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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Sailing to Monrovia, Liberia!

Hello Friends,

We are so excited!!! We are actually sailing en route to Monrovia, Liberia aboard the Africa Mercy.

On March 28th, we set sail on Seatrials and sailed to Blyth, England from the A&P shipyard. Our time in Blyth was very busy, loading the ship, adjusting to our new home and getting everything ready to sail and actually go to Monrovia, Liberia. We had many volunteers come to help us move boxes and empty the warehouses there to load up the ship. It was a very busy time and we all worked hard to keep on schedule. It seemed an impossible task.

When we arrived in Blyth, the ship was just barely operational. Reception, the Galley and Dining Room needed to become fully operational immediately!

We moved all the crew on board, emptied the warehouse, sorted out the offices and departments to get them running properly. Trained the non-technical crew as we prepared for the surveys and inspections that seemed never ending!

God was so faithful as we pressed in to His promises to give us rest and strength to complete the tasks. We were in a community meeting, as the Captain was still meeting with the inspectors and surveyors. Half way through the meeting the Captain came in and told us that all the certificates were issued and that we would be able to leave on time...the next morning 04 May 2007 for Rotterdam..Tenerife and Monrovia! Praise the Lord! He alone could make it possible! We appreciate all your prayers, too!

We have sailed via Rotterdam, Netherlands and had a wonderful reception hosted by the Mercy Ships Netherlands office.
They were very gracious and just couldn’t seem to do enough for us. We were quite humbled by the experience.

The Netherlands office planned tours of the ship for about 1200-1500 people in just 2 days. It was amazing and very well planned.

We had a short time to enjoy walking around the city and being in a central location, just across the bridge from the city center, made it very convenient. We enjoyed a Chinese dinner in a huge Chinese Restaurant and Hotel.

After a few days in Rotterdam, we sailed for six days to Santa Cruz de Tenerife off the northwest coast of Africa.

The first part of the sail was a little bumpy as we headed through the English Channel towards the Bay of Biscay. As we entered the Bay the ride became even more of a challenge.

We had strong headwinds (Gale Force 10) and a varying sea state from 8-12 feet with larger swells at times. The Africa Mercy is a very stable ship and corrects herself quickly which can be an interesting ride at times.

The crew was amazing and did very well at sea for the most part. We got our “sea legs” back after two years of not sailing. We’d take this sail any day over being moored to the dock.

The sea calmed down after crossing the Bay of Biscay and we then had a lovely sail on to Tenerife.

As we sailed closer to Tenerife, the coats and jackets were set aside as the weather was warmer and the crew gathered on "Monkey Island" (top of the bridge) and made it a "Sun Deck". We enjoyed standing by the rail and looking into the deep blue ocean to possibly see a whale or some dolphins! One of our crew saw two sea turtles!

We arrived in Tenerife on Monday at 3:00pm. We came to refuel and the engineers were busy directly upon arrival bunkering fuel. The second day we were there, divers came to check the bottom of the ship for the surveyors. And then the next day more fuel! The crew arranged for everyone to have at least one day off while we were there! The dock was lovely and just a short walk into the town. Very nice and bustling with activity, it was just nice to walk around and enjoy the culture. Most of the crew (us included) did much walking the few days we were in Tenerife!

Denise was anxious to have a nice Spanish dinner of Arroz con Pollo or Paella as her favorite dishes are Spanish! We couldn’t get it the first night, but after a couple days of looking we found a really nice restaurant.

She was able to get paella at lunch time the day before we left Tenerife! It was one of the highlights of Tenerife! The specialty of the house was “Olympia Paella” which was very good with, fresh shrimp, Spanish rice, clams, chicken, langostinos (very small lobsters), pork, mussels, green beans, peas, red and green peppers, onions. We’ve included a picture for you. Is your mouth watering yet?

Rosa, our waitress, was very pleasant and we had a wonderful meal. We also managed to treat ourselves to ice cream cones a couple times.

Several of the crew found out how quickly the sun here can cause sunburn. Denise was well prepared with her sun block cream #48. We looked just like all the other tourists with our camera, sun hats, white arms and legs looking at all of the sites with much curiosity. We had a lovely time in Tenerife.

We were reminded many times while in Tenerife of our times spent on the Caribbean Mercy. Tenerife is a Spanish island and the latin culture of Central America is very similar as there was much Spanish influence there. There was not the poverty that we observed in Central America.

Tenerife is a rich island with most developed nation luxuries. Much like any modern city in a developed nation. Occasionally, we could see signs of it's history as a developing nation.

The parks are beautiful with the lovely flowers, as we looked closely we could see that this one was in rememberance of a time when the village people came here to get their water for their homes. Many of the villages in Central America that we served in had central wells for the village and the women and children carried the buckets on their heads.

Many of the villages that we will serve in Liberia will not have running water or electricity to the homes of the people. In fact, many of the homes in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia don't have running water or electricity.

So, we thought much about where we have served in Central America and the Caribbean and also about where we will serve in Africa.

As we walked around the city of Santa Cruz, this was a good time of preparation, reflection and time to change from the ship project thinking and the many lists of to dos and focus on our ministry and what God is preparing for our service in Africa.

Since leaving Santa Cruz de Tenerife at 10:00am on Thursday 17 May, 2007, we have experienced a very smooth sail thus far. The waves are very calm, cloudless skies, and just a gentle rocking of the ship from port to starboard as we make our way to Monrovia, Liberia. It is very pleasant and relaxing. We are also able to work on board and get things completed before we reach Monrovia.
We, as a crew, have spent time together watching some training DVDs put together by the Anastasis crew to share with us, to help us prepare for Monrovia, Liberia and to appreciate what the people of Liberia have experienced over the past 14 years of civil war. This training helps us understand better what the reality of life in Liberia is.
Dr. Gary Parker, our Chief Medical Officer, does an excellent job of helping us focus on God and what we have been called to in serving the Liberian people. We are in the third day of our sail to Monrovia, Liberia. We are scheduled to arrive at 0700am on Wednesday, 23 May 2007.

We ask you to be in prayer with us as we prepare for the next season God has brought us into. We are very humbled and privileged to be part of this crew; we very much look forward to the combining of our crew on the Anastasis and all of us onto the Africa Mercy. We will be one crew together on one ship! We are excited as we have just a glimpse of what God is going to do.
We ask for your continued prayer covering, for health and safety. We pray for those that God will use us to reach, we pray that we will stay focused daily on God as the source of our strength and that we will not give into the thought that we are able to do any of this in our own strength but only by the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
Thank you for your prayers for us! Will you email us with the prayer needs you have, so we may also, join with you in prayer? We very much appreciate hearing of answered prayer as well. The victories we can share, which encourages each of us. God's plans for each of us so beautifully weave together into His purpose and to bring Him the Glory!

We are a little apprehensive as to how God will use us in Liberia. We know he’ll stretch us and take us out of our comfort zone. We know he’ll continue to prune us and mold us into his image. Along the way we just pray that there will be evidence of His presence in us. Enough where our actions may speak into the lives of those people we come into contact with. We look for the opportunities and make ourselves available.
This will be our first time to Africa and we are looking forward to see what God has in His mind for us!
We know beyond a shadow of doubt that we are where He has sent us and we sooooo appreciate your support and your love shown to us in many many ways! And especially your prayers! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

God's abundant blessings,
Denise and Rob
Mercy Ships, M/V Africa Mercy


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