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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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Boys need toys!

This is the Africa Mercy's workboat. Up until mid last year it wasn't used
let alone run. Now she is sea worthy and back in service.

It boasts a full set of gauges, navagation lights, running lights
search light, and backlit compass at the controls.

 Now powered by a 50HP Yamaha EFI outboard that will push the
boat along a speeds of 40kph and will carry five crew with ease.

 This boat has been a project of the Life Saving Apparatus Officer (Raul)
 and mine(Andrew)for more than six months now.
 It used to sit all alone on deck 8, the paint faded, electricals
totally shot, seats perished and a badly worn out two stroke outboard. Today
she sits in the rescue boat davit ready to be lowered from the ship for any
emergency day or night.

This boat repairs have been made possible by the donation of the AMAZING
Yamaha outboard. It has been a fun project - especially the sea trials!
I have been able to use my auto-electrical and mechanical skills in a totally
different way, not to mention getting some experience behind the wheel - helm.
I still have a couple of minor jobs to do on it before I am completely happy.
The boat still needs a marine VHF radio and a bilge pump fitting. Well that's another
excuse to take it for a run - purely for testing purposes of course :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Farewell Freetown, Bonjour Lome!

After ten months in Freetown, Sierra Leone it was time to pull up anchor to head to Tema, Ghana for three weeks of down time before heading to the Africa Mercy's next field service location: Lome, Togo. Sierra Leone, home to one of the most challenging field services Mercy Ships has ever faced with its water shortages, debris filled waters, the desperation leading to mass casualties at the first screening, the unbelievable traffic amongst other things. Our first field service! A baptism of fire, no less! Sierra Leone, home to exquisite beaches, joyful and friendly locals where a hug and a smile are always quick, lush jungle and and thousands of locals healed and whole after free, life saving surgeries!

The Africa Mercy's departure was an understated affair compared to our elaborate arrival, the exact date and time kept under wraps due to security concerns. Above the wonderful deckies get busy pulling up the lines.

The gangway is raised.

Pulling out. The crew line the decks to bid farewell.

Looking towards the stern to Freetown. All the landrovers are lifted up by crane from the dock in the week before we depart a field service.

The pilot jumps on board. We always use a pilot to help guide us in and out of port. They are dropped off to a door that enters into deck three in the hospital and depart from deck eight via helicopter. It is always a treat to watch!

At sea! It is indescribable being at sea watching the sunset and the waves crashing over the bow. You feel as if you can almost reach out and touch heaven.

On the first night of the sail the crew were treated to a spectacular sight as a huge pod of dolphins swam alongside the ship for quite some time. Wish we could have been there to see it! We heard it was amazing! Flying fish and whales were also spotted.

Pulling into the Port of Lome, Togo after a quick one day sail from Tema, Ghana.

Tugs help to bring the Africa Mercy into port.

Lowering the gangway.

Clementine Tengue, our lone Togolese crew member proudly carries the Togo flag down the gangway. Carrying the host nation's flag down the gangway is the first thing that is done after the gangway is lowered, a mark of respect towards the country and a moment for our West African crew to shine!

The Africa Mercy docked in Lome, Togo....... ready for service!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Rothwells on Tour - The epic photographic Journey! (i.e get a cup of coffee)

On the 1st December we packed all our luggage into a Mercy Ships landrover to depart Freetown and the Africa Mercy with about 25 other crew. It was a bittersweet goodbye. We were headed to one home, via London, to go to a wedding, to see family, friends, eat all the foods we had been missing, go to places we had been missing and to speak about our time away and the mission and ministry of Mercy Ships. But on the other hand we were leaving another home, Sierra Leone, a place we had grown to love with all it's quirks and it's joyful people. So with mixed feeling we crawled along the streets of Freetown towards the ferry that would take us to the car that would take us to Lungi International Airport.

Twenty six long hours later we hit our hotel in London, exhausted and wondering what on earth we were doing. We almost lost Jessica in the London Underground. Andrew and I got on the train and it began to take off.......with Jessica still on the platform! Motherly instinct kicked in and I jammed my arm in the self-closing doors (I had quite the large bruise to prove it later on). With the help of Andrew and several other passengers we finally got those very stubbourn doors open and got our very scared little girl in!

After arriving at our hotel and receiving porterage at a hotel that doesn't offer it (that is telling how bad we looked) we showered, cleaned our teeth, checked our bags and we were good to go! Sleep is over rated-lol. Here we are above having our first real takeaway meal in nearly a year-Burger King (Hungry Jacks for the Taswegians)!!! And-yes it was very cold in London!! Talk about a reverse culture shock!!

We battled the crowds to go to Harrods-just to say we have been to Harrods. But I must say the Christmas decorations in London were the most spectacular I have ever seen or could imagine, especially after coming from a counrty where the street vendors had just started carrying a bit of tinsel around.

Who could go to London and NOT take a photo of the phone booths??

One of our favourite photos in London. We went on a double decker tour of London and not too many were brave enough to venture to the exposed top. However Jessica sat at the top the whole tour which we took over two days. The tour took us around all the main tourist sights of London. We stopped to take a closer look at Westminster Abbey (just to see where Kate and Wills walked), Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, The Tower of London and to cruise the River Thames. Included in the tour was a Jack the Ripper walking tour which I loved!!

The Tower Bridge (as opposed to the London Bridge).

Jessica with a guard at The Tower of London.

Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park. This was amazing!! Markets, food, rides (all Christmas themed) and an ice skating rink! But I have never been so cold in all my life!!!

Roasting chestnuts at the Winter Wonderland.

Every day we caught the tube (Underground) to various places. This is our hotel station-Hanger Lane.

The world famous Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. We couldn't see a lot of it as there were probably about 2,000 people there. This is the old guard leaving. Interesting facts......the Changing of the Guard only takes place every second day in Winter, the whole ceremony lasts about 45 minutes and is free to watch and the palace band plays everything from classic Beethhoven to Glee hits! Who knew (well

A Buckingham Palace guard at his sentry box.

Buckingham Palace (The Queen and Prince Philip were in-no we didn't see them).

Here we are in the very famous London Eye-one of the largest ferris wheels in the world! We are in a "pod" and not very far up yet. See Big Ben behind us!

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

There are four M&M World stores in the world. We have now been to two of them-Las Vegas and London. For a peanut M&M lover-this was awesome!! Here I am with the red M&M Buckingham Palace guard!

You can see it is a bit warmer now! We had arrived back in Australia! Not quite home yet but in Brisbane for seven nights for Jodie's sister's wedding and a big family reunion. This is me at my sister, Leanne's "Foxy" Hens Night. It involved feather boas and fans and satin gloves. No more said!

We had a wonderful time celebrating Leanne and Aaron's wedding. Leanne's son (above) was the page boy and at age two he did a grand job!

It's taken many years, but finally we got a photo with all the grandkids together!

The family! For those who are reading our blog who are unaware, Andrew's brother Chris is married to Jodie's sister Carolyn! So we really ARE family-lol.

We could never go back to Australia without having Aussie fish and chips! Thanks Wayne and Catherine for this lot!! Yum!

Jess and her "double" cousins-Hannah and Sam. They were all so excited to see each other again!

Home sweet home-we arrived late into Launceston, Tasmania on the 15th December, fifeteen days after leaving the Africa Mercy! What a wonderful welcome-a group of Jodie's friends had been waiting for us with this massive sign.

Me hugging my bestie, Ruth! What a great moment! We may be living the dream but every day we miss our friends and family and it doesn't get any easier.

A few days after we arrived back in Tassie we had our "Sweet Salone" night at our home church. We had been organising it for months via email and it was a wonderful evening that paid tribute to Sierra Leone and the work of Mercy Ships there during 2011. We are blessed to have many Sierra Leonean refugees living in Tasmania and many of them attend our church. They really made the evening with their singing, testimony, glorious African dress and prayer.

The Door of Hope African Choir lead by the very talented Oliver Mensah.

Jodie's mum Jeanette, was a huge part of the evening's success. Above are some of the dozens of biscuits that she made and decorated (with the help of Jessica) with the flag of Sierra Leone.

Jodie and her bestie Ruth.

Before we came back I emailed Jessica's old primary school, Norwood Primary, to see if Jessica would be able to take part in any of the end of year celebrations. Much to my delight they invited her to the End of Year Assembly. Jess missed out on her last year of primary school activities so we were very pleased when the school went above and beyond to invite Jessica to take part in the traditional ringing of the bell for the grade six students. Mum almost had a little tear when Jessica's old grade three and four teacher announced, "We would like to welcome back and farewell Jessica Rothwell". Certainly one of the most poignant moments of our trip. Jess above with long time friend, Skye.

A very Aussie Christmas day!!! Check out that roast meal!

Happy 12th birthday Jessica! Jessica was so excited to receive her long awaited American Girl doll. That doll had quite the journey. It came from the USA to Sierra Leone to Australia and back to Togo!

One of our favourite places in Tassie is the Christmas Hills Raspbery Farm. Above Andrew is tucking into his raspberry hazelnut brownie.

Here we are having an interview at our home church, Door of Hope Christian Church. It was two days before we left and it was great to end our trip speaking to our own congregation.

The trip home would not have been complete without a visit to our beloved Barney dog in country Victoria. Barney was very excited to see us if his climbing onto the dining table was anything to go by-lol. Jess loved having him sleep on the end of her bed even though he kept climbing on her and licking her during the night. We love you Barney and we love you Marion for taking care of our precious cargo!!

Goodbye Australia and hello London again! What an amazing priviledge to get to see Stonehenge up close and personal!

On our return stopover we stayed with the Peet family who left the Africa Mercy in July 2011 after almost eight years with Mercy Ships. It was so good to see them again and catch up! Above are Jessica and good friend Anna Peet. As you can see we are back in the cold again!!

Well, thanks for sticking out my longest blog post to date-lol. I considered making our trip into several posts but decided to whack it all together! Our trip was incredibly busy, incredibly fruitful and it was incredible to see our family and friends again and to visit London. This was a mammoth trip and took months in the making but after a few weeks back I can safely say I'd do it all over again!