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Saturday, October 18, 2003

Hope to see you in Jacksonville

Dear Friends,

We are very much looking forward to seeing you while we are in Jacksonville! The plan is for the ship to come into downtown Jacksonville on the morning of Thursday, November 6th. There will be a Mayor’s Reception that evening and we will also be welcoming many new crew members. It will be an exciting and busy day! The ship schedules many receptions during the time of Public Relations Tours to share the vision and invite specific groups to learn about our mission and how to serve with us. We will be docked in Jacksonville until December 2nd.

We have arranged to have a private reception for our friends and family in Jacksonville. You are invited to join us at this reception on November 15th from 2:00 pm until 4:00 pm. Please let us know by November 9th if you’ll be able to come so we may plan for the refreshments and notify the ship tour staff of your attendance. We will be docked by the Adams Mark hotel downtown on the Riverwalk just north of The Landing. You will need to first register with the tour staff on the dock and then go on the tour. At the end of the tour they will bring you into the reception which will be held on the family side of the dining room on the Promenade Deck near the International Flag Landing. We will need to finish the reception promptly at 4:00 pm, because the dining room staff will need to prepare the family dining room for dinner which is served at 5:00 pm. We hope you’ll be able to come and be our honored guests.

We would also like to spend time with you individually during our stay. Since our time will be limited and we will also be working, we will need to plan our time so that we can be available to see all of you and be able to give a private tour of the ship, if you’d like. We hope you will understand and know that we are really looking forward to sharing our new home with you. You may join us onboard for meals such as lunch during the week or dinner. We also have a community night gathering on Thursday evenings at 7:00 pm. Unfortunately, the ship requires us to notify them of guests ahead of time, so please let us know if there is a time that you would like to join us. We are also limited in the number of guests that we may have onboard at one time for times other than the reception.

If any of you would like to stay onboard the ship overnight, please let us know as soon as possible. We have many guests from all over the US and world that visit the ship during this time. Our CEO and founder, Don Stephens, and his wife, Deyon, will be onboard for a few days near the end of November. We are having a change of CEOs, from Trevor Walker to Udo Kronester, on Nov. 20th. So as you can see this will be a busy time. Please contact us and we will do our best to meet your schedules.

You can reach us on the ship phone (504) 739-5139, this is a number in New Orleans (where our satellite switch is) and our email address is robert.miller@mercyships.org or denise.miller@mercyships.org. We look forward to seeing you in Jacksonville!

May God bless you abundantly today!

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

Sunday, October 05, 2003

God is with us in Dangriga, Belize!

Hello Friends,

We serve an awesome God and He Loves us! Greetings from Dangriga, Belize. It has been an eventful couple of weeks since we last wrote. We have seen many lives changed, either through physical healing or spiritual renewal. Mercy Ship’s crew is able to show God’s love through many different facets:

• Praying with the patients on the dock as they await their surgery

• Celebrating with the patients as the eye patch is removed the day after surgery and they have sight!

• Meeting with the ladies at a local church to teach them cross-stitch and to build relationships – last week, much more prayer was shared one on one and singing of praises to the Lord

• Digging and moving five tons of dirt and mud by hand to open a water source for a local community

• Praying with and befriending two teenage girls that had been raped in a remote village

• Organizing and conducting a day at the park for the local children, including games, prizes and clowns.

• Meeting with the men of Dangriga weekly in a combined study of “Wild at Heart” to help us rediscover our God given hearts and value as men of God

• Joining in worship with the local churches

• Encouraging the pastors and congregations to continue the work God has given them here in Dangriga, Belize to continue to make a difference in this predominately non-Christian culture, by the testimony of their lives

There are many stories we could relate to you, each touching and a witness to God working in people. We would like to just share one for now.

Onboard the Caribbean Mercy we have two diesel generators which produce our electricity. They are made by Caterpillar and are very reliable. Normally we run one at a time, alternating between them so as to prolong the life of each motor. One morning about two weeks ago, while we were in our morning devotions, an alarm went off in the engine room, shortly followed by the ship blacking out as we lost all electrical power. The engineers, and fire team responded as they had been trained in an orderly and well rehearsed fashion. The fire alarm was sounded and the crew exited the ship accordingly. The Captain announced over the PA system that this was not a drill. The crew on the dock began praying, as we knew this was another spiritual attack. In short order, electricity was restored, the all clear was sounded and we were allowed to return to work.

The next morning at our morning devotions, the Chief Engineer advised us of the cause of the blackout. A bearing on the operating generator experienced failure causing the generator to shut down. The smoke from the engine caused the fire alarm to sound. Our other generator was fully operational and the disassembly of the failed generator was performed and the needed parts were ordered through our Marine Operations department at the International Operations Center, in Texas. They were air expressed to Miami and then flown into Belize City, Belize. This all took place within a little over a week. Meanwhile, we prayed that the one operational generator would continue without problems. Without it working, we would be totally in the dark, except for emergency lights.

On September 26th, Denise and I drove from Dangriga, to the airport in Belize City, Belize to retrieve the parts. This is a 100 mile trip and takes about 2 ½ to 3 hours. We arrived at 5:00 pm after getting some final direction at the airport terminal to the freight forwarders office. We were then informed that they close at 5:00pm. The customs inspector had already locked his office, counted out his money and was prepared to leave. We explained the situation to him and asked him to provide us the parts. He agreed to help us, if his supervisor would approve it. We went back to the airport terminal and Denise went inside to ask the supervisor for leniency. We had already paid $3.50 for 5 minutes of parking and Rob didn’t want to pay another $3.50 so he stayed with the truck. In short order, Denise returned and indicted the Supervisor would not approve the release until Monday. Frustrated, we called back to the ship to advise the Captain of the situation. She, also, was disappointed, but told us to have a nice dinner and then she’d see us when we returned to the ship. We did enjoy a nice dinner at a local Chinese restaurant and had a safe drive back to the ship.

Arrangements were made for the return trip on Monday, September 29th . Don Golden, a fellow crewmember and good friend, volunteered to make the trip with Rob as Denise had many previous commitments scheduled for Monday. Don and Rob left the ship early at 6:00 am headed for Belize City, International airport. We arrived safely at 8:30 am and awaited the opening of the Customs office at 9:00 am. Upon his arrival, the customs inspector looked briefly at us and our paperwork. Making no motion to us, he left the room. We waited until 9:20 and then asked one of the attendants if she thought the inspector would call for us, to which she replied no, we should go over to his office. OK, so we went, another customer was already in his office, so we waited. Finally upon arrival in his office, the inspector advised us we have incomplete paperwork, and he can not release the parts to us. This begins a series of calls between, Don and our Shipping Agent. Part way into this process we run out of minutes on the cell-phone so Don has to go back to the airport terminal and buy more minutes for the cell-phone. Now with more minutes, Don contacts the agent and is asked to wait while he attempted to get the paperwork sorted out. We waited until about 10:30 am.

Then Don called the Prime Minister’s wife’s office (this is the office of BCVI – Belize Council for the Visually Impaired- the organization we are working with closely in Belize) and spoke with her assistant Henry, who we had established a relationship with during their visit to our ship. Henry volunteered to speak with the Head of Customs for Belize and asked that we call him back in one hour. True to his word when Don called back we were instructed to go back to the supervisor at the airport terminal and he would sign a release form for us. We returned to the terminal as directed and the paperwork was signed. We returned to the customs office and proceeded to get the needed parts. Rob went into the office, while Don worked with the man in the warehouse to start loading the parts on the truck. Finally at 12:00 the truck was loaded.

During all of this process, we remained calm and as cooperative as we could. At this point the customs inspector asked if we had a cure for a disease his son had. He thought all of the people on Mercy Ships were doctors. Rob explained he wasn’t a doctor and was not aware of the disease he spoke of. The customs inspector explained that his four year old son had a disease that caused him to get white spots and then his skin would flake off. At this point, Don came into the office and Rob explained to Don the request of the father. Don asked if it would be alright if we prayed with the father for his son. The father was very moved by this offer and graciously accepted. We both placed our hands on this father and Don prayed for him, his son and his family. We were thankful for the opportunity God presented to us to pray with this father, son and family. We were again reminded that the real reason we are involved in this ministry is to affect people’s lives with the love of Jesus Christ and to proclaim the Gospel. The generator parts are merely used to maintain a tool to this end. May we be ever faithful to God’s calling.

God’s blessing,
Rob and Denise Miller
Mercy Ships, m/v Caribbean Mercy

rob.miller@mercyships.org
denise.miller@mercyships.org

www.mercyships.org