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 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.
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.
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!
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