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Sunday, September 18, 2011

R & R – Happy to be Back in Sierra Leone and…..some News…..

Mercy Watch           September 2011
R & R - Happy to be Back in Sierra Leone and some News .....


Hello Family and Friends,

The Africa Mercy and Freetown

As we ended our last Newsletter, we let you know we were going to take a vacation during June and July. We returned to Freetown, Sierra Leone on the 21st of July. We really enjoyed our time and are thankful for being able to reconnect with many of you. The picture above is of the Africa Mercy docked in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  We took this picture from the ferry coming from the airport.

We thought when we began rescheduling our vacation time from the Christmas season to the summertime it was to allow more time for family and friends over the summer vacation period allowing for more opportunities for short breaks together. This change took us about two years to make with the Field Service schedule and our responsibilities. All along we felt this was a good change to make. We purchased our tickets several months ahead, after processing our vacation request with our respective departments.

Jason and Kendall

As our vacation time grew near and all of the details began coming together we received a surprise from our oldest son. About two weeks out from our travel date, we received a phone call from him advising us that he was to be scheduled for back surgery soon after our planned arrival in the USA. We were surprised to receive this news and humbled when we realized God all along had directed our plans so we could be home when our son had surgery. We later became aware that he had been going through, physical therapy, core strengthening exercises, chiropractor appointments, pain therapy for about eighteen months. Even when we think we are doing all of the planning, if we are following God’s will for us He will direct our paths.  Jason had back surgery and is now doing well.  (The picture above was about 1 week after Jason's surgery - on July 4th) 

Jeff, our son, the guide and driver

Jeff has a job in St. Augustine driving the Old Town Trolly.  The picture above is of Jeff driving, Kendall and Rob enjoying the tour!

Six weeks seems like a long time to vacation…but when you factor in travel time from Africa to the United States along with family and friends located hundreds of miles apart across several different states; it becomes a challenge to see everyone. We didn’t get to see all of you and yes, we spent the majority of our time in St. Augustine, Florida with our two sons and their families offering what little support we could during and after Jason’s surgery. We are blessed to have family and friends that desire to visit with us and spend time with us.

Rob at the Helm

We also were able to take a short break in the Netherlands with our friends Jan and Elizabeth and their darling daughter, Bella. Rob went into work with Jan, who is a Captain of the inland waterways. Jan was working on a refueling ship and now he is at school in England taking courses to become a Chief Officer on unlimited ships, such as the Africa Mercy! The picture above is of Rob at the helm in Rotterdam harbor!  And the picture below is of Jan, Elizabeth and Bella on the train to Amsterdam!  We had a grand time and enjoyed the Netherlands very much! Such a beautiful country!

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Since our return we’ve made Saturday our day to join together in one of the Mercy Ministry opportunities available. We are personally involved with the Fatima Children’s Home, Ladies Prison and Yams Farm Wharf. Denise coordinates the Mercy Ministries program, and has Team Leaders for each site. We enjoy going together on Saturday to these different sites as volunteers. We sing songs and tell a bible story and include a skit or activity to reinforce the story we’ve just shared. During a recent Saturday, we went to the Fatima Children’s home and shared the Creation story from Genesis. Afterwards we used Play-Dough to reinforce the story and the point that God gave us dominion over the earth and the ability to create. So we made all sorts of animals and some cookware out of the dough.

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Yesterday, we traveled to Yam’s Farm Wharf, a fishing village about 40 minutes drive from the ship. This is a nice drive through the countryside after you leave the municipality of Freetown and all the traffic. The picture above is of the bridge out of Freetown.  We have fun with the community, parents and children. We all join in and just have a great time singing in the church and then going out to the football field to play games, of Frisbee, soccer, catch with beach balls, jump rope and bean bag throwing. It is such a joy to spend time with the children and people from the village.

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This is a picture of Rob playing a running game with the children of Yam's Farm Wharf.  You can watch the video by going to:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/mercywatch/6158154336/in/photostream

We have some exciting news to share with you… we believe that God has revealed our next season of service to us. After nine years with Mercy Ships, we will be going to Rockville, Maryland (near Washington DC, our nation’s capital) to help Denise’s Dad. Dad has asked us to come and stay with him, so we will be making that move at the end of November. We have always prayed that God would reveal our next season clearly to us, just as He did when He directed us to join Mercy Ships. We thank the Lord that these next steps are just as clear to us as they were in 2002!  

What does this mean for you our prayer warriors and financial supporters? Loads of prayer as we make all the decisions during this transition! For financial support, Mercy Ships has just given us a new way to manage donations! Please follow this link to make tax-free donations to us.
http://mercyships-us.donorpages.com/crewmates/millerr/   We will continue to receive donations until December 2011. Please consider continuing to support Mercy Ships or a Mercy Ships crew member. You may contact us to recommend a crew member that needs support or to learn how to continue to give to Mercy Ships. We intend to continue to be active with Mercy Ships while in the DC area and help in any way we can.

We continue to enjoy our time here serving in Sierra Leone and look forward to what the Lord continues to do here! We would like to close our newsletter with a story about a young man who came to Mercy Ships for physical healing of his twisted legs. Fanie was always a joy to see and he returned home up country to his mountain village in August! The following story and pictures are provided by our marketing department.

Fanie Kamara
Fanie’s contagious smile mesmerizes those around him. At age twelve, his charisma captivates everyone he meets. He relies heavily on this powerful attribute to distract people from reacting to the extreme curvature in his deformed shins.

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Fanie’s mother remembers her despair when her son was born. Everyone mocked her crippled baby, but she was determined to give this child – the youngest of her nine children – all her love. After suffering the loss of two children, she was determined that this baby deserved the best life she could provide.

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By the time Fanie was twelve years old, he had rarely stood up. When he occasionally tried to take some steps, his bent legs stumbled hopelessly, leaving him clinging to his shepherd’s staff.

Teasing rained down on him, and he fervently wished he had a father to defend him. But he never knew his father, who died in the country’s civil war before his youngest child was born.

Despite these sad realities, Fanie had an amazing ability to turn difficulties into entertainment. He was popular at school because there was always laughter ringing in the air around him. He had earned the reputation of being the class comedian.

Life at home was very different. Although he sometimes played cards with his brother, he spent much time alone. His future in a farming town was questionable. “They have no work if not walking,” his elder brother, Lamin, succinctly explained.

However, his mother’s positive attitude kept hope alive for Fanie. “Jesus has helped me. For this reason I believe in God. People laughed at us, but Jesus has freed me, so I have a strong faith and love God. I believe God will heal Fanie,” she declared.

Then, suddenly Fanie’s life changed. Lamin heard that Mercy Ships was arriving. And when Fanie was accepted for surgery, his mother was not afraid. She recalls,” I was happy and praising God.”

2011 Ortho Fannie SierraLeone



From the first moment after his arrival on the hospital ship, Fanie was talking and cracking jokes with the Mercy Ships crew.

He was not afraid because he prayed every day.  

Fanie underwent complex surgeries only a few days apart.

The surgeons broke and sculptured his shin bones to straighten them.

Then pins were inserted into his knees to keep his legs straight until he was fully grown.

When he awoke after surgery, his legs were covered in long heavy casts up to his thighs.  

He responded in a way only Fanie could.

With his broad, radiant, smile he proceeded to play games, prompting giggles and laughs from the other patients.

After a month of wearing long casts, he was moved to the HOPE Center, where patients stay while completing their post-operative treatment. 

2011 Ortho Fannie SierraLeone

Here, his favorite past-times were making houses out of Lego blocks and playing memory card games. He worked hard at the physiotherapy exercises, circling his foot to draw the alphabet in the air. After a month of wearing long casts, he was moved to the HOPE Center, where patients stay while completing their post-operative treatment.   Now, he enjoyed the freedom of mobility by using crutches. He expressed his delight in his flamboyant African dancing during gospel singing in the garden. 

2011 Ortho Fannie SierraLeone

Within a few more weeks, it was time for an x-ray analysis. Fanie’s right shin had changed from a deep curvature to a ruler-straight bone. The pinned-together bones in his left leg were healing well but still needed a cast to maintain the position.

2011 Ortho Fannie SierraLeone



On one of his weekly trips to physiotherapy, team members checked his foot’s ability to move.

Then flat disk weights were provided so Fanie could stand up straight on his right foot.

He was curious about the purposes of the exercises, and he was delighted when he discovered that Mercy Ships was preparing to make a raised sole on donated shoes so he would finally be able to walk.

His excited mother laughed joyfully and hugged the physiotherapy team.

“I have a deep feeling in my heart. I’m so happy. I look forward to going home to do some farming to pay for Fanie’s school fees,” she said with a smile.

Finally, after four months with Mercy Ships, Fanie stood on the dock amid a crowd of well-wishers who sent him off with waves and cheers for his bright new life.

He returned home to his charming, sleepy, mountain town. The thrill of anticipation to see Fanie’s new legs had rippled through the community. Upon arrival, the streets were filled with joyous laughter.


2011 Ortho Fannie SierraLeone



Fanie soon settled into a happy new life.

Lamin revealed, “He is very different now. Before, he was unhappy because his mother had to carry him everywhere, even to school. Now he is very active and walking. Fanie has a good future.”

And Fanie smiled and proudly announced, “I walk round the town every day to visit my friends. Now I can walk to school and finish my education to be a doctor.”

Story by Claire Ross
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell, Liz Cantu and Tom Bradley





Thank you for your continued prayers, letters, emails and support. We are humbled by your faithfulness.  Thank you for being a part of the hope and healing here in Sierra Leone!

God's blessings,
Rob and Denise
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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Mosquito Nets

Malaria is something we don't often think about in the developed world, however, here in West Africa (we're in Sierra Leone this year) malaria is as frequent as a common cold. You don't ask someone feeling bad if they have a cold, you ask do they have malaria! I'm looking forward to giving mosquito nets to some of the partner organizations that we serve alongside! It's rainy season here and the need is great as the mosquitoes spread malaria to our day workers (local volunteers with Mercy Ships), their family members, and even to our crew.


One of our partners is Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's order) and they hold a medical clinic twice a week. Many children under 5 and their caregivers (usually their mother) are admitted to the mission for malaria. The sisters ensure the medicine is given properly and IVs are used, if necessary. Sister Josianne is a trained nurse and she holds the clinic. A local doctor comes to the mission once a week (more if needed) to check on the patients. They care mainly for malaria, TB and HIV patients. We visit the patients there on Wednesday mornings and sing, play games, do simple crafts and sit to talk with them.


Recently, an article was written about a donation from a church in England given to Mercy Ships for delivering mosquito nets to the people we serve here in Freetown, Sierra Leone:

In West Africa, over 3,000 children die of malaria every day; 1 out of every 5 childhood deaths is due to malaria.2 Malaria kills a child every 30 seconds in West Africa. 2 The disease can cause anemia and jaundice and, if not promptly treated, can cause coma, kidney failure, or death.


To make matters worse, the West African rainy season that begins in June will cause flooding that will aggravate the problem, since standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry the disease according to Robert Agyarko, UN Childrens Fund Specialist on Malaria for West Africa. In Freetown, Sierra Leone, it is estimated that between 60% and 70% of mosquitoes are malaria carriers.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that malaria can be controlled, and even prevented, using anti-malarial drugs, insect repellent, or mosquito nets in sleeping areas. UN Special Envoy for Malaria, Ray Chambers, reports, Mosquito nets are still the most effective tool for preventing malaria in West Africa.

Mosquito nets are infused with Permethrin, a long-lasting insecticide that acts as a barrier to prevent mosquitoes from penetrating the nets. It drives away the mosquitoes and kills the ones that land. Unfortunately, only 40% of households in Sierra Leone have an insecticide-treated mosquito net (ITN). 2

Deck Hand Steve Sesay receives the shipment of mosquito nets onboard the Africa Mercy in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

St. Marys Church in Olveston, Bristol, United Kingdom, is taking a stand against this deadly killer. They have donated 5,000 to Mercy Ships for the distribution of mosquito nets at the HOPE Center in Freetown. This land-based facility houses patients who are awaiting surgery and those recovering from surgery onboard the hospital ship, the Africa Mercy.



Day-workers Patricia Kamara and Fatmata Parker install mosquito nets at the HOPE Center.















When the patients are discharged from the HOPE Center, they will each be given a mosquito net and told how to use it properly.

They will also receive additional information on how to prevent malaria. This promising strategy will make a difference in fighting this deadly disease.

1 WHO 2003 Africa Malaria Report
2 WHO 2010 Africa Malaria Report


Patients are enthusiastic about showing off the new mosquito nets at the HOPE Center.

Story by Elaine B. Winn
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell