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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Video and article from Tyler Paper

Volunteer Information Meeting For Mercy Ships Set At Green Acres Baptist Church

Last week the ship docked in Cotonou for 10 months of service to the West African nation of Benin. People interested in volunteering for Mercy Ships of Garden Valley are invited to an information session, 4-6 p.m. Sunday at Green Acres Baptist Church (in Tyler, Texas).

Green Acres Baptist Church (Tyler, Texas) will hold a volunteer-information for Mercy Ships of Garden Valley from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday.

The 499-foot Africa Mercy, the world's largest nongovernmental hospital ship, docked in Cotonou last week for a 10-month term of service in the West African Nation of Benin.

The Mercy Ships meeting at Green Acres will be held in the Galilee Room. The theme of the event is "Get on Board with Mercy Ships."

"This meeting is designed for people from all over East Texas, not just at Green Acres, to hear about volunteering opportunities with Mercy Ships," said Angela Fadley, of Mercy Ships.

The state-of-the-art hospital ship began sending medical screening teams into North Benin shortly after docking to increase health care services. The pro-active approach helps insure medical services are provided equitably throughout the country, said information from Mercy Ships. About 300 to 500 North Benin candidates for surgery are expected to be screened.
Surgeries offered include maxilla-facial, cleft lip and palate, tumors, flesh-eating noma, release of burn contractures, obstetric fistula and orthopedic issues.

During the 10-month tenure in Benin, hundreds of volunteers from around the world will carry out a wide range of medical and community development services. A dental clinic in Akpakpa will provide up to 20,000 dental care procedures, and vision clinics will be offered.

The Mercy Vision project aims to help reduce the number of the estimated 48,000 blind people in Benin, and treat those with crossed eyes, pterygium, children under 16-years-old born with cataracts and "older people" who can see some light. In 2009 an estimated 3,000 cataract surgeries will be performed. Medical teams will set up community clinics in Godomey, Ghanhi, Porto-Novo and Akpaka to evaluate and treat up to 20,000 people for basic eye diseases.

To RSVP or for more information call (903) 939-7045.

Friday, February 20, 2009

First Screening Day in Benin

Yesterday, February 19th, the crew of the Africa Mercy held our large mass screening at the Hall des Arts. Almost two thousand potential patients came to be seen by the crew. There were 1,952 potential patients attended along with their family member(s), so we estimated about 4,000 people. Don Stephens, Mercy Ships Founder/President arrived on Wednesday evening and he told us last night that this was the most successful screening he has seen. It was well organized and the flow of people through the various stations went very smoothly and effeciently. The people of Benin were shown great love and care as they patiently waited for their time to be seen. Approximately, 600 were referred by Dr. Glenn to one of the 4 field eye team clinic locations around the greater Cotonou area, which started today and will continue 4 days a week until the end of November 2009. The opthalmac surgical (eye surgery) candidates are selected from the field eye team clinics. Another 60 people were told that their eye problem was not something we could assist with. As the people (1,292 people on this day) entered they came to the pre-screening tent set up in front of the stadium. Of those, 635 people were given cards to enter the stadium to go through the appropriate screening stations. The others, were prayed with and/or walked to the exit.

We do not know yet how many were actually scheduled for surgery and given an appointment card. Many came to the two prayer stations also. Those not able to go through the whole process today were given cards to come back today - Friday, the 20th. Hospital crew and non-Hospital crew returned to the stadium to continue the process today. We would ask for your continued prayers. (statistics from: Keith Brinkman, Programs Administrator)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Screening in the North of Benin

In partnership with the Ministry of Health, the Africa Mercy North Benin Screening team, (Operation Access) saw over 200 potential patients in Parakou on Thursday. 57 persons were scheduled for surgery and an additional 18 individuals have been referred for orthopaedic and VVF screening in Cotonou. The team went to Natitingou on Friday and screened in the afternoon and Saturday before returning to the ship on Sunday. (Keith Brinkman, Programs Administrator)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

We have arrived in Cotonou, Benin (West Africa)!

Mercy Watch
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Hello Friends,

We have arrived safely in Cotonou, Benin West Africa after a nine day sail from Santa Cruz de Tenerife. We thank God for hearing our prayers and providing us safe passage! We had a very pleasant sail and at one point were in the Doldrums for a day or so. Thankfully we are a motor vessel and not dependent upon the wind in our sails for movement. Rob commented to the Chief Engineer on the calmness of the sea and then learned about the Doldrums. (

Arrival in Benin

This is a picture of Oliver Glidja, one of our crew members from Benin, carrying the Republic of Benin flag down the gangway shortly after arrival. Our Managing Director, Ken Berry and his wife, Ann are following Oliver down for the Arrival Ceremony.

Our arrival in Cotonou was not uneventful though. On Monday, 9 February, when the process began of going through the checklist prior to proceeding to the Pilot station a few technical difficulties presented themselves in systems that had been checked previously and had operated correctly. As the engineering and deck departments worked to resolve these challenges, a call went out for prayer. Crew met in the International Lounge and interceded in prayer. Our shipmates in Marine Operations, once advised of our situation, joined in prayer. The Advance Team and Mercy Team ashore at the Port of Cotonou waited with the many invited dignitaries and guests that had come for a 2:00 pm Arrival Ceremony. At 5:00 -6:00pm, they held a worship service on the dock and offered prayer.

As daylight was giving way to nightfall the Captain advised the crew we would spend the evening at anchor just within sight of Cotonou on the horizon. The engineers would work through the evening into the night checking and repairing these issues and by early morning all was well. We weighted anchor around 0745 as the majority of the crew was in the International Lounge for Tuesday morning devotions. At 0800 we proceeded to the Pilot station for a 0830 rendezvous with the Pilot.

The picture below is of the dock as we entered the port with the pilot onboard Tuesday morning about 9:00 AM. The welcoming party was smaller but very excited to see us come in! On the dock is our Advance Team (in Orange) and the Mercy Team (Green and White) as well as government officials and others.

The Dock in Cotonou

We arrived at our berth without incident docking to starboard side. We normally dock to port, but the Captain needed to ensure there was adequate depth of water under the ship to protect the propellers and rudder. As we go further into the port the depth of the water becomes shallower. So docking to port allows the aft (back) of the ship with the propellers and rudder to be in the deepest portion of water available. Next week, we may turn the ship around. The picture below was taken shortly after the Arrival Ceremony was finished. The dock looks quiet and peaceful now. Once the ships arrive on our bow (in front) and stern (behind) this will change alot!

The Africa Mercy docked in Cotonou, Benin

We were quite blessed in Monrovia, Liberia for our berth. We had the entire dock, pretty much to ourselves, allowing for a great deal of flexibility for crew in moving around on the dock and restriction of motor vehicles. In the evening, the children would play and ride bikes on the dock unrestricted for the most part. Here we are one of many ships berthed along the dock with working vessels both our bow (front) and stern (back).

We’ve been advised by the Captain that our berth may change over the next several days…we may move forward, we may have to turn around, we may have to leave the port for a short period going a little out to sea and then returning. Not to worry…if we return from town and notice the ship sailing out of the port not to be alarmed. They’ll be right back.

Denise and I had the pleasure of walking into town on Wednesday evening after dinner with Al and Betty Lou Bennett. The people of Cotonou are very friendly and warm; smiling at our efforts to communicate in French…”Bonsoir” (good evening).


This picture is taken along the main road from the port into town. The Catholic Church is a landmark and can be seen in the red and white brick on the right hand side of the road. This is about 20 minutes walk from the ship. It is a blessing to be able to walk into town from the ship!

We wanted to give you a little update on how we are and the events already starting to take place.

  • Tuesday evening, the 10th of February crew was cleared by Immigrations to go ashore
  • Wednesday afternoon, the 11th of February a Medical Team "Operation Access" leaves the Africa Mercy going north to Parakou and Natitingou for screening of potential patients
  • Thursday, the 12th of February vehicles are off loaded from the Africa Mercy to the dock after only two days. We are still waiting for the vehicles to be registered and cleared to drive in Benin.
  • Thursday morning, the 12th of February, a visit by the Minister of Health
  • Thursday afternoon, the 12th of February, a visit by the US Ambassador
  • Friday afternoon, the 13th of February, a reception for the Civic and Media, including the ambassadors from the US, South Africa, Germany and France
  • Friday, 13th of February last day to sign up and volunteer for the Screening Days on the 19th and 20th of February - here in Cotonou!


Oh....we wanted to include one picture from our last newsletter...we weren't sure if anyone was able to take a picture of the Killer Whales...well...Yes, of course someone did. Here is the picture of the Orca alongside the Africa Mercy! Denise actually saw it even more out of the water than this with its belly showing!

Killer Whale alongside the Africa Mercy

We are excited to be here in Cotonou, Benin as we start the 2009 Field Service! Here are a few prayer points for this time:

  • Please pray for the screening - for people that God has a purpose for will come and those that don't will not come to the screening (Dr. Gary put it this way as some people will come that we can't help in a physical way, but God may have a purpose for them to come)
  • Please pray for those we will have to say no to at the screening
  • Please pray that our actions will glorify God in all we say and do
  • Please pray for our health and the health and strength of our crew
  • Please pray for the many volunteers that will serve during this Field Service
  • Please pray for the families, of all of the volunteers as they release their loved ones to service (including our family!)

Would you allow us to pray for you? We do pray for each of you in general terms often, yet at times we know there are many more specific prayers we could be praying. Would you allow us to intercede on your behalf this year? We would consider it a privilege. You can email us or call any time. We love to hear from you.

God’s Blessings,

Rob and Denise

Phone: (954) 538-6110 cabin ext. 4423 (this is a US number)

email: or just reply to this message!

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Oliver and the Flag of Benin

Originally uploaded by MercyWatch.
One of our crew mates, Oliver, is from Benin. He was honored to bring the flag down the gangway and be a part of the Welcoming Ceremony.

Arrival in the port of Cotonou, Benin

Originally uploaded by MercyWatch.
This is a picture of the dock where we will spend the next 10 months just as we are coming inside the port. The Advance Team, the Mercy Team and others to welcome us are waving on the end of the dock!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Africa Mercy Arrives in Cotonou, Benin (West Africa)

As reported in the Christian Telegraph:

The world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, arrived in Cotounou, Benin, this week to begin 10 months of specialized partnership with the nation’s Ministry of Health, reports Peter Wooding, special to ASSIST News Service.

The hospital ship’s “Operation Access” screening team left Cotonou for two provincial capitals in North Benin shortly after docking with the goal of increasing access to health care services offered by the ship throughout the nation equitably. Posters and public service announcements were sent out ahead of the team appealing for family members to bring those with particular ailments to the North Benin screening sites this week. To read more...... CLICK HERE

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sailing on the Africa Mercy

written by Carmen Radley

Crew members enjoying a sunset from the top deck of the Africa Mercy.

A nine-day sail on the world's largest non-governmental hospital ship is different from others. It's not a regular working ship, where every crew member has traditional sailing duties, nor a vacation cruise, where people just relax and watch the blue waters of the Atlantic slide by.

Sailing on the Africa Mercy inhabits an interesting middle ground. On the voyage, crew members balance the pleasure of the ocean breezes with the anticipation and preparations for serving the poorest of the poor for the next 10 months in Benin.

Captain Tim Tretheway is responsible for getting the ship to its berth in Benin, and he praises his deck crew for their diligence and skill. "It's been a lot of fun on this sail to work with the other officers in doing some traditional navigation techniques," Captain Tim says.

While the deck officers and crew navigate the waters and keep watch for pirates and other safety concerns, the nurses are busy training new recruits in the procedures of the hospital, and the Health Care Development department is putting final plans into place for construction and agricultural projects in Benin.

But after work, the crew gets the unique experience of going to the upper decks and seeing the vast blue ocean, interesting marine life, and the bright stars, undiminished by manmade light.
"I love the sail," says Mary Lou Maulsby, manager of the dining room on the Africa Mercy. "Day and night, God's glory is in the skies, the waves, and the exhilaration He gives as we watch His dolphins."

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Sailing to Benin!

Mercy Watch

Hello Friends,

We began our nine day sail from Tenerife, Canary Islands a week ago today (31 January 2009) enroute to Conotou, Benin. We will be sailing until about mid morning on Monday, for a total of about 9 days. It is exciting to be preparing for Field Service again. The picture below was taken as we left the port in Santa Cruz, Tenerife. The pilot boat is speeding away as the Africa Mercy sails into the open sea.

The pilot boat scoots away as we begin to sail to Benin!

We were blessed by a little furlough time with family and friends over the Christmas and New Year holidays and continuing through the month of January. It was a very restful and rewarding time to catch up with our family and many of our friends. As with any visit you never seem to get to see everyone you hope to. We spent a week in a wonderful cabin in the North Georgia mountains with our 2 sons, their families and Denise’s sisters families. We had a wonderful time 19 of us altogether in the cabin (pictured below)! I wish I had thought to get a picture of all of us standing on the various levels. A picture of some of the family and most of the kids is included below at the movie theater. The guys and Denise were at the sports club watching an American Football game.

The Cabin in North Georgia! At the movies

As we sail to Benin, there are not as many familiar faces amongst the crew as when we departed from Liberia. Many of our former crewmates have departed, and there seem to be so many new faces. What a wonderful blessing the Lord provides in each new crewmate. As we enjoy new opportunities to meet new friends, to hear their stories and in the retelling of our stories, we are reminded of the many ways God has and continues to bless our lives. We have had a New Crew Training while on the sail and of the new crew about 2/3 had never been to Africa before. It seems like not too long ago, we also had never been to Africa, now we have spent 16 months in Liberia! Benin will be different in many ways and also familiar in some ways. We are very much looking forward to spending the next 10 months in Benin. Tomorrow, we will have a workshop on Spiritual Warfare and Intercessory Prayer. We will also pray for Benin and what God has in His mind for us there!

This is a beautiful sunset as we are sailing! Also, lifeboat #1...our lifeboat! One of the crew members captured this sunset in this picture. We've had several drills since being at sea. We haven't had to use the lifeboats! Praise God!

A beautiful sunset as we sail!

We were reminded on a recent Thursday night of how sometimes life’s situations can cause us to harden our hearts. To set up protective (we think) barriers to hurtful events, and in so doing isolate ourselves and deny the Holy Spirit to use us. We were encouraged to place our trust constantly in Jesus and to allow Him to protect us and help us keep our heart soft and receptive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

During the sail, God supplies wonderful surprises along the way as we prepare our hearts and minds for His work Among God's surprises are "Dolpins off the bow!" over the intercom and we look out or sometimes are out on the bow and see the dolphins playing at the bow (shown below). Today we saw some orcas (killer whales) up close. We've seen some from a distance, but today they were right alongside the ship and one even came about half way out of the water so we could tell he was black and white (I don't know if anyone got a picture...I haven't seen one yet). It's amazing to see God's creatures as we are sailing!


So we pray for ourselves and for you, to keep your hearts soft and allow Jesus to mold our hearts. In so doing may we all see each person as Jesus does, may we be so filled with the love of Jesus that His love will flow forth from us into a hurting world; one person at a time. May we be open and ready for the opportunities that God supplies! When that opportunity comes may we behold it and jump to action as we do when the call "Dolphins on the port side" comes over the intercom.


As we prepare ourselves for this next season God has brought us to, can we ask you to continue your prayers for us and for the people of Benin? We are truly blessed by your prayers and we can testify to the difference they make in our daily lives. Thank you so much for all of your love and support!


God’s abundant blessings to each of you,

Rob and Denise

more pictures may be seen at and on our blog -

Sunday, February 01, 2009