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Sunday, March 30, 2003

We Stand in Awe

Hello, Friends!

Where has all of the time gone? We are nearing the end of our current outreach here in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Next week is the final surgery procedures for this outreach. This week the crew was able to form some community health care teams and with the help of a couple doctors, a PA and several nurses go into the villages to provide basic medical care. Dr. Mike Toth, the Chief Medical Officer for the Caribbean Mercy, gave praises to the Lord on Friday morning during our devotional time. He was blessed in the way our crew worked together in many different capacities to care for the people. He said he couldn’t take credit for the organization, because he had provided little guidance. All of our varied skills were used by God to glorify Him, in one week’s time 750 patients were seen, who would not otherwise have had access to medical care.

In the past several weeks, our crew has been augmented by the current January 2003 Crossroads team from the International Operations Center, in Garden Valley, Texas. Their team has completed their two month lecture phase in Texas. They are now in the Dominican Republic for their one month outreach phase. They have been very enthusiastic in whatever duties they are assigned. Their willingness to come along side of the crew has allowed some crew members to become involved in ministries ongoing off the ship. These crew members may not otherwise had the opportunity to experience the outreach in the villages. The Crossroads team has really blessed the ship’s crew and they expressed how the ship’s crew blessed them by sharing ship life, talking about experiences with them and showing how God’s love is shared. We really enjoy seeing how God’s blessings are received and given by our crew and the visitors to the ship as well as the people here in the Dominican Republic. God’s ways are perfect and those blessing others, always receive a blessing back!

As we come to the close of the medical portion of this outreach we are still very active in well drilling, finishing the construction of two churches, evangelism efforts to the local high schools, visiting the prisoners at the local prison, attending worship with the local community churches and sharing God’s love with all those we come in contact with.

We, too, are praying for our service men and women deployed around the world as part of “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. We pray for the quick resolution of this war, that our President, all members of the Congress and Senate and other world leaders will be guided by God’s wisdom. We pray that they will receive wisdom for the decisions they must make. We pray for the safety and care of their families, for the families of those service members who have become prisoners of war and for the families that have lost loved ones. That Jesus will comfort them in their time of trauma and the period of not knowing the fate of their loved ones. We pray for those listed as missing in action and as prisoners of war. We pray that the ultimate outcome of this war will be pleasing to God and bring Him glory.

Tonight the local churches are having a going away party on the dock by the ship for us. It is still almost a month before we actually leave but with all the Easter festivities this is a good time for a joint celebration for all the churches and also many of the short term crew will be leaving next weekend. We are thrilled to see the unity between the churches which has been one of our prayers for this outreach. There was a lot of denominational disunity before we came. The local pastors expressed a real need for the churches to work together in the community.

One of the tools God has used to help establish unity between the church communities has been the Community Health Education (CHE) teachings. The class is conducted in several villages and also in Puerto Plata. The classes are held in one church in the community, but all the churches in the area are invited to participate or in a village, everyone is invited to attend. The classes are held once a week in each community for several weeks. The classes are conducted to provide basic community health education, using the Bible as a guide. So not only is the information useful from a practical standpoint, but provides spiritual wellness at the same time. The ladies attending the class here in Puerto Plata enjoyed fellowshipping with each other and have planned to meet together regularly and have potluck dinners, etc. They have learned to share with each other and have found a common bound their faith in Jesus Christ. CHE is preparing for graduation for several classes. Those people who have been faithful in attending weekly classes will receive certificates of completion. Many of these people have never earned a certificate of any type and they are very excited about it.

Next week we will begin the process of packing up and preparing to reload all of the supplies and equipment back onto the ship. Next weekend many of the short term crew that has been here for the whole outreach will leave to go back to their regular lives, they are from all over the world. Goodbyes are the hardest part. Drills will become a big part of our ship life as we prepare to sail. We need to check and verify systems as we prepare to leave the Dominican Republic, headed for our next port of call, which will be Morehead City, North Carolina. We will be there from April 28th until May 26th. We will be in the shipyard performing repair work and scheduled maintenance. Rob will be busy getting supplies and repair parts and documenting all the work being performed. He is really anxious to see a Home Depot again and to be able to communicate in English! If anyone would like to come and join us to help with the work, please contact Denise and we’ll find you a place to serve with us for a short time or as long as you can stay. We’ll also, plan to speak in churches nearby and share the vision of Mercy Ships with them.

After our time in the shipyard, we will begin our public relations tour along the eastern seaboard of the United States. We will sail to Halifax, Nova Scotia for our first stop. We will be there from May 30th to June 24th. Then we will sail to Boston from June 25th to July 14th. We are looking forward to being in Boston for the Fourth of July. They are having a Harborfest during that week.

We are not yet confirmed for the next port of call in Port Canaveral, Florida. We hope to be able to see you sometime during our travels up and down the east coast. We would very much look forward to sharing our new home with you, and personally thank you for your prayers, letters of encouragement, frequent emails, and support. We would like to return to you, our friends, a degree of the blessings you have provided us. Thank you for allowing us to live our dream. It has been several months now that we have been aboard the Caribbean Mercy, and we continue to be thankful and blessed each day as we are able to be in part of God’s wonderful adventure.

May God bless you abundantly as you seek to serve Him in your life!

God's blessings,
Rob and Denise
Mercy Ships, m/v Caribbean Mercy

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