Preamble

We are a family of three; Andrew, Jodie and Jessica (aged 17) from Tasmania, Australia who are currently serving in Cotonou, Benin West 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 West Africa home as we seek to bring hope and healing to the poorest of the poor.



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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Moving it to Madagascar


The day dawned clear, the sun beat down and the air was thick with humidity. Almost five months after leaving the Port of Pointe Noire, Republic of the Congo we were back in country! There were times in the past few months when we had wondered when we would ever be back in field service again. The excitement on board was palpable, anticipation crackled in the air. The arrival of the Africa Mercy on October 28th, 2014
marked a very special date on the Malagasy calendar, the first day of the “Year of the Volunteer”

 If you have been following our blog and your receive our newsletters you will know what an epic journey we have been on as a crew and as a family, for the past six months and what a miracle securing our field service in Madagascar really is.

There is little doubt that Good had his hand on our Advance team, already exhausted from a full advance in Benin. It was amazing what they achieved in just six weeks. The arrival ceremony alone was the best Andrew and I have ever seen and attended by both the Prime Minister and the President of Madagascar.

 Top photo and below: The Africa Mercy sailing into the Port of Tamatave.

 

 A first for us...watching the tugs spray water in our honour, the water salute! 

"It’s a longstanding maritime tradition that a vessel which makes its very first call – its maiden call – to a port is saluted by other boats as part of its overall ‘inauguration’. Or to put a bit differently: The vessel and its crew are welcomed ‘into the circle’ by other seamen. At sea, this salute used to come from canons about military ships but nowadays, the canon salute has been replaced the spectacular water salute."
http://www.maersklinesocial.com/the-tradition-of-a-water-salute/

The pilot boat comes alongside and the pilot climbs in the pilot entrance on deck 3.

A first glimpse of our berth for the next eight months.
(Photo credits above and below photos: Shelly Davies)

The Malagasy flag flying proudly from the forward mast. We had to get a Malagasy flag especially in, as the Africa Mercy has never been to Madagascar and Mercy Ships has not been since1996!

Cool photo of a done operate by local media, flying above the ship to film our arrival.

Crew watch on as we come alongside.
(Photo credit: Ryan Cardoza)

Members of our advance team, several who had been away from the ship for up to six months, enthusiastically wave to friends on board and their floating home.
(Photo credit: Catrice Wulf)

I had to put two of these photos because this moment was so momentous after the change of field service and the dedication, hard work and faith of these dedicated crew!
(Photo credit: Patricia Royston)

Some of the deck crew standing on deck five waiting to assemble the gangway.

Down comes the gangway from it's at sea home on deck eight.

Touchdown!

Africa Mercy Managing Director, Roland Decorvet and his Malagasy wife Carol accompany their children down the gangway, with their eldest daughter carrying the Malagasy flag.

The Malagasy flag being presented to the President of Madagascar.

Captain Tim and his wife, Sharon walk the red carpet to meet the President.

As the colourful arrival ceremony began, the drums sounded, while local dancers performed a presentation of “Dihy Gasy,” a traditional dance that demonstrates the everyday life and mindset of a Malagasy native.

The President and his entourage.

The President greets Africa Mercy Managing Director, Roland Decorvet.

The ceremony was attended by both the President of Madagascar and the Prime Minister. President Hery Rajaonarimampianina (above) took to the podium to make a heartfelt speech…… “More than the medical care that you are offering, you are bringing life to the Malagasy,” President Rajaonarimampianina shared enthusiastically. “It is the goal of the president to transform the nation – a nation that has suffered 50 years of poverty. It is our goal in the government to bring hope again to our nation, and it is the same mission that Mercy Ships has.”  

Prime Minister Roger Kolo addresses the crew watching from the decks above and the crowd on the dock.

AFM Managing Director, Roland Decorvet also addressed the crowd, "Thank you to the Prime Minister and to his government for their incomparable support preparing our arrival with the different concerned entities,In our 36 years of history, we have rarely seen such a high level of engagement and preparation.” 

The President enters reception area of the Africa Mercy to begin his brief tour.

Touring the hospital on deck three with his wife.
(Photo Credit: Ryan Cardoza)

Afterwards the celebrations continued at as Mercy Ships volunteers gathered with other locals and ex-pat volunteers at The Hotel de Ville to kick of the ”Year of the Volunteer” in style. Above crowds gather to watch the President and Prime Minister arrive at the Hotel de Ville.


Captain Tim, his wife Sharon and HR Director Henry Gwani and lovely wife Mampho join the celebrations.
(Photo credit: Ryan Cardoza)

The Africa Mercy sits proudly at her berth ready to serve the forgotten poor of Madagascar.
(Photo credit: Heather Klassen)