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 31, 2013

#BestSurpriseEver #SheNeverSawItComing!

Our family are awesome at organising and keeping surprises!! We love to plan surprises for each other, the bigger the better! Our speciality is arranging for people to be in places where they are not expected but their presence is much hoped and wished for. We are so good at it, I have to say.
 
A couple of good ones come to mind......when I was still living in Tasmania and the rest of my family had relocated to Queensland I surprised my mum for Mother's Day by flying up and hiding in and then bursting out of a refrigerator box! Along the Queensland theme, Andrew and I surprised Jessica for her 10th birthday but flying her from Tasmania to Queensland and then onto Townsville to visit her cousins. We told had her we were going to Bridport, a small seaside town in Tassie. She was so shocked, all she could get out was, "Can we still go to Bridport?". Lol.
 
When my parents retired from Churches of Christ in Queensland I decided to make them a memory scrapbook of cards and message to culminate a life a good and faithful service to God and to pretty much anyone they came in contact with. I was so excited to give them the book as I had tracked down many of their friends, past and present, including friends from Zimbabwe and from their old youth group, including one member who had become the Mayor of Hobart! (Afterwards Dad gave me a heap more cards they had received and I had to make a whole other scrapbook). One more to mention is the time my mum decided to surprise me! It will live in my memory and heart forever! Not long before we left Australia to come to Africa, I arranged a trip to Brisbane, Queensland for Jessica and I to meet my new niece. We had not yet received word that we had been accepted with Mercy Ships. A few days after we arrived in Queensland Andrew called me to say we had received an email to say we had been accepted as long term crew on the Africa Mercy, after five years of waiting. My sister and her family happened to be in Brisbane as well as they were catching a cruise from there, so we had decided to have a family reunion. The only one missing was Andrew as we couldn't afford to fly him up as well. Mum and Dad flew up from Tassie as well and you can guess who they brought with them!! So we were all together for the first time in years and poignantly, just before we were to head overseas to live. It was very emotional!
 
But not content with all these and too many more to mention Mum and Dad decided to up the anti. After months of plotting and planning they landed in Pointe Noire in November, surprising Jessica who had no idea. The photos below capture the story......

Just after we picked them up from the airport(after lying blatantly to Jessica about our whereabouts) Mum and Dad waited behind the dockside tents ready to surprise Jess when her class came to the dock for their PE lesson.

Mum runs over to a completely shocked Jessica with Dad not far behind!

Long, emotional hugs!

 

Time for a few explanations!

She still can't get over it!

Group hugs!

Still in shock!

 

More hugs.

"Jess, I can't get over how tall you are!"

Time to go inside to get sorted.

Mum and Dad at Africa Mercy reception getting their ID badges and cabin keys and handing in their passports.

Listening carefully to emergency muster instructions given by receptionist Hannah.

Mum and Dad's couple cabin on deck 4.

Lucky they had those emergency instructions as there was a fire drill about 20 minutes after they boarded! More to follow on Mum and Dad's visit in future blog posts! Needless to say this was the perfect surprise and long may the tradition of meticulously planned and epic surprises continue in our family!!

Love Is.....



What does love mean to you? Is it a hug or a kind word? Is it a bunch of flowers or some new bling? Is it the gift of time or a financial gift? Check out this awesome video to see what love means to some of our patients on the Africa Mercy!

School Pics


School photos are just a little bit different when you live on a ship in Africa. There are not little stands and green grass to pose on but there are land rovers to climb on and other fun places on board to capture another academic year! Above and below, the whole academy pose on the dock at the bow of the Africa Mercy. (Jess is in the front row on the end at the right hand side.)
 

The Africa Mercy Academy Junior High (Grade 6-8). Yep-Jess is the oldest and tallest!

The grade seven/eight. Yep-Jess is the only girl!

Looking tough!

I had been hoping for ages that Jess would get a school pic at the helm so I was very pleased to see this photo!

 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gorge-ous


One things we miss, even crave is the sights, sounds and smells of nature. The chirping of a bird, the thundering of a waterfall as it topples overhead, the sweet smell of a rose in full bloom, a butterfly settling on a branch, the smell of fresh cut grass......... Most of the sights, sounds and smells we see and hear are man made and not particularly pleasant at all. Needle gunning, chairs scraping on metal decks, rotten fish from a recent haul from the fishing boats nearby, garbage floating in the harbour, pylon driving in the port, metal containers and warehouses as far as the eye can see.

So it is no wonder the Diosso Gorge has become a hugely popular hangout for Mercy Shippers. It isn't particularly stunning like the Grand Canyon but it has its own beauty, away from the busy city, flanked by interesting rock formations, curious jungle plants and flowers and is home to many a chimpanzee.

 

As we stopped at some "lookouts" to check out the vista we become the source of much curiosity by local children. This young man insisted on having his photo taken! Andrew is in the background chatting to a group of very interested kids!

I always like to include a photos of Andy doing what he loves to do-driving the land rovers. There is some pretty good 4WD terrain between the ship and the Gorge which makes for great fun and plenty of ohhhs and ahhhs and a few ouches as well, being that land rovers are not built for comfort. Andrew is also sporting one of the Transportation team t-shirts he designed and had made up for his ten day crew, himself and I.

Jess and her BFF, Deborah

At the top of the Gorge we found a very timid little puppy that reminded us of our dog Barney when he was a puppy. So against all good rabies advice, we couldn't resist the urge to give him lots of pats and scratches behind the ear. The poor little pup was very shy.

Now being at the peak of my athletic ability (NOT) I thought it would be a great challenge to try the hike down to the Gorge from the top. Yikes! After about a 60 degree drop for several hundred metres we made it to the relatively flat bottom, mostly unscathed.

Andrew aka Bear Grylls hacks his way through the Congolese jungle with his bare hands!

Me with friend Nanita

Jess and friends Deborah, Anna and Megan.

An oasis after our big hike, The Club des Gorges, where we tucked into cold cokes and fries which we had pre-ordered before the hike! We were told that they did not have fries but....... they could get them!

Jess looking red faced but still smiling big!

Me looking ever redder but still smiling big!

I took a few "cultural" snaps on the way home. How many people can you pack into a car? Just one more, as we say in West Africa. Seems the saying applies in Central Africa as well.

Clothes shopping anyone?

How about a new lounge suite?

Time for a quick haircut after all that shopping?

African tan!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Team Spirit!

 

In order to free up bed spaces on the ship, a small group of crew live off ship in each of our host nations. They are crew who work at the Hope Centre where our patients go after they are discharged from the wards for further recovery and also where patients stay who are waiting for surgery and have travelled long distances to come to the ship. The house where they live has the catchy name of "the team house", mainly because a team of people live there communally.
 
One of our good friends Leah, also a Tassie girl, moved to the team house in the Congo to begin working at the Hope Centre. She recently invited us over for dinner. I have to say what a wonderful treat it was to be in a proper "house" and to sit around a dining table and do the dishes like "normal" people. Sometimes we really miss the simple things in life. The team house also comes with some friendly canines here in the Congo, as the house is owned by another mission organisation whose occupants are on furlough. We miss our dog Barney very much so we relished the opportunity to pat Lexie and Ruby.
 
Living at the team house has it benefits like being able to see trees and grass, to have more space and pets but the guys at the team house also give up a lot such as regular internet, time in the community with their ship friends, participating in ship activities, TV, protection from malaria ridden mosquitos and other bugs and Starbucks coffee and the snack bar. My hats off to them!

Leah put in a special order of chicken and fries for us. We also had a lovely salad with avocado, a rare treat, and a delicious African tomato sauce. She also had a something special for dessert-double coat tim tams!!

Us and the doggies!


Monday, October 28, 2013

ANZACS


Right now the Africa Mercy is bursting at the seams with Aussies and Kiwis. It is so comforting to hear the familiar accent throughout the hallways. We connect straight away because our culture spans the divide. We can reminisce about home, complain about the foods we miss or discuss what is happening in Aussie politics, TV or sport. Or in our case-technology as well! Some are returnees and we are always excited to see our friends coming back year after year. It is fun to receive a quick email or Facebook message, "Hey, I'm coming back to the ship. Is there anything you want from home"? We were very excited to have another Aussie family join the Africa Mercy in July. After being the one and only ever Aussie family on the Africa Mercy we were very happy to welcome on board the Dunne family with their three boys, from Sydney NSW.

It is always wonderful when we get together for an evening out. Where would you expect a group of Aussies and Kiwis to go in the Congo? You guessed it- a Chinese restaurant! Before we left the ship we gathered for photos in Town Square in the middle of the ship. Above are most of the Aussies on board. As we were having our photos, the founder of Mercy Ships, Don Stephens, happened to stroll by and being the shy bunch that we all are we asked him to join us. He is such a good sport. He is in the photo below, next to Andrew, behind Jess.

 

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie-Oi, Oi, Oi

Me and Andy

Spring rolls-a rare find in this neck of the woods!

What the?