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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

South Africa Tours

What do you mean tours? 
Yes we know in one of our posts we gave a good tour of Cape Town.  This is a different kind of tour.  It's been nice to have the support of one of our National Offices in South Africa and also for us to endorse the work that they do so well in their country to promote the work of Mercy Ships.  The South African office, led by John Rae, have done a huge amount of PR work whilst we were there.  The staff at the V&A waterfront were amazing and did all they could to help us during our time there, whether it was a free berth, setting up a booth in the middle of the V&A waterfront mall where many asked questions, signed up for Mercy Ships newsletters and some even interested in volunteering.  Plus the regularly showed our Congo video on their giant TV screen in the outdoor amphitheatre.
They also took many bookings for private tours of the ship and on the last weekend we opened our gangway to the general public.  In just 3 days we had 4211 people walk through our doors.
Our Communications team created an amazing "hospital experience" which had hospital staff and crew sharing stories and short films to show the work of Mercy Ships.
Our 1000th visitor presented with a Mercy Ships mug.
 Dr. Gary presents a mug to our 4000th visitor, moments after he had stood in the spot where Dr. Gary performs his surgeries.

Thank you John Rae and his staff for making our time in Cape Town very enjoyable, productive & a blessing.  Continue to follow them all here as they have an amazing eye program in South Africa.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Nathanael's School Photo's

The school photo's this year were very different to previous years as they weren't taken on the ship.  As we were in Gran Canaria the ship photographers took the opportunity to change the norm.  They scoped out a great park with plenty of blooming rose bushes which also had playground equipment to keep the kids entertained whilst waiting - perfect.
Nathanaels portrait
This is Nathanael's class, Grade 2.  They have a new teacher this year who joined the ship in August.  Miss Jessica is a missionary kid herself, having grown up in Dakar, Senegal so she is perfect to understand their needs.  Nathanael really enjoys her and her sense of humour.  We are so glad she is here and the influence she is having on our kids.
And this is the whole school from the nursery right up to the high schoolers.  What a great school, they are like brothers and sisters.
 and of course we always have to do a silly photo

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cape Town

We were fortunate to have a long weekend off to enjoy some sight seeing whilst we were in Cape Town, South Africa.  So we packed our bags and tried to fit in all our Cape Town "bucket list" items in 3 days.

The first day we wondered round the V&A Waterfront where the ship is docked.  This place is filled with shopping malls, restaurants, live street music and entertainment and seals swimming freely in the harbour.  A definite buzz!
Our evening followed with a wonderful meal with ex-mercy shippers, the wonderful De La Rue family who now live in Cape Town.
Nathanael got to meet Lucy again who he was in nursery with when they lived on board, needless to say they didn't remember each other at all but soon got on well and picked up their friendship in their older years with the addition of Lucy's new brother.  It was great to hear their God filled journey since they have left Mercy Ships and how God has provided for them in so many ways.  They took us down to the beach from the other side of the bay with a great view of Table Mountain. 
  Thank you Lee and Dana for opening your home to us and the special catch up, we see God's love flowing through you and are thankful for the friendship we share that we can just pick up where we left off.

Saturday we ventured on the train.  Isn't the internet wonderful how you can research anything before you do it.  So we paid our total of $7 (£4.50) for the 3 of us (!) to travel in 1st class; actually 1st class isn't anything special like at home, it just means you have a seat instead of standing for an hour train journey.  It was a pleasant journey along the coast and our aim was to visit Boulders Beach.  
Boulders Beach houses a colony of penguins, along with special nests that they have created as a conservation measure.  Again the internet came out top as we had already read advice on taking the the trail to the right, not the trail directly in front of you.  We passed many nests, some with eggs, others with penguins just resting from their swim for food, but when we got to the end we soon realised why this trail was the best.  
Penguin Motel!
Over the other side of the beach many people clamoured to get a view of the penguins, some just catching a glimpse, over our side we were empty most of the time and were able to enjoy the comedy show put on by the penguins.
Mama and her chicks!
Sorry, that was a lot of penguin photo's, but they were cute.  We have more but we won't share them here!

Next on our bucket list was a trip to Robben Island.  
After having seen the slavery forts in Ghana and, most recently, the movies "12 Years a Slave" and "Lee Daniels, The Butler" showing the divide between black and white, we really wanted to get a small feel of what it was like for Nelson Mandela whilst he was held here.
We were fortunate to arrive at our boat station early and due to it being overbooked we were ferried off to the posher boat, the "Tigger 2".  We felt like celebrities with our posh boat and white leather seats looking out on the ocean while the wind was blowing through our hair, well Sharon's hair!  It also meant that we sped across the water in a shorter time.
We were met by the first part of a bus tour which took us around the island telling us a bit about how they live there.  A great testimony of mercy and forgiveness as former prisoners and former prison guards live side by side, working and socialising together to bring the history to life for us.  We were then taken into the prison, surrounded by barbed wire.  We were met by a former prisoner who had served 7 years there and now lived on the Island with his family.  He shared how things ran, the categorisation of prisoners, how they smuggled notes in tennis balls over the wall to others, the days of hunger strikes as he worked in the kitchen to cook the food to only throw it away and start cooking for the next meal.  It was stories like this that brought the days of Apartheid to life, even up to as recently as the 90's.  
Our tour guide, a former prisoner.
The Lime Quarry where the
prisoners worked.
Prisoners slept on the floor in
all weathers.
Different privileges-the darker your
skin the worse you got.
Papers they always carried.
The exercise yard where they played
tennis and hit balls with secret
messages inside over the wall.
Nelson Mandela's cell
 Our speedy boat made it back in no time and gave us a few hours to catch a quick trip up Table Mountain before sunset thanks to a money-off coupon in the paper charging a third of the normal charge to go up, the only catch was to queue for 1.5 hours to get up there, but that was ok once we saw the views.
So we managed to get some Cape Town attractions ticked off our bucket list.  The rest will have to wait for another day at another time and we are grateful for this time, we are blessed.  It's definitely a great place to visit, maybe it can become an entry on your bucket list.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Where Are We?

Our blog has been kind of quiet over the last few weeks.  It is now October and as of now I expected to be telling you about the wonderful things that would be happening on our field of service, our screening would have been completed and we would have been in the midst of patients lining up to have their lives changed through surgery and the love of God that is shown throughout our daily contact with them.

But we're not, we haven't even got there and our minds continue to think of those who wait or could have been the one with the appointment card.

Ebola continues to spread in the many countries our hearts cry out for.  Already we see in the news it has reached over 4000 and we pray that a solution will be found soon.  It's hard to see those that we have left behind having to live with this outbreak and we ask you to join with us to pray.  

Many of you will remember the God is Love Orphanage we worked with in Guinea.  They have now resulted to homeschooling their children to avoid going out and coming in contact with Ebola, we pray for God's protection over them.  We pray for the family of Moses who died in riots whilst trying to help and educate people about ebola.  He was instrumental in bringing many patients to us and working with a fellow missionary friend there.  We pray for some of our African crew members who can't go home to support family with the cost of food rising or attend funerals for loved ones that have passed away as a result of hospitals unable to deal with their everyday illnesses.  These are just examples of the wider impact of Ebola.

Meanwhile we kind of feel guilty as we sit and enjoy the wonderful town of Cape Town, South Africa, far from all of this.  We do, however, think of our next country and the miracles God has brought to enable us to arrange a new country in such a short time.  On Thursday we begin our second leg of the journey to Madagascar to the town of Tamatave (also known as it's english name- Toamasina, meaning salty or like salt) where we will be spending the next 8 months.  Check out our recent newsletter for some facts here

We look forward to telling you more when we arrive