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.

Search This Blog

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

First Love

Returning to West Africa has always been in our hearts. It is where we began our Mercy Ships field services and where we fell in love. Fell in love with the people, the culture and the land. We were gutted as we watched a vicious disease called Ebola decimate the nations we had invested our lives into, constantly worrying about our friends and despairing at the virulence of the outbreak. Our hearts broke as news trickled in of former day crew and Mercy Ships contacts, dying a hideous death, including one who was senselessly murdered for trying to promote health precautions against the spread of Ebola.
Imagine our joy as the disease began to wane and finally, finally each of the nations afflicted by this terrible disease were declared Ebola free. One. By. One. Our heats began to dream of a return to West Africa. We longed to hear the beat of the djembe, experience the joy and laughter of the local people and to see the rainbow of African fabrics again.
On the 18th of August, 2016 the Africa Mercy arrived back in West Africa, a hugely anticipated event. Cotonou, Benin to be exact. Benin's neighbour, Nigeria's Ebola outbreak caused us to cancel our upcoming field service to Benin, in 2014, sending us to Madagascar for two years as we waited for Ebola to subside.
Now here we are! Check out our triumphant arrival, featuring a little something special that made this particular arrival even more poignant for us! :)

The Africa Mercy coming into the Port of Cotonou.
(Photo cred above and below: Katie Callow)


A well known scene from where the Africa Mercy was berthed during it's last visit to Cotonou in 2009. This image of a fishing village and boats, with the AFM in the background, has been captured in many portraits and photos.
(Photo cred: Jen Peterschmidt)

Our advance team!! They certainly had even reason to be celebrating! Two years ago, many of the team above, had their matching outfits made and were ready for the imminent arrival of the AFM to Benin, when, at the last minute, plans went awry and our field service to Benin was postponed. So this gusty team pulled themselves together and flew to Madagascar for the shortest advance ever! What a joy to see some of the original Benin advance standing on the dock, finally seeing all their hard work coming to fruition, finally seeing the Africa Mercy sail in!!
(Photo cred: Katie Callow)

The elementary kids waving their paper Beninese flags, surrounding Emmanuel, our Beninese flag bearer.
(Photo cred: Tim Baskerville)

The crew on deck waving to those on the dock.
(Photo cred above and below: Katie Callow)

Some of the advance team waving right back!

Deckie throwing out a line from the bow.
(Photo cred: Miguel Ottaviano) 

The gangway going down!

Almost there.....
(Photo cred: Katie Callow)

A National Geographic team, headed up by the producer of the Aussie documentary, The Surgery Ship was waiting for us on our arrival and will be filming for three months to make a series of eight, one hour documentaries. They will also be heading back to Guinea to follow up on patients from The Surgery Ship.
(Photo cred: Dayle McCulloch)

The Nat Geo drone capturing our arrival!

We knew we were back in West Africa when we heard the drums and singing on the dock, accompanied by some African dancing!
(Photo cred: Katie Callow)

Andrew dusted off his African shirt for the occasion!

The dockside set up for the arrival ceremony later that afternoon. Fake turf and all! Fancy schmancy! 

During the sail Jessica was asked if she would like to carry the flowers down the gangway to present to the First Lady of Benin! This is an honour reserved for only a few! What a very special privilege for her, on our return to West Africa! We will never forget this arrival!

Above Jessica carries the flowers down the gangway behind Emmanuel Essah, one of our Beninese crew members, bearing the Beninese flag, also a great honour! Behind Jessica is Captain Jon Fadely, Robin MacAlpine, our Managing Director and his wife Laurette and further behind, Andrew, in the white shirt, giving instructions to everyone on when and where to go! #familyaffair 
(Photo cred: Katie Callow)

Emmanuel presenting the Beninese flag to the First Lady of Benin, Madame Claudine Gbenagnon Talon
(Photo cred: Tim Baskerville)

Jessica handing over the flowers.
(Photo cred: Katie Callow)

Jessica, Emmanuel and Laurette listening to the afternoons proceedings under the big marquee on the dock.
(Photo cred: US Embassy, Cotonou)

Africa Mercy Managing Director Robin MacAlpine addressing the dignitaries.
(Photo cred: Katie Callow)

The First Lady of Benin addressing the crowd......."“Behind all statistics, there is a story, a life, a person who needs a new hope, a treatment or a cure. I wish that this enriching collaboration of Benin with Mercy Ships will continue to grow year after year for the well-being of the population.”......”
(Photo cred: US Embassy, Cotonou)

We even had some local dancers perform!  Love the way the West Africans get down!
(Photo cred: Katie Callow)

West African have to rank among some of the best drummers in the world, hands down! They pour their soul into it, until sweat streams down their faces. I am sure that they burn calories!
(Photo cred: US Embassy, Cotonou)

The crowd of dignitaries and AFM representatives make their way back on board the ship after the arrival ceremony. Jess is tucked between Robin and the First Lady.
(Photo cred: Katie Callow)

Our first night off the ship in 12 days and our first time back in West Africa for three years!

We feel so blessed to have the opportunity to return to West Africa, during our Mercy Ships service! We praise God for his deliverance of the nations from the scourge of Ebola and we continue to pray for the recovery of these countries, for their infrastructure, the ongoing health issues of those who have survived Ebola, the thousand of new orphans and we pray against any resurgence of the virus.

God heard the cry of our heart and now we are back in the land we love, endeavouring to be the hands and feet of Jesus!

No comments:

Post a Comment