"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

Friday, October 31, 2014

"Fair winds and following seas" my friend

This field service I have started a new job Onboard - I have moved from the training department into Human Resources as a Transition facilitator. This means that I get to help people settle Onboard and also debrief them as they leave.  It's a great fit for me.

It's wonderful to meet new people all the time and see the energy and enthusiasm they bring to the ship and it's mission. I love helping them find their way - whether it's showing where an office is, who can help them or advising them on what to bring and how much space they'll have.  I particularly enjoy connecting them with others when they get here and watching them develop friendships until they feel at home. I get a warm fuzzy feeling every time I see groups of new people sitting together in the cafe, chatting away, looking relaxed and happy. Best job satisfaction ever.
Then again some weeks, it's really hard. Sometimes I feel I've given out a bit too much. Perhaps I haven't taken enough time to exhale and process.  But the main reason I feel like this is when someone I've really connected with is leaving. 

Tomorrow Ellen and her family are starting their long journey back to Norway and my heart hurts. We have only know each other for two months. But it has been a tough time that we have walked together through. We have shared in many birthday parties, rough seas, Mums bible studies, cups of tea, laundry rage and many frustrations together. We have celebrated our safe arrivals, enjoyed a lovely dinner out in Cape Town and thanked God that our cabin furniture did not attack us! 

I struggle to even articulate what made us click - the only thing I can think of is that we were open to sharing in each other's lives during these few weeks. And perhaps that is all you need to make a friendship. Then the more you share, especially if you share your vulnerabilities, the deeper the connection.  Kind of like this verse:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 NIV)

So tonight I'm hurting - but I'm only hurting because I know what I'm losing and how precious that is.  By investing the time and love in a friendship with Ellen, and she with me, I know that I now have a Norwegian sister. Maybe one that I won't see again on this earth - except on Facebook of course - but nevertheless, a friend for life.

I am not very good at articulating my feelings as I say goodbye to my close friends. I fear that if let my emotions go, I will never reign them back in. So to manage this, I only let them go at the very last minute. So tomorrow morning when I am saying goodbye on the dock at 8 o clock, my tears will flow and my heart will hurt - but it is all worth it. I wouldn't have it any other way. Because I won't be able to express this then, I'm writing it down now. 

"Fair winds and following seas" Ellen as you travel home. I will miss you dear friend. Thank you for being such a blessing in my life.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tour de Tamatave

We made it yesterday and had shore leave today. This morning we went out for a family bike ride and this arvo I went out for a solo exploration on the MTB. The bicycle is king here - certainly in terms of numbers if you include "poussez-poussez". The roads are a dichotomy - either great or not great with not much in between. Having spent a great deal of my career in Asia I felt very at home. It reminded me very strongly of Indonesia, Malaysia and Timor-Leste. Below are some photos I took from the bike. We can already see why we have been called to serve this nation even after only one day ashore. Very excited!

Monday, October 13, 2014

The importance of rest

We just spent the weekend away from the ship. We had our holiday mid year and came back rested and refreshed. But somehow, in the midst of the changes, lengthy sail and planning over the last few months, we found ourselves back in that depleted state.
Solution: stay ashore for two whole nights and explore some of the Cape. 

  • Stay in a home with greater area than 72m square

  • Cook steak on a braai (BBQ)
  • Spot ostriches in the wild - look for the black feathers!

  • Have lunch with a seal

  • Give way to a baboon
  • Walk from Cape point to the Cape of Good Hope

  • Chat with a penguin at Boulders beach

  • Drive a car on the left hand side of the road
  • Have a glass of wine with dinner and lunch

  • Eat breakfast on a balcony overlooking the ocean, in pyjamas
  • Cook braai with taser handy in case of baboon intrusion
  • Spot Dassies on walk
  • Climb inside tallest lighthouse in South Africa

  • Selfies at the Cape

  • Allow Mark to have a double sleepover with Eli where no one has to sleep on the floor
  • Have a bath!
  • And so much more.

We are back Onboard. And we are ready to sail.
Thank you Lord for a restful weekend.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rest in Cape Town, South Africa

As you would recall, we visited friends and family in Europe during June and July, returning to the ship in late July.  Since then, we have been in a state of flux.  For a while, we were a ship without a country.  It was decided that to go to Benin, whilst Ebola cases were uncovered in Lagos, Nigeria, may do more harm than good.  As you can well imagine, bringing a hospital ship into a country brings hope to sick people.  However, we are not a hospital ship designed to treat Ebola – we are actually more of a surgery ship.  So we could potentially be a magnet for sick people that we could not treat – therefore possibly magnifying the Ebola epidemic, rather than helping the situation. So where are we now?

Well, we had extra time in the Canary Islands first, to rectify some engineering issues and to wait and see what happened in West Africa.  Then, quite miraculously, doors opened for us to serve in Madagascar.  So after just under three weeks at sea, we are in Cape Town, South Africa for a short Public Relations and replenishment visit.  We will then travel to Tamatave, Madagascar by the end of October.

It has been a crazy few months.  The excitement of going to Madagascar is tempered by the disappointment of being unable to assist in West Africa in their hour of greatest need.  Our family, and I suspect a majority of crew members, have been see-sawing between the adrenalin rushes of new challenges and the normal work routine.  In fact, we are just coming to the end of the first school quarter now, yet we are in this strange state of in between as we are not in Madagascar yet but have left Europe behind.

For us personally, it has been a time of challenge.  It is easy to deal with community life when you can walk out to Deck 7 and see patients on the Wharf.  You are immediately connected to the Ships mission, knowing that in a small way you are contributing to their healing.  Without the patients and Day Crew, it can be a strain to focus beyond your own petty issues. It is interesting to me what I can whinge about when I am in a state of transition – the smallest things have me fuming.  Funnily enough, when Annie was here in Congo, those same issues would not have even appeared on my radar.

A huge blessing in all this is to be in Cape Town.  What a beautiful city!  How blessed we are to stay in the V&A Harbour.  For Aussies, imagine being berthed at Darling Harbour, Sydney and you get the general idea of where we are here.  
  • We visited Table Mountain and had the most glorious, clear day on the top – with no “blanket” (cloud) in sight.  We could see all the way to the Cape of Good Hope! 
  • Our pastor from our Church in England is now living in Cape Town, so we were fortunate to attend his church in Mowbray this last Sunday and to catch up with Dave and Bev. 
  • And yesterday, Mick and I headed over to Robben Island museum to pay our respects to the political prisoners of the Apartheid era.
  • We are hiring a car and heading down to Boulders beach and the Cape of Good Hope this weekend – to get some time away.
  • Every morning we have been able to see seals out of our cabin window and we pinch ourselves for being so fortunate.

If I stand back though, I imagine that this is a time of rest for a reason. 
  • What is coming up next in Madagascar? 
  • Which challenges can we expect as an organization and as individuals? 
  • What is waiting for us in Tamatave? 
  • Most importantly, who is waiting for us?
  • Who has been praying for us to come?
  • Who is waiting for Hope and Healing?

As we prepare to sail those last 9 days to our start our Field Service, please pray over those questions above and especially for patients to safely travel to Tamatave. 
And also pray for perseverance for our crew, finally coming to the end of this unusual season of transition that started in May this year.

“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” Thessalonians 3:5