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Saturday, February 16, 2008

We are back in Monrovia, Liberia!

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We are back in Monrovia, Liberia!
Rob and Denise Miller

Hello Friends,

Just a quick update to let you know what’s been happening! We arrived back in Monrovia, Liberia on Tuesday, 5 February 2008. Going into Dry Dock!

Since our departing Monrovia on 30 November 2007, we’ve been busy both on and off of the ship!Going into Dry Dock on the Railroad Rails!

When we left Monrovia in November, we sailed for six days to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria prepared for dry-dock. The ship was floated into the dry-dock and the platform raised and in short order we were moving along on rail-road tracks.

Looking back to the platform that lifted us!

It was quite an experience, we wondered if this grand ship which used to carry rail-cars aboard had ever been carried in this fashion before. The scheduled surveys and inspections were performed, the hull cleaned and repainted.

Just prior to the ship completing her dry-dock stay, we flew to St. Augustine, Florida to spend the Christmas and New Years holiday season with our family. This was the first Christmas we had spent in Florida with our family since 2001.

Rob, Denise and the Grandkids!

It was a joy to see our sons and their families and be able to spend time with all four grandchildren together! What a blessing!!

We enjoyed waking Christmas morning to the excitement of our youngest grand-daughter, Kendall. Sharing time with our son’s, Jason and Jeff, and their families was an extra special treat that continued through the middle of January.

Jeff and Valerie

This is Jeff and his wife, Valerie. It was good to be able to spend time with them! Jeff is working very hard as a new car salesman…so if you need a VW…let us know and we’ll get you connected! Valerie works for a credit card company in customer service. They are busy, busy, busy and still find quality time to spend with Ryan, Chloie and Averi!

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This is Jason and his wife, Jill. They told us they enjoyed their time with us…even though we stayed longer than the usual few days! We enjoyed their hospitality and time with them! Jason works for a company that provides Human Resources to businesses and he is doing well. Jill works as a nurse in Labor and Delivery and gets to care for all the Moms and babies!

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We had an opportunity to share with our home church, Lake Shore United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Florida and at New Life Bible Church in Orange City, Florida.

We wore the clothes that our African home church, New Georgia United Methodist Church, blessed us with before we left Liberia. We were privileged to talk about our time serving in Liberia! We are so glad to back serving in Liberia, again!

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We met for dinner and had a mini-reunion with some former Caribbean Mercy crew members; Katie, Jeremy and Missy! Tom is serving with us on the Africa Mercy and was also, in Jacksonville. Phil, Tom’s brother is also in the picture.

We flew up to Maryland for several days with Denise’s Dad and good family friend, Vivian, in Rockville, Maryland. Dad and Denise It was good to be able to visit with them for a few days.

Dad is doing well and so is Vivian after her surgery early in February 2007.

It snowed twice while we were there…the first time just a dusting and the day we left for Tenerife it snowed about 3-4 inches!

Snow in Rockville, Maryland!

This is a picture from our lunch at the Country Club with Dad, Vivian and Dawn just before leaving for the airport!

Denise’s sister, Dawn, came down from Delaware to see us and take us to the airport in Baltimore to fly back to Santa Cruz de Tenerife to rejoin the ship on 17 January 2008.

Dawn and Denise

During our travels we were blessed to see many of you and yet, there are many friends, we wished we could have seen that we didn’t get to. We intentionally stayed close to home, (our oldest son’s home actually) in St. Augustine, Florida by request of our sons. Previously we’ve tried to travel and see as many people as possible during our month holidays and unfortunately, our sons got to see very little of their parents, even though we where in the United States for a month. So we hope you can appreciate the blessings we received just being Mom and Dad, Grammy and Pappy for a short while. We found it to be a very good and restful time for us personally.

It was great fun and Rob has caught up on his quota of pizza for awhile. Jason was very gracious in honoring his father’s never tiring desire for pizza and allowing Dad to drive the truck to his heart’s content! Jill, our daughter-in-law, couldn’t do enough to try and make our stay pleasant and enjoyable. She succeeded in all departments. We look forward to the time, we can host them (and you) onboard and extend all of the comforts and pleasures of serving and belonging to this wonderful community known as the Africa Mercy.

Fishing boat coming out to greet us!

As we return to Monrovia, Liberia, there have been several crew sessions where we are discussing just that, “returning to Liberia” in an effort to prepare ourselves physically and spiritually. We’ve had a couple months in a culture where prosperity abounds and pleasures of many kinds are available to the crew.

We’ve lived in a nation, the United States and visited Tenerife (Spain) which are ranked as 12th and 13th on the 2007/2008 United Nations Human Development Index and are now again in a nation which must improve to even get on the Index! Liberia’s neighbor, Sierra Leone, is known to be the poorest nation at the bottom of the listing at 177th. The Human Development Index (HDI) is the normalized measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, standard of living, and GDP per capita for countries worldwide.

The cargo ship in the port

Liberia has to improve to even be able to measure the statistics in order to be able to be recognized on the Index. And we do see improvement even in just the 2 short months that we were away. This is a picture of the cargo ship that was still mostly under water when we left…now the bow is a float! There will also be a census in March 2008 for the first time since before the war!

The band on the dock during arrival!

We prepare ourselves for the differences we will encounter immediately upon arrival; for some crew the very first time. We know and have seen that Liberia’s life expectancy is only about 40 years. So many die so young here! Many of very treatable illnesses.

The choir on the dock at arrival!

The people of Liberia are very lovely and loving people. We look forward to seeing our friends at New Georgia United Methodist Church, and many of our friends that we have come to know and love within the community of Monrovia.

Two of our crew members, who went before us and prepared the way, Keith and Brenda, waived us into the dock. It is so good to see our friends here again! This picture is of Keith and Brenda greeting Oscar carrying the Liberian Flag off the ship (Oscar is our only Liberian Crew Member).

The Advance team greeting Oscar and the ship!

Please pray for these prayer points during this week:

  • For our days of screening at SKD Stadium in Monrovia – Monday and Tuesday (February 18th & 19th)

  • During screening – Rob will be driving crew back and forth to the ship beginning at 4:30 AM and Denise will be a co-leader for the patient’s children’s ministry as the patients are seen by the doctors (some of these children may be patients themselves).

  • For the patients that we are not able to help that God would touch them, heal them and give them comfort and peace, according to His will.

  • For the patients that we may be able to help that they would come, be patient and calm as we do the appropriate tests, be encouraged and comforted and that they would be able to step out bravely to trust in what God can do through us. (Many of these people have never seen a doctor before)

  • For all the crew of the Africa Mercy as we reach out to help these precious Liberian people in a tangible and loving way. Protection, perseverance, strength and wisdom.

  • For the US President, George Bush and the Liberian people as he visits here in Liberia.

  • For the Liberian President, Madame Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson as she visits the ship on Tuesday during the Civic and Media Reception.

  • For the receptions this week for Civic and Media and on Wednesday the Pastors and Church Leaders.

While we were home, we were blessed in many ways, our strength renewed, our spirits restored and we look forward to this season that the Lord has prepared for us. We thank each of you for your part in God’s plan and enabling us to be your hands, feet and love for the precious people of Liberia. Thank you for sending us, and encouraging us with your prayers and emails. Thank you for sharing your lives with us, through your stories. We love to hear from you! May God bless you abundantly as you trust in Him!

God’s blessings,

Rob and Denise

Mercy Ships, M/V Africa Mercy

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