"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

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Two women

Picture this: two women in their 40s sitting side by side, colouring in pictures with crayons in our hospital ward. 

One's mother tongue is Lingala; the other English; yet somehow they manage to communicate in basic french. With lots of laughing, gesticulating, miming and pointing. 

One has no children - they all died; and one has three boys. 

One is here to get assistance via surgery - the other is here to serve. 

But who is helping who? Who is supporting who? Who goes away feeling blessed?

A nurse friend encouraged me to befriend another patient recently. I went over the excuses in my head - too tired, too busy, too much going on, visiting hours clash. I know they are all a bit flimsy really. 

Especially when I see Annie's smile. 

Especially when we "marchez" down the passageway together.

Especially when I put my arm around her shoulders, and she puts hers around my waist and we walk in step like sisters.

Different countries, different backgrounds, different languages. Still a connection grows through time.

I wonder if Annie feels as blessed by our time together as I do?

Annie's surgery was on Wednesday - she is VVF patient Onboard. Her catheter comes out on Wednesday coming. Until then, we won't know if her surgery was successful or not. Please pray for this courageous woman; for healing and for strength. 
And please thank God for the blessing of her in my life.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Seven Month Update from Congo

Wow, where did the time go? It has been seven months since we joined the ship in Tenerife and almost nine months since we left Australia. We are all well settled and life just seems normal to us despite it appearing very different when viewed from Australia, UK, USA or Europe.

Internet Cafe?

LBS - Local Bike Shop

Wet season - the challenge is you dont know how deep it is.

Work wise, I believe I fixed the problems with my Sewage Treatment Plants and both have been working aerobically as they should for a month. Feeling pretty satisfied to have got to the bottom of the problems here. Still have some minor defects to fix but waiting on parts from our Holland office. I have been broadening my activities beyond sewerage, taking on the Oily Water Separator, the fresh water pumps and fire pumps as well as rebuilding four grey water mono pumps. I have also started to look critically at some of our planned maintenance - some items seem to have no periodic maintenance whilst others have too much. I have also started investigating some condition assessment tools such as a vibration meter and I found we have an unused infrared thermography camera already. We are down to four engineer officers now so am duty engineer every fourth day. Hoping and praying we maintain this at least - 1 in 3 or 1 in 2 would get pretty tiresome pretty fast.

Mick with Fourth Engineer, James, working in the Sewage Treatment Plant

I have started an Applied Heat distance learning course towards my Second Engineer's certificate. It is 20 years since I last looked at this but it is coming back. Mercy Ships have also announced that they have signed a contract for a new ship to be built in Tianjin, China where our good friends, Andy and Jen Devlin, live. The ship will be almost twice as big as the Africa Mercy (by volume) and is to be delivered in early 2017. Not sure at this stage whether we will be part of this but it is exciting.

The new Mercy Ship

I am not riding on the trainer so much but am riding on the road a lot more. Road is a loose term as about a kilometre of the road out of town resembles no mans land in trench warfare. I head out each Saturday and Sunday morning to a Boulangerie (bakery) and buy fresh baguettes - ten for 1000 CFA which is about US$2. They are still warm and delicious. I have also met and ridden with a few local Congolese guys. None of them have spoken English so we have made do with my French which is improving. I am up to level 3 in Rosetta Stone and getting more confident using it.

Showing my LACC club colours around Africa

Tam continues to hold the family routine together as well as working in Staff Development. She covered for her boss for a month and managed very well running Survival French course weekly, organising 2 day Equipping to Serve course, organising Mercy Ships Intranet training and various admin tasks. She will do her boss out of a job! No surprises here.

Tam with Kat and Sarah Kate on the way to Dolisie

Harry on Koulou River trip
The boys have continued to do well at school and enjoyed a two week break at Christmas. Not long enough really but the school year follows the rhythm of the ship and that means a long summer holiday - school will finish before we sail at the end of May and won't restart until the beginning of August when we depart Tenerife. Jack had his first Junior High exams before Christmas - 6 x 2 hour exams in a week - and did really well. We are so blessed to have such dedicated academy staff who worked with us in preparing him for these first big exams. Jack and Mark have also restarted clarinet and saxophone lessons with our neighbour, Ray Szarek, and are really enjoying it. Jack has also been running with Tammy and they have been doing 5 km in 34 minutes which is pretty awesome.

Jack got to visit FNS Dixmude, a French Amphibious Ship

Country next has finally been announced - we will be returning to Conakry in Guinea in August 2014 for a ten month outreach. If you caught The Surgery Ship on SBS in December this was where it was filmed. We are particularly excited because it is another French speaking country.  I understand that it is significantly poorer than here - although we realise that Pointe Noire is the economic hub of the Congo due the oil rigs nearby - and so living conditions here are not indicative of the rest of the country.

A beautiful little girl from Brazzaville selected for surgery

Mark loved the bunnies!
A few weeks ago, we were fortunate to be part of a group that travelled to the Food for Life (Agricultural Site) in Dolisie, the third biggest city in the country.  It is adjacent to a lowland forest area where there are gorillas.  Whilst we didn't see any gorillas, it was a thrill to see their habitat.  Mark was particularly excited about the trip as the Ag site had rabbits with young.  (We had explained to him that they are being bred for food - though it wasn't an issue as long as he was able to cuddle them!)

A film crew from Today Tonight (Channel 7 Australia) was recently aboard the ship.  The footage from their time onboard is due to be shown on the 6pm news hour on Channel 7 during the first week of March, 2014 and in Adelaide and Perth, on Today Tonight during the same week.  It will most likely be a short story but they did film our family a few times so with any luck, we might make it to the final cut.

Thank you again to all our supporters. We realise every day that we are blessed to have you back home either praying for us, thinking of us or contributing to support us. Hopefully through our blogs, newsletters and emails you have an insight into the work we are part of and through your support, feel part of it too.