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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry CHRISTmas!

Merry Christmas!
Originally uploaded by MercyWatch.
We hope your Christmas is full of peace, joy and love! May God bless you abundantly as you celebrate His incarnate coming to earth in the form of a baby born in the town of David, Bethlehem!

Friday, November 26, 2010

New Logo on the Ship’s Funnel goes up!

funnel logo


A larger version of the Mercy Ships logo is added to the funnel of the Africa Mercy - one of the many additional projects underway in the Durban shipyard in South Africa.

Looking good!

(Photo: Chuck Dodgen)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We thank God for you and all our blessings!

Happy Thanksgiving to all our Friends and Family!
Where does the time go? It seems we just completed the October Newsletter and it is already near the end of November and so much to tell you! We pray this Newsletter finds you all in good health and good spirits! And looking forward to Thanksgiving and Advent!
We will have a Thanksgiving feast as the Stewards department is planning a lovely dinner for us all as we celebrate and International Thanksgiving!  We wish all of you a wonderful day and however you celebrate it or when ever you celebrate giving thanks to the blesses HIM!
One of the new Carrier Air Conditioning units

We give thanks that much progress has been made on the Africa Mercy as she has been in dry-dock near us in Durban. This is one of the new Carrier air conditioning units! These have been put on the ship and are in process of being installed. The ship has now moved out of dry dock and is in the water alongside the dock in the shipyard as work continues.
One of the Frichs generators coming out!
The two Harbour generators have been removed, the four Frichs auxiliary generators have been removed, and the two Sabroe air conditioning units have been removed along with all associated ancillary equipment. These generators are 30 years old and the new replacements will save fuel as well as being more reliable and provide a quieter environment for the hospital, allowing us to fully utilize all 6 operating rooms and all 4 wards.  This is a picture of one of the generators coming out of the ship!
 The four new MAN generators are now onboard and are in process of being connected onboard along with the two new Carrier air conditioning units.
One of the new MAN generators
The two access holes cut in the side of the ship have been welded back, the ship floated again and moved from dry-dock. There is much work to reconnect all the wiring and run the new wiring and install the control units in the engine room and on the bridge. There is also pipefitting work to do in the connection of the cooling and fueling systems for the generators and A/C units.
Much work is taking place all over the ship as different systems are upgraded and annual inspections are performed. The web address on the side of the ship has been repainted and is much larger. We can now easily find our cabin window as it is over the "g" on the starboard side.

This picture gives you an idea of the size of our ship! You don't often see the underside below the surface. We thank the various crew members and Mercy Ships for sharing their pictures of the ship as the work progresses. We are able to work at the ship for a day once a week and usually go there on Thursdays to do our work. It takes us an hour and a half each way riding on the shuttle bus to the ship and back. Rob is preparing the food storerooms for shelving to be installed and I am taking inventory of the staff development library.
Please continue to pray for the safety of the crew and shipyard workers as they labour to complete these many projects. You can read and see much more pictures about this on the Mercy Ships page, "Power the Vision".
We are thankful for a short break we were able to take over the weekend a few weeks back and went on a overnight trip with a few of our fellow crew members. It was an amazing time! The tour company picked us up from Appelsbosch and we began our three hour ride northeast up along the coast.

The Dumazulu Village
Our first stop was a recreated Zulu village where we observed and were guided through the many aspects of daily life in a traditional Zulu village. This was much like visiting an American Indian Reservation where the people dress and act as they would have during the 1800s or some other time period. Since we are actually living just outside a current day Zulu village, it is much different how they live now. They actually have a lot of the same issues as current day American Indians (such as drinking, etc.) living on reservations. 

Rob, hand fighting spear and shield
We saw the makings of the two different types of spears they use along with the shields. We entered one of the huts and our guide explained the arrangement of the sleeping quarters, cooking area and various utensils found within the hut as well as the construction of the hut. We also observed the making of baskets and pots by the women of the village. It was interesting to learn about their dress and how it told of the marital status of the woman.

This was followed by observing some traditional dancing by the villagers.

The dancing was followed by a wonderful lunch freshly cooked just outside of the village. We've tried to explain in detail about all we learned at the village in the photo album or slideshow, "Dumazulu Village". If you watch the slideshow, be sure to turn on the details in the right hand corner to read the commentary.

After lunch we went over to the Hluhluwe (pronounced shoe -shoe -we) Game Reserve. We boarded our 4X4 open vehicle for a 3 hour Safari ride through the Reserve. We had a very knowledgeable guide who took his time to explain the wildlife to us.

Our guide explained things like why were the stripes of the zebra a different colour than the usual black and white? Why did they appear to be browner? It was because of the drought and lack of access to the normal vegetation that makes up their diet.

We were able to see, zebras, Cape buffalo, white rhinos, giraffes, elephants, wart hogs, impalas, and nyala (The Nyala is a Southern African antelope). We even had a stand off with a Cape buffalo with our 4X4...he wouldn't let us past. We waited there until another vehicle came the other way and were able to coax the buffalo off the road and up the hill.  Amazing!   I can't get the video to I'll keep trying and send out a link when it goes out there...

DSC00039 A giraffe came right down the road towards us and we saw many elephants and a giraffe that came face to face with a bull elephant and took off the other way! We watched as the giraffe let the elephants pass and then quickly made a run for it in the direction he wanted to go! It is truly amazing to see the animals in the natural habitat! God is amazing! 
After riding and seeing all of these wonderful animals we headed to our lodging for the night at Hluhluwe game reserve where we were greeted by a very friendly meerkat. This meerkat was so funny!  It acted like a cat and followed everyone to their room and even got into a couple of rooms.  In one room was a family with 2 little girls and two beds.  The meerkat got up on the bed and the girls were in the other bed.  Well the meerkat wanted to get on the bed with the girls and kept trying to jump over and the mom blocked it, so they had to finally coax him carefully out the door!  When it wanted to come into your room, it would scratch on the door!  Here's a short video I took of the meerkat outside!
In the morning, we woke up early as the sun come up just after 5 am.  I had to look outside to see if there were any animals around.  Sure enough...two impalas across from our room and then I looked towards the trees and a couple of warthogs were about 100 feet from me.  I didn't dare go out but wanted their picture. 
Our lodge room and the giraffes!

So I cracked the door...thinking I could close it quick if they started to run towards me.  Well... they finally (probably 5 minutes) ran off and then I looked around the corner of the building and 6 giraffes were there eating the tops of the trees!  Here's a short video of the giraffe's having breakfast taken from the wall outside of our room!  Giraffes

We are thankful that we are so privileged to serve with Mercy Ships.  Rob is settling in more to his new role in the Stewards department and Denise is enjoying being back at her role in Staff Development. Each day we are thankful for the opportunity to serve with the talents God has given us. Our opportunities to serve the people here in South Africa are limited as we are not on a regular field service.  We are busy planning for the Sierra Leone field service next year and doing those things that you just can't seem to do when field service is in full gear! 
This is the first time we have had some official ministries going on while the ship is in shipyard! It is a blessing to serve the people here in South Africa!   The Mental Health team just finished up teaching in several different locations around Kwa Zulu Natal to the church leaders.  The Dental Team has had some exciting times serving here, including a day when sunny weather turned into some real hail!  The Eye Team has also just finished up it’s service in several location of the Eastern Cape area. 


We are thankful that we had an opportunity to serve the village just outside the gate of Appelsbosch.  Rob and I were able to help with painting a parsonage for the Lutheran church in the village.  It was an interesting time for all as we really didn’t have the proper equipment to paint the outside of this house!  I used a machete as a scraper.  The paint was peeling off the house, so I asked did we have any scrapers….and this young man from the local church handed me his machete!  You can see some more pictures by going here…. Painting  Check out the scary ladder!  Oh my! 

We’re sure you must have finished your coffee or tea by now and so we’ll continue in the next newsletter.  We want you to know how thankful we are that you continue to support us here by your prayers, encouragement and financial support.  Thank you so much!  You are a part of what God is doing here in Africa!  We couldn’t be here without you!  We are blessed because of you and we pray that the blessings of God will pour out to you!  May you be abundantly blessed as you thank God for all that He is doing through you! 

God’s blessings,
Denise and Rob

Monday, November 22, 2010

Painting the parsonage for a new pastor in Appelsbosch

Rob and Denise


Rob is looking on as Denise cleans the scraper (machete).  One of the local guys let me borrow a scraper….little did I know it would be a machete!  I should have known! 




Preparing for the paint


Denise is brushing off the dust after the sanding to prepare for the paint to come!








We really had a GREAT time preparing the parsonage for the new pastor to come.  He is supposed to arrive in February, so this is an ongoing project.  The Mercy Ship kids have begun to help weekly as a service project! 





Leah was able to stand on the ledge of the window to paint the upper part of the window.  We didn’t have the proper accessories for painting…such as a ladder! 

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Greetings from Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa!

    10 October 2010

Greetings from Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa!

The flags above were flying from the mast as we were coming into the port in Durban,  South Africa.  The yellow flag is to invite the customs officials to come onboard for inspection and clearance for the ship and crew.  The other flag is the Republic of South Africa country flag!  We always fly the flag of the nation we are entering into.  Photo credit: Dag Tvedt

Arrival in Durban, South Africa!
On 01Sept2010, we arrived in the port of Durban, South Africa.  The Harbor Pilot arrived by helicopter!  This was the first time on the Africa Mercy that the pilot arrived from the sky instead of from a Pilot boat pulled alongside!  The harbor in Durban does this all the time!  

We had to have special drills to practice for a helicopter arrival and painted a big yellow dot on the aft of Deck 8 as the arrival zone!  All of the deck had to be cleared of anything that might be blown away as the force of the wind from the helicopter blades was very strong!  

The fire teams were on alert and ready in case of an accident and the crew was cleared from the aft of the ship just as a precaution.  The arrival was very smooth and we had no problems. 

You can watch a video (thank you, Pete for taking the video) of the delivery of the pilot by clicking here:
         Pilot Arrival Video 
(Any one on the Africa Mercy can not see this Video - please ask Denise or Pete Johnson to see the video).

Before we sailed into the harbor, the deck crew on the bow of the ship, stopped their work to pray for our safe arrival and for the country of South Africa that we were entering! 

The crew stood alongside the railings as we sailed into the beautiful Durban harbor.  We were all excited to be coming into South Africa and to see the sites of Durban from the ship as we sailed in!

If you look closely, you can see Rob standing along the rail on Deck 7.  We had been watching the coastline along the horizon for several days as we sailed up the coast.  

After 17 days of sailing from Togo, we were ready to be on land again!  We did see many  dolphins, whales and flying fish along the way!  We had a wonderful sail and are now no longer slimy pollywogs, but trusty shellbacks!  

27 hours later.......  Appelsbosch!
As soon as we docked and were cleared by customs and immigration, we had literally piles of work to do!  Our friend, Penny, came to welcome us to South Africa and see the ship sail in.  She even helped with all the work of moving boxes and equipment from the offices and Academy (school onboard) to the mid-ships pre-staging area on Deck 5.  The Academy had over 200 boxes alone! All of the offices and the Academy had to be relocated ashore while the ship is in shipyard and drydock. After dinner, we had a briefing from the Advance Team and the Project Director for the Generator Project.  

The next morning, after breakfast, all the crew that was moving off-site, approximately 150 crew, brought their belongings up to the mid-ships area.  When the trucks arrived about 9 am, we moved all the bags, boxes and various items down the gangway onto the trucks!  Then lunch and at 1 pm onto the 2 buses and 10 Land Rovers for the 2 hour journey to our new temporary home (for 4 months), Appelsbosch!  

Yes, that is our convoy of Mercy Ships Land Rovers and yes, in South Africa we drive on the left-hand side of the road! We had to navigate through the city of Durban...the 3rd largest city in South Africa!  We must have been quite a site!  We hardly had a chance to realize that we weren't sailing any longer and we were going to live on land!  There was an excitement as we noticed familiar shops and sites (such as McDonald's) and also adjusted to driving at a faster pace then just 30 km. about the fastest that we drive in West Africa.

The ride to Appelsbosch was we were all quite exhausted from moving all the bags, boxes and various items and knew that when we arrived...we needed to unload all of them into the gym!  And then finally into our dorm rooms!   So we were glad for the 2 hour ride and rest!  We arrived at Appelsbosch about 3 pm and began unloading.  We formed two lines of people from the trucks up the hill and stairs into the gym and passed the items through.  One line was for lighter items and one line was for the heavier items.  The unloading went quickly this way and became fun...the heavy line even passed a couple children up the line as they waited for items.  The giggles of the children were an encouragement to us all!  

The picture to the right is of the hill and stairs up to the gym building at the top! After we unloaded our stuff....and many jokes about why we had so much stuff, we had dinner about 6 pm! 
Everyone was so happy to gather their bags to take to their cabins.  Oh yeah...we decided to call our rooms, we don't have to change one more thing when we move back on the ship in January! 

The campus here is beautiful and the kids are loving having all the room to run, climb and play! The picture to the left is a view from the gym up to the Dining Hall and our dorm is just beyond there up the hill (the far building with 4 stories).  The building on the right is C Building also a family dorm. Our cabin is on the second deck (second floor) of D Building.

 Anyway...back to the story.... after taking our bags to the cabin, we all had a very good night's sleep as we were totally exhausted! 

Where did Fall go.....It's Springtime in South Africa!
As most of our family and friends look forward to cooler weather and fall colors, we missed Fall this year and went straight into Spring!  Winter here is just ending and the trees are blossoming and budding out!  Pollen is on the rise and the beautiful flowers are coming out! This picture was taken by Denise as we came out of church a couple weekends ago.   

We were thinking the other day that it seems like Easter should be coming!  We won't be here for Easter, but how do you celebrate it going into Fall?  Just a thought we had!  Christmas won't be odd to us as in Florida we are used to warm weather for Christmas...even going to the beach.  There is a lovely beach just north of Durban.  Great waves all year round.  

The Ship is in Dry Dock!   

The Africa Mercy is in Dry Dock and please pray for the crew onboard and the Project Team.  The shipyard workers are working 24/7 to get the work done.  The generators are coming out now and the new ones will be going in soon!

There is so much to tell you about what has happened and our experiences here in South Africa so far.  We'll save some of it for the next newsletter! 
Thank you to all our family, friends and supporters for your faithful prayers, encouragement and financial support!   We couldn't be here without you!  May God bless you abundantly as you seek Him and may your life be everything that He has in His mind for you! 

God's blessings, 
Denise and Rob
For more pictures and information please visit our other sites on the internet:

It was sent from: Denise Miller, PO Box 2020 Africa Mercy, Lindale, TX 75771. You can modify/update your subscription via the link below.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Greetings from Rob and Denise as we sail to South Africa!

Mercy Watch


The crew of the Africa Mercy - 29July2010.  After the fire drill, the communications department had planned for all the crew to have a group picture taken!  This took a lot of planning as they needed to figure out how we could all be seen...the crew is about 400 people!  So they decided to use the Land Rovers.  So crew climbed up on the Land Rovers sat on the hoods and stood on the running boards.  Rob and I stood in front of the Land Rovers.  See if you can find us....hint:  Denise has on Orange and Rob has on Green. We were told to where our branded shirts!  It was great fun and only took about 15 minutes to get the picture!  

This has been a really busy month for us. We’ve had several adventures to tell you about. You might want to get a cup of coffee, tea or some other comfort drink to settle in. This may be a longer than usual Newsletter, so be forewarned.

A Trip to the Village of Gape Aloyi
During July, we had the pleasure to accompany Tim and Sharon Tretheway to the remote village of Gape-Aloyi, north and east of Lome, Togo - about a 2-3 hour drive from the ship.

Tim and Sharon became involved with this village through a friendship with the French Navy Attache in Lome, Togo. On this particular trip Tim and Sharon were taking donated medical supplies from the Africa Mercy to the village of Gape-Aloyi.
The story of a previous visit to the village can be read here.  We were not along for the first trip.  We were privileged to join on the second trip and drove a Land Rover full of medical supplies for the village.

The trip to the village took about three hours by vehicle from the ship. The first hour going along on the highway and paved roads. The second part of this trip began when we turned off of these developed roads onto the dirt roads through the bush for a couple more hours through the lush West African countryside.  The washboard roads and assorted water filled portions of the road made the ride slow. We were in the last vehicle in the four vehicle convoy and occasionally took the opportunity to stop for pictures. 

We were amazed by the size of some of the trees. These trees must have been there for centuries!  In this picture you can see the size of the trees compared to the SUV going by it! 

Upon arrival at the village of Gape Aloyi we were all greeted by the Chief with warm hand shakes and smiles. Getting directly down to business we were escorted to the community meeting place. Relationships are very important and time is given to introduce everyone for the guests to be properly welcomed by the Chief and other elders in the village. Many of the villagers only spoke and understood the local language, so translation was from English to French to the local language or the other way around depending on who was speaking!

The business at hand was to sign an agreement of understanding between the village, a building contractor and a French Foundation (represented by Tim's friend, Eric) for the building of a new school.

This process had been ongoing for two years with incremental steps along the way. With involvement and actions required from all parties. The village provided the land and the labor to clear the land for the new school site. Additionally the village had taken the step to hire a school teacher themselves to begin the process of teaching their children with the curriculum from the Togo school system.  The school where the children currently attended school was nearby to where the new school would be built. 

The first year there were eleven students eligible to take exams and eight passed the final exam. This second year there were again eleven students eligible to take exams and only four passed their exams the second year. This was an area of discussion and concern at the meeting.

The difficulty experienced is that the classes are taught in French which many of the villagers do not speak. Therefore, many of the parents can not help their children with their lessons. Secondly, there is the need for the children to work in the fields and continue many of the traditional responsibilities expected of them, other than doing school work.

The picture to the left is of one of the current school "rooms" and a student moving a desk that the French Navy had built for them previously.  There was much talk about how having a new school building wasn’t going to make the students learn any better. The parents needed to make sure the children attended classes and studied hard.  The village support of having a permanent school structure showed the commitment of the Chief and elders of the village for their children to be educated and equipped.

The Tretheway version of this trip can be read here.  After the contract was signed and everyone had discussed their concerns, we walked through the village to the area where the school is now.   The children of the village were very attentive as awards were given to the top 3 children academically in each class.  They were awarded a book or coloring book, some paper and pencils or crayons.  Eric and his wife had brought the awards and gave them to the students.  They also commended the teachers for their faithfulness in teaching the students for the past school year. 

As we watched the ceremony, the children watched us, too!  I snapped this picture of a little boy looking at Capt. Tim very intensely and Eric keeping an eye on him! 

There are over 200 children in the school and they were all dressed in their best clothes for the ceremony.  After the ceremony, we played with the children.  They loved interacting with us and we enjoyed playing with them, too! In the picture below, one of the little girls wanted to give me this plant and then all the others thought that was a great idea too!  Please click here to see a video of Rob playing with the children.

After the award ceremony and a time to play with the children, we were treated to lunch with the Chief and the elders of the community.  The Chief of the village has 4 wives and they fixed the meal of Fufu and Goat Soup. It was very good. 

The brother of the Chief also brought from his distillery, some Sodabe.  Sodabe (I'm not sure if this is spelled right, but pronounced soda - be) is a Palm wine.  Rob tasted it and it smelled like gasoline.  It is in the small blue glass in the picture.  It is a clear liquid and quite a common type of liquor in West Africa. When we left the village, the brother of the Chief gave each of us a bottle of Sodabe.  We all gave them to Eric as he was able to keep them and we couldn't bring them on the ship! 

After a filling lunch, we drove the Land Rover over to the clinic to unload the supplies that we brought. 

The men of the village unloaded all the medical supplies as the women celebrated and danced with joy!  After unloading the supplies, we had a tour of the medical clinic.  In the front of the building was a small waiting room and then another room was a ward with 6 beds for the patients.  There was a room that was a pharmacy and a small office or lab room for the nurse. 

There was one room of particular interest to us.  The delivery room for the women to give birth in.  The French Navy had just finished tiling the bare concrete and it was shiny and very clean!  

In this picture, you can see the platform (table?) that the women give birth on. 

We asked the nurse what would happen if the family could not afford the 1500 CFAs (about three US dollars) to come to the clinic to give birth. He said that he would still help her.  He was most excited that we had brought a baby scale for the clinic!

We had to say "Goodbye" to our new friends and head back to the city of Lome and to the ship!
It was an incredible day and one that we will never forget!

A visit to
the Logos Hope
in Ghana
Our next adventure was the opportunity to travel to Tema, Ghana to visit the crew of the Logos Hope, with Operation Mobilization. This was a very interesting and fun time. It was an opportunity to view how God is using the Logos Hope and its crew to impact the people of Africa and so many other countries through their ministry. Our Senior Management Team was invited to visit and see their ship and how their ministry was run.  We learned how our ships are very similar and our challenges are very similar even though our missions are very different and our styles of management are different. 

They "bring Knowledge, Help and Hope" through their floating bookstore and their crew brings evangelism to the communities they visit. They are typically in a port for 2-3 weeks and have thousands of people come through their ship each day!  The crew also goes out into the community and do projects once a week.

We traveled throught the city of Lome to the border of Ghana and then on to Tema. 
This is normally a 3 hour trip, however, there was an accident that blocked the road soon after we got through the border and we had to take a detour through cactus and heavy traffic!

It took us about 5 hours to get to the Logos Hope and the last part in the darkness.

We had a lovely dinner with their management team when we got to the ship and then toured the ship.  The next morning, Peter, our Chief Steward brought the devotion at their daily devotion meeting.  Peter presented their Director with a print of the mural representing our ministry that hangs in our International Operations Center. 

After the meeting, we continued our tour and learned much about how the crew lives on board. We learned that they have a 2 year program that most of the crew goes through and as they go through they rotate through the various departments.  Their crew is much younger than ours, more college age to 30.  Our crew is mainly mid twenties and over! 
Interestingly, the laundry is done for all the crew, rather than each doing their own loads as we do.  This causes it's own issues.  We have a lost sock line...they have procedures on what to do if your clothes are missing! 

The exchange of ideas between our two management teams was enlightening as we face many of the same challenges. It is encouraging to see God at work in both our ministries in many different and wonderful ways.

We particularly enjoyed browsing through the bookstore and purchasing many books at a great discount on a variety of subjects.

Denise had to make a couple extra trips to the book store, some for pleasure, and some for work. We were reminded of the many blessings we have as crew of the Africa Mercy and the length that our leaders have gone to provide us a comfortable, functional and safe environment in which to work and live.

Here are a few pictures of the record crowd of almost  8,000 people that visited the Logos Hope bookstore on the Saturday that we visited! 

Thank You Event for our Day Volunteers from Togo

Recently, we had to say goodbye to the many Day Volunteers that we‘ve worked side by side with during the Togo 2010 Field Service. This is always bitter-sweet for us.

We praise God for the opportunities we as a crew have had to impact so many lives. We thank God personally for the new friendships we’ve forged with the people of Togo.  Without the dedication of our Togolese Day Volunteers, we couldn't do all that God has in His mind for us to do.  They translated for us to help us communicate with our patients, helped cook with us, helped clean with us, helped us learn French, and helped us in Deck and Engineering!  We had over 200 Day Volunteers working alongside us in Togo!  Thank you soooo much!  Merci Beaucoup!
A visit from our friend, James, from Benin!

We were blessed greatly by our good friend James, who we met and served with in Cotonou, Benin last year. He blessed us by visiting twice from Cotonou…most recently on the last day that visitors could come Tuesday, August 8th.  We are blessed to be his friend and wish him every success in his studies at the University.  It was so good to see him again! 

The Africa Mercy continues on a southeasterly course of 8 kts.
Distance traveled: 1145 nautical miles
Distance to go: 2259 nautical miles
The weather is nice at the moment, about 20 C.
The AFM is rolling slight to moderate.
Based on weather forecasts, Captain Tretheway expects rougher conditions in the next few days. 

We are now sailing off the coast of Angola and bound for South Africa and whatever adventures await us there. Thank you for your continued prayers for our health and safety. They have been answered!  Thank you for your continued support, through your prayers, your encouragment, emails, letters, and phone calls. News from home and your efforts to keep us up to date on events is most welcome and blesses us tremendously!

May your life be truly blessed as you seek to be a Follower of Jesus!

God's blessings,
Rob and Denise

 It was sent from: Denise Miller, PO Box 2020 Africa Mercy, Lindale, TX 75771. You can modify/update your subscription via the link below.