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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.