We send greetings to you from Cotonou, Benin (West Africa). We’ve had a little fun this past month establishing where we are actually. Yes, we are really here in Benin.
Let us explain…we received a letter from our credit union asking for some details our physical address for their records. Since it takes several weeks for mail…we called them to verify our address. We use the PO Box 2020 of our International Operations Center (IOC) in Texas as our mailing address and our permanent residence is our oldest son, Jason’s, address in Florida. When the IOC receives mail for us, they forward it to the ship through the agent here in Benin. So, after establishing the account with the representative, we asked her if she wanted the street address of the IOC where our mail goes. She asked if we were physically there. No, we are in Benin. Where? Benin is a country in West Africa.
She responded, oh what a wonderful vacation, but where do you live? On a ship here in Benin, we’ll be here in Benin until December 2009. Yes, we live on a ship, the Africa Mercy. Do you want our permanent address? No, she needed the address of where we actually are. Alright, so Denise told her we are in Port of Cotonou, Benin. Zip Code? No. When you return home where is your address? This is our home, since September 2002, we have been with Mercy Ships. As you can see we were not solving this question very fast and it didn’t fit on her form. So she excused herself to speak with her supervisor.
Upon her return she again asked for the physical address, so Denise thought ok, I’ll start with our mailing address…M/V Africa Mercy…to which she asked, what does M/V stand for? Denise explained, motor vessel, we live on a ship docked in Cotonou, Benin (West Africa). Denise also explained about Mercy Ships. Finally, the representative decided she would submit the Port of Cotonou, Benin address.
After a couple days, she called back to advise us of our physical address! We were glad to hear she had determined where we actually are as far as their records are concerned. Through their research it was determined that our physical address is Lausanne, Switzerland! Interesting …Mercy Ships does have a National office in Lausanne, Switzerland staffed with a wonderful staff. We’re not physically there, but the credit union is happy with this address. Maybe someday, we’ll be able to visit our new physical address! However, we don’t think that the ship will be able to sail there! (The picture below was a picture of Lausanne that we found on the Internet--- It looks beautiful and there is a big lake!)
Now for a little more news…Denise has been working with a local organization here in Cotonou, Benin mentoring two young men and a woman (social worker) in the use of computers and associated software. This organization is a local ministry to protect and care for abandoned babies and promote the family. A traditional practice is that the babies, are left by the side of the road (the mothers may have died in childbirth or the family is unable to care for them) and the police bring them to this facility where they are cared for. In addition to teaching these young men about computers and the different software, Denise is able to hold and love on these precious babies and bring some other crew members that can spend the afternoon with the babies. Her mentoring efforts also benefit the ministry by allowing them to take their skills and teach computer classes to children of the community on Saturdays. One of the recent applications for their learning was to build a spreadsheet to account for the loans they are giving to women in the community for starting up a small business so the women have an income to raise their families. Denise goes there every Tuesday afternoon. The website for the Foundation is www.frabenin.org (this site is in french). The following picture is from the website where there is an article about the donation of the 5 used computers from the ship. Denise was able to present them to the President of the Foundation. It is an honor to be able to represent Mercy Ships and partner with this Foundation.
As we enter the third month of this field service, Rob continues to work with the engineering department sourcing the required parts and supplies to help maintain all of the ships systems. Rob works with the combined efforts of crew in our International Offices such as Mercy Ships Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom with direction and coordination from our International Operations Center. This past month, we’ve made several trips out of Cotonou to other cities mainly at the request of an invitation from our friend James. One such outing was to visit his family which is a three hour ride away. So we had a beautiful ride through the country and at one point going through a large forest we were surprised to see. There were gates and guards at both the entrance and exit of the forest, otherwise James indicated the local people would cut the forest down for building and making charcoal. James’ family was very glad to see him and they are very gracious hosts. James’ father has been a cook for many years and prepared a wonderful meal. We all sat eating family style in their living room. James’ father raises goats to sell in the market; they are penned in a small area adjacent to the house. At one point after bleating to be fed without success, a goat managed to get past the gate and worked his way into the house scurrying around as the children and father attempted to catch him. So the living room, kitchen and hallways became very excited and interesting places for a few minutes as everyone was trying to corner or catch and direct the hungry goat back outside. Jame's father was able to chase the goat back outside and then he went to go feed them.
With the three hour return trip we could only stay two hours as we had the vehicle checked out for a total of eight hours. Many times on the road we would see small Peugeot trucks very overloaded struggling under there loads. James indicated that many of these trucks were 30 years old or older. He says with a smile in Africa, we just keep them running. We had a wonderful time and enjoyed the visit and the ride very much. It was the second time that we really were able to get out of the city and drive through some of the country since we arrived in February.
A couple weekends ago, we were invited to go to church with James in Porto Novo. A friend of his, Pastor Prince, is the pastor. We were able to take six of our fellow crew members along and enjoy a wonderful service and meal together. The service was in English with interpretation in French. Pastor Prince can speak French, but is from Nigeria and his first language is English. He doesn’t feel he speaks French quite well enough yet to preach in French.
The pictures above are of our group from the various nations of Ine - the Netherlands, Sarah - England, Beth - South Africa, Betina - Romania, Melanie - New Zealand and Barbara - the US. The ladies were from the church and cooked and served the meal. The tallest man is the pastor's brother, Joesph and the Pastor is standing next to Denise. James is in the front row. The other picture is our friend, James; Pastor Prince and Denise.
It was interesting that the group of us was from all different nations and that the Pastor's theme for May was "Taking the Gospel to the nations." God used us to bring the nations to his church! We had a very good time and a lovely meal! The next weekend, the Pastor, his finace and his brother came to visit us on the ship and attend worship at the Sunday Night Service onboard. We gave them a tour of the ship and enjoyed the time with them.
Health Care Development Supplemental Programs has broken ground and begun building at Bethesda a dormitory for the Agriculture Class. It is to be used by participants of the Agriculture Class. The students will be coming from all over the country of Benin to attend the class for 3 months. Rob is looking forward to be able to help with this project in the future.
We know that sometimes, where we are and what we are doing can be confusing along with how to actually communicate with us. If we call, is it an international call? Nope…it's a US call, through Miami. So, we thought maybe we’d give you a little update on how to contact us here in Benin… Our personal email addresses are as follows:
Denise 's email : email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob's email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Blog site is http://mercywatch.blogspot.com
Our Website is www.mercywatch.com
Our phone number is 954.538.6110 (W) 1215 Rob, 1632 Denise, (H) 4423 our cabin.
This is a Florida, USA number so if you are calling within the United States it is not international.
Our snail mail address is:
Rob and Denise Miller
PO Box 2020 Africa Mercy
Lindale, Texas 75771
We realize at times it is easy to read our newsletters as news and nice information to know but they don’t necessarily spark a desire for you to respond by email, letters, or phone calls. So we are asking that you would respond to us and let us know if you enjoy receiving these updates and how things are going with you! If they have become bothersome to you, and you would like to discontinue receiving them, you may unsubscribe at any time by clicking on the “Unsubscribe” link. We love to hear from you and realize that you have busy lives! We so appreciate your prayers and support!
May God bless you abundantly!
Denise and Rob
currently in Cotonou, Benin (REALLY)