Monday, 31 August 2009

Musu - an Amazing Woman

Our good friend and old crew-mate Karen Ecklund wrote this about Musu: "Part of the way that our family survives here in Liberia is with the help of Musu. We can't imagine life without her - she has become like a Grandma to the children and a friend and helper to me. Without Musu I wouldn't be able to do all that I do in assisting the Liberian people and homeschooling Kaitlyn and Kaleb. I realize I haven't really had a chance to "introduce" you to this family member and hope that you'll allow me time to do so. Most of what I will share is what Musu has told me . . . but other aspects have been shared by her family members as Musu is much too humble.

Musu on the Ecklund's back porch

Musu has been a widow for over 10 years. Her husband died of dysentery shortly after the war in Liberia started. When he died, his family abandoned them and would no longer allow them to live in the family home. Once the fighting reached their area she knew she had to flee with her 7 children - the youngest was under 2 years old. They walked with their few belongings for 1 week until they reached Gbarnga. During that time she took in children who had lost their parents along the way and by the time she reached Gbarnga she had 20 children who were dependent on her. Although she never knew how she'd feed them their next meal . . . somehow they all survived. She has told me of how she would go into the forest to look for special greens that were edible and then she'd cook them for the children. Sometimes rebel troops would see the smoke and before she could feed her children they would take all of her food. On one occasion she watched and prayed as a soldier put a gun to her son's head and then amazingly the man stopped and turned away.
Eventually, she managed to get enough money together to transport her family to Ivory Coast where they waited for the war to end. When they returned to Liberia they had nothing - everything was gone. Musu would go into the forest and cut down wood, then sell it and would buy food with the money to feed her children. Many times she would go without eating so that the children would have enough. When she was reunited with her father's family she asked if they would help her with the many children that she now had living with her. They told her that those children weren't her responsibility and she should just abandon them. She refused and continued working hard in order to allow all of her "children" a chance to survive. Whenever Musu speaks of this time it is not with bitterness but thanksgiving to God for helping her survive difficult times!
Musu is a giver and gives of her resources until she has nothing left for herself. Even when I give her money for food she takes out some of the money and divides it among her neighbors so that they too can have some food to eat. Musu has worked for us for over a year now and is amazingly patient, gentle and kind with the children. They all adore her and we can't and don't want to imagine life without her. We do what we can to support her and her family - but don't have the resources to help with everything. Musu now has 15 grandchildren and 10 of those children are living with her. Their mothers are single and uneducated due to the war. Last year we assisted several children with their school fees but this year we don't know what to do. Of the 10 children living with her, 7 are school age and would like to attend school. I know that this will not happen unless we provide the funds for these children. As Kreig and I have deliberated over this situation we have felt strongly that we can't sit back and watch these precious children go uneducated for lack of funds. So . . . I'd like to ask you if you can pray and ask God if this is something that you would like to support. I have attached pictures of each of the children that are hoping to attend school. In faith, we have filled out all of their paperwork, had their medical exams done and they have all taken their entrance exams. School starts on September 1st but the school has given us until the end of the month to find funding. We are now praying that God will provide sponsors for these children - within the next three weeks. In no way do we want you to feel forced or guilted into this . . . but if this is something that God lays on your heart then please let us know. And if there are others that you know of that would like to sponsor a child in school please forward on this email.
Below are pictures of each child and a little bit about their lives:

Kumasa (11), Garnet (13) and Reuben (8) all share the same mother, but Reuben has a different father. Six years ago their mother, Musu's oldest daughter, died in childbirth. When this happened all three children came to live with Musu. After a year, Kumasa and Garnets' father decided he didn't want them living with Musu so he came and took them away. Sadly, he was only wanting to make money off of his children. Kumasa was used as payment for a $2.00 piece of fabric that her father had stolen. Musu discovered this a year later when she saw her walking with a stranger. When she questioned the lady she explained the situation and so Musu paid the debt of $2.00 and took Kumasa home to live with her once again. Sadly she has never had the opportunity of attending school and will enter Kindergarten this year. Garnet was "sold" to a shoe cobbler as "slave labor" and after being poorly treated he ran away and lived on the streets in Downtown Monrovia for over a year. Musu just found him a few months ago - he was homeless, dirty, hungry and uneducated. She took him home, cleaned him up and has been showering him with love. Sadly, he has never had the opportunity to attend school and will be entering Kindergarten this year. Reuben was only 2 years old when his mother died and he has lived with Musu ever since. He has had the opportunity of going to school and will now be going into first grade.

Chris (11) - He has lived with Musu since he was 6 months old. Her son and his girlfriend were unable to care for the baby while they were still trying to go to school. Fortunately, Chris has been able to attend school and will now be entering into the fourth grade.

Tennyson (12) is Musu's nephew. When Musu's brother died, 2 years ago, his mother brought him into town to live with Musu. She hoped that this would offer him the opportunity of getting an education. He completed Kindergarten last year and hopes to go into first grade this year.

Blessing (10) and Samuel (9) are brothers and have lived with Musu for one year. Their father is engaged to Musu's daughter, Kelly. Both boys have been out of school for the last two years due to lack of finances and sickness. Just this year we found out that both boys have Sickle Cell Anemia Disease. Both boys hope that they can attend school this next year - we are waiting on their test results to see what grades they will enter.
Although Musu has had 12 biological children, only 5 of them remain alive today! But as you have read . . . she has been a mother to many. And as any mother loves her children and wants the best for them . . . that is her prayer for these children.
We continue to be challenged by this verse in Deuteronomy: "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." Deut. 15:11"
Can you help support Musu and her family? Can you help send these kids to school? If so, please contact or visit for more about their work in Liberia. Olly

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Dental Team at Refugee Camp

Here are some photos of the Africa Mercy's dental team in action at a UN run refugee camp here in Benin. The refugees mostly left neighbouring Togo during periods of political and military instability, and haven't yet returned for one reason or another - maybe living conditions in the camp are better than those back home, or maybe their lives would be at risk if they returned to Togo. I have to say that looking at the photos, the living conditions are way better than those of the majority of people in Liberia - the camp has security, electricity, running water & latrines, a playground, food provided by UNHCR and medical care for the kids provided by UNICEF. Olly

Sally at work

Here are some great photos of Sally working with max-fax patients on how to use their lips, mouths and throats properly so they can talk, eat and swallow again after reconstructive facial surgery. Olly

Monday, 24 August 2009

Another swine flu joke

I phoned the swine flu hotline and all I got was crackling. And a joke that has nothing to do with swine flu: Hedgehogs - why can't they just share the hedge? Thanks to Anne Barker in Wales for these. Olly

Fishing port

Here's another great photo taken by Anthea from the bridge of the Africa Mercy of Cotonou's Port de PĂȘche. Click on photo to enlarge. Olly

Have you lost a sock?

Thought you might appreciate this rather comical photo taken by Anthea of odd-socks waiting to be reunited with their partners, in the Africa Mercy laundry. Olly

Keeping the SBC Mercy Team busy

Here are just a few of the things the Mercy Team have been doing since their arrival last Sunday. Photos by Anthea Cowen.

Below: visiting the Africa Mercy's construction project.

Below: Derek & Tony helping in the stock-take for the Africa Mercy's ship shop.

Below: Jenny & Deirdre stock-taking.

Below: Charis, Anthea and Kristen carpet cleaning.

Below: Charis, Anthea and Sally about to watch surgery.

Below: Anthea shopping at the craft market.

Below: Derek at the Peniel Clinic he helped to build with Mission Challenge in 2001.

Below: the whole SBC Mercy Team (and us) at Peniel Clinic.

Below: packed lunch on the beach at Ouidah.

Below: Deirdre at the Africa Mercy's agriculture site.

The end. Olly

Charles Taylor: "UK Orchestrated Liberia's Invasion"

Former Liberian President, Charles Taylor has accused Great Britain of orchestrating the invasion of Liberia in 2000 by Liberian Dissidents. Yeah, right. For full article, click here. Olly

Thursday, 20 August 2009

SBC Mercy Team are here

A Mercy Team from Stopsley Baptist Church (our home church in the UK) are here with us right now. Much like the Mission Challenge that I joined in 2002 which started our time in missions, these guys are living off-ship but travel to the Africa Mercy daily to work with the crew, and they also spend some time ashore visiting orphanages, construction projects etc. Last night we had the team plus staff for dessert - from left to right clockwise Tony, Sally, Charis, Libby, Derek, Joy, Nari, Kristen, Dierdre, and Jenny. (Anthea missing from photo). Visitors from our home church are a real blessing to us; they bring us encouragement and news of church life, and we really enjoy their company. We still have four more working days and an action planned weekend ahead of us.

More photos later. Olly

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Recognise this?

Sorry it's a bit grainy. It's a trimmed jpeg image taken on a digital camera of a pdf image on a computer screen of a scanned newspaper article...If anyone has a better quality photo (or others) I'd love to see them. Click on photo to enlarge. Olly

Monday, 17 August 2009

Sister ships

OK. So you know the Anastasis was built as the Victoria in the early 1950s as one of several ships that were to replace the Italian merchant navy, most of which had been lost in World War Two? Here are some pictures of the Anastasis/Victoria and her sisters...

Below, the Anastasis:

The Oceana:

The Neptuna:

The Europa:

The Australia:

The Africa:
The Asia:
...which was later converted into the livestock carrier M/V Persia:

When these ships were constructed, the Italians included reinforcement for anti-aircraft guns on each bridge wing and on one of the cargo hatches. You could see the reinforcements until the day each ship was scrapped. Olly

Dredger arrives

The dredger Argonaut I arrived here in Cotonou today to begin dredging the port. Hurray. I guess that's why we had appalling visibility during today's dive. Olly

Another old Anastasis photo

I just found this old photo of the Anastasis sailing whilst browsing t'interweb. Brings back many happy memories. Olly

Great photo #1

Taken by DJ, one of our Dutch crew. Olly

Click on photo to enlarge.

Great photo #2

Click on photo to enlarge.

Great photo #3

Click on photo to enlarge.

Africa Mercy conversion photos

I found these photos on the ship's computer, showing Deck 3 when it was still a railway station, and of Deck 4 being installed. Fascinating, don't you think? Olly

Fire Drill

As you can see, the victims in our most recent Fire Drill had quite realistic injuries. Click on photo to enlarge (and see the liberal use of tomato ketchup) Olly

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Welcome Baby Becker

Daniel Layne Becker has been born to our good friends and Anastasis and Africa Mercy crewmates Josh (Bosun's Mate) & Sarah (Nurse), in Pennsylvania. Congratulations, Josh and Sarah.

Rumour has it that Daniel was born already chewing on a toothpick, and he already has a pair of steel toed boots and a hard hat. Olly

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Fride in Africa

Fride (pronounced Frieda) is Anna's 7 year old friend from Norway. A Norwegian TV company is recording a kids TV series called "Fride in Africa", about her life on the Africa Mercy and ashore. Today we went with Fride's family to Babs Dock, so the TV crew could record Anna and Fride playing together. Enjoy the photos. Olly