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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Thursday, November 12, 2015


355. That is how many people have received life changing surgeries since our arrival into Tamatave at the end of August. 355 lives touched with the love of Jesus though the dedicated crew of the Africa Mercy. 355 lives who could go on to impact the lives of all those around them. The ripple effect could be will be exponential……

When I found out we were returning to Madagascar for a back to back field service, I must admit I had mixed feelings. We really enjoyed our first field service in Tamatave but since that time, many of our close friends had left and things have been different. Would we be bored? Could we find enough patients? Would be become complacent? Could we sustain enough enthusiasm and energy for a two year period in the same place? You have to remember that the crew are a giant bunch of globetrotting adventurers. We live, work and play hard! Our attention span is small.

I will admit, I slept through our early morning arrival, thinking “I have seen this before” but now, as I think about leaving next year, my eyes well with tears. Oh yes, we can do back to back countries. Our roots are firmly established and we are deeply invested in this country. We have reached further, gone deeper and loved harder. 

I think back to when we arrived and when I finally got up and opened my curtains to see the now familiar sight from our cabin windows, I felt relief and a sense of being home. I was so excited to get off the ship. Our first night in Tamatave we were able to have shore leave and we hoofed it to one of our favourite eateries and Ivan, the Food and Beverage Manager hugged us, his smile a mile wide! It made my heart overflow with joy to be able to have the opportunity to build on the relationships that we had begun in Madagascar 1. It was a new feeling, that sense of familiarity within a country, as sense of knowing.

The day the day crew arrived on board is another special memory that sticks in my mind. Most of our wonderful day crew were able to join us again for another year. I went to do my laundry and I was carrying our hot pink laundry bag, overflowing with washing, both of my hands busy with the weight of the bag. One of the crew services day crew rushed towards me with a huge smile on her face and threw her arms around me in delight, nearly bowling me over with her petite frame. Can’t get that unless you do back to back!

Not to mention all the patients who are able to benefit from extra follow up and further surgeries! What about the OBF clinic and the hundreds of women who will receive surgeries for their obstetric fistulas and all the babies whose crooked little legs will be made straight from the “new to this field service” Ponseti program.  Oh yes, now I am utterly convinced that back to back field services are a gift!  A gift to the crew and a gift to the nation we are serving!

From the East to the West, the North to the South we have travelled searching for patients in the dusty inland towns and seaside villages. Training for locals in so many facets of medical care including WHO Surgical Safety Checklist and Lifebox training. Glaucoma training, Ponseti and Dental training, Primary Trauma Care, Essential Surgical Skills, Biomedical training and Safe Obstetrics Anaesthesia training is ongoing.

God is good and has shown his faithfulness this field service. He has blessed us by making a way for the Africa Mercy to spend a span of almost two years in this beautiful and peaceful nation, allowing us to build upon relationships and services to ensure that we leave behind a long lasting legacy.  Oh yes, the crew will cry a river on the day we sail from these shores…

Our arrival into Tamatave.

Danny, one of our new Malagasy crew proudly holding her nation's flag as we draw near to our familiar berth.

The pilot boat packed with crew, so excited to see their floating home after our lengthy delay in South Africa.

Dozens of crew line the Toamasina dock eagerly anticipating being able to walks up the gangway.
(Photo credit: Suzanne Veltjens)

Some of the deckies gather to pray on the bow.

The Malagasy flag is raised where it will fly for the duration of our field service.
(Photo Credit:  David Forrest)

Our first patients waiting for surgery! Flavien (centre) and Henry.

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV