We are a family of three; Andrew, Jodie and Jessica (aged 18) 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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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dress up Fun

From time to time various crew open up their cabins for an "Open Cabin Night". This is a great opportunity to check out the other types of cabins on board from a large family six berth to a singles ten berth. There is food in each cabin and often games and activities. Here is Jess and friend, Elliot from the UK playing a dress up game in our Operations Manager and his family's six berth cabin.

Battered and Bruised!

Andrew works very hard at his job and we didn't quite realise just how manual his job would be at times. He has mananged to pick up Duty Plumber duties. This means that he is on an after hours roster about twice a week to fix any emergency plumbing issues on the ship. He carries a pager that often goes off at very annoying times of the day and night. Thankfully he hasn't had to do anything too gross. These bruises were sustained after a long Friday night in the Engine room fixing a burst pipe. The next morning, another pipe burst and Andrew was again in the bilges for many hours. He came stumbling into our cabin drenched in water. The cut was from several days earlier. Thankfully he is all healed up and none the worse for wear. We are constantly reminded of the importance of his role on the ship as he makes many essential repairs such as the work boat motors that carry the divers out and orders in emergency parts such as for the anesthetic machine that broke down. Without this part, lifesaving surgeries could not continue. Andrew has worked hard enough to earn a stripe on his epualette giving him officer status.We are very proud of him!  He is working towards achieving Fourth Engineer status over the next few years.

Bin Diving.....

Our wonderful divers have worked so hard this field service. They are diving down to clean the A/C vents at least once, sometimes twice a day as compared to around twice a week in Togo, the previous field service. If the filters are not cleaned of all the rubbish, especially plastic bags, our A/C goes off and we run the risk of damage to the ships generators from the strain placed upon them. It's a dirty job so hats off to the divers!

Can you spot our divers?

What about now?
 Mercy Ships urgently require the services of a Master Diver. Check out the website for more information: Click on the United States flag (the first one), go to the menu on the right hand side and click on volunteer, then click on "Urgent/Critical".

Gimme S'more!

Over Easter we went to visit the Team House located within the Swiss Embassy in Freetown. At each port we go to, Mercy Ships seeks an onshore location to house extra crew involved in other non-medical projects such as agriculture and water sanitation. The Embassy has an inground pool and tennis court so we had a lovely, relaxing day. We stayed for lunch and dinner and for dessert after dinner we had s'mores. What are they, I hear you ask? S'mores (give me "some more") are an American treat that invloves cooking marshmellows over a fire (or gas stove as seen above), then sliding the hot marshmellow off the stick onto a graham cracker (a type of wholegrain cracker), slamming on a piece of Hershy's chocolate then topping it with another graham cracker. The heat in the marshmellow melts the chocolate and creates a very rich, gooey yummo!

Jess with her S'more

A S'more in all it's glory! Bring these to Australia, I say.....

Monday, May 16, 2011

Jodie's 15 seconds of fame!

Imagine our surprise when we opened this month's Mercy Ships online newsletter, "Connections" to find it staring, well, me, Jodie!! Connections goes world wide so guess that gives me 15 seconds of fame. Mind you my accent sounds lovely and okka-how do you spell that? This month's Connections focuses on a midwifery conference in Freetown and part two is all about the international crew and the cool thing is that I am the intro!! The reason I look hot, exhausted and am sporting bed hair is that I am about seven hours into our second screening day, after rising at 5:00am and walking in scorching heat and humidity up and down a hill. Aaaahhhh-the price of fame-lol! Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Worse than Boxing Day Sales!

This is our Ship Shop. Due to the container issues we have been facing, the poor Ship Shop shelves have been getting more and more bare. There was almost no snack food and only one choice of chocolate bar-The Perk Bar-worth every bit of it's 25 cents! Sooooo...when the container was finally unpacked and the shelves were restocked, lets just say that Myer on Boxing Day would be jealous! We lined up outside and when the doors opened the mayhem began. Frantic grabbing and snatching, panic buying, hoarding-hang on, that was just me-lol. It was so worth it though!

The Graduate

This is a special post for the animal lovers out there. Many of you know that we had to say goodbye to our much loved other family member, Barney dog. We have had him since he was a puppy-4 years and he has moved with us from Queensland to Tasmania. He is Jessica's best friend. Quite some time ago an old family friend mentioned that if we were to go into long term service with Mercy Ships she would be willing to look after Barney until our return. So as soon as it began looking like a distinct possibilty we contacted Marion and she was happy to help out. So Barney came across Bass Straight on the plane and we picked him up in a hire car in Melbourne. We then drove him to his new home in Wodonga on the border of Victoria and NSW (Vic. side). Barney was a great traveller and made himself quite at home in his new surroundings. Barney has recently been diagnosed with Degenerative Disc disease which will really curb his lifestyle but, at Stage 1, we are hoping he will make a full recovery.One of the first things Marion did was to enroll Barney into Puppy Pre-school as a mature age student, of course! Here is Barney with his special certificate.

All worn out!

Even Puppy Pre-school could not get the mischief out of Barney. Here he is destroying Marion's parent's mat.

Barney and Marion. Marion we thank you so much for blessing our family with the huge task of minding and loving Barney until our return! We miss you Barney!!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Easter Egg-Stravaganza!

There is no doubt about it-the Afrcia Mercy does Easter with finesse! From Sunday April 17th through to Monday April 25th we had activities thoughtfully planned by the Chaplains Department. Sunday began with the Palm Sunday service in which Jessica participated alongside the other elementary children by waving palm leaves. On Monday and Tuesday evenings the movie "The Greatest Story Ever Told" was aired in the International Lounge. On Wednesday evening,  also in the International Lounge, the concert DVD "St. Matthew Passion" was shown. On Thursday evening the Queen's Lounge and deck 7 were transformed into an area of communion and foot washing stations. Hard working people spent the day decorating the International Lounge into The Garden of Gethsemane. It was beautiful. On Good Friday we had a service and evening film "The Passion of the Christ".

Saturday is where the real fun began. The Koontz family hosted Easter Egg colouring in the Dining Room. The kids(and adults) had a blast staining all the eggs. Jessica is proudly holding "Mr and Mr Egg" in the photo above. Below are just some of the hundreds of eggs coloured.

There was a definite eggy theme going on. This is a photo from the reception area of an egg tree.
Faith, Hope and Love.

Are you wondering what happened to all those stained eggs? Well the kids got to keep two each and the rest were all peeled and made into devilled eggs for a Sunday's Brunch. My friend Dara and I spent four hours on Saturday night making 600 devilled eggs. We had a great time, albiet a little messy-lol.

Whalla! The end result. All those months watching Master Chef finally paid off as I found myself mysteriously and instinctively knowing how to fill and use a piping bag!!

Here we are on Easter morning-Sunday. Incase you are wondering why we look half asleep-that's because we are! Hot cross buns cooked by our wonderful, now departed, baker, Albert, during the night, were served along with coffee at Starbucks at 7:30am.

In keeping with the Egg theme-here is Jess trying her hardest to fit a whole Easter egg into her mouth at once. The Easter Bunny managed to find us in Sierra Leone and even to deliver Easter eggs-impressive Easter bunny!!!

Here are all the kids of the Mercy Academy Elementary School ready to sing for us in our wonderful Sunday morning Easter service. Jessica is in the back row. She is the oldest and tallest! The kids did a great job and the service was such a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. We had classic hymns to African music to dance and sign language.

After church it was onto a spectacular bruch that the Galley and Dining room staff had toiled over since the early hours of the morning. Albert once again shone with his amazing baked goods. We even had grapes and mandarins-such a treat for us in West Africa!

Go Albert!

On Sunday afternoon the kids listened to the Easter Egg Resurrection Story and then went on an Easter Egg hunt around the ship. Here is Jess ready to go!

This is the beautiful cross we had as a central part of the Sunday service. The cross was bare wood to begin with and each of the crew placed a paper flower into tiny holes in the cross. This is the end result.

On Monday evening various cabin opened up to the crew in the popular "Open Cabin" evening. We managed to get round all the cabins except the ten berth which closed early due to illness. Basically it was a great food crawl and a big sticky beak! What a great Easter we had this year. Missed our roast lamb though!!!