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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!)

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