This Blog serves as two things: a photo-diary of our lives between 2007 and mid 2011, when we saw some incredible things and met some amazing people; and a reflection of our more normal lives since then.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, dear reader. We hope you have a lovely evening, and a great New Years Day tomorrow. Tonight, we are having a ball in the Africa Mercy's International Lounge, at at midnight we will watch the Port's spectacular firework display from Deck 8, and be thrilled at the sound of all the ship's horns welcoming in 2009. Until next year then! Olly

Libby Language

Libby's language is quite entertaining. My favourite example is that she talks about going to lunch at "Old McDonalds" instead of "McDonalds". There are many other examples, but I can't remember them now. Olly

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Mirky drinking water

The rough sail from Liberia to Tenerife revealed that our water tanks are long overdue for a good clean. The movement of the ship stirred up a lot of sediment that sits at the bottom of these tanks, making our drinking water less than appealing. The photo (courtesy of Drew Rawson, our Waterman) shows drinking water AFTER it has been through filters. Libby called it "water-juice" because of its colour. Olly

Are we rain gods?

I told our kids the other day that it never rains in Tenerife. How wrong could I be? It drizzled on Christmas Day (most un-typical of Tenerife)...and today we opened the curtains to find real European rain - not the torrential short lived rain of West Africa, but the miserable, long-lasting cold rain that soaks you to the skin and makes you cold. So I think we'll have a day on the ship. Our Deckies are trying to unload shipping containers on the dock today - poor guys. Olly

The best sausage and chips south of the UK?

On Sunday after church in Coral Mar Shopping Centre in Silencio (which was brilliant, by the way, Bill!), we climbed one flight of stairs to Stella's English Cafe, where Stella fried us a variety of sausage and chip meals (sausage, chips & beans; sausage egg & chips; sausage & chips etc). The sausages were the best we've tasted in years - a beautiful combination of fat and breadcrumbs that only us Brits know and love. The chips were home-made and magnificant, and even the beans and eggs tasted better than anything we can remember. And we had great company too - Drew & Laura (from the ship) and Ken & Caroline (from Silencio) ate with us, and we enjoyed chatting to other ex-pat Brits in the warm sun, about their lives in Tenerife. Long live Stella's Cafe! Olly

Friday, 26 December 2008

Boxing Day, and a new berth

Despite being Boxing Day (and a ship holiday), the Port asked us to move the Africa Mercy this morning from the cement terminal to the cruise-ship terminal. A handful of volunteers and I moved our 17 Land Rovers and Nissans the 8 kilometers around the port, whilst the ship moved the few hundred yards from the end of the East Pier, across the open water of port entrance, to the end of the West Pier. And what a difference such a short move had made - we are now on an immaculate dock, surrounded by cruise ships and tourists, and are only a short walk from the city centre.

We are now at the northern tip of the Av de Francisco La Roche pier, shown yellow on the map. Our previous berth was on the southern tip of the un-marked pier shown white, to the NE on the map. Olly

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas Day in Liberia

We just phoned our friends in Monrovia. Our hearts and minds are with them as we are so far removed from them. It seems a malaria epidemic is sweeping the nation - our friend Gary is just recovering, and both Musu and Samual are just starting treatment. Can you pray for those we left behind, especially the Dunseath family, the Ecklund family, the Shank family, the Chapman family, and Musu and her family. Olly

Christmas Day on the Africa Mercy

Whilst we were asleep last night, Father Christmas and his elves were busy at work. We awoke to find the kids stockings full of useful things like shower gel, a toothbrush, a bath sponge and candy, and outside our cabin door was a pile of presents from other Africa Mercy crew (as is the ancient Mercy Ships tradition). We had our traditional Christmas meal last night (turkey, ham, green bean casserole etc) before the Christmas Eve service, and this morning we had a long brunch (ham, eggs, cheese, sausages, fruit, breads etc). Photo of Noah and Anna in the corridor outside our cabin surrounded by gifts. Olly

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas, dear reader. We hope you have a lovely day. And don't forget, Jesus is the reason for the season. Olly

Our temporary berth

Our temporary berth at the cement dock in the industrial part of the port of Santa Cruz is turning out not to be quite so temporary. We were going to move to the empty cruise ship dock on Monday morning, then Monday afternoon, then Tuesday morning, then Tuesday evening (you get the picture)...Last night the first of our supply containers arrived; this morning another came, and we have started pumping fresh water aboard, so it looks like we will remain at this berth (6 kms from town) until after Christmas. If we ever move to the cruise ship dock we will only have 1km to walk into town, along an immaculate wharf; in the meantime we have to walk 1km to the nearest bus stop along a wharf covered in cement dust, navigating cement hoppers and loaders, moored bunker barges, and a moored oil rig. Still, mustn't grumble. As long as you've got your health (etc etc)...Olly

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Christmas Play

Last Wednesday, at the height of the storm during our sail north, the kids in the Africa Mercy's Academy performed their Christmas play. Libby was a cow (photo below with Daniel, the other cow)...
And Noah was Joseph, photo below with Josie as Mary, with the cows and a donkey (Mirium)...

And Anna was an Angel (photo below with Joyce).

They all did well! Olly

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Chinese company promises 2.6 billion dollar iron deal to Liberia

A Chinese conglomerate has promised to spend 2.6 billion dollars on Liberia's main iron ore mine in the biggest investment ever made in the African nation, Investment Minister Richard Tolbert told AFP on Saturday. Tolbert said the China Union company had promised that within 12 months it will have built a one million tonne a year capacity refining factory at the Bong iron mines, about 150 kilometers (95 miles) north of Monrovia. "It is the highest investment in our country's history. They have already won the bid in a transparent manner and we are now concluding the signing of the contract," Tolbert said in an interview. The minister said China Union would give the government 40 million dollars just to sign the contract in January. "This is the highest amount any company ever gave us upon the conclusion of our negotiations. This is the cash the government will receive, to begin to fix the infrastructures of this country, and some of the social needs of our people." He said there would be 3,000 jobs created by the project with up to 15,000 following indirectly. "That is within two to three years. In the long term they have assured us that the direct jobs could be as many as 10-15,000, and the indirect ones as higher as 70,000." For full article click here.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Tenerife sunrise

Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a beautiful and spectacular city to spend a few weeks in. The port is sheltered by steep cliffs to the west, and each morning we see an amazing sunrise to the east from our cabin windows. Today we spent the whole day in the city, primarily enjoying the beautiful parks and playgrounds. The place has a very Mediterranean feel about it, thanks to the very strong Spanish culture.
Above, sunrise silhouetting the neighbouring island of Gran Canaria.

Above, the port facing South. The city is hemmed in on 3 sides
by mountains, with the sea to the fourth side.

Above, the port facing North

Above, Santa Cruz's wonderful Botanical Gardens at the Parque Garcia Sanabria, which is also very child friendly - amongst all the immaculatly maintained vegetation and fountains are three childrens play grounds. Olly

Friday, 19 December 2008

Tenerife Day 1

It's been a busy day. After an early start, Moses and I washed 12 Land Rovers and 5 Nissan Patrols, and then we helped the Deckies (God bless 'em) unload them all, leaving 9 of our older Land Rovers up on Deck 8. Thus we have provided 158 opportunities (ie the number of seats between all 17 vehicles) for crew to get away from the ship and travel the 6 kms into town. I am delighted to have our department up and running again. This is probably the most boring blog entry I have ever written in my life. Please feel free to comment and reassure me otherwise. Olly

Reverse Culture Shock

Since we joined Mercy Ships in 2003, I reckon we have been exposed to Reverse Culture Shock six times. I felt it most after our first Outreach to Liberia in 2005 - I remember standing in McDonalds in East London (South Africa), and having to work hard to control my emotions. Three years later, we seem to have become quite immune to the condition (such is the very nature of living on a Mercy Ship and returning to the developed world once a year). Today, as soon as the kids finished school, we headed for the local hypermarket, and thoroughly enjoyed immersing ourselves in the fresh fruit aisle. We saw more beautiful fruit in ten minutes than in 4 years in Liberia! Sally has just got the Tenerife fruit bowl out, and filled it with real (not mango) plums, yellow (not green) bananas, and orange (not green) oranges. Olly

Santa Cruz de Tenerife

The Pilot came on the ship at 6am this morning, and we are just mooring as I write (7.20am). Our real berth is still not available for another couple of days, so we are in the industrial port until then, surrounded by the cranes and hoppers that the bulk carriers use to discharge their cement clinker into trucks. We are miles and miles away from the main city - probably a good hour's walk, so maybe we won't get to see much of it until we move nearer. In the distance, on the other side of the port, we can see three big cruise ships. In the meantime I guess we will spend the day unloading gangways, vehicles etc. It's great to be on an even keel again. Olly

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Christmas activities on the sail

To alleviate the boredom and to prepare for the fast approach of Christmas, we've had a couple of activities to keep the kids quiet...

Above, at Kids Craft Night, Libby and Aly are putting beads on pipecleaners...

Above at the Cookie Bake, Libby and Aly are covering themselves with flour and eating cookie dough until they felt ill (or was that the rough seas?)...

And Santa came to visit. Olly

Day 6 at sea

We woke after a good nights sleep to calmer seas, with hardly any wind, and a beautiful sunrise. Hallelujah! It put us in a very "Tenerife" mood - the sea and sky and sunrise and air temperature all remind us that Tenerife is not very far away. Technically we should be there by now, but the storm slowed us down a bit, and yesterday we learnt that the Spanish Navy have taken over our berth, so our arrival has been delayed until Friday morning. So, hopefully, this will be our last day at sea! Olly

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Day 5 at sea

Guess what? Its still choppy, and the ship is still rolling all over the place. We were woken a couple of times by things falling off shelves, and things banging against the walls. This morning I spent only a few minutes on Deck 8, but came back inside freezing cold with a headache from the wind - I guess its not really all that cold (after all, we are now off the coast of Western Sahara, which is still Africa!), but the wind makes it feel very cold and wintry. This sail seems to be going on forever; it will be such a relief to get to Tenerife, so we can open our cupboards up again and put away the things that have been cluttering up the cabin for days. Olly

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Day 4 at sea

The weather is a lot cooler today, with more cloud cover and a fierce wind blowing saltwater spray all over the ship (which is absolutely coating the vehicles on Deck 8 with salt). Sea still choppy, which the Africa Mercy really can't handle very well. I find the constant effort of compensating for the ships movement to be very tiring, and I'm falling asleep every evening by 7pm. And today we seem to be losing satellite connections a lot, so every email takes ages to send out. We are only moving at about 10 knots, so will probably arrive in Tenerife a day later than expected. Too bad. Olly

Monday, 15 December 2008

Day 3 at sea

The sea is still rough (in our opinion!) although the waves are less viscious and the ship is pitching less. Our sleep was still disturbed with things banging and crashing around us, and the bed actually bouncing around due to the shaking of the whole ship as it crashed back down again into the water, but Sally & Noah are feeling much better today. Thanks for your prayers. Olly

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Day 2 at sea

Weather conditions deteriorated during the night, and the ship is now pitching into a big sea. Thankfully it is not rolling from side to side; most movement is from bow to stern. We just did some Christmas Cookie decorating in the Dining Room, which overlooks the bow, and we all feel very sick now - Sally has vomited and Noah is flat on his back and looks like he will be joining her shortly. Our cabin as right aft, and is bucking alarmingly, so we may have to camp out mid-ships with the other refugees from aft before too long. The weather forecast is the same for the next 24 hours. Yippee. Olly

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Sailing again

Thus our six-day sail to Tenerife has begun. The weekend of forced relaxation for many of us gives us the chance to reflect on our time in Liberia, and relax. As I write, we are somewhere off the coast of Sierra Leone; the sea is calm, the sky is clear and the sun is hot. The sea is a wonderful deep blue, and our wake is totally white. We have seen one school of dolphins so far, and expect to see many more over the next few days. On Monday we'll all go back to work - I'll be tinkering with our Land Rovers and Nissans on Deck 8, and the kids will be in school for the last week of term before the Christmas holidays begin. Olly




And finally from Liberia

Yesterday we left Liberia on the Africa Mercy, along with 294 other crew. It goes without saying that we will miss the country, and all the friends we made there. We will return one day, to see Libby's birth place, and what progress has been made. Olly

Above: the empty dock (the scene of so much activity over the past ten months), minutes before we sailed, with a few friends to wave us off.

INTERPOL to help in Liberia's prison break

INTERPOL is to deploy its Incident Response Team (IRT) to Liberia to support the national law enforcement authorities in a chase and capture of some more than 100 fugitives following the escape of 202 prisoners from the capital's South Beach prison. The team which will also beef up the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Monrovia, will help in capturing the 151 prisoners said to be still at large. 51 of the fugitives have already been arrested following quick action by Liberian authorities. The fugitives, who have been convicted of a range of crimes including murder and attempted murder, armed robbery, theft, burglary and rape, are said to be posing a clear threat to public safety. For full article click here.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Nepalese Medal Parade -v- At Sea Emergency Drills

Yesterday Sally and I (and several others) were honoured to receive an invitation to the neighbouring Nepalese Armed Police base for their annual Medal Parade Ceremony. The invitation was delivered to Sally buy one of our own Nepalese Ghurkas; the ceremony will be quite grand, with a guest appearance by the UN's Special Representative to the Secretary General and other dignified guests...Sadly, we can't go, which is a big shame as the Nepalese have been our close friends for the last 3 Field Services here, and have allowed us to use their parade ground for games and sports events. Instead, we will be enjoying more drills and a stowaway search before we sail out of Liberia (sometime)...Olly

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Drill, drill, drills!

Two days before we sail! Plenty of drills to enjoy! Olly


Gateway Kids

Here's the latest photo of the Peet/Chapman/Eveleens kids, who first met over 5 years ago on (in September 2003) in Texas, where we all were attending our Mercy Ships Gateway course.
How they've grown! Olly

Top row (left to right): Anna Peet, Lauren Chapman, Joyce Eveleens.
Bottom row: Noah Peet, Taylor Chapman.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Last dance in Liberia

Last night Anna and her friends danced for the last time in Liberia. They performed to "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" in the Africa Mercy's Mid Ships Lounge, directed by Chenel & Carys (two big girls!). Soon many of the dancers will be going in separate directions - Lauren and Kaitlyn will remain in Liberia, and Joyce will be going home to Holland.


Left to right: Lauren (USA), Joyce (Holland), Josie (Ghana), Jana (Germany), Anna (UK), Fride (Norway) and Kaitlyn (USA)

Loading

This week loading of the Africa Mercy began in earnest in preparation for our departure from Liberia at the weekend. Amongst the things going onto Deck 8 are 26 vehicles, 4 shipping-containers, a drilling rig, 4 trailers, and tons of scaffolding used by the construction teams. Photo taken from our cabin window of a Land Rover mid-flight. Olly

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

State Funeral

Today I witnessed the procession of the State Funeral of Senator Isaac Johnson of River Gee County. It was headed by a police pick-up with flashing lights & sirens, followed by an empty hearse, and then a big flat-bed truck, draped in purple, displaying the Senator's coffin covered in the Liberian flag. This was follwed by dozens and dozens of mourners lead by many brand news Republic of Liberia cars and pick-ups, and then some of his more distant friends, relatives and business associates (judging by the increasing age of the cars at the back of the line)...The whole procession took ages to pass, and was quite a spectacle. Olly

School photos again

Here are the kids latest school photos:

Libby...

...and her class.

Anna...

...and her class.

Noah...

...and his class.

And the whole Academy (nearly 50 children and a dozen teachers). Olly

Jail-break

On Monday afternoon 202 prisoners broke out of Monrovia's Central Prison, leaving another 600 behind. A jail-break of such proportions is of no surprise to me - I only visited the prison once over a year ago, but thought that security was poor and a coordinated rush by a large number of prisoners would be successful. The guys that are left behind will be grateful for the space provided by those escaping, before it is filled up following the orgy of looting that happens every year around Christmas as desperate men steel things to buy food for their families. Currently, 32 of the 202 escapees have been re-captured. The city is in a high state of alert, with road blocks at frequent intervals and all available Police and UN personnel involved in searching for the escapees. Meanwhile, the Africa Mercy's Prison Ministry team was called upon to deliver emergency food supplies to the prison, as the escapees raided the food stores on their way to freedom, leaving the remaining 600 inmates hungry. Our Prison Ministry delivered 6 sacks of rice to the prison yesterday via the Prison Fellowship.Olly

Monday, 1 December 2008

Farewells begin

Yesterday our kids said goodbye to their good friends, the Dunseath kids. Here they are after their showers before we headed back to the ship. Noah was trying very hard to hold back the tears...Back row, left to right: Anna, Micah, Jedediah, Noah. Front row, left to right: Matea, Libby, Hadassah.


Friday, 28 November 2008

Last day for surgery

Today, Friday 28th November, is the last day of surgery aboard the Africa Mercy in this Field Service. On Sunday the exodus begins, as dozens of surgeons, anaethatists and OR nurses start to go home. By the time we sail the number of crew will have gone down by 100 from the height of the Field Service, leaving only 297 people to sail to Tenerife. What a Field Service! I hope to publish some stats soon. Olly

Anna & The President Part II

Some more photos of Anna's 15 seconds of fame on Wednesday during the President of Liberia's final visit to the Mercy Ship Africa Mercy:
Anna shows the lovely bunch of flowers...

The Presient arrives and shakes hand with Ken, our MD...

Anna gives her the flowers...

The President passes the flowers to her aid...

...and waves at Africa Mercy crew standing on Deck 7 (including Libby & me). Olly

A baby with no face

The baby in the photo below is five month old Eddie, who suffered massive burns in August when the mosquito net he was sleeping under caught fire from a candle. Against all odds he survived, and his parents brought him to the Africa Mercy, where he had surgery to release his eyelids to stop him from going blind, and skin grafts to the back of his head. He will need many more surgeries to replace his nose and lips, and even after surgery may never gain his skin pigment. He will remain on the ship as long as possible so our nurses can change his dressings twice daily. Please pray for him. Olly

Mary's Meals

I often see an overloaded white pick-up around town with "Mary's Meals" written on the side, with a white women in the front passenger seat, but until now had no idea what Mary's Meals is, or who Mary is (was it the white lady?). www.telegraph.co.uk has a big article about Mary's Meals in it today - it is a charity set up by a Scottish Catholic guy (hence the name Mary, I guess), which aims to provide food for some of the worlds poorest people...Mary's Meals feeds 15000 children in Liberia today. Fascinating reading - click here for more. The Telegraph has included Mary's Meals in their Christmas Charity Appeal this year. Olly

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Anna and the President

Yesterday, the President of Liberia attended a reception aboard the Africa Mercy to mark the end of Mercy Ships' fourth Field Service in Liberia. Anna was chose to present her with a bunch of flowers as she climbed out of her car, and escorted her up the gangway and into the ship. I managed to get only one photo of the two together - so here it is, of Anna in pink, and the President in the brown & gold dress and headdress, surrounded by bodyguards. More photos to come. Olly

Marcel Eveleens

Many of you will remember our good friend Marcel & Annette Eveleens from Holland - we did our Gateway with them (and their daughter Joyce) in 2003. Marcel was with us on the Anastasis as head plumber, and later as an agriculturalist, and now is on the Africa Mercy teaching agriculture to the community of Tenegar. Here's a couple of photos of him ...

...shaking hands with the President of Liberia last Friday at the Tenegar Clinic opening ceremony... ...and in the chicken house he recently helped the Tenegar Community build.
His agriculture project in partnership with the Tenegar community has hopefully inspired the locals to continue growing food for their own consumption and for the market, after the ship sails away in a couple of weeks. Olly

Cool Liberian house

Here's a photo of one of Liberia's rare old colonial houses. It would originally have been clad in wood, which was replaced with corrugated iron sheets as they started to rot. The whole building was designed for coolness - it stands off the ground to allow cool air to circulate underneath; the many windows provide good ventilation and drafts, and the original wooden walls would have kept the heat out too. Nowadays of course, the iron walls have the opposite effect and the house is unbearably hot most of the time. Each year, the remaining number of these houses grows less as they are pulled down in favour of longer-lasting low maintenance concrete-block alternatives. Such a shame. Olly


Tenegar Town Celebrates Dedication Of New Clinic As Beacon Of Hope

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf received a traditional gift of two roosters along with the keys to a new health clinic built with Mercy Ships funds and oversight. It was constructed by workers from 10 villages and has been handed over to the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The new clinic will serve the needs of the residents of Tenegar and surrounding villages for many years to come. For full article click here.

Liberia’s Thanksgiving for Mercy Ships

Friday 21st November 2008 - Hundreds of residents and community leaders in the Liberian town of Tenegar, gave thanks for the vital support of Mercy Ships, as Her Excellency Madame President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf cut the ribbon to the area's long-awaited health clinic. During the past 10 months while Mercy Ships surgeons provided free
 
surgeries in the Port of Monrovia, the ship's Community Development volunteers also provided management and expertise to the Tenegar site. Day workers from 10 different villages contributed 12,000 hours to clear and construct the clinic. For full article click here.

Monrovia Gets Additional Ten 75-Seater Transport Buses

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has urged the management of the Monrovia Transit Authority to work towards extending the activities of the Authority to other parts of the country. Speaking Saturday in Gardnersville when Government introduced recently acquired transport buses, the President said the authority must embark on plans that would lead to an extension of its activities throughout the country. She lauded the Canadian charity, the McCall McBain Foundation for supporting Government efforts to ease the transportation burden of citizens. For full article click here.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Noah update

Noah is emotionally a lot stronger this weekend, I am sure because of the prayers for him from people all over the world in response to my blog entry. Thanks for the emails of encouraragement too. God bless. Olly

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Noah needs prayer

Our nine year old son Noah is spending many evenings in tears as he contemplates our departure from Liberia, and the separation from his good friends ashore. Please pray for him. Olly

Ward Cleaning

With less than 2 weeks of surgery left, the number of patients on the Africa Mercy are getting less each day, and our wards are closing one by one in preparation for our sail to Tenerife. Each ward (and Operating Room) is being scrubbed thoroughly from top to bottom with disinfectant, by the same dedicated ladies who were nursing patients only days ago. No super-bugs here, guaranteed! Olly


I can see my face in that!

Monrovia's rainfall statistics

London has 25 inches of rainfall per year; Monrovia has 205 inches. It is the wettest capital city in the world, and the second wettest inhabited place in the world, after a small town in North East India. Olly

World Toilet Day?

With just one in 25 Liberians having access to a toilet, most use the nearest bush or beach, unwittingly committing what the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) calls "the riskiest sanitation practice". Liberia's 3.5 million people share just 19,690 toilets, according to a government water and sanitation sector assessment from October 2008, and fewer than one in three Liberians have access to safe drinking water, according to the head of Liberia's Water and Sewer Corporation, Hun-Bu Tulay. For full article click here.


A Liberian toilet. No wonder people prefer to use the bush or the beach.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Emmanuel

Ten year old Emmanuel has got to be the luckiest boy in West Africa. Last Thursday he swallowed the little thing that makes a whizzing noise from the end of one of those things you blow to make an irritating noise at parties, and it went deep into one of his lungs. When he breathed out, he made a whizzing sound. Without a procedure to remove the thing, it would fester and cause infection, and he would most probably die after a long sickness. His parents carried him around Monrovia's hospitals for 3 days, but there was no-one able to remove the device. And then a miracle happened - they brought him to the Africa Mercy's dockside clinic late on Sunday afternoon, when it should have been closed - but my friend Rosie, an Admissions Nurse, just happened to be finishing off her work late for the day. She listened to Emmanuel's chest, and then went and found Paediatric Surgeon Dr Hose from Gran Canaria, who was the only guy in Liberia with the knowledge and tools to remove the whizzer. Emmanuel was admitted on Sunday night and a one-hour procedure removed the thing on Monday. Today he is going home, slightly bruised but none the worst for the accident. Praise God! Olly

Sunday, 16 November 2008

4 weeks from now...

4 weeks from now we will be at sea, having left Liberia for the final time (for a long time anyway) en route to Tenerife, before sailing to the Republic of Benin for the next ten month Field Service. Olly

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Mercy Ships ensures that Liberian technicians can "fix it"

Monrovia, Liberia November 12, 2008 - One of the biggest challenges to providing increased access to health care for Liberia's citizens is the availability of functional medical equipment. Although Liberia is in the process of rebuilding, much of the country's infrastructure is still in ruins, including many health care facilities. Medical and support personnel are severely lacking. Many who lived in the country before the war were displaced and most have not returned. In addition, donor organizations have supplied new or used medical equipment, but often no one is trained to repair or install it. Add the difficulty in getting spare parts, separation of service manuals from equipment and instability of a power supply that causes frequent equipment failure, and you have an African hospital's biggest headache. In an effort to address this issue and at the request of the Liberian Ministry of Health & Social Welfare, six Liberian hospital technicians have recently completed Mercy Ships' first Mentoring Biomedical Technicians program. The technicians were chosen by five of the nation's hospitals and equipped with additional skills to install, maintain, and repair various complex medical equipment. The training will ensure that donations of essential equipment will be well used when the ship departs in December. Developed and led by Africa Mercy crew member Carlos Amaral of Brazil who recently completed his PhD in biomedical engineering in Germany, the program ran from March through October. It included courses in computer training, electricity, electronics and medical equipment. Funding was provided by German foundation PRANA-Stiftung and matched by Mercy Ships volunteer hours. For full article click here.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

UN troops in Liberia step up patrols on Ivory Coast border

MONROVIA, Nov 7, 2008 (AFP) - UN peacekeeping troops in Liberia said Friday that they have stepped up patrols on the border with Ivory Coast after media reports of rebel incursions. "As a precaution we have increased our vigilance to intensive foot patrol, dismounted patrol and air patrol in the area," the new commander of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Lieutenant General Abu Tayeb Muhammad Zahirul Alam told AFP. A newspaper reported in late October that Liberian rebels who want to overthrow the government, had crossed into the country from Ivory Coast and caused unrest. The reports did not specify who the rebels were. Many Liberians are still traumatized by the 14 year civil war up to 2003 which left more than 250,000 people dead. That war started when rebels led by Charles Taylor crossed into Liberia from Ivory Coast. UNMIL took the reports and the population's concern seriously, Alam said, but had not yet found "anything substantial" to back up the reports. UNMIL maintains security in Liberia. Set up in 2003, it was for several years was the largest UN force in Africa with more than 13,000 peacekeepers. Last year the UN started reducing troop numbers as disarmament was completed and security improved. There are now about 11,000 peacekeepers and it will be further reduced to 10,000 next year, the commander said. The UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has 16,000 soldiers while the missions in Ivory Coast and Darfur have about 8,000 peacekeepers each. For original article click here.

Utterly Insane

Whilst Charles Taylor* stands trial for war crimes in The Hague, his misguided supporters** continue to maintain his innocence. This is their latest advertising poster - "God willing, I will be back". Their previous poster "Charles Taylor is innocent" was defaced surprisingly quickly. These are the same people that recently had a three hour long prayer vigil in Congo Town Baptist Church praying for Taylor's release (and their own freedom, I suspect). Olly


* the world's second most evil person after Osama Bin Laden, in my opinion!

** many of whom are also guilty of war crimes and theft of Liberian funds on a massive scale, and are terrified of eventual prosecution also.

A nice taxi-biker

Here in Liberia there are more and more young men offering rides on their motorbikes for money, as an alternative to waiting for a hot and cramped taxi. Many of these young men are ex-combatants, and often charge a white man like me far too much for a ride...so imagine my surprise today when a young man said "I can't charge you" as he dropped me off at the Mercy Ships gate in the port. I was so surprised I nearly fell off the bike. Bless him! Olly

Happy Libby Day

Three years ago today (11th November 2005), we brought the baby girl we were hoping to adopt onto the Anastasis for blood tests...and she never left us again! Rioting in the city meant that shore leave was cancelled, so she had to stay with us prematurely instead of waiting for the adoption paperwork to come through (which did, one month later). So 11th November is LIBBY DAY! Praise God for our beautiful Liberian girl. Olly

Sunday, 9 November 2008

General Butt Naked

Joshua Milton Blahyi spoke at our Sunday evening service tonight. He spoke about being a "priest" for the Krahn tribe since he was young, and regularly making human sacrifices. During the war he fought naked - hence the name he was given, "General Butt Naked". He sacrificed a child before every battle and distributed pieces of its heart to be eaten by him and the child soldiers he had recruited. In 1996, whilst his Krahn tribe were surrounded by Charles Taylor's army, he had just sacrificed another child when a voice coming from a bright light told him to come out of slavery. It was the voice of Jesus, telling him to stop being a slave to the Devil - and he did just that! He turned his back on his evil ways and terrible practices. Since then he has become an evangelist, and is working with ex-combatants, and has brought over 50 to the Lord. He is a very powerful speaker, and is a perfect example of how God can use someone who was utterly evil, for good. Olly

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Africa Mercy's Climbing Frame Opens

Yesterday we opened the Africa Mercy's children's climbing frame on Deck 8. It will give joy to thousands of children over the expected 30 years life of the ship. The whole project was financed by the good folk of Silencio Christian Fellowship, Tenerife, and South Tenerife Christian Fellowship. Thanks guys. We will be back with you before Christmas. Olly

Friday, 7 November 2008

Private Richard Pabai

I first met Liberian refugee Richard Pabai in Benin in 2004, when he worked on the Anastasis as a day-worker in the Deck Department. He sailed with us to Liberia in 2005, and left the ship's employment in early 2006, when I tried to help him set up in business selling firstly tools and then clothes from a wheelbarrow. In 2007 he got quite sick with typhoid, and then I didn't hear from him for over a year...until this week when he visited the ship in army uniform. Yes, Richard Pabai is now one of the American trained new Armed Forces of Liberia! I am very happy for him! He has five sets of uniform, three meals a day, clean water to drink, enough current to charge his mobile phone, and a doctor to treat his malaria and reoccurring typhoid...what more can a young Liberian need? Olly

Libby, me and Private Pabai.

Liberian Thanksgiving

Yesterday was Liberia's Thanksgiving Day (a tradition we really like, and will try to continue once we return to the UK). As an international crew from 33 different nations, we celebrated the day with the Liberians instead of waiting for the American Thanksgiving Day (like we used to on the Anastasis), and the event also included aspects of the traditional Harvest Festival we celebrate in the UK at this time of year. The Academy's school kids were dressed as fruit or vegetables...

...Libby came dressed as a tomato...

...Noah as a bunch of grapes...

...and Anna (left) as a bunch of bananas with her friends Fride (centre) and Joyce (right).

And there was a lovely display of fruit and veg from Liberia and beyond.
Crew from all 33 countries took it in turns to pray in their mother tongue, and then we finished with ice cream and chocolate cake! Olly

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Security

Our security has always been an issue in Liberia,much so than in any other West African country I have ever visited. There are many desperate young ex-combatants who will do literally anything to earn a few dollars, even if it means swimming through the filthy waters of the port and dodging UN soldiers and Freeport Police, just to climb onto our dock to try to steal things. Mostly they get disturbed by our patrols and end up swimming away empty handed into the darkness. But in the small hours of Monday morning, swimmers managed to get onto our ship! And so "Swimmer Watch" starts once again, until we leave Liberia in December - crew will sign-up to man the decks all night long equipped with searchlights and two-way radios to ensure swimmers get no-where near our dock or our ship. Please pray for our safety and security, and for these desperate young men who are just trying to survive. Olly

Monday, 3 November 2008

Water shortage

For unknown reasons, the water currently leaving Monrovia's water plant isn't reaching the ship in the quantity we require. We have been under strict water rationing for nearly 2 weeks now, which involves 2 minute showers, closed laundry and even eating off disposable plates. And since we can't use the ship's water for cleaning our Land Rovers and Nissans, we are buying swamp water from down Somalia Drive ($10 US for 1000 litres)...Please pray that water starts to flow freely soon, so that we can build up our non-existent reserves before we sail in just over a months time. Olly

Black Gold

The dredger Orwell is pumping two or three loads of thick black river silt into the processing ponds near our ship, where it solidifies into piles of mud almost as soon as it leaves the pipe. How Subsea Resources are going to process the hundreds of tons of mud to find the diamonds is a mystery to me. Today a new security company arrived to manage the site, in preparation for the unearthing of diamonds - the men in red t-shirts were replaced by a more alert looking bunch of men in smart blue uniforms. Olly