Please have a look at our photo site by clicking on any picture below:

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

May 2009 Video Report

In out latest webisode, our host, Dr. Andy Rosson, continues to explore the unique world of Mercy Ships. He reports on a recent visit by the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to Texas in support of Mercy Ships; a collaboration between Mercy Ships and the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses to help staff our operating rooms and ends by explaining to us how and why Mercy Ships sends container loads of supplies to the Africa Mercy.

You can access it at the following URL:
http://alumni.mercyships.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=322&Itemid=9

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Where are we really?

Hello Friends,

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.

Where we are in West Africa - Benin!map_of_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.

The Fishing Fleet

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.

Africa Mercy in the Port of Cotonou

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.

Denise and Rob in front of the Africa Mercy

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!)

Lausanne - Switzerland

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.

Mercy Ships makes a donation of  5 used computers to FRA

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.

DSC04435

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.

DSC04480

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.

Pastor Gabriel, Joseph, James and ladies at the Pastor's homeIMG_2754

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.

Bethesda Agricultural Dormitory

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 : mercywatch@gmail.com or denise.miller@mercyships.org

Rob's email: mercywatch2@gmail.com or rob.miller@mercyships.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

213

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!

God's blessings,

Denise and Rob

currently in Cotonou, Benin (REALLY)



Friday, May 29, 2009

Article about Lauren Fadely at Boston College

The Boston College Chronicle - Boston College

Another article - Lauren "Elle" Fadely Congratulations, Lauren!


A lot of people ask about the kids on the ship and have questions about their education. This article is about Lauren, who was raised on the Caribbean Mercy. We knew her as a High School student while we were onboard. Her family had been on the ship for 9 years at that time. She was accepted to Boston College and has now graduated from there. She was awarded Boston College’s top Commencement honor as the winner of this year’s Edward H. Finnegan, SJ, Memorial Award, which recognizes the senior who best exemplifies the University’s motto “Ever to Excel.”

The article tells about what she has done at Boston College and how her experiences onboard the ship influence who she is. Please click on the title or The Boston College Chronicle link above to read the article. Another article a little more personal was also written about Lauren and given in a comment from Boston College's Public Relations Office. Thank you, Kathleen for permission to link to it!

Shared via AddThis

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Video about the Dental Team

Click on the above title to see a short video about our Dental Team working off the ship.

The Mercy Ships Dental Team works five days a week at a new medical complex owned, but unused, by the Ministry of Health. The clinic performs teeth cleaning and extraction, fillings, and replacements, while also providing dental education. The dental team sees 60 people a day and distributes toothbrushes and toothpaste to patients.

Eleven day-volunteers help with translating, discipling, and mechanical work. Three of them are local dental assistants being trained by the Mercy Ships team. The dental team has a goal of treating 11,500 individuals and providing basic oral health education to almost 14,000 people during the 10-month field service.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sunday Morning

Good morning from Benin! A relaxing day with no particular plans, except Church on board tonight at 7:00.

Rob woke up and while taking his shower...he discovered...no vacuum system! Here on the ship the sewage and all the drains go through the vacuum system...so when it is not working the water doesn't drain. He got out of the shower and found that not only was the shower not draining...the water was coming up through the bathroom floor drain. So soon there was an inch of water all over the bathroom floor!

After a couple hours the system was again working - thanks to our wonderful engineering crew! Rob is now down cleaning the bathroom!

He set me up in the dining room (those of you who have been here...in our usual place) with my computer to catch up on blogging, writing, answering, reading and surfing!

Bye for now!