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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Greetings from Monrovia, Liberia! Already a month has passed since our last newsletter. As we come closer to the final days of this Field Service, the pace seems to quicken and our busy days seem to find ways to become even busier. We are thankful for good health and the ability to be serving here in Liberia! Liberian Flag

This month we celebrated Thanksgiving Day on November 6th with our Liberian friends and crew. In Liberia, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the first Thursday in November in contrast to our United States celebration on the last Thursday of November. We had special services onboard along with a wonderfully prepared meal and we all (from 33 nations) gave thanks to God for His provisions and our many blessings!

So for our family and friends in the United States that have yet to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we pray it will be a wonderful day for you and your families! May you have time to enjoy a wonderful meal together and time to reflect upon the provisions of God and His many blessings poured out! And that you are able to watch some good ol’ American Football!

Our Liberian Thanksgiving Cornicopia!

This picture is of our Thanksgiving Harvest in Liberia! Many of these fruits and vegetables were grown right here in Liberia. I think the apples though were imported (probably from Europe). The crew were invited after the service to help themselves to one of these fresh fruits and vegetables and the crew was very excited about that! Many of the crew are not able to get out to the markets to shop and even if they do, it's difficult to find the fresh produce. I've made a slideshow of some of the market sites and you can see it here. Market Photo Show

Three bananas!

The children on board dressed up as fruit and vegetables ( a living cornucopia). The girls to the right are dressed up as bananas and were the stars of the night! The girls are (R-L) Anna Peet, Freida Tvedt and Joyce Everleens. It was a lot of fun and the kids enjoyed it too!

This month has found Denise very busy with Administrative training and continuing in her role as mentor. This past week was another Graduation for the Administrative trainees from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. (More about this in our next newsletter with pictures)

Also, she has been very busy for the past two weeks in her support role in Staff Development as we’ve had Dr. Andrew Clark from our International Operations Center, here conducting a training seminar to the ship's leadership team.

Dr. Clark had spent much time in preparation for the seminar and brought along many training aids, props and handouts to assist him during the week long seminar…unfortunately, his luggage didn’t make the trip with him. The luggage arrived Thursday evening just prior to the last day of the seminar so, needless to say many extra hours were devoted to recreating the material from notes and downloads from various sites. God is and was in control, so in the end He was glorified and the seminar was a success.

Walk to Benin

Many of our crew, including ourselves, are involved in a fun virtual walk to Benin and back! (See the picture above) It is 903 miles to Benin and the map above shows our teams and the other teams progress. There are 6 crew members on each walking team. Benin Advance Team Dedication

One of our team members, Yvonne, is actually leaving for Benin on Monday (November 24th)! She is on our advance team and will prepare for the Africa Mercy's arrival in February! In the picture to the right is our Benin Advance Team, during their Dedication Prayer on Thursday night (Melissa in blue shirt Anounchka in Green, Yvonne in Red and Brenda, the team leader in Black) Please pray for them as they go ahead of us!

We are starting to see, planning charts posted detailing the many varied activities which will have to take place in order for us to systematically prepare for sailing in a little less than four weeks. All departments have the responsibilities for various tasks and functions, all which must happen in a certain order. All thought out, laid out, and prepared. Systems are being checked and double checked. Watch bills are being prepared to shift to Sea Watches. We have begun doing Swimmer's Watch to keep the swimmers off the dock and ship at night. The crew is asked to serve a watch of two hours throughout the night for 4 watches each night until we sail. Safety procedures are being emphasized even more than usual, soon the At-Sea Drills will begin to remind us of the activities required of us as crew.

Simple things like, which lifeboat to muster at for the general crew instead of going on the dock looking for a placard with the letter representing your last name. Where is that life vest anyway? It sounds a little funny maybe, but in all seriousness the better we prepare the safer we will all be. Many of our crew have not been onboard during a sail. Our last sail was in February we can all use a refresher!

Rob is busy as the final orders are being sent in to our Marine Operations Department for repairable and consumable items required prior to sail and for the work to be done in Tenerife for the technical departments, Deck and Engineering. Our Marine Operations Department in Texas at the International Operations Center will coordinate the logistics of sourcing, ordering and delivery to Tenerife. Rob helps to source and prepare the requisitions for these orders.

Building the school at our church in New Georgia

The church that we attend while here in Liberia is the New Georgia United Methodist Church. You can see it in the distance in this picture. If you look closely you can see Rob standing on the porch in his blue shirt! This pictures shows the progress on the new school project that the church has started in the last few months. It is quite an ambitious project, but the community is really excited about it and they are working very hard to make it a reality! A church in Indiana, Delphi United Methodist Church, is partnering with our church and a team of 9 (including their pastor) recently came to help with the project for a couple weeks. It is exciting to be a part of this future plan to help and improve the education of this community! We won't be here to see it's completion, but it is so good to know that we were able to come alongside these precious people for a time that the Lord arranged. We have seen them grow in the Lord, establish a vision and now the vision is at work!

Africa Mercy at Sunset

As we come to completion of this Field Service, we are thankful to finish well, for the many lives (including ours) that have been forever changed. We are also thankful and prayerful that in a small way, we as a crew (collectively) have with God’s help enabled the citizens of Liberia to have hope and to have experienced some healing, both physical and spiritual as well as emotional. We pray that the impact of our community combining and interacting with their community will have a lasting impact.

They have touched our lives and we will never be the same for it, we leave Liberia with even more love in our hearts. A little tired for the journey, but very thankful we were able to be part of the healing and reconciliation of a nation. The journey to wholeness is a long one, but we see many, many of the people of Liberia on the path. May God continue to be their focus and as they seek Him, He will heal their land.

May God bless you as you seek and trust in Him! Thank you for being a significant part of our lives and for your prayers, support and encouragement! Happy Thanksgiving!

God’s Blessings to you,

Rob and Denise

Mercy Ships, M/V Africa Mercy