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Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Christmas Card for You

We pray that this season will be filled with the many blessings of God's love.

(Click on picture to enlarge)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bethlehem Express

Tonight we went to the Africa Mercy Academy School Christmas play, "The Bethlehem Express", and it was really amazing. It was taken from the movie, Polar Express, but instead the passengers on board a train end up at the Bethlehem manger. All the practicing was done in just one week and it's amazing to see what they achieved in such a short time. We have such a bunch of talented students here. For Nathanael it was his first Christmas play and he starred as a sheep, and he did really well.
Click play below to view some clips from the play.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Nathanael the Pirate

Little pirates invaded the ship today at Nathanael's friends pirate birthday party. Nathanael came back continually repeating.....find that treasure.
This is Nathanael's first glimpse in the mirror after having his face painted.
Nathanael the pirate
(Check out our facebook page for more photo's)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Rotary Club Visit

During our time in Benin the 5th Edition of the West Africa Project Fair was recently held in Cotonou, Benin. The conference provided a valuable opportunity for West African Rotarians to form international partnerships with Rotarians from Europe and North America. Participating West African Rotary Clubs sponsored booths in which they presented service projects to the international attendees. Mercy Ships participated in the conference, spreading the vision of hope and healing, while providing Rotarians an opportunity to partner in the transforming work of the Africa Mercy.
All participating Rotarians, including 47 from North America, were invited to the Africa Mercy the following day. A presentation about Mercy Ships was given in the Rotary International Lounge. Mercy Ships Founder/President Don Stephens addressed the Rotarians, saying, "Recently, our ophthalmic surgeons performed the 3,900th eye surgery on a blind Beninois. Half of those surgeries are done in the Rotary Eye Operating Room. In a very real sense, we are partnered together. On behalf of the now hundreds of thousands of people who have been helped, we are most grateful - and you, Rotarians, are a significant part of all that."
The guests were given a tour of the Africa Mercy followed by a light reception. Notable Rotarians in attendance included District Governor Nominee Bouraïma Salifou, Chairman of the West Africa Project Fair's Organizing Committee. "Rotary started in Benin in 1965, and we now have 13 clubs. I was very delighted to see the Founder/President of Mercy Ships, Don Stephens, also wears the Paul Harris Fellow Pin," said Salifou.
The Rotarians enjoyed the evening and were impressed by the work of Mercy Ships. "I didn't know anything about Mercy Ships until I came to the Project Fair," said 25-year Rotarian Mark VonHoetzendorff from America. "I was anxious to visit the Africa Mercy, and the visit has been wonderful. I wish it was bigger, and I'd like to see another ship built." Currently, VonHoetzendorff is a Past District Governor and Past Rotary Foundation Chair of his district. He is looking forward to spreading the vision of Mercy Ships to other Rotarians upon his return to America.
Past District Governor Brad Howard, from the United States, spoke on behalf of the entire North American group, "I think we share a parallel vision, view, and sense with Mercy Ships. It's our great privilege to be here. We are very keenly interested in your mission and would like to learn more. Thank you very much for your hospitality."
Over the past two decades, the relationship between Mercy Ships and Rotary has been an integral part of bringing hope and healing to thousands of the world's forgotten poor. Rotary clubs have made many impactful contributions. For example, The Rotary Clubs in the British Isles identified Mercy Ships as a Charity of Choice for 2005-2006 and committed $500,000 toward a new ophthalmic suite on the Africa Mercy. Also, in 2007, the Rotary Club of Jacksonville coordinated a project internationally, which resulted in a Matching Grant totaling $415,987 to help equip the Africa Mercy.
Rotary is an international organization compromised of more than 1.2 million business, professional, and community leaders. There are 33,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries. Members of Rotary clubs provide humanitarian service as well as encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, thus helping to build goodwill and peace in the world. Following the motto "Service Above Self," Rotary's main object is service - in local communities, the workplace, and throughout the world. (from http://www.rotary.org/)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Academy Spirit Day

Each month the Academy has a spirit day, which involves a theme that the kids have to dress up to. This month it was on a Friday so Nathanael was able to take part. So he put on his red, white and blue to represent his countries, UK and USA and proudly bore a dual nationality flag on his forehead.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

President Honours Mercy Ships

Last Week we received the special honour of a meal at the Presidents palace. The occasion was for Mercy Ships to receive a high honour by the President of the Republic of Benin, H.E Dr Thomas Yayi Boni, for the work that has been done in Benin. At the special state dinner the President conveyed the gratitude of his government and the people of Benin to those who serve on board the Africa Mercy. All the Cabinet members from President Boni’s administration were in attendance. 334 crew members were transported by landrovers and buses to the Governmental Palace and met in a big hall for pre-dinner drinks. The President insisted that all Mercy Ships crew were honored and even delivered 80 meals to the ship for those who had to stay and work. There was a bit of uncertainty for the beer that was also delivered as there is no drinking of alcohol on board! After the drinks we proceeded to the main dining hall where the presentation ceremony would take place before eating. Medals were awarded to Mercy Ships crew that bestowed diplomatic status and the privilege to report directly to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in honor of the 2009 Mercy Ships Field Service. This rare privilege is primarily reserved for national diplomats and not charitable organizations. Commendations of Commandeur de l'Ordre National du Benin (or Commanders of the Republic) awards were given to Mercy Ships co-founders, Don and Deyon Stephens, and to Chief Eye Surgeon on the Africa Mercy, Dr. Glenn Strauss. This medal is highly regarded in all nations and is a lifetime award. Don Stephens accepted the honor on behalf of all staff and supporters worldwide and the Mercy Ships family who have been involved in over 31 years of the ministry. Daslin Small Oueounou, Mercy Ships Benin Field Director, was named "Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Benin" and our Managing Director, Ken Berry was made "Officier de l'Ordre National du Benin". President Boni also congratulated Dr. Gary Parker, who was presented with the Commandeur de l'Ordre National du Benin medal by President Mathieu Kérékou in 2001. President Boni conveyed his thanks to Mercy Ships for their second visit to his nation this decade and for the love and care they showed the people of Benin.

After the award ceremony the entertainment and food began. We were seated on the table with the Minister of Tourism, Minister of Education and the Minister of the Judicial System and our 2 1/2 year old, Nathanael (He was very well behaved, fortunately!), plus we were blessed with a lady who spoke both English and French well.
As we ate, entertainment was provided by a performance troupe displaying native dance and musical performances representing various parts and traditions of Benin. The Menu! LES ENTRÉES Salade Niçoise (Salad) Vermicelle Chinoise sautée aux saucisses (Chinese fried noodles with Sausages) PLATS PRINCIPAUX Daren de poisson à L’oseille (Fish) Lapin grille au basilica (Rabbit) Mechoui d’agneau (Lamb) Poulet Yassa (Chicken) Carpe braise (Carp) GARNITURES Riz mescicain / Riz blanc (2 types of Rice) Couscous (cous cous) Akassa Ablo Aloco Pomme de terre frite (Chip/Fries) DESSERT Pyramide of fruits de saison RAFRAICHISSEMENT Eau minérale – Variété de Biéere et de Sucreries LES VINS (Wine) Fiol de Pape (Vin Rouge) Château Haut Rouargue (Bordeaux Supérieur) Château La Croix Saint Paul In case you’re wondering…..we ate rabbit, Nathanael ate chips/fries! (and of course the packet of hula hoops and cookies to keep him going until we ate at 9pm!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We're Twittering Tweeting Tweeters

We have joined Twitter!!
So for all you tweeters out there who like to do alot of tweeting on twitter. (We're learning the lingo!). You can now follow us either on twitter, or if you're not on twitter you can check out the "speech bubble" box that we've put on the left side menu of this blog.
We just want you to be a part of our day and we have found a little handy gadget that goes on the desktop of our computer which enables us to tell you what we're up to in a second....isn't technology great!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Clean Post

How do 400 people with different personalities, from different countries, living together on one small ship, differ from each other? The options seem endless, but the answer is revealed in one room on the ship on a daily basis. A place where upbringings and habits are exposed, personalities and humours are uncovered, and good and bad days are made obvious.
Recently we got asked how do we do laundry, was it difficult, do we do it on or off the ship. To be honest it wasn't something that we thought people would be concerned about and when you're here it seems logical and easy. So we thought we'd share with you the complicated process we have to go through to wash our clothes (only joking....it's not difficult really!). This is our laundry room, 3 ironing boards and irons, vacuum cleaners and most importantly, 10 washing machines and dryers. A very handy sock line for all those socks that always mysteriously disappear when you do the laundry. Got an odd sock? just go and look on the line, it's usually there.
Each crew is allowed to do 2 loads per week which includes 2 drying cycles. It is sometimes best to stay in the room the entire hour if personal time keeping is not a strength. It may also be the one place you might run into any department member on the ship. After all, even the Queen makes dirty laundry. Everyone has theories about the best way to sign up for a space: a week ahead or dropping by to see if there is an opening. How to put the soap in: crumbled in the drawer or whole tablet in the machine. Most have differing views on whether or not to fold the laundry of someone who has not shown up but is occupying your machine. Some are laid back and wait 10 minutes for the last person, while others will rush in and move it for them. Some people are meticulous folders and ironers, while others drop socks down the hall as they return to their rooms.
In general it is a hub of activity, a social place and a main chatting point on the ship. At it's best it becomes a generous display of human interaction.
So don't worry, we do get to wear clean clothes each week and when you're a family of 3, like us, you get 6 loads a week and if we plan it right we can get it all done in 2 hours....how about that?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Benin Sights

Shopping in Benin can be a headache or could be very easy, depending on what you need. It's amazing what you can find on the side of the road. On the plus side it saves you having to find a parking space and in some cases you could even just wind down your window and grab what you want. I suppose you could call this a drive-thru, African style. We thought we'd share with you some of the things you could buy if you wanted to!
One of the main forms of transport in Benin is the Zemidjan.
Zemidjan means "get me there fast" in the Fon language. These motorcycle taxi's are everywhere, they are cheap, convenient and very fast, but are unreliable and dangerous. There are about 40,000 of them in the city of Cotonou alone and the drivers are identified by their yellow shirts. You can often tell if somebody has been on a Zemidjan by the burns on their legs from the exhaust pipe. During our time here we often see many unusual sights, but this week beat them all when we saw a lady breastfeeding her baby on the back of a bike. See below to see other sights spotted by our crew.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Grateful Heart

As you walk in the Ward you can not help but notice the smile of Prince Eddie. His smile illuminates the room and he is known for his contagious joy and grateful heart. A businessman by vocation, he keeps a black briefcase next to his hospital bed. Inside, amidst stationery and pens, is a carefully stored photograph of his new bride, Millicent, and a wedding ring he can’t wear because of his burn; forcing it over the burn is too painful.
Prince Eddie was born with a condition called syndactyly. On both of his hands, his ring fingers and middle fingers were fused together. When he was an infant, he received a surgery to separate the fingers at a local hospital. The operation was successful on his right hand, but post-surgical complications burned the fingers on his left hand, leaving them fused and contracted.
Every day,for 36 years, Prince Eddie has made subtle modifications to perform common tasks and avoid embarrassment. His job involves a lot of computer work and he finds typing hard because he can't freely move his fingers. Consequently when there are a lot of people around he won't sit by his computer because he wants to hide his hand.
The injury had prevented him from pursuing many interests like music and learning the guitar, but it has never stolen his joy. In the face of difficulties and disappointment, he’s never stopped smiling. Today, Prince Eddie has a lot to smile about. Four months ago, he married his beautiful bride, Millicent, and is very excited about being a husband. This month, he received a free surgery onboard the Africa Mercy to restore the use of his fingers. In a few weeks, his bandages will be removed, and he will finally be able to wear his wedding ring.
Prince Eddie first encountered Mercy Ships in 2006 when the Anastasis came to his home country of Ghana. Friends from his church were living on the Anastasis and encouraged him to come to the ship. He was examined by a surgeon. The surgical schedule was already full, so he was placed on a waiting list. He was never called back. This year, they informed Prince Eddie that the Africa Mercy was coming to Benin. In March he traveled to Benin, was examined by a surgeon, and again placed on a waiting list. The always gracious Prince Eddie did not become disheartened or frustrated. He knew there were a lot of people that were worse off than him and so didn't feel bad about being put on the waiting list. Fortunately, a space in the surgical scheduled opened, and Prince Eddie was able to receive his free surgery. Prince Eddie is extremely grateful to the doctors and nurses who have cared for him on the Africa Mercy and wrote a poem, “Angels Amongst the Sons of Men,” to express his gratitude. “I see all the nurses here as angels. It’s a touching sight to watch the nurses work. How could I not be grateful?” said Prince Eddie.
Prince Eddie explained his inspiration: “I see all the nurses here as angels. Because of the pain in my hand, sometimes I can’t sleep at night. Instead, I sit awake and watch the nurses work. They do everything, from cleaning to mopping – taking care of all kinds of things. It takes angels to do that, to render that service.” -“Sometimes you do a lot of things, and you wonder if people really appreciate what you do. Patients come in and out, and many don’t have the opportunity to say ‘Thank you.’ I feel everyone would wish to express their gratitude, but the English background restrains many people from saying what they want to say. I wanted them to know I appreciate them.” -“It was already a touching sight to watch the nurses work, but then I learned they have to pay to work onboard. I asked myself, why are they paying to work? They should be paid to work. I was so touched because I knew they were doing the service of the Lord. You have to have a big heart to do that.”-“I write as a hobby when I am inspired. I don’t keep copies of my writing; if someone inspires me, I write, give it to them. I felt like writing the poem to say, ‘Thank you.’ My motivation is to let everyone know that I am so grateful for what they have done for my fingers. I wanted to thank everyone who helped me. This poem is what I feel; it’s a way of saying, ‘Thank you.’”
Angels Amongst the Sons of Men The day the Big White Whale landed on the black shores of Africa was a blessed day to the Sons of Men. It came with Angels to walk amongst the Sons of Men. Why do I call them Angels? Let me tell you of my time with them.
I came onboard the White Whale with rooms filled with the lame the maimed the formed the deformed the wrong and the rough. And deep into the darkest part of the night, I saw men and brethren, maidens and ladies, though flesh as us, yet with hearts as Angels. Sleeplessly and tirelessly they toiled through the night, through the pains and aches of men; They, with hands to heal and mend, bringing from above the Father's love to the Sons of Men. Some they cut. Some they tie. Some they seal, and yet others they fix with tools untold. Like messengers of the Most High they came. Not thinking of their own, they risked their lives and sailed the seas to lands beyond the endless world, to shores of Men afflicted and in pain. Their hearts and lives they came to share, as Angels walking amongst the Sons of Men. Some in this life are born to pass, and some are born in life to live, Yet these Angels are born to preserve humanity. Though some may see lives as waste, yet with speed they move to save. With words of love and touch of peace, they endlessly toil to make right the wrong. You were born as Men to your lands, and yet as Angels you served the earth. Gold is digged from earth beneath. Treasures are hunted on high seas. But love so pure and true can only in hearts like yours be found. Your labor in the Lord shall not be in vain. For every life you touch and every soul you save, For every bone you mend and every face you straight, The Lord of Life and Light will light your path and guide your life. For you are truly Angels amongst the Sons of Men.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Africa Mercy's "Dirty Jobs"

Have you ever seen the TV show, Dirty Jobs, on the Discovery Channel where TV host, Mike Rowe, tries out some of the dirtiest jobs in the world. Today we thought we'd share with you one of those"Dirty Jobs"on the Africa Mercy.

You can always tell when it's coming up. The ship starts to get a lot hotter than usual, sometimes even the floors start to get slippery from condensation building up on them. Then you see the flippers coming, yes the Africa Mercy Dive Team are called in. Now you're probably thinking, wow, people get to dive for Christ. I guess you're right, they do, but forget the images of clear blue sea with big reefs, this is not how it is in Benin...maybe replace that image with murky, polluted water, a nice film of sewage and, well, we're not too sure what it is, but it's yucky.

The Africa Mercy’s machinery is cooled by seawater pumped in via intake valves on the sides of the ship. Without a continuous intake of cool water, the generators that power the ship and the various facilities onboard, including the hospital, would all stop working. Also, the air-conditioning system would shut down, resulting in a rapid increase of temperature that would cause discomfort for crew members and patients, as well as creating a risk for certain pieces of hospital equipment that require a steady temperature to function. The emergency fire hoses receive their water supply from the same intake valves. Thus, the need for constant monitoring and regular maintenance of these valves, as well as having standby divers for emergencies is all of great importance.

With the Africa Mercy being docked for a long period in slow-moving, severely polluted water, the intake valves are often getting blocked up by refuse and restrict the flow of water into the ship. Sometimes the layer of refuse surrounding the ship is so thick it looks like you could almost walk on the water. It is then that the dive team go down and clear the vents, often removing plastic bags, barnacles, seaweed and when we were in Liberia our biggest problem was jellyfish. We currently have 9 divers. At the beginning of the week the dive coordinator contacts the divers to find out who is available to dive as they all have other jobs that take priority. On occasions, divers have been required to suit up and descend below the ship as early as 4 AM. Night diving is extremely dangerous, but even diving during the day can be hazardous. The water is usually so cloudy, they can’t see their feet. Visibility is only six inches, which sometimes makes it difficult to find the intake valves. But a lack of visibility is not the only risk facing the Dive Team. The sewage discharged from the Africa Mercy is fairly sterile, but the sewage from other ships in the port is a problem. Before any crew member attempts to dive, the medical department assesses their vaccination forms to ensure they are covered against serious diseases like hepatitis C, typhoid, and cholera. Whenever the divers have got water in their mouths, they’ve ended up with an upset stomach. Most of the Dive Team’s equipment is getting old and worn-out, some of which is more than fifteen years old. New equipment is needed, including full-face dive masks, that would drastically decrease the health risks that divers endure so frequently and ultimately increase their efficiency and effectiveness. However, they are quite expensive. Until then, the divers continue to risk their health to keep the Africa Mercy operational, ensuring that Mercy Ships can continue bringing hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor. One diver said "even though it’s dirty work, I’m happy to dive every week, it’s all part of serving the crew and continuing this ministry.”

That's what you call "diving for Christ!"
(Click below to see a video taken underwater.)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Ship Cancer Awareness Day

Today we had a Cancer Awareness Day on the ship. All the crew were encouraged to wear something pink and pray. For us it was a time to pray for those of our friends who are battling with cancer (know that we pray for you EVERY day!) and a time to praise God for those who have won that battle. Even Tim sacrificed his dislike of pink clothing and paraded around in bright pink socks and a pink heart.
Even the ship shop got all it's pink products out on display.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

World Maritime Day

Today is World Maritime Day
To celebrate this day, Mercy Ships ran an article featuring Tim.
(Click on each picture to enlarge)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nathanael Shares a Song

Nathanael wants to share a song with you this week, he continues to share it with us EVERY meal time so we thought it would be nice for others to listen to him for a bit.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hevie Dormitory Opens

Located about 35km (22 miles) west from the port of Cotonou in a village called Hieve It is a piece of land that belongs to Bethesda, a local faith-based organization engaged in programs of health and social development. By coming alongside and partnering with Bethesda during this year’s outreach in Benin, Mercy Ships has helped develop this land into an agricultural training center called “Food for Life.” The purpose of the center is to train local workers in farming skills, teaching biblical organic agriculture skills in nutrition and crop production. Before the agricultural aspect of the project could begin, the construction of a training centre was needed, containing a lecture room for classes and an on-site dormitory to house 30 people where participants could reside whilst attending the “Food for Life” program. Both construction and agriculture fall under supplemental programs of the Health Care Development Department of Mercy Ships. The Construction Supervisor, was responsible for overseeing the entirety of the dormitory’s construction process. He went out to the site about three times a week, making sure that the site managers had everything they needed and that things were running smoothly, along with a bit of financial bookwork to make sure that the bills were paid. The main resources that were used, were all readily available in Benin, including cement, sand, gravel, steel, and timber. The dormitory is shielded by a zinc roof and glass windows. Bricks for the construction of the walls were made on-site, formed from sand and cement, and were moulded within seconds and then took about 3 days to dry.
Labour for the construction was contracted for a daily wage. There were 16 workers involved, 4 of which were skilled in carpentry and masonry. There was no difficulty in finding willing labourers, and most of them came from nearby churches. Mercy Ships tries to use people from the community to do as much of the work as possible, thereby empowering them to help themselves. But it's more than just providing job opportunities, Mercy Ships helps to train the labourers in new and unfamiliar building skills. For example, some of the workers who were doing steel bending had not necessarily done it before. Two of them were shown how to do it then they would go and show the others. The hope is that at the end, the workers would have sufficient skills to be able to go and work as carpenters or masons. During a project like this, challenges are inevitable, and time was the most pressing factor. The building needed to be finished within two months so that two agricultural programs could be conducted before the end of the outreach. Keeping the project within its budget was hugely important and the threat of flooding from the rainy season was a concern. Heavy rains could damage roads, limiting access to the site, and if the soil became too wet, digging would become difficult.
Last week a ceremony was hosted by Bethesda to commemorate the official opening of the Agriculture Training Center. The ceremony included performances from local choirs, as well as speeches from several notable guests, including the General Coordinator for Bethesda NGO, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, and Managing Director of the Africa Mercy, Ken Berry. The opening was attended by Mercy Ships crew, additional members of Bethesda NGO, and current “Food for Life” participants.
As you can see below the first session of the three-month program is already underway.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Our Hospitality Centre

"Who practices hospitality entertains God himself"
Approximately two blocks from the port of Cotonou, where the Africa Mercy is currently docked, is a warehouse. Since the early months from when we arrived in Benin, it has undergone a tremendous transformation. Now it is our Hospitality Centre (HC), it functions primarily as a non-medical, temporary housing unit for pre-and-post-op patients and their caregivers. It consists of two air-conditioned wards with room for 76 beds, as well as bathroom facilities containing showers and flushing toilets! The center also houses the Dockside OP Eye and Physical Therapy Units. Once patients have been screened and approved, they are generally admitted onto the ship the day before their surgery. However, sometimes patients are not strong enough or healthy enough to undergo a complex medical procedure. If this is the case, patients are admitted to the Hospitality Centre to stay until deemed fit for surgery. During this time, they will be given three healthy meals a day, clean drinking water, and a comfortable bed – complete with a mosquito net.
Likewise, once patients are stabilized after surgery and no longer need immediate care, they are moved to the Hospitality Center. They are able to return to the ship for daily or weekly treatment and follow-ups. Mercy Ships provides the transportation – a ship vehicle fitted with a light and siren and with sufficient space to carry a stretcher and five seated patients. It is on constant standby in case of an emergency. The major benefit of the Hospitality Center is that the beds in the ship’s hospital wards become available more quickly. This means that surgeons can perform more surgeries – and, ultimately, more people are helped. In other words, our impact is greatly increased! To construct the warehouse to its current state, walls were erected, roofs were constructed, and plumbing for bathrooms and toilets was installed. To make the area secure, a fence with security gates was put up around the property. Electrical wiring was laid for lights and air-conditioning. Because of regular power cuts in Cotonou, it was imperative to install a generator as a backup power supply. All this was achieved with the combined help of the Electrical and Construction Departments of the Africa Mercy, as well as the hard work of Mercy Teams that come from churches all around the world to work with the Ship for a few weeks. Everyday running involves the management of 8 day volunteers, 4 generator operators, and 4 security guards, as well as the coordination of patients and supplies to and from the ship. Teaching on basic nursing skills, as well as the overall care of the patients is also given to our day volunteers. This is a relatively new concept for Mercy Ships and so far it seems to be working well. The Hospitality Centre has already proved its effectiveness by accommodating women suffering with VVF who travelled from the north of Benin. Their recovery involves bed rest and before would take a bed up in the ward for 1-2 weeks. Also, little babies gain weight on a feeding program before they undergo corrective surgery, for example, a cleft lip. The Hospitality Center is already proving to be a valuable tool in delivering hope and healing to the world’s poor, and, if possible, will be implemented in future fields of service.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

International Night of Worship

For our church service tonight we had an international worship night, where groups of crew brought something from their different countries. So we thought we'd share bits of this service with you.

Sharon ended up being in the group from Wales-6 of us considered Cardiff as home, but only 1 was actually Welsh speaking. Another was half Canadian and half Welsh and was born in Bridgend. We read Psalm 23 in welsh and sang the great hymn "Guide Me O Thy Great Jehovah". (as a footnote we apologise to any Welsh speakers out there who might cringe at the pronounciation of some of the words...we gave it our best shot....must admit we don't think we will be taking up Welsh in the near future....we'll stick to French!)

We also had music from Ghana, which got everybody up and dancing.

....and even this baby slept through the whole thing whilst tied to her mothers back.

Then we had the South African's

Followed by a contingent from Poland who sang a very lively version of Hallelujah.

It was all finished off by the German speaking countries.

It's great to be a part of such a big International Crew and share worship together.

Hitting the Bottle

Yesterday we finally gave in and hit the bottle. We needed to take a little walk to get what we were looking for, but it wasn't too long before we found a little stall in town at the side of the road that sold just what we needed, plus the storeholder even knew how to say the price in English as we frantically searched our brains for a translation of prices from French to English. Why is it we ask what the price is in French then get surprised when the response is also in French and then we're stuck!
So after surveying all different kinds of labels and their contents we settled on the African Queen and Shayo Dry Gin bottles. We thought this would go down very well for a lazy afternoon in the cabin.
In case you're thinking we've gone nuts.....that's exactly what has happened:
In the African Queen we have sweet peanuts:
....and in the Shayo Dry Gin bottle we have cashews.
This is quite a normal way to sell nuts and it's not bad for $2-3 each and if you take your bottle back you might even get a discount (we'd best learn the French for that first!)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nathanael's Unusual Sleep Pattern

Nathanael seemed to develop some funny sleeping positions yesterday. As Sharon was out playing being "Mr Kipling" in the crew galley, having been inspired to make some viennese fingers for a surprise birthday party, she returned to find that Nathanael had fallen asleep in the middle of his "choo choo" game.
Then he fell asleep in the middle of his "Winnie the Pooh" book last night.
and in case you were wondering......the viennese fingers tasted really good!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Norwegian Soccer Team Profile Mercy Ships

Kristiansaand’s Start players who played against Fredrikstad in the Premier League last Sunday wore the charity’s logo on their jerseys. The goal was to promote the charity in Norway and the promotion was donated free of charge. This special arrangement was due to a collaboration between Mercy Ships, IK Start, and the soccer team’s main national bank sponsor, Sparebanken Sør. Board chairman for Mercy Ships Norge, Erling Natvig, was very pleased with the opportunity. In his opinion this was important in the organization’s work to help even more people.
“We are thankful that IK Start and Sparebanken Sør wanted to do this for us. Having Mercy Ships promoted in this manner is very valuable. We wish to help the poorest of the poor, but to do so, we need to be better known in Norway,” said Natvig.
“Our humanitarian efforts are primarily directed to local and regional activities. However, as a central bank in connection with the annual TV fund raising action, we have also contributed beyond our national borders for many years,” says Gry Moen, Marketing Director for Sparebanken Sør, whose logo normally decorates the Start jersey. “When local enthusiasts in Mercy Ships asked to borrow our advertising spot on the Start uniform for a game, it was easy for us to say yes. We know that Mercy Ships gives many people new opportunities for a better life. In addition, we are impressed by the volunteer effort and enthusiasm of the individuals who operate these hospital ships. We cheer on Start and Mercy Ships and wish them the best of luck in their future work,” she stated. IK Start channels its community service through its daughter company Start Life Support AS, and supports projects both nationally and internationally. “Start Life Support is Start Football’s community service program, and has a goal of helping those less fortunate locally, nationally, and internationally. We already have many ongoing projects, but when the request from Mercy Ships came, we thought the dedication and work was so exciting, that it was not difficult for us to promote the project. Mercy Ships efforts on behalf of the poor is unique, and for us to have the opportunity to use our own stadium to tell about this wonderful work feels very right” said Director Helge Josdal, Start Life Support AS.
...and the score?
Start beat Fredrikstad 1-0!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Our Beloved Ship Shop

At 12:30pm every weekday the doors of the ship shop open and there is a rush to get there before the crowds. You enter the shop and begin the one way loop of the two aisle super store. Grab your basket. Walk past the cleaning and stationery supplies. Pass the water bottle carriers on their stands. Make a left at the baking supply section. Grab your eggs & juice from the fridge. Turn left at the gummies (grab one, if you must). Saunter down the back aisle and dilemma over which type of cookie you might crave that evening (Dutch, English, American?). Then resign to chat with people as you hit the ship shop rush hour traffic. At this point, you are only halfway through the store, but have reached the far end of the check out line.
Then there it is....my find of the day, never have we seen it on the shelves before. To some, you might not feel it's a big deal, but to a Brit on a ship without access to their normal home supermarkets...it is heaven, and news soon spreads fast amongst the Brits as they join the rush to grab a jar. Yes it's.........
(Chutney to others, enjoyed with cheese on a sandwich)
It is easy to stay cool from here on in. The line moves at a mellow pace and allows you to browse any toiletries you may be running low on. Skim a chapter of a book, if you like. Try to find a shirt above size small. Examine all the hand made local crafts.
Okay, you are nearing the checkout. Stay calm. Keep relaxed. Shoulders back. Head up. Mentally scan your memory to see if you have forgotten anything. Choose your favourite pringles flavour and place everything on the counter in front of our dear shopkeepers. Not forgetting the 2 toilet rolls that Nathanael always picks up for you whether you want it or not!
Your items are being scanned in. At this point you hold your name tag up so the cashier can punch in your name to charge to your account. Done. If all has gone well, you will have remembered everything and won't need to repeat the circuit. You are good to go....CONGRATULATIONS you survived the ship shop rush hour!......just another glimpse of our lives on board

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How About this for a Day Job

We often sit and watch in amazement at how many fisherman, like this, catch their fish and haul it in each day. It is hefty work!
Then at the end of their trip they all sail past our cabin window displaying a variety of flags, colourful sails and paintwork.