Saturday, 28 July 2007


Beatrice is one of the patients on our ward who I have been visiting and praying with during her 2 week stay on the ship, who has been leaking urine since 1997, when her seventh baby died after an extremely long and difficult labour. She was left with a large fistula, despite being in one of the best hospitals in Monrovia, and when she returned home she found her husband had left her because of the stigma attached to her problem. Beatrice's surgery on the Africa Mercy has been a success, and yesterday was her “dress ceremony” where she was presented with a new African outfit as a symbol of her new life. She looked beautiful as she gave her testimony of God providing her the opportunity for a new life. She can now walk around dry and proud in the knowledge of God’s provision for her. There was much celebration, singing, drumming and dancing between the patients, translators, ward staff and crew members present. Sally

Liberia - 160 years old

This weekend Liberia celebrated its 16oth year of independance from the USA, with a firework display (paid for by the Chinese) held on the spot where the original freed American slaves landed in 1822. Ironically, precisely four years ago to the day the city of Monrovia echoed to sounds similar to fireworks, which were in fact the sounds of rebel forces bombarding the city night and day in an attempt to overthrow Charles Taylor. The population is still very nervous of any loud bangs, and the sale and use of firecrackers is still illegal here. Olly

Bong Iron Ore Mines

Today we travelled for 3 hours on the only working railroad in Liberia, to the abandoned Bong Iron Ore Mines which opened in 1965 at a cost of $78,500,000. The mines were staffed by nearly 500 Europeans and nearly 3,000 Liberians, and boasted a school for the ex-pat children, a golf club and even an aero club, and housed state-of-the-art processing plants that reduced the 65% iron-ore rich rock into 100% iron pellets for export. Sadly, all the ex-pats were evacuated in 1990 when Charles Taylor's rebel army took control of the mines as they swept through the country, and they have never reopened. Today, organised looting on a massive scale from the mines is the only source of employment in the region. Pictured: the processing plant in 1965, and the remains of the processing plant today, having been stripped of anything valuable over the past 17 years. Olly

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Great kids

Often we forget just how long-suffering our kids are, but then something reminds us of this. Today we were driving though town in torrential rain and our battered old Land Rover started to leak so badly that Anna put her umbrella up inside the car! She didn't complain one little bit, in fact she took it all in her stride! Olly

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Arrests over Liberia "coup plot"

A former Liberian army commander has been arrested for "subversive activities" - the first such arrests since landmark elections in 2005. Gen Charles Julu headed the presidential guard under former leader Samuel Doe and led a 1994 coup attempt. Deputy Information Minister Gabriel Williams said he understood Gen Julu had been plotting a coup but the government said there was no threat. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took power in 2006 after a 14-year war.
The BBC's Jonathan Paye-Layleh in the capital, Monrovia, says people are shocked at the possibility of renewed unrest in the country. The United Nations has some 15,000 peacekeepers in Liberia - the second largest deployment in the world. "This man [Julu] was detained by the National Security Agency for subversive acts against the state," Information Minister Lawrence Bropleh told Reuters news agency. He refused to say whether this meant a coup plot and said an investigation was under way. "The Liberian public should remain calm. There is no immediate threat to the state," he said. Student groups from Doe's Krahn ethnic group have condemned the arrests and called for the release of Gen Julu and the other former officer also arrested. BBC, 19 July 2007

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

More disturbances

Today there has been more disturbances in the city, around the Mamba Point offices of the UN Department of Programs, which gives out grants and finances projects for the rebuilding of Liberia. Why the crowd targeted the UNDP remains a mystery to me, since it is here to help the Liberians - I guess it is a soft target without armed guards compared to the many Liberian government buildings that are heavily guarded by UN soldiers. And so the rainy season of discontent continues. Photo of the heavy UN armed presence currently around the Liberian Ministry of Defence, not far from the UNDP buildings. Olly

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Monrovia Central Prison

On Saturday I visited Monrovia Central Prison. It was the worse place I have ever been. Conditions are horrific. Up to 16 prisoners sleep in cells 7 foot long by 8 foot wide on the bare concrete floor - they have to take it in turns to lie down to sleep. They only have one meal of maize a day, which is insufficient to keep them strong. There is no running water or toilets in the prison building - they must wait until midday to use the latrines in the yard, or use stinking and overflowing buckets in their cells, and nearly everyone has diarrhea. They have no toilet paper, no soap, no toothbrushes or toothpaste and no medicine. Of the 73 prisoners, only 6 have received a trial - the other 67 are awaiting trial, and some have been waiting for over 3 years so far. Many of them were arrested and put into the prison without their families being informed, and I came away with a list of people to phone to tell them that their sons and brothers are in jail. The majority are guilty of "debtors" crimes, and they could be released immediately if someone paid off their debts. I prayed with a small group of men, for their freedom and that they will be able to use their time in jail positively - maybe learn to read and write, or help other to do so. Many other men thought I could help them gain freedom - they thought I had come to pay their debts or obtain a pardon from the authorities...after only an hour of being inside I was so overwhelmed by the atmosphere and had to ask to be let out into the fresh air...Now I know what Jesus meant when he talked about freedom for the prisoners...I guess Monrovia Central Prison in 2007 is very similar to the Roman prisons of 30 AD. Olly

Friday, 13 July 2007

V V F ladies

Today I spent some more time working in the ship's hospital, where a number of ladies are currently recovering from having vaginal fistula's repaired by our surgeons. These fistulas often occur through lengthy and complicated childbirth, often during which the baby dies and the mother is left leaking urine and/or faeces, and consequently becomes an outcast because they smell so badly...I am constantly shocked at how small and young most of these ladies are - some of them are only teenagers by the looks of it. This is where Mercy Ships excels - these ladies will be able to return to their villages having been repaired, and they will be thanking God for the rest of their lives! Olly

The rain

It simply hasn't stopped raining all day today - I can't even begin to estimate how many inches have fallen, but the ship's scuppers have been busy! Normally we can see the city of Monrovia beyond the port, but today visibility was minimal. Top photo: the city when its not raining; bottom photo: the city when it rains...Olly

Photos of our new cabin

Here's a couple of photos of the inside of our cabin - it is way different from our old cabin on the Anastasis. Anna & Libby share a bedroom, Noah has his own, and Sally and I sleep on a sofa-bed in the lounge/diner. Olly

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Our new cabin

Our new cabin is situated on the starboard aft corner of the top deck (I've coloured our windows in pink in the photo) - we have 6 big windows giving us great views over the port. We have a bedroom/dining room/sitting room with a sofa bed for me and Sally, a twin-bed room for Anna and Libby, and a bunk-bed room for Noah. The corridor contains the kitchen, and we have a small shower room & toilet. Its a lovely cabin, and we are very happy here. It is obviously a fraction of the size of our old house here in Monrovia, but its a little bigger than our old cabin on the Anastasis, and so much lighter too. And we are the first people ever to live in it! Olly

Liberian National Police -v- Liberian Seaport Police

Yesterday, Monday 9th July, the Liberian National Police and the Liberian Seaport Police became bitter rivals in a full scale riot outside the port's main gates, over a disagreement about stolen fuel. Several people we injured by rocks being thrown. Eventually, the UN sent the Ghanaian army in armoured cars, and a full battalion of Indian riot police into the situation to stop the fighting. During the riot, we could not leave the port, but today the area is peaceful. We simply cannot imagine what will become of this country, if it's own police forces fight each other over stolen fuel. I think that after so many years of war, the people here just don't know how to behave peacefully. Please spare a few moments to pray for this most desperate country and its government, who have achieved so little obvious progress since their election. Olly

Afloat again

We became crew again on the M/V Africa Mercy on Saturday 7th July, and moved into our new cabin, which is a fraction of the size of our house in Congo town, but has 6 big windows giving us a great view over the ruined Freeport of Monrovia, and 24 hour power, hot water, air conditioning, medical care, fact, everything we need to live comfortably whilst remaining in this most desperate of countries. We are very happy, and can't stop smiling for now. More later. Olly

Mercy Ships again?

Two things to note - today the Mercy Ship Anastasis left Liberia on her final four week long sail to the scrap yard in India. It was a very sad moment for all ex-Anastasis crew. I am watching her thick black smoke disappear over the horizon even now as I write this! But on a good note, we have been invited to return to Mercy Ships, to live aboard the Africa Mercy in Liberia where I will work in the special projects department, trying to finish bits of the ship that weren't finished in the UK. I then hope to transfer to the community development team which digs wells, installs hand-pumps, builds clinics, schools and hospitals, teaches agriculture and micro-enterprise and community health education and runs discipleship and mentoring programmes at the same time...all fantastic projects that I can't wait to get involved with. Yet another transition for us, but a very positive one where we will be in comfortable and safe accomodation but still able to serve some of the worlds poorest people. Olly (written June 29th)