A Little Odyssey: All aboard the Africa Mercy and all is well

  Filed under: Overseas Mission 

This post by Stuart & Lynne Little was originally published at A Little Odyssey

We climbed the gangway Friday 9th November for the first time, quite a moment for us all as this has been four and a half years in the planning. A tad emotional after spending two weeks living in the middle of Conakry, Guinea as part of the Mercy Ships On Boarding programme intended to give us the experience of living alongside the culture in which the AFM (Africa Mercy) is operating in.  During  this time Lynne helped out in a youth centre offering English language lessons to Guineans whilst Matthew and Stuart built some kitchen units in one of the accommodation units the workers are housed in.

One of the English language classes where
Lynne was based …
Matthew and Stuart built this…
…like this

As for our work, Matthew has the hardest job as he is outside on the deck in the heat of the day, he has been brilliant and we are so proud of him as he just gets on with chipping rust, painting and storing ship.  Lynne is learning the role of ward administrator.  My carpenters role is great, I have built special tool boxes, fixed locks and made coat racks and storage shelving for the academy.  Our commute to work is a matter of minutes.  Each flight of stairs are only 16 steps, however, with nine decks we have no idea how many ‘stair steps’ we take each day (particularly Stuart and Matthew) – and our legs sometimes really feel it!

Our ‘On Boarding’ group
… one of the walls cabin on board the AFM…..
We have a couples cabin whilst Matthew is sharing
with 5 others.. not quite so roomy!
Matthew walking past the carpentry shop
(the grey steps were made to help patients
in and out of the vehicles)

We have been out and about in Conakry a little and have grown quickly accustomed to the poverty and chaotic traffic.  We will venture further afield in the coming months and hopefully have access to one of the ship’s vehicles.  

A December update

… as we didn’t publish when we thought we would.  Matthew had just published a brilliant blog http://matthewswestafricanadventure.blogspot.com/ and we wanted people to see that first.

We are now into December and the AFM certainly has a full calendar of events leading up to Christmas embracing the many cultures and traditions of the crew volunteering here – actually it started  late November!

African Gala evening
Sinterklaas on the gangway

British crew had a surprise gift of chocolate Advent calendars, courtesy of Mercy Ships UK office (thank you!!) and on 30th November this year the AFM had their first ever classical evening. Lynne accompanied a duet for ‘Panis Angelicus’, there was Spanish folk guitar, an opera singer and piano solos.  Good fun and an opportunity to dress up.  (We’re honestly not on a cruise!)  On 1st December, we helped decorate the ship for Christmas and in the evening there was a brilliant ‘African Gala’, hosted by African crew who were fundraising for their ‘On Boarding’ fees which they will be doing on the ship (the same as we did in Texas).  On Wednesday 5th December we celebrated the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas – the calendar says ‘Sinterlaas’ so not really sure how it’s spelt – however he came to the ship (on a boat we think!) and gave presents to the children.  We went out for ice cream afterward! 

Ice cream at Le Special

Ice cream in the evening seems to be a favourite pastime for many Mercy Shippers. Thursday evenings are community evenings with some worship and a message.  This week’s was very special as the children from our Academy led this and also it was a ‘Global Gathering’ where we have a live link with the ISC in Texas and national offices and remote workers can also listen in too!  The MCs in both Africa and Texas were superb!  Friday 7th December was a British crew Christmas which involved mainly eating British Christmas snacks – and Christmas pudding – sent from the UK and chatting with other British crew members of which there are quite a few!  
Yesterday, Saturday 8th we ventured out with a few others in a minibus to Dubreka waterfalls (we wanted to get there before they dry up in January as the rainy season is now over). 

Dubreka falls
Dubreka falls

 They were well worth going to and a swim in the pools was just lovely.  It made up for the 3 1/2 journey back in chocka- block roads, fumes, lane closures & generally chaotic roads. Our driver took good care of us – and certainly knew some side road (?track!) diversions!  

Matthew ‘karaoking’

When we got back we went to the Deck and Engineering BBQ and karaoke and another amazing sunset on the upper deck. (Deck 8)


Had a quick shower (two minutes only here on board!) before going to Winter Wonderland – another AFM tradition – where some hugely talented crew make all sorts of things to sell to other crew as fundraising for their crew fees.  (Some crew work so hard raising money to be here.) Today, Sunday, is a rest day for us before the start of another working week!

Work continues as normal – all day, every day as we are a hospital ship! Our commute to work is a matter of minutes.  Each flight of stairs are only 16 steps, however, with nine decks we have no idea how many ‘stair steps’ we take each day (particularly Stuart and Matthew) – and our legs sometimes really feel it!

Sunset over Kassa island

The children’s orthopaedic ward is pretty much constantly full and will continue to be during the six weeks of orthopaedic surgery which continues until Christmas.  Lynne sees, and hears, every day, the painstaking and hard work involved in learning to walk following surgery.  Teams of nurses, doctors, rehab specialists are all on hand.  Maxillofacial surgery also continues as well as some other general surgeries.  The work here is truly inspiring and humbling.  A screening team have recently been upcountry in the last couple of weeks (a good day or so travelling just to get there!) and already patients are starting to arrive in preparation for surgery.

The following are a couple of patient stories which our communications department have cleared for crew to share in blogs, newsletters, etc

Thanks to all who are supporting the work of Mercy Ships with financial help for Matthew and we are pleased to say all finances are in place for our first year of service. 
Just a a reminder that if you want to follow this blog and have it appear in you email inbox please put your email address in the box at the foot of this page.

Prayer points for us…– for physical strength for Matthew and Stuart working in the African sun and for endurance and compassion for us all as we work alongside Mercy Ships medical crew to deliver healing and hope to the forgotten poor.
– as we celebrate Christmas here in Guinea and for our family and friends back home that we will all know the true meaning of Christmas.

‘For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; and the government is upon His shoulder, And His name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.’

Isaiah 9:6