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Sunday, February 15, 2009

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

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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. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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).

IMG_4419

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!

map_of_benin

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: mercywatch@gmail.com or just reply to this message!

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