"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29: 11

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Camping in Congo

This last weekend we headed off to camp at the beach north of Pointe-Noire. We had looked at a weekend away in Dolisie but there were just too many unknowns to try this with the kids. So we settled on an overnight camping trip at the beach with 3 other fab families - The Bullock's, The Cash's and The Chase's. Unfortunately Jack was a bit sick on Friday and so Tam stayed back onboard with him whilst I took Harry and Mark. We borrowed tents and much of our equipment from various sources onboard - one of the advantages of living in community!

Loaded up for one night's camping only - 4 families though.

And we are off!

We picked up 30 fresh baguettes - straight out of the oven - at a boulangerie on the way out. They were fantastic and five were eaten before we even arrived. 

Tent city, courtesy of the Academy.

Mark slept in a three man tent with Eli, Jacob and Matthew - it was squashy. Harry started off in the other three man tent with Caleb and Caroline but transferred in with me after a while.

Harry & Mark


Just after we arrived and set up, some fishermen turned up and start fishing off the beach. They would wade out almost 50 metres to cast then bring their rods back to the beach. They were working about 3 rods each. Anyway they provided great entertainment, landing two enormous fish. One of the fisherman who was from Reunion Island but holidaying in Congo told us it was a Capitaine.

Mick cooking up a storm - chicken kebabs with peppers, onions and tomatoes

We planned the meals earlier in the week and this was almost as much fun as eating them - actually it was evan better eating them. Gretchen and Mark did a great job shopping on Friday and then Nick and Gabe did a superb job preparing. Cooking was then easy.

Gabe - prepping the kebabs

Rachel - enjoying the fruits of our labour.

Mark - contented.

Chocolate brownies for dessert.

Hey Harry, Malachi and Kezia are climbing into your cup.


  Harry said his favourite thing was playing with a double pointed stick!


On Sunday morning three more Landrovers with more families and friends from the ship including Tam and Jack came out to join us for brunch, lunch, swimming and family church. Nick led us in worship, Gabe gave a great talk and the Koontz's brought amazing snacks. 

The surf was fantastic and I am sure Mark swam for at least 5 hours. Even the little bit of rain couldn't dampen our spirits and enjoyment.

Nick leading worship.

Family church, whilst eating fresh baguettes

Family church, enjoying God's creation all around us.

Finally we headed home at about 3 pm, exhausted but revitalised.

Camping in Congo. Never imagined I'd do this. Ticked off bucket list now.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Cabin Doors

There is a tradition of decorating cabin (and workplace) doors during December each year. Rather than cruising the streets checking out the lights we cruised the passageways and checked out the doors. Some real talent and creativity onboard - and some competitive streaks. Here are a selection:







My favourite was a series of drawings on one door.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

So far away

Today I went with a group of Mums ( or Moms) Onboard to the Grand Marche. I had planned to blog about it tonight. However, that is not what is on my heart. Rather, I'll blog about being far away. Because that is my struggle at present. You see one of the biggest challenges about being here is not being able to hop a plane at the drop of the hat and go to where you want to be. 
At present, my Mum is in the Intensive Care Unit in Royal Melbourne Hospital. She has had a perforation in her intestine and had surgery on Friday. She is going back for more surgery tomorrow.  And I can tell you right now - that I am wondering why I am half way around the world, in a country where I can't properly speak the language with Buckley's chance of being where I want to be - which is with my Dad, my brother and sister in law, being able to see where my Mum is at. My heart is in Australia but my body is in Congo. For me at present, I can think of nothing worse.
On the flip side though, my Dad, my brother, Marcus and his wife, Sue, are more useful than I could ever be. For starters, I would be badly jet lagged if I could get a flight and I may as well be in a foreign country as in a hospital. Whereas Sue is a theater sister (OR nurse) and I'm sure is doing an excellent job as "medical translator". Then they have a comfortable home with plenty of space for Dad to stay in as well as the support they are providing him. And I am certain that their children are giving Dad plenty of hugs and kisses as well.
I know that my Mum is not the first person to be ill at Christmas. And I'm not the first person who couldn't get to where they wanted to be during the holiday season.  All I am saying, is that it's hard to be away from home on a normal day. It's even harder to be away when you feel drawn to be somewhere else. What I'd like most for Christmas, are your prayers for healing for my Mum.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Becoming "known" onboard

Anyone else feeling really weary?  Normally at this time of year, we are in the countdown to our annual beach holiday at South West Rocks in northern New South Wales.  We call it our "bum holiday" because we do very little other than sleep, eat, swim and surf and catch up with family and friends.  It is really relaxing because we always aim to stay within walking distance of the beaches and our other favourite haunts.  And also because we know "The Rocks".  I have been going there since I was born. It is the first place Mick and I went on holiday together.  My parents have been going there since they were born.  And even my grandparents went there when they were kids!  I feel like I know the place so well, it is almost in my blood.

Main Beach, South West Rocks, Australia
I think one of the reasons that we are all so tired now, despite the fact that it is the end of a long year of change, is that we are still adjusting to our new life onboard the AFRICA MERCY - in essence we don't know it here yet like we do with The Rocks.  When you don't have that longer term connection with a place, it is exciting because you are always making new discoveries and learning more about it. However, it is also really tiring;-long term tiring and that is where we are at now.

Fortunately, tomorrow is the last day of school for Semester 1.  Exams are over and Academy play week is in full swing.  Children have been painting stage sets in the passageway outside our cabin for the last few days.  There has been much discussion around the table about "cow costumes", which toddler might be play baby Jesus without escaping and whose slide design is on the rolling screen.  This will all culminate in a performance that includes all children from Kindergarten to Grade 12 Thursday night at 7pm.  And all of it pulled together in only 4 days!  I can't even begin to imagine how tired our school teachers here must be..

For children who have been halfway around the world, adjusting to several different countries in the developed world and now here in the Congo, I wonder what they think about all the changes they have experienced this year. Then I listen to what they are discussing and it is not a lot different to what they were discussing 6-7 months ago in Australia - computer games, pokemon cards and Lego all feature heavily. Whom they are chatting with - friends from all over the world, and where they are talking - in a passageway on a hospital ship in Africa, is completely different from earlier this year.  What strikes me as I write this, is how quickly they have made the ship their new home.  They have made friends here, they love their school and they have become apart of what the ship does.  They even practise speaking French! So whilst I am feeling weary at this point of time from all the changes and new experiences that we have had this year, this ship is slowly becoming known to us and as this happens, we feel more and more at home.