’ experience, cross-cultural transition, specific country information and Christian education. There was also input from several visiting speakers.

How are they doing?

The new staff members at BCS have settled in well. Angela sent us this photo, which also includes Philip who attended last year and several others who were unable to come.

Angela talks about her class:

Teaching the youngest year group has many joys. There’s never a dull moment as curiosity is a common trait throughout the day. They love learning new things and my heart is filled every time I see them grasp new concepts. The children don’t usually hold grudges, so each day is afresh start. You can get to know them quickly because all of them are very open and enjoy sharing their opinions. They can be selfless,thinking about other people, and they often choose to pray for others and their pets. Watching them progress and grow as individuals, as well as a collective group, reveals how much God loves the little children and how important it is to see the world with a loving,child-like vision.

The two ladies who went to other places are also doing well. Keep
praying for their adaptation and integration into the culture.

Next Year?

Yes! The course will again be hosted by CBC, and the dates are 21st July –1st August. The 21st-27th July are for all participants, and the extra few days will focus on additional skills needed for teaching assistants and dorm staff.

Steve and Gill Bryant December 2018