Preamble

We are a family of three; Andrew, Jodie and Jessica (aged 17) from Tasmania, Australia who are currently serving in Douala, Cameroon, Central Africa on the M/V Africa Mercy, the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world, through Mercy Ships International. God has called us on a journey that has been many years in the making. For this season we call Africa home, as we seek to bring hope and healing to the poorest of the poor.



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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Out of the Mouth's of Babes


One of the jobs that Andrew has inherited in the past six months is giving tours of the engine room. He has given tours to Mercy Teams, guests, crew and Academy classes. It is something he really enjoys and something he is really good at. It gives his dry sense of humour a real workout! Above Andrew gives my parent's a tour on their recent visit to the ship. As you can see it gets pretty loud down there so everyone on the tour has to wear ear protection and enclosed footwear. The bowels of the Africa Mercy are huge and it is fascinating to see what goes on to make the ship tick from our fresh water to our fuel

Andrew and Dad in the engine control room where the ships watch keepers can keep a close eye on everything 24 hours a day.

Andy going up through the funnel. It's a bit of a climb and quite steep too.

Andrews' favourite tours are the Academy elementary kids. He says they ask lots of good questions. Above are Andrew and second engineer Anthon with the first-third graders. Andrew was chuffed to find our hallway adorned with thank you cards after the tour. Here are some priceless quotes from the cards.......

"My time in the engine room was hot but fun.........P.S I learned that even deck 3 is under water"  Eli
" Dear Mr Rothwell My favourite part was the control room. Can I come back? Your friend Luke"
" My favourite part was everything.God bless you" Isabella
" My favourite part was the control room. I learned that you should not touch the buttons......" Alex
"I like Mr Rothwell" Unknown

For more fun quotes see a blog post from fellow crew members the Cash family:

Cash Family Blog! Serving with Mercy Ships: Tour de l'Africa Mercy: ...


 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hello Mr President!

Two hours notice until the President visits!!! Chaos reigns. Orderly chaos. The ship became a hive of activity recently when the President of Guinea, Mr. Alpha Condé made an impromptu visit to the ship. After visiting the French Navy vessel docked next door to us, the President decided to bring forward his visit, planned for several weeks later. With about two hours notice the management team, hospitality, crew services, security and the galley went into overdrive. It was fascinating to watch. Furniture was re-arranged, floors vacuumed, hor' dourves made, security sweepings of the ship took place, the International Lounge was prepared for the President to address the crew and seemingly instantly, people appeared dressed in their finest African dress.


President Alpha Conde shakes hands with the Africa Mercy Manging Director, Donovan.

The Guinean Navy Band plays up a storm.

Captain Tim, who was later heard to joke that the Presidents unplanned visit had now freed up the management team from dozens of meetings in the weeks to come.

The President makes his way up the gangway surrounded by his bodyguards. Security was intense with the presence of armed soldiers, holding hands to form a human barricade as the President walked from the French Navy ship to the Africa Mercy. In July 2011 President Alpha Conde survived an assassination attempt. It caused the country of Guinea to come to a standstill threatening it's first democratically elected government in it's fragile, early days. Guinea's government continues to be volatile with the sacking of the Minister of Health several months ago and just last week the shocking shooting murder of the Treasury Chief of Guinea, Aissatou Boiro whose zero tolerance towards corruption left her as a target.

The President adds his signature to the long list of officials, Presidents, Royalty and other dignitaries who have graced the hallways of the M/V Africa Mercy.

President Conde addresses the Africa Mercy crew in the International Lounge in his native language of French. Crew member Emmanuel translates whist the crew, whose ordinary day had ground to a halt, became a captive audience soaking in President Conde's words of encouragement.

After the President finished his speech his security detail was thrown into a spin as he began to work the room, insisting  on shaking dozens of crew members hands. Andrew managed to feature in the nightly Guinean news as the President's visit to the big white hospital ship made headlines.
 

A Presidential visit to the Africa Mercy would not be complete without a visit to the hospital. President Conde in the maxillo-facial ward.

Greeting long stay orthopaedic patient and one of my students, Yaya.

Speaking words of affirmation to another orthopaedic patient.

The Hospitality crew and Head Chef Ken surrounded by their hastily put together, but still professional hor'dourves.

Well done to all those involved in pulling off a last minute Presidential visit with finesse!



 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

We are His Workmanship

4:00am Monday 3rd September 2012. Mercy Ships Mass medical screening. People's Palace Conakry, Guinea. 3,500 screened.  300 crew members, 100 day workers involved. 9:00 p.m Monday 3rd September 2012: 852 patients issued with surgery cards or plans for follow-up treatment. Guinea: 1.3 health care workers for every 10,000 people. These are the facts.
This is my fourth blog post on Mercy Ship's mass medical screening days in West Africa. If you want to know all about the facts this is not the post to read. This is about the people. A few days before the screening the crew were challenged to look in the eyes of the people and see God's image in each and every one of them, whatever their affliction or circumstance. Standing there with sweat dripping down my face handing out sandwiches and heaving heavy bottles of water I forgot all about this simple message. Then without warning it came to me......"Jodie, look into their eyes". A still small voice. I saw pain, confusion, uncertainty, shame, humiliation, joy, humour, love, hope, desperation, frustration, anger, gratitude. Isn't it true that Jesus felt all these emotions whilst on earth?

"So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them."

Genesis 1:27 NIV

 

"i am a reflection
of the one who loves me most
created in His image, on purpose
i'm supposed to be me
and no one else could ever,
no one else could ever take my place
after all, i was made in the image of God

in the image of God."

"Image of God"
Crystal Lewis


Just because I know you would like a little look.....Check out this clever little movie of the screening day in two minutes! FYI-Andrew and Jessica enjoyed their first screening day. Andrew worked as driver commuting between the ship and the screening site and also lent a hand with logistics. Jessica accompanied the Academy Junior High and High School and rotated through the stations of patient escorting, children's ministry and food and water distribution with grace and dignity!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Beautiful Sight!

To many West Africa is smelly, dirty, overcrowded and diseased. To me West Africa is home. I see past the decay into the hearts of the people who smile through their circumstances, unwilling to be caught up in their poverty and desperation. It is a beautiful sight! It makes my heart sing!

After some welcome down time in Spain it was time to head back to our first calling; West Africa, to the port of Conakry Guinea where the Africa Mercy has never berthed, and it has been over ten years since it's predecessor, The Anastasis graced Guinea's shores. Above the rainy season is still making is presence known as we make our way into port on an early August morning.
After quite a roomy berth and dock space in previous countries it was a little bit of  a shock to see our "tiny" piece of concrete. Our berth begins on the right hand side and finishes at about the end of the yellow building but there is a fence that runs alongside our tent which makes the space quite narrow.
Lowering the gangway, ever the popular sight and always met with a rousing cheer after it makes contact with the dock!
Crew line the starboard decks to get a glimpse of the action. Arriving in a host nation, after many days or weeks at sea is cause for much celebration and emotion. Andrew and I are on the lower deck on the far right. I have my head turned.
The Mercy Ships Academy elementary kids wave their Guinean flags as we pull alongside. Every crew member is involved in our arrival from the youngest to the oldest, from those working in the engine room to those who are standing on deck.
Jess curled her hair for the occasion and is wearing her African dress she had made in Togo for the first time. She is growing up so fast. We pray that she will treasure each of these moments in time and look back at the very special life she has led with Mercy Ships.
Jess with new friend Abby who arrived while we were in Tenerife (her and Jess are only six days apart in age) and old friend Josie standing on deck 8.
Andrew decked out on deck!
It is customary for a crew member of the host nation to carry the flag down the gangway but we have no Guinean crew members! So the honour was bestowed upon the Mercy Ships Academy's three high school seniors (grade 12) from the USA, UK and South Africa.

A curious crowd of onlooker gathered marvelling at the big white hospital ship coming into their port. What a curious sight we must be!
Captain Tim welcomes Guinean President Mohamed Said Fofana on board after the arrival ceremony is over.
How does all this happen?? How do we sail into port with a reliable water source, tents and fences erected, security in place. the arrival ceremony organised complete with the presence of major dignitaries and media? How do we sail into port with the land rovers registered and given diplomatic immunity, candlers waiting to deliver us fresh fruit and vegetables, over two hundred day workers sourced, interviewed and TB tested ready to begin work? How do we sail into port with the Hope Centre, Dental and Eye Clinic buildings sourced, prepared and ready to open, with the location, publicity and cooperation for our mass screening organised. How do we do it???

We send out an amazing, efficient advance team, many whom are fluent French speakers, into a port six months before the ship's arrival. Thanks wonderful advance team (above) for all you do to get the kinks out and make it possible for us to enter a country and do what we do!
About a week after our arrival over 200 day workers met with their ship's department head at a meeting point just outside the port and accompanied them up the gangway to begin their orientation. Andrew has begun his third field service as the engineering day worker "mum". He was very excited to pick up his day workers and bring them back to the ship, many who have served with us in previous countries. It was wonderful to see old friends back again and so much excitement and anticipation in the faces of the day workers!

So that is our arrival back into the fray!


Fast forward seven weeks............ Fast facts!

* 25,000 km driven so far in ship's land rovers
* Received about 200 new crew and guests so far
* 6,720 watch keeping hours so far
* $190,000 in local currency brought to ship and processed
* Grew to 383 crew from 39 nations


Engineering
* 1505 Hours worked in tanks so far
* 198 hours of plumbing in September –emergency call outs , Saturdays, Sundays and Ship’s Holidays
* 220 Hours in September - Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineering
* Engineering average for September - 187 hours

 Galley

* 90000 meals served
 * 17 special events
 * 2 luncheons
 * 28879 kilos of meat, chicken, and fish used
 * 16000 kilos lettuce
 * 16000 kilos tomatoes
 * 26000 kilos melons
 * 16000 kilos onions
 * 520 kilos tuna fish
 * 16800 eggs

The total number of people who have showed up to Mercy Ships screenings so far in Guinea.


 
11,500+
God is good, ALL the time!








Thursday, September 20, 2012

Very Special Visitors!

 

After much anticipation and months of planning we finally welcomed my (Jodie) Mum and Dad on board the Africa Mercy while it was docked in Tenerife. There is something very special about having family on board and being able to give them a portal into this crazy life we lead. Above Jessica stands outside Mum and Dad's guest cabin on deck five of the Africa Mercy. It has long been a tradition on Mercy Ships to decorate the doors of new long term crew, returning short term crew, crew returning from leave and personal guests. When we first arrived in South Africa our door was decked out in various welcome signs and also when we came back from our leave back to Australia.

Mum and Dad's cabin door sign.

Take a peek into a two berth guest cabin. To the left are cupboards and behind the camera is a kitchenette. To the right is the bathroom. Crew couple cabins are larger than this with a double bed, a lounge area and more cupboard space. As personal guest of the Africa Mercy Mum and Dad got the nice fluffy towels and tea and coffee making facilities. It is much like a small hotel room.

Taking Mum and Dad on a tour of the ship with Jessica (Andy was at work). Up on deck 8 overlooking the mountains of Tenerife.

Mum and Dad's first 50 cent frappe at Starbucks Cafe in Town Square which is in the middle of the ship on deck five.

Ok so I mentioned that Tenerife was a lot about the food. Check out these cakes-the most expensive was about $2.00 AUD.

Here we are at Monkey Park, a little zoo filled with all kinds of animals but specialising in all kinds of exotic monkeys. There are enclosed areas where you can walk freely amongst giant turtles, lemurs and very large and scary looking lizards. It was fantastic to be so up close and personal!

Jess feeding some of the monkeys leaves from outside their enclosure that they really had a taste for. I wonder what kind of leaves they were????

Mum and Dad's tapas-true Spanish fare from a lovely place at Los Cristianos.


Andrew giving Mum and Dad (and me) and engine room tour. We all have ear plugs because it is very loud down in the bowels of the ship. It is amazing what is down there-who knew??

Cool part of the tour-walking up the stairs through the Africa Mercy's funnel. There were a lot of stairs!!

We took Mum and Dad on a day trip to spectacular Mt Teide, a still active volcano in the centre of the island of Tenerife. Mt Teide is Spain's highest mountain towering at 3,718 metres and is the third highest volcano in the world! Mt Teide is located in Tiede National Park, one of the world's most visited national parks with a total of 2.8 million visitors per year. The landscape ranged from  glorious pine trees and lush vegetation at a relatively chilly 17 degrees to sparse, volcanic lunar rocks at the baking temperature of close to forty degrees. It was breathtaking!

Andrew always likes to have a photo of the rental car.

Jess and Mum (below) on some of the rocky outcrops that were prominent as we went towards the volcano summit. The only way to access the peak of Tiede is to walk or to catch the overpriced cable car. Needless to say, we didn't make the summit!

 

The landscape around Mt Teide reminded me of the Grand Canyon and the deserts of California and Arizona. Rock alone can be ugly and boring but a huge rock perched at such a precarious angle seemingly defying gravity becomes a thing of beauty at this most famous of lookouts at Mt Tiede-Roques de Garcia. In winter the peak of Mt Teide is covered in snow despite the warmer temperatures below. 

Mum and Jess have such a special bond!

My  Dad who climbed rather high at the Roques de Garcia  lookout in order to claim this shot!

Another fun fact about Tenerife are the tidal pools and the crazy Spaniards who swim in and around them. This one was located at Peurto de la Cruz. The waves crash over the top of the retainer walls and there are jagged rocks everywhere but the Spaniards take it all in their stride and jump on in anyway.

Take a good look at this photo of the beautiful coastline of Peurto de la Cruz. Inside that rock wall is a restaurant. The food wasn't crash hot but it was worth it to just about feel the ocean spray on your face! We sat in the third window along. Photo below taken with camera resting on the ledge of the window.

 

Mum and Jess pose on one of the disused cannons in Peurto de la Cruz that were once used to help defend the Tenerife coastline.

Another natural phenomena of the Canary Islands as well as tidal pools, a volcano and sand dunes...black sand beaches. You can only imagine how hot black sand gets at around 35 degrees! Ouch. Mum and Jess have a paddle. One look at the condition of the kids and their bathers was enough for me to stop Jess going for a swim. She wasn't too fussed about turning from white to back either.

Mum and Jessica's feet after about ten minutes on the black sand beach.

The mother of all trees-the ever popular 1000 year old dragon tree located at the quaint town of Icod. Check it out on Google Earth!

C'mon Aussies, have you ever seen a lamb shank like this??? And at half the price you would pay in Oz!! I cannot say how mouthwatering this was after not having any lamb for six months and the thought of no lamb for the next ten months ahead. I was in lambie heaven!!

Each time the Africa Mercy goes into dry dock in Tenerife, the islands of the Canaries make generous concessions to Mercy Ships. Above Mum and Jess at Loro Park, similar to Seaworld but without the rides and many more animals, who donated heavily discounted tickets to Mercy Ships crew for us to enjoy some down time.


 Car parking and picnic spots are somewhat lacking in the Canary Islands so here we are enjoying a concrete picnic at a small harbour in Los Gigantes participating in the European way of meat and cheese in a baguette. What you don't see is that we are sitting at the base of the spectacular Los Gigantes Cliffs, Acantilados de Los Gigantes, that rise from the sea to a height of 500-800 metres.
 
We loved having my parents on board a showing them a little of the weird and wonderful life we live and we enjoyed the Canary Islands very much from the kitchy souvenir shops to the soaring mountains, the cobbled streets to the amazing cakes, the temperate climate to the rocky tidal pools and the baguettes to the beaches! See you again next year! (We hope!!)